Instead of the modern touch-driven interface we now call iOS, it featured an operating system dubbed “Acorn OS” (this was an internal code name, and it unclear if it would have kept that name if it had been released), which is derived from the acorn shown on boot. It presents an on-screen click wheel, which took up the bottom portion of the screen, and on the other half of the screen, a UI identical to the one found on the beloved iPod, with options such as “Dial”, “SMS”, “Music”, “Contacts” and “Recents”, however lacking a browser option. The interface is interacted with in the same way an iPod would be operated.
It’s long been documented that there were essentially two factions in the development of the iPhone: Tony Fadell, who helped created the iPod and wanted the iPhone to run a version of the music player’s OS, and Scott Forstall, who argued that the iPhone should instead be based on the Mac’s operating system. Forstall won, Fadell left the company, and the rest is history.
There’s never been much seen of the iPod-based iPhone concepts since Apple is pretty rigorous about destroying prototypes (some patent drawings do exist), but Dickson’s pictures seem to be showing the actual prototype version of the iPod-based OS. It’s easy to knock them with a decade’s hindsight, but at the same time I think we can agree that Apple probably wouldn’t have been the one to reinvent the smartphone market if this were what it had come out with.