16 Apple products we can only dream about

Nowadays, everybody seems eager to make an Apple product. These prototypes from independent designers may never appear on shelves at the Apple Store, but they include lots of innovative ideas

  • iMo

    If you’re going to design an Apple vehicle, it can’t be just a simple box with four wheels. It has to be compact, efficient, and environmentally friendly. Anthony Jannarelly’s iMo concept is all that and more. Designed as a student project at Coventry University in the UK, Jannarelly’s iMo doesn’t just take you places--it can run errands for you.

    Apple's urban car of 2024, powered by electricity, seats two passengers comfortably with the option of seating three in a pinch. The iMo is also more than a car, as it has built-in artificial intelligence that enables the vehicle to find its own parking, take the kids to school, and pick you up when you’re done shopping. Check out Jannarelly’s [[xref:|iMo Website|iMo Website]] for more pictures and several clever Apple-style TV ads.

    iMo image:Anthony Jannarelly
  • iPhones Before the iPhone

    Even though Apple has been credited with many iconic products, the iPhone is without a doubt the biggest game-changing device the company has ever produced. The iPhone has reshaped the concept of what a mobile phone could be, and Apple's third-party application system has sparked a revolution that has made the handset more important than the carrier--an idea that [[xref:|Verizon|Google and Verizon Team Up for Android Phones]] is coming to terms with just now.

    So I've dedicated this last slide to concepts of the iPhone before the iPhone ever existed. You've already seen the iPod Chimera from 2006, which I consider to be an anomaly among pre-iPhone fakes. The photos here show that most designers were struggling to be innovative with the concept of an Apple phone, yet they couldn't break free of the standard keypad and small display. Here we have a fancy flip phone, two interesting concepts based on the iPod, and one touch-based device that still sported a permanent keypad. The iPhone blew open the doors for handset design, and set the stage for competing devices like the [[xref:|Palm Pre|Palm Pre]], [[xref:|BlackBerry Storm 2|BlackBerry Storm 2]], [[xref:|Motorola Cliq|Motorola Cliq]], and many others. The iPhone was introduced only in 2007--yet it's hard to imagine the mobile device market without it. Thanks to [[xref:|Mobile Freak|Mobile Freak]] for uncovering these gems.

    Pre-iPhone iPhones image: Mobile Freak
  • Apple Products That Never Were--And May Never Be

    With its elegantly constructed equipment and adherence to a strict aesthetic, Apple has become the gold standard among many industrial designers. In fact, many people are so enamored of the Apple look that they're willing to design whole new Apple products for free, with absolutely no encouragement from the company. We've collected 16 of the most interesting of these fantasy Apple prototypes, from an iRing to an electric automobile. We'll probably never see any of these products in these exact forms, but we can dream, right?
  • Apple Watches

    People have come up with so many great Apple watch concepts that it was hard to pick just one. Most of them use the predictable iWatch moniker, and typically multimedia functionality is integrated into each timepiece. Pictured here are three concepts. At the top is the beautifully styled [[xref:|HiPod|HiPod]], which features wireless headphones and a clean watch face that flips up to reveal an iPod. At bottom left is an iWatch that works as a conventional watch and features a [[xref:|bright, full-color display|Worth]]. Finally, at bottom right is an idea that's a little different: an [[xref:|iPod Mini|iWatch Concept]] that simply wraps around your wrist.

    HiPod image: Isamu Sanada, via iWatch (Bono) image: iWatch/iPod Mini image:
  • iCom

    With holographic imaging, eye-tracking technology, a touch-control display, and customizable applications, the [[xref:|iCom|iCom]] looks like something straight out of Captain Picard's ready room. But in this century, the iCom would come loaded with apps straight from the iTunes App Store. This iPhone-inspired desktop unit is just one of many Apple concepts you can find over at [[xref:|MacLife|MacLife]].

    Think the iCom is too farfetched to appear in your lifetime? Think again. Apple filed an application to patent a "realistic holographic 3D display experience" in 2008, according to [[xref:|Information Week|Information Week]].

    iCom image: MacLife
  • Apple Camera

    Apple has been on a roll with cameras in recent years, stuffing lenses and shutters into the [[xref:|iPhone|Head-to-Head: iPod Nano Video vs. Pocket Camcorders]] and the [[xref:|iPod Nano|First Look: iPod Nano Video]]. The [[xref:|iPod Touch|Jobs' Excuse for No-Camera iPod touch Doesn't Click]], however, is still an image-free device. Imagine an iPod Touch or iPhone, then, with an integrated camera lens as you see here. This [[xref:|concept from MacLife|Apple Hardware Prototypes: Four Radical New Concepts Revealed]] would definitely bulk up the device a little, but the image quality would be miles above what other handsets offer right now. I'm not clear, though, on whether this idea is supposed to be a multipurpose device or a dedicated camera. If it's only a camera, how many of you would be interested in something like this?

