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Vergecast special edition: Brian Merchant, author of The One Device

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The secret history of the iPhone

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

We’re doing two episodes of The Vergecast this week: the usual one on Friday, and this very special edition with Brian Merchant, author of The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone.

We ran a big excerpt of the book earlier this week, so we spent the show talking about the book, where it came from, and Merchant’s feelings on how we should know more about the technology products in our lives. This includes knowing more about the hundreds of people who make them, from the unsung engineers at tech companies to the extremely unsung miners who dig the raw materials out of the ground.

And, of course, we talk about the quotes from Tony Fadell and Bill Bilbrey in the excerpt we just published, in which Fadell tells a story about Phil Schiller arguing the iPhone should have a hardware keyboard. Schiller has said the story isn’t true, and Fadell has tried to walk it back as well.

“So I wasn't in the room at Apple 10, 15 years ago when this would have happened,” says Merchant, who has the exchange on tape. “But this is a quote verbatim as Tony Fadell who was in the room told it to me. He told me this quote in such detail and he gave such a vivid account, and I had no reason to believe it was untrue.”

Merchant says the controversy has “blown him away.”

“It certainly wasn't intended to make Phil Schiller look dumb. It was an opposing viewpoint... I think that it's totally fine to be a dissenting voice and want to contextualize this emergent technology and even be opposed to it. Why would you not have someone in the room who is forcing people to think critically about this potentiality?”

There’s a lot more on the podcast, including a deep dive into the early research projects at Apple exploring touch interfaces. Check it out below.