Apple launched the first-generation iPhone 15 years ago, and there was no copy and paste function at that time. Now, former Apple software engineer and designer, Ken Kocienda has revealed the specifics. Kocienda joined Apple in 2001 and is one of the key engineers behind the iPhone. Prior to developing the iPhone, Kocienda worked on the original team for the Safari browser, which made him instrumental in the development of the first-generation iPhone.
Kocienda’s explanation for why the first-generation iPhone didn’t have a copy-and-paste feature was simple: there was no time for development. According to him, the team was busy developing the iPhone’s virtual keyboard and its autocorrection system. After the launch of the first iPhone, Kocienda and his team finally decided to develop a copy and paste option, but it still took a while to finally land.
Copying and pasting – a very important feature
Kocienda said he came up with the idea of a “text magnifying glass” that lets users know exactly where they’re pointing their text cursor. This feature is crucial for copying and pasting. However, even with the classic virtual magnifying glass, the cursor would still move between characters. This mostly happens when the user takes their finger off the screen due to natural jitter. Thus, at the time, the feature was unreliable.
For this purpose, Kocienda has developed a “touch history” for text editing only. After the finger leaves the screen, the system automatically detects the position of the user’s finger within milliseconds of the last touch, allowing the cursor to stay where the user really wants it. Another interesting detail of the iPhone’s text input system is that all styled text was originally based on WebKit. This means that when an app uses a custom font, it basically displays a tiny web page to render the text. When text is not in edit mode, they display a static image of its content.
The copy and paste function was introduced in 2009 as a new feature of iPhone OS 3.0 and is preinstalled on the iPhone 3GS by default. Apple even created a TV ad at the time to highlight the new feature.