Purple iPhone Prototype Pre-Dates Sony-Inspired “Side Project,” Says Apple
In a courtroom rebuttal to Apple, Samsung claimed that not only were they developing similar phones before the announcement of the iPhone, but that Apple was not the originator of Apple’s famous minimalist design sensibility. Samsung’s lawyers pointed to one of Apple’s internal renderings, by Shin Nishibori, of a Sony-style iPhone. The allegation was that the large screen and rounded corners were design cues borrowed from Sony, and that Samsung followed suit.
Apple’s motion to kill the ‘Jony phone’ testimony relies on two main facts: 1) the Sony inspired iPhone mockup was an internal rendering from Apple, and not an example of any actual prior art from Sony. 2) Apple has renderings that better match the iPhone which predate the Jony rendering.
Apple’s testimony from Nishibori and his collaborators claim that the Jony rendering was a fun ‘role playing’ exercise to explore what “Sony [would] do if they were us.” They claim that instead of simplifying Sony’s designs to create the iPhone, Nishibori took previous Apple designs and added ‘typical Sony-style’ imbellishments, such as a jog wheel and slanted buttons. Needless to say, the slanted buttons weren’t added to the final design of the first iPhone.
Bolstering Apple’s motion was a rendering of an internal design, which was code-named “purple.” The design strongly resembles an iPhone 4S, but made out of white plastic instead of glass and metal. Purple predates the Jony renderings and emails from Tony Fadell (then SVP of the iPod Division at Apple) about Sony’s design.
While Samsung may have been incorrect about Sony’s prior art, it is interesting to see that Apple’s employees spent time thinking about what Sony’s design team would do in their place. Were they just looking to get into the heads of their competition, or were they looking for inspiration?
The Verge is sharing direct links (through their sister-site SB Nation) to Samsung’s trial brief as well as Apple’s motion to kill the Jony phone evidence, if you’re interested in reading the court documents. Even without the Jony evidence, Samsung’s rationale seems compelling.
Would you have bought Purple if Apple had released it in 2005? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.