Ex-Apple engineer explains why the first iPhone didn’t have copy and paste



The very first iPhone that was released in 2007 didn’t actually have any sort of copy and paste functionality, and a former Apple engineer may have finally explained why.

Ken Kocienda joined Apple in 2001 and was a key engineer on the team that developed the first iPhone. On Sunday, Kocienda shared an amusing anecdote detailing why the first-generation Apple handset didn’t have copy and paste.

According to Kocienda, the short answer is that the team didn’t have time to “do it right” before the first iPhone shipped. The former Apple engineer said that he was busy working on the device’s keyboard, autocorrect, and text functionality.

The original iPhone didn’t have cut/copy/paste. Infamous! The quickest explanation is that I didn’t have time to do it right. I had too much keyboard, autocorrection, and text system work to do. The design team didn’t have time either. So we passed on the feature for 1.0. https://t.co/SLncIxohkk

— Ken Kocienda (@kocienda) June 19, 2022

Eventually, sometime after the iPhone’s debut, the team got to work on copy and paste functionality. Kocienda added that the “magnifying text loupe,” which would zoom in on the text a user had their finger on, was his idea.

Another interesting tidbit Kocienda shared had to do with the text system on the first iPhone. Specifically, the engineer said that WebKit powered virtually all of the text.

“About the text system, all editable styled text on the original iPhone was backed by WebKit,” he said. “The system had itty bitty web pages sprinkled here and there. Every multiline UITextView was its own web page.”

Kocienda said he was well-prepared for that task, since he added text editing to WebKit between 2003 and 2005.


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