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article imageThe first Apple Watch prototype was an iPhone with velcro

By James Walker     Apr 2, 2015 in Technology
It has been revealed that the first prototype of the Apple Watch was nothing more than an iPhone stuck with velcro to the wearer's wrist. It ran an emulator of the watch's screen and was connected to a dongle representing the crown of the watch.
The news comes from a special Wired report into the development of Apple's new flagship accessory. What is now available in versions costing up to $10,000 began life as an iPhone strapped to the wrist with a Velcro strap.
Apple Watch developer Kevin Lynch is keen to stress that it was "a very nicely designed Velcro strap" but it was a Velcro strap nonetheless. It was designed to give the team working on the Watch a way to start testing some of its core features without actually building one.
The iPhone ran a simulator that displayed a life-size image of the Apple Watch's display on the screen. The development team working on the Apple Watch's software were operating much more quickly than those building the actual design and the software team were eager to test out their creation.
The emulator included an onscreen digital crown that replicated the physical control on the side of the watch. You could slide the onscreen crown to mirror turning the real one but the experience was a far cry from doing it for real.
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiling the Apple Watch on March 9  2015
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiling the Apple Watch on March 9, 2015
Livecast screenshot
To overcome this issue, the team built a dongle that plugged into the iPhone's cord jack. This was an actual crown from the Apple Watch that could be turned just like the real one. Although the developer was still wearing a large, clunky iPhone, they at least had access to the defining feature of the Apple Watch's hardware.
With this questionable prototype built and in use, the software team began to figure out how customers would use the Apple Watch. They tested core features like text messaging and found it took way too long. It was sent back to the drawing board to be refined.
The prototype watch taught the designers that the most important aspect of Apple Watch design would have to be speed of use. People didn't like elevating their wrists for long periods of time so to ensure that people used the Watch, everything would have to be refined and quick.
This is now a key element of Apple Watch design. Features like Short Look let you know you received a text message with a pulse on your wrist.
Flicking the wrist up shows the words "Message from ..." and leaving the wrist up displays the message. Putting the wrist down again hides the message. It is a series of quick interactions that lets the Watch know when users really want it. The best bit is that it has all derived from Apple engineers strapping an iPhone to their wrists in what must have been a decidedly interesting bit of fashion.
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