Tony Fadell is one of the eidetic minds behind revolutionary products in the last two decades. He has a long history of working on the iPod, iPhone and Nest Thermostat, etc. Tony launched his book “Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making,” in which he described the challenges of designing a product from scratch.
Tony Fadell shared multiple images on Twitter, one of which showcased the early designs of the first-ever iPhone. It was very different from the iPhone that made it to the market.
How did the iPhone prototype look?
Tony Fadell’s Twitter post gave a sneak peek into the multiple designs of the iPhone that Apple put together. One such prototype looked way different from the actual iPhone. It looked more like an iPod than a phone, and Apple wanted it to be that way.
However, it wasn’t feasible from the execution point of view and thus was discarded in the later stages. Steve Jobs was adamant about the swiveling iPhone design but eventually moved on.
The iPhone prototype was a lot taller compared to other designs. It looked identical to an iPod at first glance but had a swiveling mechanism. The bottom part, which had the circular click wheel, could turn clockwise to reveal the number pad.
Apple thought that offering a number pad was in line with the mobile phones back in the day. Users can navigate the phone using the click wheel. They can use the swivel feature to access the number pad if they want to make a call.
Why didn’t it happen?
The swiveling design had a lot of design challenges. Apple engineers pondered the problem for months before announcing that it wasn’t feasible. Steve Jobs wanted to create the first iPhone based on the design of the iPod, which was a huge rave at that point. But the idea didn’t materialize when Apple launched their first-ever keypad-less touch screen phone.
Tony Fadell revealed an important memory of the iPhone design to Techcrunch. He said, “[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 for 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.“