I have a confession - even though the iPhone arrived in the UK in late 2007, I was the owner of the original model soon after its launch in June of that year.
While there was no way to use it as a phone, I was using it as a glorified iPod Touch for months, before the iPod Touch was official.
However, this let me see how iPhoneOS 1.0, which was what iOS was called at the time, worked on the iPhone.
It was revolutionary sure, but copy and paste was a big omission, and thanks to an ex-Apple engineer, we now know why it took until iPhoneOS 3.0 in 2009 for the feature to arrive.
The two year wait for copy/paste
Granted, there wasn’t an App Store to use for the first iPhone, that would come in 2008. But you would be dealing with text in Safari, Mail, and messages, and I vividly remember having to manually write out a web address from Safari, into a text message.
For something as massive as the iPhone, it was a small complaint that didn’t matter much at the time, as everything else was light-years away from what was available in mobile phones at the time.
Still, where was copy and paste in that original iPhone?
According to Ken Kocienda (opens in new tab) in a series of tweets, he and the original iPhone team simply ran out of time to implement it.
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/SLncIxohkkJune 19, 2022
Kocienda follows this up in a book (opens in new tab) he’s written, where he goes in-depth about how he helped create the iPhone, then the iPad’s, keyboard between 2005 and 2009. It’s a great read and showed just how secretive the iPhone project was.
But it also shows, both from the book and Kocienda’s tweets, that redefining certain features that were standard in PCs and other devices, took years to solve. This is why copy and paste arrived when it did, and how it did.
What I’ve always loved about the copy and paste feature in iOS, is that it’s easy to reach from anywhere with two taps. And best of all, it starts to highlight the word you’ve tapped on, not the sentence.
It starts small but can end with a useful solution to what you need to cut, copy and paste.
Almost fifteen years on since the launch of the iPhone, and thirteen years since the debut of copy and paste on iOS, it’s a feature that’s essential in today’s devices.
Now, we only need to see it on the Apple Watch (opens in new tab), and the feature will be available on all its devices.