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Featured: Apple’s Phone Design Influenced by Sony; The Giant That Isn’t as Original As You Once Thought

July 25, 2012 - Written By Tom Dawson

If you’re anything like us here at Android Headlines – let’s face it, you are – then you’re more than likely fed up with Apple seemingly suing the rest of the planet when it comes to phone design and whatever else they can think of. Now, if you’re anything like our own Chris Yackulic then you really are pissed with Apple. I think Chris might just hate Apple more than he hates the lack of Flash in Chrome for Android, which you can hear all about here.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock then you must know that Apple have had out for Samsung, legal wise for a very long time, indeed they’ve been trying to pin Samsung for a great many number of patents for years now. The Cupertino outfit is out for Samsung because they feel that the design of the Galaxy S line of phones as well as the Galaxy Tab line matches too closely with the design of the iPhone and iPad. The suit has been a long drawn out but is scheduled to kick off properly soon. Documents have now been presented to the court describing Apple looking to Sony for inspiration when designing the iPhone back in 2006 which could well complicate things and I’m willing to bet that Samsung are looking to influence the jury with these findings.

What Would Sony Do?

The above is a question that Apple’s designers were asked when starting out on the iPhone’s design. The late Jobs was always a fan of Sony in fact, when a Software Engineer at Cupertino had Mac OS X running on x86 processors he swiftly hopped on a plane to meet with the head of Sony. Perhaps for talks on getting Mac OS X onto the VAIO line of laptops but, nothing came of the talks, if it did, Apple could be a very different company today. The submission that Samsung made to the court include a number of CAD mock-ups along with e-mail exchanges from the time period as well. Some of the mock-ups mentioned in the documents include a Jog wheel – being a switch and a wheel – which featured first on Sony’s Clie line of personal assistants.

As well as images like the above the documents feature e-mails such as an exchange between the sainted Jony Ive and Richard Howarth concerning Shin Nishibori an Apple Designer who is referred to as “that sony-style chappy”. Exchanges then begin to include 3D images of mock-ups based on Nishibori’s design of which Howarth had this to say “He’s able to achieve a much smaller-looking product with a much nicer shape to have next to your ear and in your pocket”. It’s clear that the design team at Apple were looking to Sony for inspiration on the design and likely had their design team look throughout many Sony products.

Whilst this practice isn’t something new in the industry indeed, it’s common place. How can you make an original product without even knowing what’s out in the wild? The strange and ironic thing about this new info is that Apple are staunch in their description of Samsung’s devices being stolen design but, if the company looked to Sony and perhaps others, just where has the iPhone’s design DNA come from?

“Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal”

From the mouth of Steve Jobs often came the above, a favoured saying of his which he mis-quoted from Picasso. “Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal” is something that Jobs was more than happy to live by in fact, whilst Apple are the company to be praised with inventing and introducing us to the idea of a GUI as we know it, it was Xerox. Apple were invited to see the technology as a trade of stock due to the heads of Xerox seeing no value in the idea, Jobs and his engineers poured over the interface and the mouse itself and lo and behold, some time later the macintosh was born. Mac OS X itself is built upon BSD Unix that Apple had nothing to do with but due to licensing surrounding BSD they got away with that. If anyone is interested in seeing an early Jobs speak his favoured quote, here’s some fantastic YouTube fun for you:-

“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

The suit against Samsung and other forays to the ITC and whoever else in order to stop Android phones going on sale has nothing to do with Samsung’s design if you ask me. Of course, Apple’s lawyers thought it’d be an easy case to win, whether they were right is yet to be seen.  What this has to do with is Android. The children down at Cupertino couldn’t stand it that Android was becoming successful and posing a threat to them, Jobs of course thought it stolen software which is both hard to proof and something that will never be proven if the US Patent System doesn’t see reform soon.

For a very long time now, what seems decades now, it’s been clear that Apple want to be the only company to sell you a phone, tablet or laptop. Cupertino aren’t interested in having a healthy ecosystem of competition and innovation within the tech industry, they want to be the only on. How can I say that? Well, aside from improving iteratively upon the iPhone and iPad hardware slowly and keeping iOS largely unchanged they’ve done nothing remotely revolutionary in close to six or so years. Apple are making massive profit after massive profit and have the lion’s share of the mobile market, why would they want to try and innovate to hold on to it? They want to be the only one in the game and the fact that Android has become a strong contender across numerous hardware types from big players in the mobile world scares the shit out of them. There’s no way I’ll have respect for a company that would rather spend time and money in court than delivering their customers with better phones and newer software, I don’t know about all of you but, I sure hope you’ll let you know!

[Source: PCWorld Images: Digital Trends, Talkandroid]