The unfortunate Rokr E1

In late 2006, as speculation over the impending launch of the first iPhone sent the tech press into a frenzy, everyone wondered what Apple's design department had up its sleeve. Predictions were rampant over what the handset would do and what it look like. And since Apple isn't a leaky ship, we could only guess on both fronts.

On December 20 of that year, I assembled this photo gallery of the most popular iPhone concept designs I had seen. They were just rumors, and we would find out all the handset's details once Macworld 2007 commenced three weeks later. But for a few days they were all we had.

So now, on the occasion of the iPhone's fifth birthday, I'm posting the slideshow again to offer you a look at what Apple's handset could have been. At the time some were plausible, and some were ridiculous, and none of them quite compared to what we got.

No, this first handset wasn't a concept design, but I couldn't leave out the infamous Motorola Rokr E1. Technically, it was the first iPhone when Apple CEO Steve Jobs joined Cingular execs to unveil it in September 2005. And wow, was it a hot mess.

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Photo by: CNET / Caption by:

And Moto comes back for more

Motorola design rears its head again with this concept that featured a Rav3 V3-like keypad hidden behind a standard iPod design. Also notice the Cingular logo on the rear side. In late 2006, AT&T was in the midst of phasing out the Cingular brand.

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Photo by: Rainmanbk / Caption by:

Yuck!

Talk about ugly. This crowded concept had a large display, but the tiny keypad would have sent us over the side. Perhaps this is what Digg's Kevin Rose had in mind when he inaccurately predicted a slide-out keyboard.

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Photo by: Ministry of Tech / Caption by:

Just add a touch-screen

This simple concept just took an iPod and added a touch screen. Boring, yes, and a bit silly, but we'd take it if it meant we could have the numbers of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

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Photo by: Cedric Ceucke / Caption by:

FliPhone

Yeah, we wouldn't flip over this design that features a quirky iPod click wheel and a laughable external display.

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Photo by: Gizmodo / Caption by:

We get it, slider phones are cool

Slider phones were very popular at the time so we weren't surprised to see so many concepts with that design. The only problem was that most of them, like this one here, just slapped a keypad behind an iPod.

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Photo by: appleiphone.blogspot.com / Caption by:

A trendy Apple?

True, the thin-phone insanity was beginning to die down as 2007 approached so you can forgive this concept somewhat. Apple, however, usually sets design trends instead of following then.

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Photo by: Isamu Sanada / Caption by:

Nokia iPhone

This ridiculous concept featured a circular keypad surrounding an iPod click wheel. If you squint, you can almost see the Nokia 3600.

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Photo by: appleiphone.blogspot.com / Caption by:

FaceTime, perhaps?

Yet another slider design, this concept showed a standard numeric keypad covered by a full video screen with an accelerometer.

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Photo by: appleiphone.blogspot.com / Caption by:

Department of dull

You knew right away that this concept was unlikely. Even at its worst, you'd expect more from Apple's creative types than this boring candy bar design.

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Photo by: Michael from Liechtenstein / Caption by:

Slide it inside

This slider concept parted in the middle to reveal a camera lens and a speaker.

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Photo by: Isamu Sanada / Caption by:

Candy apple

It's good things these didn't come to pass...unless you're at a toy store.

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Caption by:

A retro iPhone

Just kidding; this was just a joke. But you have to admit that it has a certain appeal.

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Photo by: Engadget / Caption by:
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