The inside story behind P1 & P2: How Apple picked what came to be the iPhone

J.Glenn Künzler

To understand the iPhone today, and how it has shaped Apple and pushed the world forward, it’s important to have a sense of perspective. A critical part of that is understanding how it all started – where the iPhone of today got its roots. Back in the beginning, there were two iPhone projects, the P1 and P2. Tony Fadell had the clout of being “Godfather” of the iPod, but Scott Forsall had been working with Steve since NeXT. The iPhone P2 is what came to be known as the original selling model of the iPhone, paving the foundation of where we are today, 10 years in the future.

Now, where does this concept of multiple projects fit in Apple’s process? P series devices are the first step of any product. They are the earliest stage of real prototyping, they hardly ever get out of Apple, and are the hardest devices to find. They often make hundreds of small little iterations but rarely have finished materials on them. These iPhones, being P devices, have plastic screens, raw bezels, and unfinished home buttons, and do not usually function as complete finished projects. Think of them as Apple’s proofs of concept.


The P1 project is Tony Fadell’s project. The P1 iPhone is essentially an iPod OS on a touch screen device. At the time, the iPod had control of the market and people were very comfortable with the device. Then there was the P2 project, Scott Forstall’s. Contrary to the P1 interface, the P2 OS used individual icons to interact with the phone rather than a scroll wheel. It was the first true touch and app driven phone experience.

When the iPhone was undergoing development, both projects ran what is know as Acorn OS and ran on the same hardware. Both teams were extremely competitive because both project teams wanted to impress Steve Jobs

The P2 loads octopus whereas the P1 has the iPod classic logo. The P2 takes a significantly longer to load because it actually has a real OS, whereas the P1 takes much less time since the OS is slimmer. These P unit prototypes are so early in the development process that they rely on a custom process to be turned off, and can only be powered down during a certain step of the boot process.

That being said, even though they are not very functional, what they represent is extremely important – the exploration of the ideas and concepts that would eventually become the first modern smartphone that would shape the industry for many years to come.

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