What would an MVP iPhone look like before launching the real one?

Dan Mocanu Entrepreneur & Value Innovation Architect

Last updated on May 20th, 2017

Could there be a trap of thinking of a MVP product and not the product through the full scale of buyer / user experience cycle and product utility? And just start the ball rolling and be shortsighted rather than doing the work for a FVP (Fully viable product)?

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

May 19th, 2017

I don't really get your question. That said, the first iPhone WAS an MVP. Specifically, by the time the first iPhone was released (2007), the majority of phones were 3G and had GPS. The 1st iPhone did not had 3G nor GPS. It had EDGE and the location was an estimate.

Those decision were mainly chosen due to cost. Because of the touch-screen, the iPhone was already expensive. Putting in it 3G and GPS would had made it too costly for general customers, or less profitable (take your pick). The next generation iPhone was 3G and finally the 3GS version had GPS. So it took 3 iterations to reach the functionality level other phones had previously (ignoring the screen touch, of course).

So, Apple decided to go the MVP route for the 1st iPhone, and the rest is history.


James Dillon PhD candidate at Harvard. Advisor to CEOs and executive teams.

Last updated on May 20th, 2017

Good questions.

Starting with an MVP and thinking through a full-fledged product are not at odds. Certainly, you should think through the whole product. That's a good and valid exercise. But prioritize developing the minimum feature set to meet the core need of your target customers. You just don't want to *build* the whole thing from the start. (You only need to think through the full product on paper to ensure you don't architect your self into a corner while building the MVP.)

As for the iPhone, three points might help:

(1) Watching Steve Jobs's original product announcement might be eye opening: notice what he says about scrolling versus old methods of phone navigation; I believe he uses the phrase, "You had me at scrolling." Scrolling was almost the core MVP of the iPhone—intuitive touch navigation. If you picture the iPhone as merely a 2007 Nokia phone with a bigger screen and touch interface, that's the MVP. Jobs being Jobs, he would only launch a well-polished design, but it was still nearly that simple as a feature-set, and infused with design elegance.

(2) The technologíes inside the iPhone had been under development for years, with the intent of producing an iPad, well before the iPhone launched; but notice that Apple deliberately dumbed down the aspirations for the first touch-screen product into a phone rather than a tablet computer. Said differently, *the iPhone was the MVP for the iPad*.

(3) Keep in mind that the iPhone as we know it now is dramatically more advanced than the original iPhone. The biggest difference is that there was no App Store then. (A few built-in apps, yes; but no third-party development APIs nor distrubtion and installation system; we had to jail break our phones then to add apps.) The phone was literally a phone, text messaging, a web browser, an email client, camera, and an address book, with a few very trivial apps thrown in. So you could say the original iPhone was very much an MVP for the current iPhone.

There is a profound lesson in seeing the original iPhone as an MVP of sorts: being simple and focused does not preclude being elegant and highly desirable. These are very much compatible and self-reinforcing characteristics in an early product.

[Please note this material is copyrighted and will be published elsewhere.]

Dan Mocanu Entrepreneur & Value Innovation Architect

May 20th, 2017

Thank you Joanan and Dmitry for your attention to my question and showing how the first version of the iPhone was an MVP. The point I was trying to make for beginning entrepreneurs was to consider the fully fledged product and start with an MVP and not make MVP the final goal.

Dmitry Tyomkin Software/Operations Exec Evaluating Busdev/Tech Leadership Opportunities

May 19th, 2017

If your MVP solves one problem well you can expect that the users may wait patiently until you resolve all other outstanding issues. First iPhone was an MVP, as Joanan pointed out. It's biggest advantage was that it worked natively with iTunes and that it could make calls well. Due to iPod popularity at the time, the iPhone was considered a call-making iPod. And early users bought it on that premise alone, while everything else, including app Store, open API, camera, etc. came later.

Clay Nichols Helping other startups grow after launching 2 successful startups.

May 20th, 2017

That's a great question. The creator of the Palm Pilot did very much that. A keep feature of the Palm Pilot was portability and having it sit in your pocket. The Creator made a wooden mock-up and carried it around for a few weeks and played with it and would pull it out and pretend to take notes and see how the Stylus work , etcetera .

n you elaborate on what you mean by not evaluating the life cycle?

Do you mean that this may cause to miss technical roadblocks or dead ends where certain design choice boxes into a corner or do you mean that you might not fully see the benefit to the customer?

Christopher Brunner Founder - Payments

May 21st, 2017

Actually, the MVP for iPhone apps were the previous 5 years when Qualcomm and Sun had tens of millions of apps being downloaded monthly on their respective app platforms. Apple took it, and every other invention and rolled them all together and created a much improved user experience.

Dan Mocanu Entrepreneur & Value Innovation Architect

Last updated on May 20th, 2017

Hi Clay, Thank you for your question. What I meant by the life cycle I meant:

a) the buyer experience cycle from motivation, search & select, purchasing, delivery, use, supplements, maintenance and disposal and

b) the utility (productivity, simplicity, convenience, risk, fun& Image, care for environment) of the product. Typically people focus on the use of the product (features) and neglect the other aspects.

Dan Mocanu Entrepreneur & Value Innovation Architect

May 20th, 2017

Thank you James for your answer and new insights into the matter. I did not intend to say that people should build everything in an MVP but rather think of everything and build what matters first and then improve. The MVP for Apps was in the first iPhone with the few apps available.

Ashish Bhatia CoFounder, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Investment Banking Technologies

May 21st, 2017

Dan, I would like to phrase the question other way around - how would you know that your product/service has reached the desired FVP state and that the product/service is ready for a launch?

Some good entrepreneurship books like The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Nail It Then Scale It by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstorm provide good evidence that early ideas and success are mostly a product of an entrepreneur's self-validation rather than validation by potential paying customers.

You got to have a rough roadmap on how you envision the product/service to evolve and where you would like to see it in the next 12-24-36 months but starting with an MVP is a critical step in ensuring you are building the product as per customer's needs and expectations and can pivot, if needed, early enough such that customers are willing to pay for your product year-after-year.

In my view a Fully Viable Product is just a myth - as long as market conditions evolve, competitors try to steal your customers, or customer's needs changes - your product might continue evolve...which essentially means it was never fully build!