An Old iPhone 4 Design Prototype From 2006

More ancient Apple prototypes revealed by court filings this week: What looks like the first, Sony-inspired design prototype of the iPhone 4/4S, along with an iPhone that looks like a giant iPod mini that never saw the light of day.

This is getting fun! After court filings last week revealed decade-old prototype/mockups of an Apple tablet for the very first time, today we’re seeing design prototype/mockups for iPhones that date back to 2006, first spotted by the Verge — one phone that looks very much like today’s iPhone 4/4S, and another that looks like a giant iPod mini, codenamed P2.

When the iPhone 4 came out, John Gruber noted that it was like a “love letter to Dieter Rams.” Turns out, it’s just as much a love letter to the Sony aesthetics of old, designed by Apple industrial designer Shin Nishibori. Just take a look at the big fat Sony logo in the design mockups below.

A layout of the “Sony-style” phone

As pointed out by the Verge, Apple designer Richard Howarth argued for the “sony-style chappy” over the “extrusion” model because it’s a “much smaller-looking product with a nicer shape to have next to your ear and in your pocket.” Can’t say I disagree. The best part of this email, though, is the fact that Howarth (and perhaps Jony Ive?) thought the iPhone 4-like design “look[ed] old next to the extrusion,” way back in 2006. And here we are in 2012.

Those old school, point-y icons tell you just how old this mockup is: It’s obviously before the iPhone’s interface had settled in the now iconic rounded corner buttons.

I think I’d still like an all-metal phone, if only for the durability. Maybe we’ll get something close with the next iPhone.

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