    Apple Camera image:
  • iToast

    This iToast comes courtesy of’s [[xref:|Apple Imagination Gallery|Apple Imagination Gallery]]. We found a lot of i-toasters out there, but Michael Thilow’s iToast burns the competition. The toaster is wide enough to fit four pieces of bread (probably bagels, too), and it features what look like innovative toaster controls, such as fast-forward, rewind, and pause. Actually, the design doesn’t specify whether iToast’s controls are for music or bread, but I’d like to think that Apple would do something a little more original than stick an MP3 player in a toaster. Apple’s iconic logo is also seared onto every slice of bread, according to Apple-Discount. Talk about Apple-y goodness in the morning.

    To go along with your iToast, why not take a sip of some freshly brewed Infinite Loop Dark Roast from the [[xref:|eCafe|eCafe]], and slice open a bagel while your [[xref:|iBlade|iBlade]] pumps out some hot tunes?

    iToast image: Michael Thilow, courtesy of Apple-Discounts eCafe image: iBlade image:
  • iPod Chimera

    It has been around only since 2007, but some people already want Apple to rethink the design for the iPhone (and iPod Touch). One design favorite is John Pszeniczny’s [[xref:|iPod Chimera for 2010|iPod Chimera]]. The fictional specs for this device read like a fanboy’s dream: 500GB or 1TB of storage, a titanium scratch- and smear-resistant touchscreen, a 1280-by-720 high-definition display, 4G connectivity for the iPhone, a two-way iSight camera, GPS, satellite radio, and an HD receiver.

    The iPod Chimera appeared three years ago--before the iPhone--as an entry in iLounge’s [[xref:|iPod 2010 Concept Art Contest|iPod 2010 Concept Art Contest]], and it also made a showing in [[xref:|Wired|Wired]]. The design is very forward-thinking (especially for the pre-iPhone world of 2006), but does anyone else notice a striking similarity to Microsoft’s new [[xref:|Zune HD|Reserve Your Zune HD Today]]? Check out YouTube for a [[xref:|Chimera-inspired commercial|The Myth of the iPod Chimera! Very Cool!!]]. And just so we're clear: The iPod Chimera is not a real product.

    iPod Chimera image: iLounge
  • iMac With Tablet Slot

    People have been making a lot of guesses about what an Apple tablet--if one even exists--would be able to do. One suggestion is that the tablet would [[xref:|double as a second screen and/or touchpad|Apple Tablet's Killer App Revealed?]] for other Apple computers. If that's the case, why not take the idea all the way and merge the tablet with an iMac? A desktop computer with a slot-loading tablet could allow you to sync files, browser bookmarks, and media between the two devices, easily. Touchscreen capability on the iMac would make this duo even better.

    Recent touch-based devices like Hewlett-Packard's [[xref:|TouchSmart|HP Tries to Find Business Use for Touchscreen PCs]] computers and [[xref:|DreamScreen|Hands On with HP’s DreamScreen]] displays may be stirring debate about touch interfaces in desktop products, but if Apple ever tried it, you can bet that all the anti-touchscreen arguments would start to disappear. Instead, other manufacturers would be falling all over themselves to put touch-based displays in everything, and tech pundits would be loving every Apple-inspired minute of it. ([[xref:|Mockup by MacLife|MacLife]].)

    iMac with Tablet Slot image:
  • iShow

    [[xref:|Pico projectors|Samsung Enters Pico-Projector Market]] are becoming increasingly popular. These small devices may be pocket-size, but they can produce images up to 5 feet tall, on almost any surface. Picos are perfect for the traveling executive dealing with a PowerPoint addiction. Today’s pico projectors are small, boring, gray or black boxes about the size of an iPod or candy-bar-style cell phone. But as pico grows in popularity, Apple may one day liberate the tiny projector from its ordinary shell. If the company does go in that direction, it should have a look at [[xref:|Moti Barzilay|Moti Barzilay]]'s iShow pico projector.

    The iShow, about the size of a Webcam, is an LED projector that can display an image of up to 60 inches. It would connect to any MacBook, iPhone, or non-Apple video device. To turn the device on, you just pull apart the two sides to reveal the projector lens and ports. The iShow is functional and stylish--just be careful not to let it roll off the table.

    iShow image: Moti Barzilay
  • Two Mac Minis

    One of the most neglected members of the Apple family, next to the Apple TV, is the [[xref:|Mac Mini|New Mac Mini Gains Nvidia Graphics]]: Even though the Mini is the Apple computer that's the lightest on the wallet, it has never really taken hold as a popular desktop alternative. That hasn't stopped a small, dedicated group of Mac Mini lovers from dreaming up home theater roles for this small wonder.

