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Back in September, we saw a fascinating glimpse of an early Apple Watch prototype, showing it disguised as an iPod nano to conceal what it really was, and now the original leaker is offering an even more detailed look at the device and the extreme measures that Apple undertook to protect its secrecy.
First discovered by The Verge, Apple Demo — the leaker that showed off the prototype back in September — has now posted a full video walk-through showing the unit in operation and revealing several more interesting things about the early development and testing of the prototype device.
The video begins by showing the box that the prototype came in, which has a label that sounds like something out of a spy movie, stating that “This product is classified as Apple Confidential and is designated an ‘Ultra’ security program.”
Although most sections of the label are covered, likely to hide its origins, another section adds “this prototype unit MUST be returned when recalled or when your…” before moving back into the redacted section of the text.
The watch itself, which is still contained in the iPod nano-like security case, has a “PVTe” label on the back, which presumably identifies it as a Prototype Validation Testing (engineering) unit.
Turning the unit on shows a pre-watchOS 1.0 build that includes all the early Watch apps along with Apple’s own internal testing software. One of these, named “Lisa tester” features an icon of Lisa Simpson’s head, although it’s much more likely a tribute to Steve Jobs’ daughter, Lisa, who was also the namesake of Apple’s early 1980s Lisa computer.
The Lisa app allows tests to tweak the UI elements of the prototype — a feature that obviously wasn’t available in the released version — while a “Springboard zoom” app appears to be very similar to the original watchOS Home Screen.
The unit lacks the Digital Crown, with two buttons on the right side being used for home and power. The large home button on the bottom and the two left-side buttons are likely just part of the iPod disguise, as the video never shows them actually being used.
The leaker, Apple Demo, actually teased the video a couple of days earlier, offering a series of photos showing off the various screens, however the video provides a much more detailed look at the prototype in full operation.
As Apple Demo notes, it’s fairly amazing that the device in question was never destroyed, as Apple rarely keeps early prototypes like these around. While the source of the prototype is unclear, it seems that either the engineer who was responsible for this particular device somehow got away with failing to return it, or more likely whoever was responsible for checking the devices back in at Apple failed to consign it to the destruction pile.
While the iPod nano disguise seems strange by today’s standards, it’s important to keep in mind that the square sixth-generation iPod nano had been released only a couple of years earlier, and although Apple moved to a more iPod touch-like style for its seventh-generation model, the security case used here still would have been a very believable design for an iPod at the time.
Regardless of how it came to be, however, it’s a very interesting look at the history of the Apple Watch as well as a peek into the steps that the company takes to keep its new product developments shrouded in secrecy. It’s enough to make us ponder what the Apple Car might be disguised as.