Why 9:41 AM is always the time displayed on iPhones and iPads

If you've ever paid close attention to Apple's advertising materials, you may or may not have noticed that the time depicted on Apple's products is always 9:41 AM.

Apple's affinity for 9:41 AM is evident across much of the company's product line. For example, below is a current snapshot taken from Apple's website depicting OS X Mavericks running on a MacBook Air. The time? Why, 9:41 AM, of course!

macbook air 941

So what gives? Why do most official photos of Apple products show the same time?

As one might expect, nothing about Apple's advertising efforts is ever left to pure chance. Consequently, there's actually a rather interesting explanation as to why the 9:41 AM timestamp is so darn prevalent.

Back in April of 2010, developer Jon Manning was at an Apple retail store in Palo Alto for the original iPad launch when he found himself in the company of former iOS chief Scott Forstall. Curious about Apple's quirky and ever-present display time, Manning asked Forstall if there was any rhyme or reason behind it.

Forstall answered:

We design the keynotes so that the big reveal of the product happens around 40 minutes into the presentation. When the big image of the product appears on screen, we want the time shown to be close to the actual time on the audience's watches. But we know we won't hit 40 minutes exactly.

So just to be safe, Forstall explained, Apple added another extra minute or two to provide a little bit of a cushion in the event of any slight holdups or delays.

And lo and behold, if we go back to Engadget's liveblog of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone, check out when the iPhone portion of the event got started -- 9:41 and 9:42 right on the dot!

steve jobs iphone intro 941 942

Of course, not every Apple media event is timed just perfectly to the 41 minute mark. In fact, I'm not sure if any others ever have been. Jobs, for instance, introduced the iPad just 10 minutes after taking the stage, while the iPhone 5 and 5s were introduced 13 and 34 minutes into their respective media events.

That being the case, the 9:41 AM display time still used by Apple today can be traced all the way back to Steve Jobs' legendary iPhone unveiling seven years ago.

On a related note, keep in mind that some of the early iPhone promotional materials displayed a time of 9:42 AM, but Apple shortly thereafter began using 9:41 AM across the board.

For instance, here's one of the first iPhone images Apple ever put up on its website.

As a final point, if we take a look some of Apple's older marketing materials, we see that Apple was somewhat conscientious of the time display even during the pre-iPhone days. Here's a OS X Tiger screenshot from Apple's website that was put up in late December 2006 -- it's an hour later, but still somewhere around the 40-minute mark.