Earlier this year, ex-Apple engineer Tony Fadell mentioned something interesting during an on-stage interview. He said that among the handful of prototype iPhone designs that Apple originally considered, one of them was actually built around the infamous iPod clickwheel.

That prototype came up again yesterday during the Samsung-Apple trial. Samsung brought up an email exchange between Steve Jobs and Jony Ive discussing a Samsung phone with a wheel-like interface, hoping to prove that Apple too found inspiration in its competitors…

First, for a bit of context, here’s the Samsung phone that’s talked about in the emails. The Samsung Serene, built in partnership with high-end electronics-maker Bang & Olufsen.

Now here’s the email exchange. The first one you’ll see is from Steve Jobs to Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, Jony Ive. Jobs points to the above-mentioned Samsung handset, saying its numbers-around-the-wheel idea could be the answer to the design problem they were experiencing with their clickwheel iPhone.

Now, we don’t have Ive’s response to Steve’s email. But the thread was forwarded to Tony Fadell, who shared his thoughts on Samsung’s keypad design:

The emails actually do a pretty good job of proving Samsung’s point. Apple’s design team was clearly inspired by the keypad on Samsung’s Serene handset. Although at the most, all of this talk might have led to a prototype, as Apple never shipped the clickwheel-run iPhone. But hey if this happened once, it could have easily happened again.

Regardless of its impact on the trial, it’s interesting to see how much Steve and his executive staff really considered an iPhone with an iPod clickwheel. What would have happened if that was the one they decided to go with?

Would it have still been called the iPhone?

[The Verge]