Apple’s First Phone Design Never Made It to Market

2014 – If you were on the Mac Web in July 2007, you probably saw Fudder’s article, The Very First iPhone – or at least stories about the article or links to it. The mock-up (below) was created by Frog Design, built by Hertmut Esslinger, and bears more than a passing resemblance to the Apple IIc.

Apple phone concept, 1983

Apple IIc with monitor

This was 1983. Before the Macintosh. Well before the Newton. Back when the Lisa was a US$10,000 computer.

The Apple Phone looks like it has a graphical user interface with a touchscreen, much as seen in the Newton a decade later.

There’s not a lot said about this phone, but from it looks like it has a built-in checkbook program. Whether this was just a check register or was intended to allow users to use an early form of online checking is a mystery, but it is intriguing. I wonder if it had an address book as well, which would allow users to scroll through a phone list, click with the stylus, and place a phone call.

Apple cordless phone concept, 1983In 1983, Apple also had a prototype design for a cordless phone, which also bears design elements similar to the Apple IIc.

original Apple iPhoneIt’s amazing how far we came in the years between these concepts and the original iPhone. Phones that plug into a wall jack and handsets wired to the phone are so 20th century, and we can’t imagine a mobile phone today without a screen – although few had touch screens when the iPhone arrived in 2007.

Steve Jobs still worked at Apple when these projects were underway. It took technology almost 25 years to move from the Apple Phone concept to the iPhone, which has a color display, doesn’t need a stylus, lets us watch video and listen to music, connects to the Internet, takes photos, and functions as a mobile phone as well.

As the author of Ecclesiastes said thousands of years ago, there’s nothing new under the sun.

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2 thoughts on “Apple’s First Phone Design Never Made It to Market

    • Thank you for your comments. I have clarified that this was only a design prototype, not a released product, and added the link you provided to Harmut Esslinger and his role in creating the mock-up.

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