“This can be a day I’ve been wanting ahead to for 2 and half years,” mentioned Steve Jobs, Apple’s late CEO, as he launched the unique iPhone on January ninth, 2007.

The Red Tea Detox

Apple had developed the iPhone in secret over these two and a half years, and for a lot of inside the corporate, the system had solely been identified by the codenames “M68” and “Purple 2.” Apple was targeted on stunning everybody with the iPhone, and that meant that most of the engineers engaged on the unique handset didn’t even know what it might finally appear like.

To attain that degree of secrecy, Apple created particular prototype growth boards that contained almost the entire iPhone’s elements, unfold out throughout a big circuit board. The Verge has obtained unique entry to the unique iPhone M68 prototype board from 2006 / 2007, due to Red M Sixty, a supply that requested to stay nameless. It’s the primary time this board has been pictured publicly, and it supplies a uncommon historic have a look at an vital a part of computing historical past, displaying how Apple developed the unique iPhone.

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At first look, the pink iPhone M68 prototype board seems to be like a motherboard you’d discover inside a PC from greater than 10 years in the past. It’s roughly the identical dimension, however the elements are just a little totally different. Apple developed this explicit board, an engineering validation take a look at (EVT) pattern, for engineers working totally on the software program and radio parts of the unique iPhone. These builders wouldn’t know the ultimate type of the iPhone, and generally these boards had been even equipped with out the display you’ll see connected in our unique pictures. Apple solely makes use of pink printed circuit boards for its prototype iPhone {hardware}, favoring blue, inexperienced, and different colours for manufacturing models.

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Graphic by Will Joel / The Verge

Whereas there’s no large fan to chill the processor or banks of reminiscence, the prototype does share some comparable elements to older PC {hardware}. There’s a serial connector on the high that was used to check iPod equipment for the reason that iPhone additionally used Apple’s 30-pin connector, and there’s even a LAN port for connectivity. Two Mini USB connectors flank the facet of the board, which had been utilized by engineers to entry the primary iPhone software processor and radio (baseband). Apple engineers might use these Mini USB ports to code for the system with out ever seeing the display.

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A lot of the engineers working with a board like this could have been liable for porting Apple’s underlying Darwin working system over to the iPhone. Darwin is a Unix-based working system that incorporates a core set of elements that assist energy macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and audioOS. Apple referred to the builders who labored with Darwin as “Core OS engineers.” They had been liable for the kernel, file programs, system drivers, processor architectures, and a number of different vital low-level platform work. These engineers made positive the entire crucial {hardware} and connectivity labored flawlessly.



The remainder of the iPhone prototype board may be very totally different from a daily PC. On the high, you’ll see a SIM card slot, and close by, there are two antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. These join again to the primary radio I/O board, which seems to be equivalent to the way it shipped within the remaining unique iPhone. This radio board consists of chips from Intel, Infineon, CSR, Marvell, and Skyworks, displaying simply what number of firms Apple needed to companion with to ship the unique iPhone.

To the fitting of the radio board, you’ll see an RJ11 port, which is similar registered jack that’s utilized by common landline telephones. Apple used this in order that engineers might plug a daily landline telephone headset into this iPhone growth board and take a look at voice calls. You would possibly be capable of take calls in your wrist nowadays with the Apple Watch, however think about the fun of creating a name from a prototype iPhone growth board again in 2006.


On the middle of this prototype board is the center of the iPhone: Apple’s software processor. Recognized as a Samsung K4X1G153PC half, Apple used Samsung reminiscence stacked with a 620MHz ARM processor (ARM1176JZF) to run the iPhone working system. It’s an built-in circuit packaging methodology referred to as package deal on package deal (PoP), the place the CPU is packaged on the underside and reminiscence on high. Apple pairs this with a 4GB Samsung NAND card (K9HBG08U1M) for storage of the OS. The inexperienced NAND storage module is well detachable for builders, permitting them to rapidly take a look at totally different working system variations and modifications by merely plugging a brand new card in.

On this explicit growth board, there’s even a display, however the iPhone’s dwelling button (identified right here because the menu button) is mounted on the board to the left of the show, and the facility and quantity buttons are on the left-hand facet of the board. We acquired an opportunity as well this prototype, and it merely powers as much as the Apple brand. Engineers utilizing this explicit board would have booted into one thing just like a command immediate to check kernel modifications. Our supply explains which you can additionally connect this to iTunes, through the 30-pin connector on the facet of the board, and it detects it as an iPhone able to be restored.

Elsewhere on this board, you’ll see a number of white connectors with pins. The smaller ones are JTAG connectors used for low-level debugging. Engineers might join sign probes to a few of these connectors to observe numerous indicators and voltages, permitting builders to check key software program modifications to the iPhone and ensure they weren’t negatively impacting the {hardware}. Having the entire elements out there to check on a blown-out board like this additionally made it far simpler for engineers to make a change and take a look at it, as an alternative of inside a telephone shell the place you may’t simply entry elements with probes. There are additionally quite a lot of DIP switches to route debug indicators round numerous elements of the board for additional testing.

If an engineer inside Apple obtained a growth board like this with out a display, part video and RCA connectors on the facet of the board could possibly be used to attach it to a show. Engineers might additionally take a look at headphone connectivity, due to stereo line out ports on the facet. Even the iPhone’s principal digicam is mounted on the board for testing, and there’s an enormous house left to check the battery. If engineers didn’t have a battery linked, a DC connector on the high can be utilized for exterior energy. Apple additionally left room for what’s marked as “prox flex” for proximity sensor testing.


It’s clear from this iPhone growth board that Apple considered all the things for engineers within the months forward of its iPhone unveiling. Related boards would have been utilized in 2006 and all through 2007 within the lead-up to the June 29th launch of the unique iPhone.

Apple not makes use of such large boards for its iPhone growth nowadays. The corporate moved on to smaller boards for the iPhone 4, with large and hulking safety shields on some more moderen iPhone fashions. That enables iPhone builders to work on the ultimate type {hardware} in a case whereas the design is stored secret. A variety of different telephone makers additionally use comparable large circumstances within the remaining growth phases to maintain issues beneath wraps.

This early prototype is a good reminder of the immense work and secrecy that went into creating a tool that hundreds of thousands of individuals now carry of their pockets day-after-day. It’s uncommon to see such early examples of {hardware} just like the iPhone, particularly greater than 10 years after it was first developed.

Images by Tom Warren / The Verge

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