At the revealing of Apple’s new flagship smartphone yesterday, the iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook mentioned it was one thing the corporate’s employees had been engaged on for a decade.
The new premium handset with its edge-to-edge show (minus one unlucky prime notch) does away with the bodily house button solely and makes higher use of gestures for controlling the UI.
The new interface for multitasking seems fluid and intuitive. But it additionally — when you’ve been smartphone waiting for lengthy sufficient — engenders a definite feeling of déjà vu…
Specifically it seems slightly like webOS operating on the Palm Pre — a handset that was introduced in 2009, after Jon Rubinstein, former SVP of Apple’s iPod division, had been lured out of retirement in Mexico by Palm: A cellular machine firm with a (very) lengthy historical past, and sufficient self-perspective to appreciate they wanted an skilled product designer to assist them surf the subsequent wave of mobility: touchscreen computing.
Rubinstein, who had left Apple in spring 2006, clearly possessed the looked for design chops. Palm execs flew all the way down to Mexico to woo and win their man.
By the beginning of 2009 Rubinstein was on stage at CES to announce the Palm Pre: A high-gloss, pebble-shaped slider smartphone which deployed a number of gestures within the UI profiting from a touch-sensitive space that prolonged under the show and onto the bezel itself.
It wasn’t simply the scroll-flicks and pinch-to-zooms already on the iPhone and Android gadgets of the time that Palm had introduced over to its next-gen smartphone . It had one thing else up its sleeve: Its webOS UI included a deck-of-cards exercise interface to be the driving force for low friction cellular multitasking.
Palm confirmed how customers may simply swipe between and faucet on the playing cards to change apps. How the order of playing cards could possibly be rearranged with a finger press and drag. And how particular person playing cards could possibly be flicked off the highest of the display when the consumer was completed with a selected app or activity. Cards confirmed totally energetic apps. It was easy and stylish.
“Now how’s that for some real newness,” mentioned Matías Duarte, Palm’s senior director of human interface and consumer expertise, with a fairly sizable smirk on his face as he wrapped up that a part of the Pre’s CES demo.
(Duarte now works on Google’s card-like Material Design design language, which extends the cardboard motif the corporate first utilized in Android, for Google Now, in 2012; and he went straight from Palm to being a VP of design at Android when the function was being developed.)
In an earnings name later the identical month in 2009, Cook was pressed by analysts about how rapidly the iPhone’s opponents gave the impression to be elbowing into the market — and requested how Apple would be capable of maintain its management.
“We don’t mind competition, but if others rip off our intellectual property, we will go after them,” he responded in a remark that was picked up on and interpreted on the time as a fairly stark warning shot throughout Palm’s bows.
When pressed once more particularly on the Palm Pre, and the way the machine appeared to “directly emulate the iPhone’s innovative interface”, Cook doubled down on his implied accusation of IP theft: “We don’t want to refer to any specific companies, so that was a general statement. We like competition because it makes us better, but we will not stand for companies infringing on our IP.”
Of course that is all water below the bridge now, as Palm’s desires of efficiently browsing the smartphone wave resulted in abrupt catastrophe — burdened by ongoing legacy software program challenges, wrong-footed by carriers’ advertising and marketing selections and finally saddled with an unloving acquirer in HP — and the Palm Pre had a cruelly quick lifespan for such a forward-thinking machine.
I bear in mind how recent the interface felt in 2009. How vastly superior vs legacy smartphone gamers like BlackBerry and Nokia — which, though they have been nonetheless minting big revenues again then, have been additionally clearly failing to come back to phrases quickly sufficient with the paradigm shift of touchscreen mobility.
Whether the Palm Pre was really forward of its time, or whether or not components of the interface had been plucked out of a fastidiously deliberate Cupertino 10-year roadmap shall be a narrative for Valley historians to unpick.
But within the iPhone X it’s clear you’re a bit ghost of the Pre.