Before the iPhone was released in 2007, Apple tested an interface that was completely different from what we know today. Rather than a home screen filled with icons, the Cupertino company built an operating system, dubbed AcornOS, that looked more like what was available on iPods.
Sonny Dickson released a video of AcornOS in action, which shows an on-screen click wheel used to navigate the OS. It’s unclear how seriously Apple considered the software, but thank goodness it was never released. The click wheel was good for its time but it’s not particular elegant on a larger touch screen device, and the menu-oriented UI is a bit of a mess.
Something as simple as showing missed calls takes a lot of scrolling, and it’s not particularly nice to look at. There are no icons and the click wheel takes up half of the screen. AcornOS looks more like something that was used internally rather than software that was seriously considered for release.
However, Dickson does point to a patent Apple files in 2006 for a “multi-functional handheld device,” which would have included a click wheel. Basically, exactly what we’re seeing in the video above.
Was AcornOS really a thing?
It’s unclear what device Dickson is using AcornOS on, or how he obtained it, but it shows off a never-before-seen part of Apple’s history.
As MacRumors notes, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs put Tony Fadell, who created the iPod, and Macintosh executive, Scott Forstall, in a head-to-head competition to come up with a mobile OS for the iPhone. Obviously, Forstall and his team won, although he is no longer with the company.
Check out the video above to see what may have been.