Tony Fadell Reveals That Steve Jobs Wanted the Original iPhone to Be SIM-Less

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 13 May 2022

original iPhone

Every now and then, we hear rumors about Apple’s plans to eventually make the iPhone portless and transition to using only eSIMs. A recent interview with an eminent Apple executive reveals that the company’s co-founder Steve Jobs wanted the world’s first iPhone to be SIM-less, to begin with.

Journalist Joanna Stern recently interviewed former iPod VP Tony Fadell at a special Computer History Museum event. Fadell was at the special event to promote his new book Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making.

Fadell explained that during the early stages of the first iPhone’s development, Jobs was opposed to the idea of a SIM tray affecting the device’s design. The “father of the iPod” quoted Jobs telling the iPhone designers and engineers that “we don’t want another hole in it.”

Jobs was reportedly inclined to use CDMA cellular technology instead of adopting GSM. The visionary cited Verizon’s developing use of the technology as a justification since it allowed cellular devices to connect to the carrier network directly. Fadell says he used market data to convince Jobs that CDMA adoption was too low to be an option worth considering for the iPhone. This was just one of the instances where the iPhone design team and engineers had to protest Jobs’ decisions.

“And so, when you work with a highly opinionated person, especially when they can get V1 so right, and you’ve got to go against them, make sure you bring data. And it had to be a team of us, couldn’t be just one of them.”

Apple eventually launched a SIM-less iPhone in January 2011, when a CDMA version of the iPhone 4 linked to Verizon’s network went up for sale. The SIM tray made a comeback with the iPhone 4S, but Verizon did not support the slot.

Fadell recounts several other such stories from his time working with Apple’s team in his new book. He reveals how Jobs was also against making the iPod compatible with Windows computers. He also narrates an instance where then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt had to talk Jobs into believing that web apps were the way forward for iPhone. You can watch Fadell’s full interview here: