Current Apple iPhone design chief leaving to make AI phone with Jony Ive and OpenAI

Current Apple iPhone design chief leaving to make AI phone with Jony Ive and OpenAI
Tang Tan, current Apple VP iPhone and Watch product design. (Source: Economic Times)
Tang Tan, current Apple VP iPhone and Watch product design. (Source: Economic Times)

Apple has lost another of its key employees to Jony Ive’s design firm LoveFrom. Tang Tan, who currently heads up the iPhone and Watch design teams is leaving Apple to work with Ive and Sam Altman on the smartphone powered by OpenAI’s market leading generative AI technology.

Apple’s current VP of product design, Tang Tan is leaving Apple to join former Apple design guru, Jony Ive, to build what they hope will be “the iPhone of artificial intelligence.” The arrangement is part of an arrangement between Jony Ive’s design firm LoveFrom and OpenAI’s Sam Altman to develop new AI-centric hardware. According to Bloomberg’s sources within Apple, Tan’s loss is considered a big one as he was central to design and features of devices likes Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro (purchase renewed from Amazon from just $1,028) and Watch Series 9, cash cows worth over $383B to the company annually. 

When Tan officially departs Apple in February, he will rejoin his former boss Jony Ive at LoveFrom, which Ive founded in 2019 after leaving Apple. The new device the two are said to be working on is still some way from reaching the market, but early designs and concepts are currently in development. According to Bloomberg, Tan will be in charge of the hardware engineering side of things, while OpenAI will provide the software basis on which the device will run. 

With design playing a less prominent role in Tim Cook’s Apple in the lead up to and following Ive’s departure, Tan is just the latest in a string of Apple employees to follow Jony Ive to LoveFrom, which now totals over 20. While Ive continued to work with  Apple on various projects following his departure, including the Watch Ultra and Vision Pro as a creative consultant, that relationship formally ended in mid-2022. Since then, LoveFrom has undertaken projects for Airbnb, Ferrari and Moncler, with the purported Ai-Phone the first venture into a market where Apple is the leading player.

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