Top-End Tech Could Have Been Totally Different Were it Not for the iPhone P2

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“iPhone” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by matsuyuki

Smarthome tech might have been in vogue at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but elsewhere in the industry mobiles have continued to improve. In fact, despite CES organizers placing less emphasis on smartphones in 2017 in favor of other “smart” gadgets, we recently got a glimpse of just how far devices have come.

With the tech world buzzing from the latest CES conference, industry insider and reviewer Sonny Dickson treated to some previously unseen footage of the iPhone. Posted on his site under the heading “The Inside Story Behind P1 & P2,” the article outlines how Apple had two iPhone prototypes in action before finally settling on the design we’ve come to know today.

Wheelie Not a Good Idea

Perhaps the most interesting difference between the P1 (the design that never made it) and the P2 (the first iPhone) is the way it was controlled. Today’s iPhones (in fact all smartphones) use a simple swipe and touch interface. However, back when Tony Fadell, the brains behind the iPod, was in charge of the P1 project, he envisioned a control wheel. Similar to the mechanics of the iPod but with a virtual wheel instead of a physical one, the prototype would have certainly been a lot less ergonomic than the P2.

When we look back at the proposed design, it’s easy to see why it was inferior to what we came to know. However, things could have easily been so different. Indeed, the smallest change to the way we controlled the iPhone could have altered our experience and, potentially, caused the iPhone not to be the luxury product success it is today.

Industries Built Around a Single Design

Naturally, what this look back in time also shows us is that one smart decision can have a domino effect that leads to many more innovations. Today, when we look towards the future of the iPhone, we can see just how important that initial decision was and how far we’ve come. Indeed, take mobile gaming as an example. As reported by CNBC in 2016, data from Newzoo suggested the mobile gaming revenue would top $36.9 billion and overtake PC gaming ($31.9 billion) and console gaming ($29 billion).

Had the iPhone P1 taken off, mobile gaming might not have become the force it is today. The navigation wheel would have consumed half the screen and, potentially, made controlling games (i.e. swiping and tapping) almost impossible. As a case in point, take a recent innovation like mobile slots. Mobile casino operator mFortune produces a range of slots and offers designed specifically for mobile players. From “pay by phone bill” deposits and no deposit casino bonuses for new players, the whole ecosystem is designed to suit the mobile player. Had mobile gaming not taken off, the way a vast and successful industry such as gaming functions today would have been very different.

The Future is Always Defined by the Past

Moreover, the games themselves are designed to work with the dynamics of a smartphone. From slot reels you can swipe across to set in motion to optimized animations, games like Sherlock and Vegas Vegas work perfectly with the iPhone’s current set-up. Similarly, Angry Birds, the first mobile app to reach one billion downloads (Guinness World Records, 2012), probably wouldn’t have been a hit without the P2.

The process of setting up your missile, pulling back across the screen and launching it at a collection of angry birds was all made possible because of the iPhone’s structure. The decision to have controls as an integral part of the screen rather than a separate wheel, not only increased the usable area, but it made controlling games a lot easier.

But that’s not the end of it. As we move through 2017 and look towards the next round of top-end innovations, the swipe and touch interface we now know today has become crucial. According to bloggers and futurists Scoble, the iPhone 8 will be capable of “science-fiction level mixed reality.” Essentially Apple’s attempt to overlay virtual reality onto reality via our handsets, this technology is only possible thanks to the iPhone’s design. Although it’s a stretch to say mixed reality is a direct result of Steve Jobs’ decision to choose the P2 over the P1, it does show that even a small decision can have a lasting impact on a major tech company.

Courtesy TheTopTier Digital Media

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