The Motherlode Of Secret Apple Prototypes

Behold: crazy, iPhone 4 prototypes and giant iPod touches, all never before seen, revealed today in court filings that were first noticed by the Verge. It’s perhaps the most insight we’ve ever had into Apple’s design processes.

Easily the coolest iPhone concept never shipped, this prototype is an octagon (!).

It seems like an iPhone 3G(S)ish prototype, given the smooth back and lack of a front-facing camera.

A smoother, rounder, smaller iPhone 4 prototype

Codenamed N90 — indicating it’s an iPhone 4 design prototype — this seems like a rounder-but-smaller iPhone 4, though it’s hard to tell at this scale. (Also it seems like a roadmap for how to squeeze a bigger screen into a smaller space: less bezel.)

Another potential iPhone 4 prototype

It also bears the “N90” designation, indicating it was a prototype iPhone 4 design. I like it! It’s a lot like Nokia’s Lumia 900, actually.

An iPod touch maybe? Or an earlier version of the above design?

Note that it has no home button at all, so I think it’s an earlier version of the above design.

No Apple logo either.

The iPod mini-esque “extrusion” prototype

One thing I’d note: If those leaked new iPhone parts are real, it appears Apple’s been playing with a two-toned design for some time before going all the way with it. And the Verge photos of a two-toned iPad with a kickstand to boot.

I am tripping balls over the old icon set.

This “N35” prototype seems like an old iPod touch.

It’s really fat like an iPod classic, indicating it’s got a hard drive, but the front is all-touchscreen. Kinda gross looking, if you ask me.

All in all, combined with the insight about the iPhone 4’s original design inspiration and the decade-old iPad prototype, this week has provided one of the most revealing looks ever into Apple’s design and prototyping processes — it’s a real peek behind the curtain. All of these designs are very good — well, except for the iPod touch — but none of them were good enough for Apple.

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