Meet the bonkers interface the iPhone almost used

The original iPhone's touch-centric user interface may have ushered in a new era in smartphone design, but it could have looked very different indeed.

Sonny Dickson, a well-known Apple leaker, has revealed early prototypes of the operating system that would become iOS - including one that used a virtual version of the iconic iPod click wheel for navigation. The news comes as part of the iPhone's ten-year anniversary, as tech fans and pundits reminisce about the reveal of iconic smartphone.

The video shows two early variants of the software running side by side - one using the click wheel and one using a much more familiar all-touch interface. Tony Fadell, ex-Nest CEO and one of the key engineers on the original iPhone, was in charge of the team developing the former. "The clickwheel was very iconic and we were trying to leverage that," he said.

Obviously, the design Fadell's team came up with didn't win out in the end, and he stated that they knew it was a bust from the outset.

However, he also stressed that it was the ideas that were competing, rather than the teams. "There were many variations as we co-evolved the designs, both [hardware] UI and [software] UIs," he said. "Good design process doesn't follow a straight line."

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.