Samsung has been trying to accuse Apple of ripping off Sony’s design as the inspiration for the iPhone as a way to justify Samsung’s own smartphone copying tactics. Their argument is based on a prototype iPhone mockup by Shin Nishibori created in 2006 that was supposed to look like an iPhone that Sony would make.
Shin’s mockup was requested after an Apple designer read a profile on Sony’s top designer in Businessweek. Thing is, the article wasn’t about Sony’s smartphones at all, it was about their newest Walkman – the NW-A1200 (pictured above).
As relayed by Philip Elmer-Dewitt for Fortune:
There are a lot of problems [Samsung’s] story, starting with the fact Noshibori’s design didn’t change the course of the iPhone project, and he never said it did. Apple has released sketches of a near-final iPhone design that pre-date his CAD drawings by almost a year.
The article that was circulated internally at Apple, was a 2006 Businessweek interview with the designers of the [Sony] product. It was not a phone at all, but a Walkman — the NW-A1200 — that according to Businessweek represented for Sony a new, cleaner, less cluttered design aesthetic. And what inspired that new aesthetic? Of all things, according to the Sony designers, an Apple iPod.
It was Sony that was copying Apple all along, not the other way around. Shin’s prototype could then be viewed as his idea of what Sony would do if they were re-designing the iPhone as their own. When you look at Shin’s mockup next to the 2005 iPhone design mockup, Shin’s is obviously more complex than what was already planned.