Tony Fadell describes competing teams working on different iPhone designs

It scarcely seems possible now that Apple ever considered an iPhone based on a click-wheel iPod, but we actually got to see a surviving prototype earlier this year. Steve Jobs created competing teams to work on different approaches to an iPhone, and ‘father of the iPod’ Tony Fadell has spoken about this in a new interview …

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Wired asked him about the differing stories about the origins of the iPhone, and Fadell says this is because there were multiple projects – and more than just two.

There was a large screen iPod for video that had a touch interface. There was an iPod phone, which was basically an iPod Mini, perhaps a bit bigger, with a phone inside that had a wheel and a small screen […]

Then there was the iPod phone, which was all about getting a phone inside of an iPod so you could make calls using the headphones. This had the problem that you couldn’t dial properly or do text entry or anything else – you just couldn’t use it.

Scott Forstall spoke recently of Apple’s concern that cellphones were going to cannibalize iPod sales, and Fadell says everyone was very conscious of this pressure.

What we ran into, though, was cell phones. How to put this functionality in them, that was the big problem – and users going, ‘Which one am I going to take, my iPod or my cell phone?’ Because they were not going to carry both.

It was that feeling or urgency that led Apple to partner with the ill-fated Motorola Rokr.

We tried our best. Motorola would only do so much with it. Their software team was only so good. Their operations system was only so good. And that experience just didn’t work very well.

Even in those days, said Fadell, Apple knew that streaming music would one day replace large-capacity iPods.

The high-capacity iPods were where we were making all our money, and if they could download at any time – and we could see the time when the networks were going to get faster because of 3G – we were like ‘oh my God, we’re going to lose this business’ to this music jukebox in the sky, which is basically what Spotify is.

Apple was also playing with multitouch technology for the Mac.

The touchscreen Macbook project was basically trying to get touchscreen technology into a Mac to try to compete with Microsoft tablets. Steve was pissed off, and wanted to show them how to do it right. Well, that might have been the project to show Microsoft how to do it right, but they quickly realised there was so much software and there were so many new apps needed, and that everything had to be changed that it was very difficult. Plus the multitouch itself, we didn’t know we could scale it that large to a full-screen display.

Fadell said that the iPhone had changed our lives, but we need to ‘make sure we don’t lose the analogue portion of our life.’ You can read the full interview over at Wired.

Photo: Sonny Dickson

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