“Project Purple”: How the Motorola ROKR E1 became the first iPhone

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The “Project Purple” internally classified as a secret project by Apple, iTunes and the Motorola ROKR E1 laid the foundation for the first iPhone in 2007. Even today, developer tools in Cupertino have the addition “Purple” in their name, but why ? Issue 97 of C: B_retro provides the answers.

Since the editors have set a minimum age of 15 years as the limit for retro reports, the first iPhone, which was released in the USA on June 29, 2007, would not be the turn of the next year. But the secret project “Project Purple”, which, according to tradition, aimed at a mobile phone with a multi-touch screen designed by Steve Jobs himself, was launched in 2004.

The secret project “Project Purple” was launched in 2004

C: B_retro Ausgabe_97

Secret project “Project Purple”

iTunes as the first step

Even before a corresponding multi-touch control was ready for series production, iTunes was an integral part of such a “smart” mobile phone at the top of the specifications of the development team around Steve Jobs. At the time, Apple was not sure whether the “iTunes Phone” should be developed internally or with a cell phone manufacturer as a partner.

The first iPhone was a Motorola

Apple decided that the first mobile phone with iTunes integration should be realized as a joint venture with a well-known partner and brought Motorola, which was successful in the mobile phone market in the 2000s, on board for this project.

After the US company presented one of the most successful mobile phones of the generation in 2003 with the Motorola RAZR, which received two modern successors in the form of foldable smartphones in 2019 with the new edition of the same name and the Motorola Razr 5G, which was released at the end of 2020, Motorola began cooperating with Apple at the end of 2004 .

In September 2005, Apple and Motorola presented the Motorola ROKR E1, the first mobile phone with iTunes, at an Apple keynote. In addition to the one originally from the Casady & Greene developed media management software SoundJam MP From iTunes, which celebrated its premiere in 2001 with the first iPod, the Motorola ROKR E1 had Bluetooth, surround sound and a comparatively small 40 × 30 mm display without touch.

The iTunes Phone failed Steve Jobs

In the three-part series “Apple’s Phone: From 1980s’ Sketches to iPhone.“The website Mobile-Review.com Corresponding anecdotes are told about Apple’s path to the first iPhone, some of which also went through an interview with Steve Jobs confirmed, according to which the Apple boss was not satisfied with the Motorola ROKR E1 alias iTunes Phone, since a third-party product does not fit into Apple’s portfolio.

The Motorola ROKR E1 was a Motorola E398 with iTunes

The Motorola ROKR E1 was basically a one-to-one copy of the Motorola E398, which was only expanded to include a dedicated player button for iTunes and support for iTunes itself.

The mobile phone was available in the USA from the end of 2005 for US $ 249.99 including a 24-month contract and had the following technical specifications.

Motorola ROKR E1

  • Display: 40 × 30 mm TFT color display
    • with 176 × 220 pixels
    • as well as 262,144 colors
    • and 8 lines for SMS
  • Dimensions: 108 × 46 × 20.5 mm
  • Weight: 107 grams
  • Battery: 830 mAh Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)
    • for up to 230 hours of standby time
    • and 9 hours of talk time over 2G
    • and 2 hours of maximum charging time
  • Memory: 11 MB internal memory
    • Expandable by 512 MB using an SD card
  • Connection types: 2G (GPRS) in the GSM network
    • with up to 57.6 Kb / s in the downlink
    • and up to 28.8 Kb / s in the uplink
    • as well as WLAN and Bluetooth

The 214 pages of the archived provide even more detailed information operating manual of the Motorola ROKR E1. Today is the mobile phone a real collector’s item and achieves high prices.

The Motorola ROKR E1 ... The Motorola ROKR E1 … (Image: Motorola) ... with support for iTunes … with support for iTunes (Image: Motorola)

The YouTube channel “Techformative“Only a few weeks ago, as part of an unboxing and review, was devoted to the Motorola ROKR E1 and provides corresponding impressions of the first iTunes phone.

