Apple has been working on the iPhone since long before it hit the market in 2007, and today a new developer prototype has come to light that shows how it might have looked if they’d rushed it to market earlier. The 2005 internal prototype is pictured in photos obtained by Ars Technica, from an unnamed former Apple employee.
The prototype iPhone doesn’t look like an iPhone as we know it at all, aside from the fact that it boasts a rectangular screen. The device is 5″ x 7″, closer to the current iPad mini than anything else, which is 5.3″ by 7.87″. It’s also two inches thick, which is around the depth of six iPad minis stacked, but that was necessary for including all the ports the iPhone prototype had on board.
Yes, ports. The early iPhone design had a USB port, Ethernet and serial. They weren’t included so that you could hook up to your dot matrix printer – Ars’ source says the development team was simply making the gadget as easy to work internally with as possible in its early, pre-release form. The unit itself was designed completely around helping the internal team refine the product; a large display also makes it easier to work with. But back then everything was up in the air, meaning it was still arguably a real possibility that the iPhone could have shipped with wired Internet on board.
Ars notes that the chip used in the prototype is the older, slower antecedent of the Samsung-made ARM design used in the actual first iPhone, so the partnership was in place long before Apple went into full-scale production.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said in 2010 that Apple actually worked on the iPad before it ever began work on the iPhone, so it makes sense that an early prototype for an Apple phone would largely resemble the Apple slate that would later follow. And in basic engineering terms, it’s easier to work big before working small. And even though they never would’ve shipped it, it’s funny to imagine that Apple was making phablets long before Android OEMs were stretching the limits of what sized device can comfortably be termed a “phone.”