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Apple Prototypes  

Pictures of prototype iPhones revealed in Apple v. Samsung court documents.

 

During the Apple v. Samsung court trial, a number of internal documents were revealed from both sides, including extremely rare photos of Apple design prototypes for the iPhone and iPad. As part of court exhibits filed before jury proceedings began on Aug. 1, the device designs were to be used as evidence that Samsung infringed on certain Apple-held patents, including the D'889 iPad property.

 

While both parties fought vigorously to keep their respective documents sealed, presiding Judge Lucy Koh mandated that exhibits remain available to the public as per an earlier order for an open trial. Trade secrets such as source code and limited financial data were kept private, however Apple was unable to block the media from uncovering its pre-production designs. The photos and accompanying in-court testimony from Apple designers like Chris Stringer pull back the curtain on the company's highly secretive design process, one that some say yields the most beautiful products in the industry.

 

Stringer said a small group of 15 or 16 people form a team and literally sit around a kitchen table to come up with Apple's next product. 

 
“We’ll sit there with our sketch books and trade ideas,” Stringer said. “That’s where the really hard, brutal honest criticism comes in.”

 

After the brainstorming session, the team renders CAD drawings for the best design ideas, creating a digital basis from which a physical model can be made. A number of these CAD files were divulged during testimony from Peter Bressler, Apple's expert witness who argued that the company's innovative industrial designs were "substantially the same" as those from Samsung. Bressler, founder of design firm Bresslergroup, tried to hammer home the the idea that Korean company stole aspects of Apple's iPhone and iPad patented designs to use in their own devices. Of particular interest were the rounded corners and flat  face seen on all iDevices since the first iPhone was launched in 2007, design points that Samsung contended could not be patented because they served practical functions. 

 

As for the original iPhone, Stringer said the design team had extra pressure to get the product as near to perfect as possible, noting that Apple was new to the wireless market. The company wanted something to "wow" consumers, he said.
 
The designer went on to explain the various prototypes and how the team finally arrived at what would become the iPhone. Interestingly, one of the earliest ideas ultimately ended up as the final design, despite a number of concepts being introduced in the intervening months. “We found something more beautiful" in the early designs, Stringer said. It is not clear what particular prototype he was referring to, but the internally designated 0897 design looks almost identical to the first iPhone, which had a hallmark black antenna window at its base.
 

Proto 0897

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As part of any design process, ideas that didn't jibe with Apple's, or cofounder Steve Jobs', vision were scrapped. The fascinating visual journey Stringer presented included a few strange one-offs like the asymmetric Prototype 928 and the angular Prototype 0383, described by the media as being "gem-like." 
 

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Those concepts that didn't make the cut weren't abandoned altogether, however, as future iPhones definitely took cues or were inspired by some of the design team's early work. Perhaps most obvious is Prototype 0337's polished plastic shell and accompanying unique front chamfer, or bevel that serves as a transitioning connector between the housing and the screen, which is very similar to the iPhone 3G and 3GS. 
 

Proto 0337

 

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When asked why one of the prototypes bore the "iPod" logo, Stringer replied that either the "iPhone" term had not yet been coined or the team was attempting to "disguise its iPhone identity." Apple's penchant for secrecy is well known in the tech world and the company has traditionally taken a hard-line stance against product leaks.

 

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Apple iPad prototypes (Note: The internal identification numbers are currently unknown; 

the prototypes are thus labeled 1 through 4.)

 

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