Tony Fadell Shares New Details on Prototype iPhone Software With Virtual iPod Clickwheel

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Earlier this month, Sonny Dickson shared a collection of images and videos featuring an of the iPhone with an early iPod-style operating system called "Acorn OS," based on a clickwheel interface.

The iPod-like software was developed by "iPod Father" Tony Fadell, who shared some new details on its creation with The Verge in an attempt to clarify the backstory behind the software.

Click Wheel-based OS vs. the Icon-based OS that went on to become iOS

According to Fadell, the longstanding story suggesting there were two teams at Apple (one led by Fadell and one led by Scott Forstall) competing with one another to develop the iPhone's OS isn't quite accurate. There were multiple UI possibilities being explored by both the hardware and the software teams, who were working together.

"It was a competing set of ideas, not teams," says Fadell. "And we were all working on it."

He went on to explain that there were two paths in hardware and software UI development going on at Apple "at all times," and that the software shown off in the video is "just what the UI guys were doing, devoid of any hardware." There was never a hardware prototype running the software shown off in Dickson's video, but someone ported it "just for fun." It was only ever a Mac app.

A virtual clickwheel, as shown in the video, was just one path of iPod-style development, as Jobs had the iPhone team explore every possibility. Other iPod-like ideas included an iPod phone with a smaller screen and a click wheel, which was unrealistic, and a hardware-based wheel with buttons, another idea that didn't pan out.
We tried everything. We tried having little buttons on the clickwheel so you could click. There was a Nokia phone where they had a circular pattern for the numbers, in hard buttons, and Steve was like "Go make that work." So we tried that.

And we went, "Steve, give it up, it's going to be too hard. It's not going to work." So we were halfway through, like four weeks or five weeks into it, and we said "This is not working." We pushed this for like another four, five weeks to keep trying, and we're saying, "This is a waste of time." But we had to be ready, because that's what he wanted.
By the time Fadell took over the iPhone division from Jon Rubinstein, Apple was working on a Linux-based OS backed by Rubinstein and a reduced version of OS X, developed by Scott Forstall and Avie Tevanian. the OS X version, codenamed Purple OS, won out, and the Linux version was killed off within a matter of weeks. Purple OS went on to become the iOS software we know today.

Fadell's full interview with The Verge, which goes into more detail about the iPhone's development process, is well worth checking out.

Article Link: Tony Fadell Shares New Details on Prototype iPhone Software With Virtual iPod Clickwheel
 

ILuvEggplant

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Jul 28, 2016
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I'm curious how the iphone division worked up the iPhone 7.

iPhone Team to Tim "Tim ! We made the iphone with wireless charging, longer battery, oLED screen, user preferences on mail-maps-calendar apps, and with a usb 3 port!"

Tim to iphone Team "This is a waste of time. Take the headphone port off, make it thinner, & rebrand the iphone 6 as an iPhone 7."
 

Crzyrio

macrumors 65816
Jul 6, 2010
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I'm curious how the iphone division worked up the iPhone 7.

iPhone Team to Tim "Tim ! We made the iphone with wireless charging, longer battery, oLED screen, user preferences on mail-maps-calendar apps, and with a usb 3 port!"

Tim to iphone Team "This is a waste of time. Take the headphone port off, make it thinner, & rebrand the iphone 6 as an iPhone 7."
Apple should have just released the iPhone 7 as the first iPhone. So silly that they held back all this technology from the first iPhone just to generate $ over the past 10 years.


/s
 

wozmatic

macrumors 6502
Apr 30, 2014
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The iPhone looks like it's heading back that way as of late...

JK, iPhone is good but if they do a curved edge it's over for me
 

Amacfa

macrumors 68000
May 22, 2009
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I'm curious how the iphone division worked up the iPhone 7.

iPhone Team to Tim "Tim ! We made the iphone with wireless charging, longer battery, oLED screen, user preferences on mail-maps-calendar apps, and with a usb 3 port!"

Tim to iphone Team "This is a waste of time. Take the headphone port off, make it thinner, & rebrand the iphone 6 as an iPhone 7."
Or...it wasn't ready and waited this year to release it. Go to Samsung if you want rushed products. iPhone hasn't got thinner in almost 3 years :rolleyes:

Hope you get those likes you're fishing for, though!
 

