This weird iPhone prototype has an iPod Click Wheel that turns into a number pad

This weird iPhone prototype has an iPod Click Wheel that turns into a number pad

May 9, 2022 0 By Filipe Espósito

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Before Apple officially announced the iPhone in 2007, the company secretly developed multiple prototypes – and some of them had a very different design than what we know as the iPhone today. However, another iPhone prototype has now been revealed with a really intriguing design, as it has an iPod Click Wheel that turns into a number pad.

The prototype was revealed by Tony Fadell (via TechCrunch), who was mainly responsible for iPod development at Apple in the 2000s. As Fadell recently released a new book called Build, he has now been sharing details about his time working at Apple and other tech companies.

The story behind the development of the first iPhone has already been told by many people. After Apple’s partnership with Motorola to put iTunes on the ROKR E1 was a failure, Steve Jobs and other Apple engineers were convinced that they had to develop their own smartphone.

However, before 2007, Apple had no other mobile device except the iPod, which was first used as the conceptual basis for Apple’s smartphone. As the company explored the idea of simply putting a phone inside an iPod, a peculiar prototype was created with a Click Wheel that turned into a number pad.

According to Fadell, the prototype was built by a third-party manufacturer in the early stages of “iPod Phone” development. Thanks to a swivel, users could quickly change the bottom of the iPod to use it as a phone. The prototype also had a built-in camera and the colors were already quite similar to the official ones chosen for the first iPhone.

How the iPod Phone became the iPhone

Interestingly, Fadell says that Steve Jobs was the one who strongly encouraged the team to create an iPod with a phone instead of a completely new device. This was because since the iPod design had become so iconic with the Click Wheel, Jobs believed that Apple’s smartphone should have it as well.

“[Jobs] had very clear views on things — until they weren’t clear,” he says. “Or it became very clear that they wouldn’t work. He pushed us very hard on making the iPod Plus Phone work. We worked weeks and weeks to figure out how to do input with the click wheel. We couldn’t get it, and after the whole team was convinced we couldn’t do it, he was like, ‘keep trying!’ At some point we all said, ‘no, it isn’t going to work.’”

Although the former VP of the iPod division believed that this was a good idea at first, he agrees that the experience of using a phone with a Click Wheel wasn’t good. This led Apple’s engineers and designers to completely rethink the project, this time with a large touch screen, almost no physical buttons, and a Mac OS X based operating system. The rest of this story we already know.

Build

In his new “Build” book, Tony Fadell shared several other stories about his work at Apple. For instance, he revealed how Steve Jobs was totally against making the iPod compatible with Windows PCs. Fadell also told about how former Google CEO Eric Schmidt made Jobs believe that web apps were the right choice for the iPhone.

Of course, the book also features stories about Nest Labs, the smart home device company that Fadell founded after he left Apple, and which was later acquired by Google.

You can now buy the book from Amazon and other bookstores.

Read also

Tony Fadell talks about Steve Jobs’ controversial decisions on iPod and iPhone development
Years before an all-screen iPhone, Apple imagined an edge-to-edge iPod nano
Tony Fadell talks Steve Jobs, good a-holes vs bad a-holes, and much more in new book ‘Build’
Tony Fadell describes competing teams working on different iPhone designs
iPod godfather Tony Fadell describes early work on iPhone, time he almost lost a prototype in an airport
A first ever look at the original iPhone engineering prototype [Gallery]

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About the Author



Filipe Espósito

Filipe Espósito is a Brazilian tech Journalist who started covering Apple news on iHelp BR with some exclusive scoops — including the reveal of the new Apple Watch Series 5 models in titanium and ceramic. He joined 9to5Mac to share even more tech news around the world.

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