Court filings reveal early iPhone, iPod prototypes

Photos of early Apple prototypes are among the most recent documents submitted to a California court in patent battle between Apple and Samsung

Documents submitted to a California court as part of the patent battle between Apple and Samsung Electronics provide a fascinating look at the iPhone and iPad designs considered by Apple before the devices went on sale.

Among the revelations: a prototype of the iPhone developed in 2006 bears a strong resemblance to the iPhone 4 that went on sale in 2010, and some early designs for the iPad included a pull-out arm that acted as a stand.

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One of the iPad prototypes, which carries the label "X9 #4," is shown in images with a kickstand attached to the back of the unit. Another picture appears to show it sitting at an angle on a desk, presumably held up with the stand. A second prototype is shown without the stand attached but has a hole and recessed channel carved in the back that would presumably store the stand when it folds away.

While Apple decided against the stand on the finished product, it's notable that some third-party case makers have built the feature into some of their models. Palo Alto-based Speck has an iPad case with a fold-out stand that also doubles as a grip to hold the tablet.

Other iPad prototypes include a model with a two stage thickness, thinner around the edge than in the center.

Among the iPhone prototypes is an octagonal model, labeled "boeing v6," with angled corners and a two-tone design that has a black front and white, curved back. There's also a prototype that's longer and thinner than the eventual iPhone that would go on sale in 2007. Most of the prototypes appear to come from 2006.

Last week, similar filings with the court revealed Apple had tasked one of its designers with dreaming up "Sony-like" phone designs. The resulting designs, just like some of those that appeared over the weekend, have sides that are more defined. Some are black with a silver band running around the edge, making them look much more like the iPhone 4 than the first iPhone that went on sale.

The court submissions also show some early designs for the iPhone's home screen.

In one photo, an early set of icons are arranged on screen with no text underneath -- something that was present in later prototypes.

While some icons, such as those for weather, stocks, calculator and Safari, appear to have gone almost unchanged, others have been through redesigns. An early version of the iPod button was an orange box with a music note, something Apple later changed to an iPod icon, and the gallery icon was a young boy on a beach, not the sunflower familiar to millions of iPhone users.

The case is 11-01846, Apple v. Samsung Electronics, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's email address is martyn_williams@idg.com.

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