ThomasJL

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Oct 16, 2008
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This is precisely why Steve Jobs favored internal competition over feel-good collaboration. Tim Cook smugly prides himself on creating an environment of much-increased collaboration. Cook, in his typical cluelessness, fails to realize that diligent competition creates more innovation than naïve collaboration.
 

chado53

macrumors member
Jun 5, 2008
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that's actually pretty crazy. good thing they actually rethought that whole idea on touch screens instead of digitalizing the ipod touch-wheel.
 

mcfrazieriv

macrumors 6502a
Jan 30, 2012
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Of course this guy is going to disagree and say it wasn't two competing teams but instead "competing ideas" and that "we all were working on it" because he wants to take credit for success.
Amazing that all this stuff comes out when there's not really anyone to say otherwise anymore. All the ego and macho when the head honcho passes away that came out of the closet has been overwhelming.
 

vertical smile

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2014
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This is precisely why Steve Jobs favored internal competition over feel-good collaboration. Tim Cook smugly prides himself on creating an environment of much-increased collaboration. Cook, in his typical cluelessness, fails to realize that diligent competition creates more innovation than naïve collaboration.
This is interesting. It seems like the morale at Apple is a lot higher under Cook. I think I remember a few stories about the improved morale.

I wonder if this improved morale has an unintended cost.... lack of innovation.
 

NoNothing

macrumors 6502
Aug 9, 2003
449
485
Amazing stuff. 10 Years and competition is still behind (as far as hardware and industrial design). Software is level with the competition, but I think Apple still has the edge.


Can't wait for the big reveal this fall
I don't think the software is is even close IMO. iOS is still a half order of magnitude more efficient on resources and not needing 4-6GB of RAM to work well. I see the competition REQUIRING substantially faster HW/more RAM (and then, in turn bigger batteries) just to keep up.
 

Amacfa

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May 22, 2009
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I don't think the software is is even close IMO. iOS is still a half order of magnitude more efficient on resources and not needing 4-6GB of RAM to work well. I see the competition REQUIRING substantially faster HW/more RAM (and then, in turn bigger batteries) just to keep up.
Very true. The iPhone is still a good lead ahead even after 10 years. Don't forget swift!

Something tells me another 'leapfrog' will happen with the iPhone 8, making the gap even wider.
 
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Michael Scrip

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What year were these prototypes developed and fully-functional?

It looks like the physical design of the iPhone was pretty much established at the time this software was being worked on.

So maybe we can put to rest the argument that Apple "copied the design" and "stole the idea" of the LG Prada.

We know the iPhone was being developed in a secret lab in Cupertino in 2004-2006, right?

There's no way Apple knew, or even cared, about what LG was doing in South Korea at that time.
 
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oliversl

macrumors 65816
Jun 29, 2007
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Its incredible how Apple used all of hist powers to silence Scott Forstall. By distributing rumors to the press and to legally forbid him to talk in interviews. All this so that Tim Cook could remain CEO until he can no longer physically be the CEO. Anyway, it should be interesting to hear to other side of the coin.
 

InfLurk

macrumors newbie
Sep 20, 2016
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Nokia 3600 / 3650. Can't believe I actually ordered this.

I had that phone too! It wasn't all bad, and was definitely unique and garnered attention when seen. However, dialing or texting on it without looking (which was doable in the days with physical keys and before voice recognition) was a whole new level of hell.
 

Goaliegeek

macrumors 6502a
Apr 13, 2009
564
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Colorado
Man, it seems like prehistoric technology and it was only 10 years ago. Really good read. Imagine what could have been if Apple didn't push and push and push for different things and just settled. It's mind blowing reading a few small excerpts about 1 or 2 prototypes Apple has made when there are thousands made and thrown out.
 

kdarling

macrumors P6
What year were these prototypes developed and fully-functional?
Those are not prototypes. Those are production iPhones.

The UI demos that Jobs saw in 2005 were actually done on a Mac.

Then someone much later on ported the demos to real iPhones, just for fun.

We know the iPhone was being developed in a secret lab in Cupertino in 2004-2006, right?
While some case designs were worked on in the second half of 2005, iOS itself and the actual production iPhone project only started at the beginning of 2006.

Those poor people worked like crazy for the next year or so.
 
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trifid

macrumors 68000
May 10, 2011
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Past reports showed Apple looking at Sony for inspiration, these news now show Apple looking at Nokia for inspiration. Everyone please remember this when judging poor Samsung :p
 
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