Nobody knows where Jony Ive was at Apple's big iPhone event

Jony IveGetty Images/Michael KovacApple’s Jony Ive

One high-profile executive was missing from the presentation held at Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters on Monday. 

As Apple revealed the iPhone SE and iPad Pro, neither product was accompanied by a video from Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, a distinct change from previous Apple announcements.

When Apple rolls out new products, Ive usually explains its features in a short, austere video. For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone 6S last year, Ive provided narration for a short clip about 3D Touch.

But Ive’s absence wasn’t only missed on stage. According to multiple people who attended the event, Ive was not in the audience, although other big Apple executives, such as software boss Craig Federighi and retail head Angela Ahrendts, were sitting in the front rows. 

Even longtime Apple observer John Gruber noticed, writing on Tuesday

WHERE’S JONY: As far as I could see, Jony Ive did not attend today’s event. He never appears on stage, but I’ve always seen him in the audience, usually seated next to Laurene Powell Jobs.

Of course, just because several people didn’t see Ive doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. Apple did not return a request for comment. 

No new features

One reason why Ive might have been missing from the presentation was that Apple didn’t really announce anything new on Monday. All of the hardware features on both the iPhone SE and the smaller iPad Pro were previously available on other Apple products. Ive usually explains new hardware breakthroughs in his videos. 

And although the event venue on Apple’s campus may sound like a convenient location for Ive, he could’ve been off working in neighbouring Sunnyvale, where Apple’s nascent car research is based. 

Regardless of where he was on Monday, Ive is one of Apple’s most famous executives and is seen as a critical person for the company. He had a huge hand in the design of every single one of Apple’s iconic products for the past 15 years, from the iPod to the Apple Watch, and was particularly close to former CEO Steve Jobs before he died. 

In an interview recorded last fall and recently published, Charlie Rose asked Ive what he would do if he didn’t do design for Apple. “I have no idea, it’s all I can do,” Ive replied. “If I wasn’t doing this, I think I would just be drawing or making stuff for friends. Maybe it would just be Christmas tree ornaments, I don’t know.” 

A leaked internal email from last May discussed changes to Ive’s role. Previously, he was the senior vice president of design, but his title has been changed to “chief design officer,” a role with fewer “day-to-day managerial responsibilities.” CEO Tim Cook described the change in the memo as a promotion and mentioned that Ive would be responsible for “all of our design.” 


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