    The Mac Mini A/V Dock, from an anonymous blogger at [[xref:|Asteroid|Concept for Mac mini A/V dock]], turns the Mini into a media center that would fit into your home theater rack. The second Mac Mini creation, from the blog [[xref:|Myopia|Maxed-Out Mini]], features a Mini integrated into a customized home theater system, with an iPod-like tuner, media card slots, and FireWire and USB ports. The setup also has room to install an extra hard drive, stackable batteries, and more. (If you're a hard-core Mac Mini lover, check out [[xref:||]], too.)

    Mac Mini A/V Dock image: Asteroid Mac Mini Home Theater image: Myopia
  • iPod Slide

    The iPod Slide is a sleek concept that gives Nano-like portability to the iPod Classic. Designed by Tryi Yeh, this imaginary media player features a slide-out screen, a silver backing, and a set of thermal sensors to control the machine, according to design blog [[xref:|Tuvie|Tuvie]]. You can slide the entire screen out for complete functionality, or just pop out a small part of the screen to reveal a menu of iPod functions such as video, music, and photos.

    Tech pundits have been predicting the imminent [[xref:|demise of the iPod Classic|demise of the iPod Classic]], in favor of the iPod Touch, Nano, and Shuffle. But if Apple ever came out with something like the iPod Slide, it might be the Nano and Shuffle that disappear.

    iPod Slide image: Tryi Yeh, via Tuvie
  • iMac iView

    Nuno Teixeira's [[xref:|Curved iMac concept|Curved iMac]] has two panoramic screens in an arrangement that takes advantage of the natural curvature and movement of the human eye. A second LCD in the back allows colleagues or students to follow your on-screen activities. Dubbed the "iView," this iMac features two Webcams (front and back) as well as Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. I think the iView would definitely be a professional-level product, with an equally impressive price to match its specs.

    iView image: Nuno Teixeira
  • iRing

    Next to a tablet, iPod-styled jewelry is the concept that designers most love to work on. Very few of the ideas, however, work as well as the ones in this slide and the next. Victor Soto’s iRing is a sleek-looking, touch-based device that plays music with basic play/pause and fast-forward/rewind buttons on the face. Sliding your finger along the edge of the ring controls the volume; the iRing also features a lock function that you activate by squeezing the ring with your finger. The iRing has its own USB-powered charging dock, too.

    Check out Tuvie for more information about the [[xref:|iRing|iRing]].

    iRing image: Victor Soto, courtesy of Tuvie
  • The Con

    The Con iPhone concept features a fold-out screen that reveals a mini OS X desktop. The handset has a touchscreen surrounded by carbon-fiber casing, and the fold-out screen is made of three solid-state LCD panels, according to [[xref:|Wired|New Phone Prototype Tries To ‘Con’ its Way Into Your Portable Media Dreams]]. There are also three programmable, detachable buttons.

    Check out The Con at [[xref:|13TechDesign|13TechDesign]].

    The Con image: Sean Haller
  • MacBook Touch

    Everybody’s coming up with relatively conventional ideas about what Apple’s fabled tablet will look like. But Tommaso Gecchelin’s MacBook Touch would be a giant leap forward, keeping with Apple’s penchant for revolutionary design. Gecchelin’s Touch can change into a number of forms, thanks to its fictional iSpine technology. The MacBook Touch could work as a netbook, tablet surface, or desktop monitor. When in tablet form, it would be the size of an A4 piece of paper.

    Check out more pics at [[xref:|Yanko Design|Yanko Design]].

    MacBook Touch image: Tommaso Gecchelin, courtesy of Yanko Design
  • Game Dock

    Another concept featured at MacLife is the Game Dock, which integrates your iPod Touch into a video game console. In the Apple Game Dock scenario, you would download a game to your iPod Touch, but as soon as you placed your handheld device in the Game Dock, it would immediately download the console version of the same game to the Dock's hard drive. Your iPod Touch would also sync with the Dock, so any gaming progress you made on one device would be reflected in both versions. The best part is that you pay only once to get both game versions. Sounds a little far out, I know. But if Apple ever wanted to try its hand at [[xref:|console gaming|Might Apple TV Morph into Games Console?]] ([[xref:|again|The Six Worst Apple Products of All Time]]), you know that iPod Touch integration would likely be a big part of it--especially since the iPod Touch (and the iPhone) represent Apple's big push into gaming at the moment.

    Game Dock image: MacLife
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