Apple almost lost a prototype of the first-ever iPhone on a plane

Ten years ago, the first iPhone went on sale, and Apple and fans everywhere are celebrating the occasion on Monday. 

Some former Apple employees are using the occasion to dust off some great stories about the iPhone launch and the development process that led up to it. 

One new story that’s come to light is that a prototype of the first device was almost lost on a plane, former Apple executive and Nest founder Tony Fadell told the BBC. 

Steve Jobs, the CEO at the time, had said that he was going to fire anyone who let the iPhone leak out. Jobs hated leaks.

The product’s design and emphasis on a touchscreen was unprecedented at the time, and competitors and Apple fans were desperate to learn what was being developed in Cupertino, California. 

Fadell, who was in charge of iPod engineering at Apple, almost let the iPhone leak by accident when he got off a flight and he discovered the “Jesus phone,” as the media eventually called the device, wasn’t in his pocket. 

It could happen to anyone. 

So Fadell rounded up a search party, who didn’t even know what it was trying to find, and after two hours of searching, was able to find the prototype. 

“It fell out of my pocket and it was lodged in between the seats,” he told BBC

An iPhone-iPod combination  

Another piece of Apple history recently surfaced when leaker Sonny Dickson got his hands on screenshots of a scrapped operating system that was called “Acorn OS” internally.

This software basically looks like if the iPod’s software was extended to include phone features like making calls or sending texts. But instead of a digital keyboard, like the iPhone ultimately shipped with, the prototype used Apple’s “click wheel” for input and navigation. 

Fadell confirmed that the leaked video was legitimate, and that it was a software version for the user interface team at Apple. “You can see why we ditched it?” he tweeted

In the interview with BBC, Fadell explained on why the click wheel prototype was scrapped. 

“We were turning it into a rotary phone from the sixties,” Fadell said. “We were like, ‘This doesn’t work! It’s too hard to use.'”

The entire interview with Fadell is worth reading, especially for Apple fans.


25 Big Tech Predictions by BI Intelligence. Get the Report Now »

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.