I like the early iPhone prototypes better than the rumored iPhone 5 design

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: July 27, 2012

With the next-generation iPhone somewhere on the horizon, people across the World Wide Web are digging deep for any information they can scrounge up. For just shy of a year, various rumors of the next Apple handset have been making their way to headlines almost every week, each one just as flaky as the next: New iPhone to have larger display, iPhone 5 to come with 4G LTE or New iPhone will have smaller 19-pin dock connector.

In truth, aside from those in the know at 1 Infinite Loop, nobody knows anything about the upcoming iPhone. And, oddly enough, that's a comforting thought.

Sure, leaked parts from Chinese part suppliers, leaked schematics and seemingly legitimate cases tailored to specifications supplied by none other than Apple seem to lend credence to the rush of recent rumors claiming the next iPhone will bear a similar design as the current. However, the upcoming model will supposedly be elongated to house the allegedly larger (read: taller, not wider) display and all fingers are pointing to the smaller, 19-pin dock connector instead of the standard 30-pin we've finally come to grips with.

But here I am, wishing and hoping that the current crop of rumors are as off base as last year's. Last year around this time, prototype cases built to Apple's specs had everyone (or … almost everyone) believing there was a radical redesign in the pipeline. Only, there wasn't. There was no iPhone 5 last year; it turned out to be just the iPhone 4S which, aside from a redesigned antenna, looked identical to the iPhone 4.

No one knows for sure what the cases were for, why a handful of case makers – not just one – created a stockpile of prototype cases to the same specs. Some speculated they were simply iPod Touch cases, but that fell through as they cases were larger than the iPhone 4 and had an opening for the iPhone's mute switch. Personally, I believe it was Apple trying to throw people off its scent, to derail the rumors and show just how shifty it could be.

Either way, I'm still hoping Apple has a trick up its sleeve for the forthcoming product announcement in the fall. The current iPhone design may be widely adored and proven to work and last exceedingly well. But it has aged quite a bit over the last two years. And it's time Apple changes up the mix a bit.

Since the iPhone 4 announcement in 2010, user-created iPhone 5 concepts have spread across the Web like a wildfire. Some make for a good, long laugh. But some are just as svelte and Apple-like as any existing iPhone with some bonus features to boot, like a larger display or a (still slightly mythical) Liquidmetal casing.

Yesterday, however, court documents for the Apple vs. Samsung trial were outed, revealing some early iPhone and iPad prototypes. While some may provide a good chuckle in light of how far the industry has come in such a short time, some of the designs are actually awesome. In fact, my immediate reaction after seeing some of these earlier designs was, "Why didn't Apple go with some of these instead?" I would much rather be using something similar to the test model n90 pictured above (with a slimmer profile and more modern components like Retina Display and a camera on the front and back) over the current iPhone 4S design. It strongly resembles the design of the Lumia 900 (which arguably looks like an iPod Mini from way back when) and it's absolutely gorgeous.

The early prototype pictured at the top is also quite nice. It's thin on the bezel and easy on the eyes. It's elongated with a widescreen aspect ratio, much like the rumored iPhone is expected to be, but it's much more trim and neat. Again, it could use some cameras, and I'm not sure what's going on with the missing home button. But it has a very clean (read: not cluttered) and svelte appearance.

Most importantly, these are a different designs, not a rehash of the same thing we've seen for two consecutive years. Using the same design for a half-decade may work in the PC market, but the smartphone market it more volatile and demanding. At this point, I would rather see just about anything new or different, something that contrasts the classic, almost dull and aged appearance of the iPhone 4 and 4S. And if it turns out to be anything similar to the old, never used prototypes above, I will be ecstatic. (If you couldn't tell, I'm a fan of the hard edges on the corners.)

When looking at the early iPhone prototypes that were unveiled yesterday, were there any designs that jumped out at you? Were there any that you would have preferred Apple to use over the more modern designs? And what about the upcoming iPhone? Are you a fan of the elongated rehash of the current design? Or are you ready for something a little more edgy?

Images via BuzzFeed

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