Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was apparently planning a compact smartphone with the working name of “iPhone nano” all the way back in 2010, alongside plans of a phone that embodies the idea of an ‘SE’ iPhone. The first iPhone SE arrived in 2016 looking like the iPhone 5S, the second-gen was launched in 2020 with an iPhone 8-like design, while a successor is rumored to debut next year. As for the Nano branding, it’s exclusively associated with the iPod family and last appeared on the 7th generation iPod Nano in 2015.
Half a decade later, Apple introduced the iPhone 12 mini, the first small-ish iPhone with the compact appeal in its very name. On paper, it was the ‘dream compact iPhone’ for many, but as the saying goes, not everything that glitters is gold. Despite rocking a comfortably tiny build and a ton of firepower under the hood, iPhone 12 mini was marred by issues such as poor battery life and a small screen that was a tad too small for gaming and doesn’t allow a very immersive media consumption experience either.
Of course, 2010 was a different era altogether, and phones with screen sizes above 4-inches were considered big at the time. That explains why Jobs mentioned plans of making an iPhone nano in an internal strategy email unearthed by The Verge as part of the Epic vs Apple legal drama. Mentioned only as an “iPhone nano plan” bullet point, there is not much detail about the product itself, except the fact that design chief Jony Ive was supposed to create the renders for the device Jobs had in mind. The email also mentions “a low cost iPhone model based on iPod Touch” that was supposed to replace the iPhone 3GS. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the whole idea sounds like the core premise of an ‘SE’ iPhone. It currently remains to be seen if the ‘low cost iPhone’ and iPhone nano were supposed to be the same or different devices.
Unfortunately, Job’s plans of an iPhone nano never materialized, possibly due to health issues. The email is dated October 2010, while Jobs was granted a medical leave of absence less than three months later in January of 2011 to focus on recovery. In August of that year, Jobs officially resigned as Apple’s CEO before succumbing to illness a short time later. It’s clear from the sequence of events that Jobs didn’t have enough time to work on an ‘iPhone nano’ project, especially considering that Apple’s product development process is a long one that typically stretches over years.
For example, the AirTag object tracker was reportedly ready to ship at least a year or two earlier but kept getting pushed back. Some products, on the other hand, are not as lucky. The best example of this was the AirPower charging mat that still keeps popping up online in the form of prototypes, teasing what could’ve been. Even though Jobs’ idea of an iPhone nano materialized a decade later and hasn’t proved that popular, the dream of ‘a low-cost iPhone’ has proved to be a successful one with the iPhone SE line of products. At this point, one can only wonder what other ideas Jobs had in a sketchbook and the industry-defining Apple products that could’ve been.
Source: The Verge