Early 'Jony' iPhone concept shows Sony design influence

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The Apple vs. Samsung trial is just a few days away, but the legal proceedings are already providing insight into the inner workings of Cupertino — and how the iPhone's design team drew inspiration from Sony. A recent court filing by Samsung reveals that in 2006 Apple industrial designer Shin Nishibori was directed to design an iPhone prototype inspired by Sony's aesthetics after Tony Fadell internally circulated an interview with a designer from the company. An assortment of renders reveal his design, complete with a Sony logo — save for one where the logo has been modified to read "Jony," presumably in honor of Apple's Jony Ive.

Apple designer Richard Howarth took note of the renders, and in a 2006 email told Ive that that he felt the design allowed for a "much smaller-looking product with a much nicer shape" for making calls when compared to another prototype, referred to as "P2." The extruded design of the P2 bears a striking resemblance to the iPod Mini, with a large screen replacing the scroll wheel (looking at the P2 prototype also strongly brings Nokia's Lumia line to mind). Pictured with the P2 is what is clearly an early prototype for what would become the iPhone 4 and 4S sandwich design. Howarth comments that Nishibori's Sony-inspired look is "only half a step away" from what is now Cupertino's current model. In an amusing aside, Howard also tells Ive that the iPhone 4 design "looks old" when compared to the P2, but that it would be more usable.

This is no doubt just the first glimpse inside Apple's design process that we'll get thanks to the forthcoming trial. Things are scheduled to kick off on Monday, and we'll be there to bring you all the news.

Matt Macari contributed to this report.


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