Product design chief at Apple to depart this February

An iPhone 15 Pro Max against an abstract blur swirling background.
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

Tang Tan, who has been the chief product designer for Apple iPhone and Watch lines, is planning to leave the company in February of next year, according to Bloomberg

It appears to be one of a number of changes that’s taking place on the product design and engineering teams. But Tan’s departure alone is important given the amount of revenue the two product lines he was overseeing brought in, which was more than half of Apple’s total revenue last year. His departure also appears to be a blow to some in the company, since Tan “made critical decisions about Apple’s most important products.”

The article also says that amid this shake-up to the company’s “most critical product lines,” new product design executives have been promoted along with a reshuffling of duties in order to handle the transition: Richard Dinh, who was head of iPhone product design, will now report directly to the senior vice president of hardware engineering, John Ternus. Kate Bergeron will take over the Apple Watch product line. 

Questions loom over how executive departures will affect the design of key products

But Tan isn’t the only influential executive on the product design team leaving. According to an earlier Bloomberg story, Steve Hotelling, an executive and inventor at Apple, is retiring. 

Hotelling helped bring to fruition a number of key innovations for the company, including the Face ID interface and the iPhone’s touch-screen technology, among other innovations. In addition to working on technologies for the iPhone, Hotelling helped bring many inventive new technologies to the iPad, Apple Watch, and the Vision Pro headset (which will be introduced in 2024). The article says that Hotelling’s work will be divided up between a number of executives, including Alan Gilchrist and Wei Chen, who will report to Johny Srouji, senior vice president of hardware technologies.

Apple’s product design philosophy has had many critics over the years, since they’ve often taken a rather conservative approach, although most Apple shareholders would probably give them a thumbs up for that. But no matter how you view their philosophy, there’s no doubt that inventive product design has always been extremely important to the company. So, it’s easy to see how important these departures are. It’s also hard to minimize just how important product design itself has been to Apple over the years, since it's played a very essential role in their most successful products, including hardware, software, online services, and more. 

It will be interesting to see how these and other changes to the product design and engineering teams will play out in the coming months.  

Terry Sullivan

Terry Sullivan has tested and reported on many different types of consumer electronics and technology services, including cameras, action cams, mobile devices, streaming music services, wireless speakers, headphones, smart-home devices, and mobile apps. He has also written extensively on various trends in the worlds of technology, multimedia, and the arts. For more than 10 years, his articles and blog posts have appeared in a variety of publications and websites, including The New York Times, Consumer Reports, PCMag, Worth magazine, Popular Science, Tom’s Guide, and Artnews. He is also a musician, photographer, artist, and teacher.