New images and videos allegedly showing a prototype Apple Watch hidden by a security case resembling a tiny iPod offer a rare look behind the curtain of product development at Steve Jobs’ notoriously secretive company. First teased a few months ago by Twitter users Apple demoThis is our first look at the device turned on and running Apple’s in-house development apps on a Pre-WatchOS 1.0 software build.
The video first shows the original cardboard packaging that was used to deliver the prototype hardware to testers. “This product is classified as Apple Confidential and labeled as an ‘Ultra’ security program,” says the label. “This prototype MUST be returned when it is recalled or when yours,” says the label, before obscuring it to hide the origin of the device. A sticker on the back of the prototype itself indicates that it is a “PVTe” configuration, which is believed to mean prototype validation testing (engineering) in accordance with the language used on previous Apple development hardware such as the leaked EVT card for the original iPhone.
When the touchscreen device is on, we can see that it is configured to show Apple’s own internal apps. One is the “Lisa Tester,” which is marked with a Lisa Simpson icon, but is likely a tribute to Jobs’ daughter and namesake of Apple’s Lisa computer – one of the first computers with a GUI interface. Testers can use the app to optimize the UI elements of the Watch prototype. The “Springboard Zoom” app included in the Lisa Tester is very similar to the original watchOS start screen that was shipped in 2015 on the first Apple Watch.
There is no digital crown for navigation. Instead, buttons on the right side of the case can be used for home and power. The home button on the front and the seemingly louder / quieter button on the left are never used and may not be functional. When you click Settings, the device reports that it has not received FCC clearance to sell and adds an additional confirmation of its prototype status.
Assuming the prototype is real – and it definitely appears to be – then it’s a remarkable example of a pre-production Apple device that we should never see.