This is really surprising: it seems Apple’s ambitions of entering the phone market dated back to the early days of Apple.
Hartmut Esslinger, founder of design firm frog design, designed a touchscreen phone prototype for Apple while he was under contract by the company to work on projects like the Apple IIc.
If you’ve read Steve Jobs’ biography, you might remember frog design as the company that won an Apple contest intended to create a “consistent design language” for all Apple products.
From the biography:
He [Esslinger] produced forty models of products to demonstrate the concept, and when Jobs saw them he proclaimed, “Yes, this is it!”
Jobs offered Esslinger a contract on the condition that he move to California. They shook hands and, in Esslinger’s not-so-modest words, “that handshake launched one of the most decisive collaborations in the history of industrial design.”
From what we’ve gathered from the web, the prototype designed by Esslinger:
- was made in co-operation with AT&T (which later went on to carry the iPhone exclusively more than 20 years later).
- had a monochrome touch screen.
- came with electronic check payment.
For reasons not known (maybe Jobs didn’t like the stylus?), this phone remained a prototype and eventually found place in a museum.