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Apple’s Very First Phone and Other Design Innovations

Long before the iPhone, Apple had another touch screen phone in development. The phone wasn’t the creation of Steve Jobs, but a designer he hired in 1982.


In addition to helping Apple establish a global brand presence, German designer Hartmut Esslinger was instrumental in creating an image for Sony, his work includes their line of personal music products and the Sony Trinitron. 

German designer Hartmut Esslinger created the Apple Phone prototype, along with other signature Apple designs, while working under exclusively under a $1,000,000 a year contract. His first job? To create a design strategy to turn the Silicon Valley start-up into a world-class brand.

Designing the Apple Brand 
Esslinger brought his company Frogdesign to California and set up shop in 1982 and he worked for Apple until Steve Jobs’ was forced out of the company in 1985. Esslinger broke his contract with Apple and followed Jobs to NeXT shortly after. But his designs would live on in Apple products until 1990.

Esslinger and Frogdesign created the “Snow White design” for Apple, this was the style used for all Apple products from 1984 to 1990, starting with the Apple IIc. The essence of the design uses vertical and horizontal lines for both decoration and ventilation. The lines give the illusion that the computer enclosure is smaller than it really is.


An Apple Macintosh IIx with Snow White design elements – off-white color and shallow, simple horizontal and vertical lines give a clean and minimal look.

In addition, the “Snow White design” also introduced Esslinger’s unique Apple logo—a three-dimensional rainbow Apple that was cut into the product case. Still, one of Esslinger’s most interesting designs has only recently surfaced – the prototype for the Apple Phone. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Apple was looking into telecommunication – and their very first phone even featured a touch screen.

The Apple Phone wasn’t a cell or “smartphone” but a landline phone and even though the device was designed in the early 80′s it still has a futuristic look – the handset has a unique angle and the touchscreen even has a small slot to store the stylus when not in use.


This recently uncovered photograph shows off an Apple phone prototype. The prototype dates back to 1983.

Apple has been on the forefront of technology for a long time. The company and it’s innovations have been mainly driven by Steve Jobs and his futuristic vision. In the post-Jobs era, a new, younger generation of designers and those learning app development for iPhone and iPad will design the future of Apple – future designers like those who follow in Hartmut Esslinger’s footsteps.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments

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