Prototype iPod reveals a Tetris clone that was never released

iPod 3rd-generation playing Tetris
(Image credit: Apple Demo - YouTube)

A third-generation iPod prototype from 2003 that features a scrapped Tetris clone has been discovered, revealing Apple’s earlier plans to bring one of the most popular games of all time to its handheld jukebox.

AppleDemoYT is a prolific collector of unreleased Apple products who created a YouTube video of this unreleased Tetris clone on May 24. Called ‘Stacker’, the game leveraged the iPod’s click wheel to move the blocks, as well as the middle button to change a block’s shape. The iPod is labeled DVT (Design Validation Testing) — this means it was a late-prototype model. AppleDemoYT explains in his video that the device was manufactured around the beginning of April 2003, which puts the prototype a month before the third-generation iPod was released on May 2. One could suspect that scrapping this Tetris clone could have been a last-minute decision by Apple, although we don’t know why.

An official version of Tetris debuted on the iPod several years later in 2006, taking advantage of the fifth-generation iPod’s improved color display. When the third-generation iPod was released, a collection of games were available to play. For example, Breakout, a game created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, required you to bounce a ball in order to break rows of bricks. Other games included were Music Quiz, which used your music library, and Parachute, where you could control a cannon to shoot down helicopters.

AirPods Pro 2 | $249 $189 at Amazon

AirPods Pro 2 | $249 $189 at Amazon

This is still the lowest price we’ve seen the AirPods Pro 2 drop to, and we can’t see it going down much more for the time being. A saving of $60 is a great discount and it brings the buds below the $200 mark.

Way back in 2006, Apple released a plethora of games to coincide with a new software update for its fifth and sixth-generation iPods:

  • Bejeweled
  • Cubis 2
  • Mahjong
  • Mini Golf
  • Pac-Man
  • Texas Hold 'Em
  • Vortex
  • Zuma

Sonic would later be made available in 2007 for $4.99 / £4.99, though its control scheme was awkward. You had to hold the fast-forward button to make Sonic run and use the middle button to make him jump. Games like Tetris made sense for the click-wheel iPod, but once the App Store arrived on the iPhone in 2008 with its touch display, the accelerometer, and more, the device signaled the end of these iPod games. Regardless, this third-generation iPod prototype showcases what was possible with the iconic click-wheel design, as well as showing how we could have had one of the greatest games on our iPods in 2003.

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Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use every day to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. His second book, '50 Years of Boss Fights', came out in June 2024, and has a monthly newsletter called 'Springboard'. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64, and Daily Star.