This abomination is what an iPhone with an iPod click wheel could have been

Iphone Prototype With Click Wheel Copy
Iphone Prototype With Click Wheel Copy (Image credit: Tony Fadell)

What you need to know

  • Apple prototypes all kinds of things and external companies sometimes get involved, even on iPhone projects.
  • Father of the iPod, Tony Fadell, has shared an image of a prototype iPhone that never came to be.
  • The prototype iPhone included an iPods click wheel and number pad.

Tony Fadell is often referred to as the father of the iPod, so when he cleans out his garage of prototypes and gizmos it's worth paying attention. One of those prototypes is 50% iPod, 50% iPhone, 100% terrible.

In a series of images shared with TechCrunch, Fadell shares the kinds of things that never turned into shipping products but are still very interesting regardless. You could argue that the products Apple doesn't ship are more interesting than the ones it does. In one case, that's very much not the case. We'd already heard of Apple's initial consideration of putting a click wheel from an iPod onto an iPhone — but it turns out another company pitched the idea, too. The result is what you see at the top of this page.

"That is a prototype that a third-party manufacture sent to me, saying, 'We're capable. Look at this cool thing we did,' and 'I think you should pick us because we can help you with this iPod Phone concept,'" Fadell says of the above shot. "The top and the bottom have a swivel, so you can have either the number pad or click wheel or camera. It was really cool that people were thinking about it. It wasn't half bad! It doesn't work for a lot of reasons, but it's not bad thinking."

The idea of putting a click wheel on one side and a number pad on the other does make the kind of sense that would have done back in circa 2006, but still. Just, no.

Apple ultimately, and famously, decided to go another route, and the iPhone that we know and love today was thanks to that decision. As advanced as a modern iPhone 13 is, it's still the same as the OG iPhone on the surface — a large touchscreen. Sure, we lost the Home button along the way, but the overall look remains and not a click wheel in sight!

With the news Apple has now killed off the iPod line entirely, I can't help but wonder how things could have been different. Sure, iPhone 13 is the best iPhone ever made. But could it have been even better with an iPod's click wheel attached?

Probably not. No.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.