In Pictures: The hidden iPhone - New photos from early 2006 show Apple's design tinkering

Even as iPhone 5 fever heats up, Apple-Samsung court case puts focus on original iPhone

  • Court documents show that in early 2006, Apple was considering a range of iPhone designs, one that looks remarkably like the iPhone 4, and others that were inspired by Sony. Check out this slideshow of never-before-seen images of the path-breaking smartphone's early possibilities. A big part of the Apple-Samsung patent infringement case revolves around allegations that some of Samsung's cellphones and tablet computers are too closely styled after Apple's products. Samsung seems to be saying that Apple, too, looked to other companies for its phone design.

  • Samsung's court submission includes images, produced by an Apple computer-aided design (CAD) system, of a handset that borrows from Sony design elements of the time: a jog wheel at the top right side, and a combined control wheel and switch, which appeared on Sony's Clie personal digital assistants running Palm OS and having a strong multimedia focus.

  • A different view of this same design shows how strikingly similar it is to the iPhone 4 (image via PC World) and 4S models: the flat, metal-banded sides, even the proportion of screen-size-to-case. The edge of the track wheel is visible at top right. At lower-left, there appears to be the home button.

  • This CAD image shows "Sony" marked on this model, apparently a flip-style smartphone, with the hinge emphasized as part of the industrial design. The visible external-facing screen, presumably a touch screen, raises the question of whether there would be, or could be, another touch display once the phone was fully opened.

  • The full front and back views of the iPhone 4-like prototype, more clearly showing what must be home button, the track wheel, and the additional control buttons on the front.

  • These 3D models, also from early 2006, show two designs, one that clearly is very close to what became the original iPhone. But the second, in white, with larger bezel areas, and rounded edges, is the product of Apple designer Shin Nishibori, referred to as "the sony-style chappy" by senior members of Apple's design team.

  • Nishibori's design -- apparently an exercise to answer the question "What would Sony do?" -- clearly shows the centered home button at the bottom of the model. In the other mockup above it, it's unclear what the large "button" at top right is: a home button placement or possibly a front-facing camera?

  • This shot of the two models, from the top left angle, shows other differences between the two designs. Interestingly, Nishibori's design at left is echoed strongly by Nokia's Lumia 800 and 900 series Windows Phone handsets. By contrast, the glass face of the "standard" iPhone design to the right is "all about the screen."

  • This final shot from the court filings shows a slightly different "standard" iPhone design: This one clearly shows the home button centered at the bottom, with the word "menu" emblazoned (apparently also on the Nishibori design). That word was eliminated in the final iPhone design.

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