The overall package ultimately failed to convince Steve Jobs and his team, which is why Apple followed an internal approach from that point on.

Even if the Motorola ROKR E1 at the in-house exhibition Macworld Conference & Expo and other major international events, Apple concentrated on its own products and expanded the “Project Purple” further.

SpringBoard and SwitchBoard for iOS aka iPhone OS

On a first prototype of the iPhone, which in this early phase still had a click wheel familiar from the iPod, its own mobile operating system for cell phones was also used for the first time.

The software of the early prototype “P2” – later iOS – was originally developed on a Power Mac G5 and later transferred to a weaker Power Mac G3 in order to simulate the performance of a smartphone.

Unlike the final first iPhone, which has a Samsung S5L the prototypes still relied on a Freescale MX31 SoC. The operating system running on it consisted of the two main components SpringBoard, the user interface and the SwitchBoard diagnostic interface required for development.

Many of the developers who were involved in the first iPhone only saw the later iPhoneOS when it was introduced. In particular, Apple kept the operating concept top secret and showed many of its employees the “SkankPhone” user interface, which was only used as a distraction.

The YouTuber “Sam Sheffer”Presents the“ SkankPhone ”user interface in detail in a video.

The finished operating system was later presented together with the first iPhone at the MacWorld Conference and Expo. At the time, Steve Jobs said “the iPhone runs OS X,” which was initially a closed system. First iPhone OS 2.0 brought the App Store and the first toolkit for developers and their external apps.

The first iPhone and iPhone OS did not have an app store

Steve Jobs introduces the first iPhone

On November 9th, 2007 the time had come and Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone to the world public. The rest is known and recently culminated in the presentation of the current generation around the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro.

The now legendary keynote for the presentation of the first iPhone was given by the YouTube channel “p1.com“Kindly archived for posterity.

With the introduction of the first iPhone, the “Project Purple”, which has left its mark on Apple to this day, also ended. The internal program for flashing iPhones and iPhone prototypes is still called “Purple Restore” and the program for setting up the iPhone since iOS 5 is called internally “Purple Buddy”.

The “Project Purple” has left its mark to this day

The Wall Street Journal has dedicated a ten-minute short documentary to “Project Purple”, in which contemporary witnesses such as developers and former Apple managers have their say.

Scott Forstall, Tony Fadell and Greg Christie share the exciting concept phase of the first iPhone that started it all in 2004.

C: B_retro Feedback

Feedback is always welcome

The editors are happy to receive constructive criticism, praise, and suggestions, in order to be able to align the series even more closely to the wishes of the readership in the future. With this reading material in your luggage, the editorial team wishes you a relaxing Sunday.

C: B_retro Review

The last fifteen issues at a glance

The last 15 topics of the previous editions of C: B_retro can be found here:

  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_96 : The Intel Pentium Pro
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_95 : Games that have defined their own genre
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_94 : Doom 3 in the benchmark
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_93 : AMD K6, K6-2 and K6-III
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_92 : GeForce vs. Radeon in a duel of generations
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_91 : One of the most successful game consoles in history
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_90 : The ideal gaming PC has been advising gamers for over 15 years
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_89 : Your best games of all time have been announced
  • C: B_retro Issue_88 : What are the best video games of all time?
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_87 : The first IBM PC in the world defined standards
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_86 : Microsoft Windows 96
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_85 : AMD Phenom and Opteron (“K10”)
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_84 : FIFA Soccer and other soccer pioneers
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_83 : Hercules 3D Prophet 4500 with PowerVR Kyro II
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_82 : ComputerBase builds the perfect Voodoo-2-Retro-PC
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_81 : The first graphics cards from the ComputerBase community
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_80 : The early history of the graphics card
  • C: B_retro Issue_79 : Nokia Communicator
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_78 : The first Microsoft Xbox

Even more content of this kind and many more reports and anecdotes can be found in the retro corner in the ComputerBase forum as well as in the subject areas C: B_retro and Retro.

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