Veteran Apple software designer Greg Christie, who played a major role in the development of the iPhone, will be retiring later this year, according to a Wednesday report by The Wall Street Journal.
Apple said in an internal email that Christie, who led the company's "human interface" team that designs software for its products, would be retiring, according to people who have seen the email, the report said.
Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Christie is not a household name like Steve Jobs, Apple's late CEO, or Jony Ive, the iPhone hardware designer and Apple senior vice president of design. But the work Christie did on the iPhone is lasting, and his departure opens up a new avenue for Ive to handle more of the iPhone's software development.
Christie's group will report to Ive, according to the Apple email. The team previously reported to Craig Federighi, Apple's software chief, the WSJ report said.
"Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple," an Apple spokesman told the Journal. "He has made vital contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a world-class human interface team which has worked closely with Jony for many years."
Ive is already warmed up for new duties in the area of software, having recently played a key role in the development of iOS 7.
With Christie's departure, however, there probably was more going on behind the scenes than Apple is letting on. Friction between Christie and Ive was at the root of Christie's decision to leave, said the Apple enthusiast site 9to5Mac, which first reported Christie's departure.
Christie helped to develop many of the functions of the iPhone, with his name listed on the patent for the "slide to unlock" function. That patent is now one of more than a dozen at issue in Apple's lawsuit against Samsung, now being heard in a federal court in California.
Christie testified just last week in the trial, recounting the early days of the iPhone's development before it was announced in 2007.
"It was nerve-racking, we all wanted it to go perfectly," he testified last week. "There was a lot of anticipation. We were hoping we were right and that people would get it."
Christie joined Apple in 1996, after software he had written for Newton Messagepad, Apple's short-lived personal digital assistant, attracted the attention of executives.