The tech world is currently thinking on what Apple will do with the next version of the iPhone that will be released sometime this year, but it has been revealed that ahead of the launch of the original iPhone prototypes included physical keyboards and an iPod hybrid.

Tony Fadell was an Apple executive at the company leading up to the first iPhone launch, and as AppleInsider are reporting the company had toyed with the idea of the first iPhone having a physical keyboard. They obviously went with the intuitive multitouch design that changed the smartphone world forever, and at the time the biggest player in the sector were BlackBerry whose handsets featured physical QWERTY keyboards.

Fadell is claiming that Apple had narrowed the design of the original iPhone to three prototype designs ahead of releasing the device in 2007. The executive officially left the company in 2008 but stayed on the payroll as a special advisor to Steve Jobs until 2010, and during that time worked on eighteen different versions of the iPod and iPhone up to the 3GS. He eventually left to start up the ‘smart thermostat’ company, Nest.

When Apple were developing the first iPhone the company had three prototypes that included an iPod/iPhone hybrid, an undisclosed version that was also called iPhone, and the model that was eventually released to customers. Fadell was asked what his opinion on a virtual keyboard and could see its potential, and would have rather waited for the technology over going with the physical option.

Steve Jobs who had the final say on the design is claimed to have sided with Fadell, and pointed out that the lack of physical keys as being inherent to the now iconic design. Before Apple released the iPhone the trend was for physical keyboards to be used on smartphones, and early devices that used resistive touchscreen technology weren’t very intuitive with many needing a stylus.

The first iPhone brought capacitive touchscreens to the consumer that provided a handset that was not only sleek, but more user friendly and also larger displays could now be used. This opened more options for what could be done on the device that included more complex games and video. We then saw an explosion in multitouch screen tech in the smartphone market, and a move away from physical keyboards. Some still prefer to use such keyboards but it seems the majority of mobile users prefer the virtual approach.

Which type of keyboard do you prefer on your smartphone?

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