How AT&T Helped Steve Jobs Build the Original iPhone Radio

Forbes has an interesting article that reveals some details on how AT&T (when it was still branded Cingular Wireless in 2006) chief operating officer, Ralph de la Vega, helped Steve Jobs and Apple create the original iPhone.

Jobs had questions about smartphone radio design in 2006 and called up de la Vega for advice:

‘How do you make this device be a really good phone?’ ” de la Vega recalls Jobs asking. ‘ “ I’m not talking about how to build a keyboard and things like that. But I’m saying the innards of a radio that worked well.’ ”

AT&T had a manual that was well over 1000 pages it gave to suppliers to build mobile radios to work efficiently and on the network. Jobs demanded it right away:

‘Well, send it to me.’ So I sent him an e-mail. Thirty seconds, he calls me back. ‘Hey, what the … ? What’s going on? You’re sending me this big document, and the first 100 pages have to do with the standard keyboard,’ ” de la Vega says, laughing. ‘ “ Sorry we didn’t take those first 100 pages out, Steve. Forget those 100 pages. Those don’t apply to you.’ He says, ‘Okay,’ and he hangs up the phone.”

De la Vega’s nondisclosure agreement with Apple was so secretive it prevented the COO from talking about the device to his bosses and board members, which did not get to see a device until after a deal was signed. De la Vega told the board “‘Trust me, this phone doesn’t need the first hundred pages.’ ”–of course we know today the original iPhone debuted without a keyboard.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson on the iPhone deal: “I told people you weren’t betting on a device. You were betting on Steve Jobs.” That bet looks to have paid off. Since 2007 AT&T’s network traffic has doubled every year and the company has invested over $115 billion for acquiring spectrum and network expansion.

Stephenson has previously admitted his “regret” was to introduce all-you-can-eat data as part of the original iPhone launch for $30. You can check out the rest of the article here.