The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, by Brian Merchant

I picked this book up a couple of months ago, but didn’t get past the first chapter. About two weeks ago, however, I finally began reading through the entire book, over a couple of evening sittings. It was pretty enjoyable, if a little slow.

Here are my garbled thoughts:

  • The book describes the team behind the design of the iPhone, and the global supply chain behind manufacturing it. I personally really enjoyed learning about the global supply chain, but I disliked that the book did not describe at all the work at Apple done to create this supply chain. The impression I left with is that Tim Cook is a logistics genius who just figured it all out. Which is disappointing for someone curious about supply chain management like me.

  • The book describing the original “ENRI” team behind creating a touch-based computer, the team behind the original apps, and so on. However, it feels very stilted because the story of the original team is split across the first part of the book and the last part, sandwiching many, many chapters describing the aforementioned global supply chain. When I got to the final parts of the book, I was wondering “What’s the ENRI team again? Who are all of these people?” I’m guessing that this was a necessity to have enough narrative for the book because Apple is so secretive. Which is disappointing. This book just doesn’t feel the same as the wild ride described in Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk book.

  • Some of my previous complaint feels fixable. The book has a lack of genuine anecdotes and examples. For example, the claim was made multiple times that the iPhone caused a lot of divorces, and that one of the leaders of the P2 team gained 50 pounds, but none of these were quite as eye-popping as the original SpaceX rocket team’ constantly blowing things up in Texas caused the team lead behind that group to call Elon only to be told to take a break for the day. There is also nothing quite like the time that a SpaceX engineer was frustrated by his glasses after he lost his contacts but was too busy to get new ones because he was working 24/7. When Elon learned, he simply bought him LASIK. Too bad Apple is so secretive; otherwise, this book would have been a lot more entertaining!

  • I’m not sure about the author’s background, but I felt like some parts of the narrative were a little bit poorly described because he garbled some technical explanations.

  • Overall, I’d say the book is worthwhile for its historical perspective, and for seeing the author’s worldwide adventure to learn how the iPhone has influenced the world. Particularly, the second reason. Descriptions of the mines early in the book are just harrowing. The far-flung expectations of funders in Silicon Savannah are also eye-opening.