Apple was hard at work leading up to January 2007 on several iPhone prototypes, and one of the early ones that was eventually tossed out has found its way to the Internet.
A prominent Apple leaker who goes by the name Sonny Dickson this week published a video showing an iPhone prototype in action. While the prototype was eventually shelved by Apple’s AAPL late co-founder and then-CEO Steve Jobs, it was inspired by the iconic scroll wheel that proved critical to the iPod’s success over the years.
The prototype in the video shows a person turning it on and comparing it to a version that was ultimately more similar to final iOS software Apple unveiled in 2007. Unlike the full-screen, tap-friendly interface iOS is known for today, the early prototype splits the screen in two. At the top is a user interface that looks similar to the iPod user interface. Underneath, Apple displayed a digital scroll wheel that users could control with their fingers and access different menu options.
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In the context of today’s mobile operating systems, the iPod-like interface looks antiquated. It cut off half the screen for controls and made it difficult for users to see what was on the screen in the upper portion.
Still, it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea.
Prior to the iPhone’s launch in 2007, the iPod was one of the most popular portable devices in the world. Its use of a physical scroll wheel that controlled its software was wildly popular. The wheel could be turned left and right to quickly help users find tracks and play their favorite songs. Tapping the middle button would turn on a song or other audio track or help users get around the software. The Menu button at the top of the scroll wheel was used to go back in the software and access other items.
Ultimately, Apple ditched its iPod interface idea and went with the multitouch user interface users have now. While the scroll wheel has lived on in the iPod, the music player has been all but forgotten in favor of the music player built into the iPhone and other smartphones.