FORTUNE — For reporters who know how hard it is to get anyone at Apple (AAPL) to talk — never mind an engineer at the center of the action — Fred Vogelstein’s piece in the Oct. 4
New York Times Sunday Magazine
was a revelation. It told the iPhone creation story from the perspective of Andy Grignon, the senior engineer in charge of all the iPhone’s transmitters and receivers.
Grignon, who was sitting — terrified — in the audience as Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, knew that the device Jobs was taking through its paces wasn’t anywhere close to finished. It was a prototype — one of a handful that worked well enough in January 2007 to risk a public demonstration — and although they’d rehearsed the demo more than 100 times, something had always gone wrong. If the radios failed this time, Grignon would feel the full force of Jobs’ fury.
Miraculously, the keynote went flawlessly, and by the end Grignon wasn’t just relieved, he was drunk. He’d and a half dozen engineers and managers had been doing shots every time their portion of the demo was over. “When the finale came,” Grignon recalls, “we all just drained the flask.”
Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, which went on sale Tuesday. The book is loaded with fresh, never-before-reported details thanks to interviews that Vogelstein, a contributing editor at Wired, scored with nearly a dozen Apple engineers, managers and partners who had either never spoken to a reporter before or never talked at length about their experiences.Grignon’s story is the opening anecdote of Vogelstein’s
- Jeremy Wyld, a friend of Grignon’s who helped build the ill-fated Newton.
- Nitin Ganatra, one the software engineers charged with squeezing OS X into a mobile phone chip.
- Phil Kearney, a Wi-Fi expert who had to explain to Jobs why the iPhone could not be encased entirely in brushed aluminum.
- Mike Bell, a 15-year Apple veteran who helped convince Jobs that the time was right — and the technology ready — for Apple to enter the mobile phone business.
- Jim Ryan, the Cingular (later AT&T) executive who negotiated the initial iPhone carrier deal.
- Bob Borchers, the head of iPhone product marketing best known for his widely viewed instructional video.
- Shuvo Chatterjee, who tested early iPhones for dead spots by loading them into his VW and driving around the Bay Area.
- Tim Bucher, one of Apple’s biggest advocates for putting a multitouch screen on a cell phone.
- Josh Strickon, an engineer who had built a crude multitouch display for his master thesis at MIT and was assigned to work on the first iPad. “The story was that Steve wanted a device that he could use to read email on the toilet,” Strickon told Vogelstein. “That was the extent of the product spec.”
Dogfight is one of a pair of new Apple books coming out of the The Grotto, the shared workspace of several dozen San Francisco writers. The second is by Yukari Iwatani Kane, a former Wall Street Journal who has served up more than her share of Apple scoops — including the news of Jobs’ 2009 liver transplant.
Kane’s Haunted Empire: Apple after Steve Jobs, is due out in March. It should be worth the wait.
UPDATE: A third Apple book arrived two days later: Leander (“Cult of Mac”) Kahney’s Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products. There are at least three promotional videos floating around, including an “official trailer” that’s getting some heat for a tag line (“Did we give credit to the wrong guy?”) that’s seen as disrespecting Steve Jobs.