When Apple first announced the iPhone ten years ago this week, it showed off a device with now-familiar app icons and a natural touchscreen interface. But that wasn’t always the plan — internally; Apple had different teams competing on different projects to find the best operating system for its new device. We got our first look at one of these systems last week, a click wheel prototype designed by Tony Fadell and his team, and known as P1. Now we have seen another: a very early version of the touchscreen operating system, codenamed P2, that would go on to become iOS.
When the first iPhone was launched by Apple, it showcased something which was relatable to current age iPhones with its layout, fonts, and a natural touchscreen interface. But that wasn’t always the plan — internally. Apple had different teams competing on different projects to find the best operating systems for a new device. The video shows two separate operating systems running side by side. The first one is a click-wheel prototype (reminiscent of the click wheel iPods), designed by Tony Fadell and his team and called it the P1. The next is a very early version of the touchscreen.
The video, recorded by Sonny Dickson, shows P1 and P2 running next to each other. P1 — running what Dickson states “AcornOS” — boots up quicker than P2, but it is the second device that runs on a familiar operating system to modern iPhone users, but a very basic version. Giant blue icon on a white background, providing touchscreen options for calls, SMS, and “Other” — a menu that leads to Music, Network, and Preferences, among other choices. Other images shared by Dickson show further options, including a toggle for Airplane mode and a phone dial screen.
Whereas the P1 was the work of Tony Fadell, and his team, also called “father of the iPod”, and P2 was developed by a group led by Scott Forstall — the then-leader of Mac development within the company. As history has shown, Forstall’s prototype won the competition between the teams at Apple, leading to the creation of the first consumer version of the iOS.
As Dickson states, these prototype devices were never meant to see the light of the day outside of Apple’s walls. But the early prototypes were also key elements of Apple’s history, marking a fork in the road which assisted Apple to make its most important product, the iPhone and change the way we use smartphones.