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The iPhone was, and is, a smash hit, and deservedly so. It represents a class-leading combination of technology and user experience. Unlike the iPod and iPad, Apple didn’t simply refine and commercialize pre-existing consumer technology with the iPhone – it arguably created new product paradigms: a rectangular capacitive touch smartphone with a touch-based UI and an unmatched app ecosystem (and economy).

However, before the iPhone, there was the LG Prada with a touch-based UI, complete with native and third-party apps, all organized on a home page grid of icons. The Apple App Store launched with the 2nd generation iPhone 3G and version 2.0 of iOS – as a way for Apple to increase the number of, well, applications.[3] “Apps” is another way to say “programs,” the useful things that have been included with computers for decades, including PCs, dumb phones, PDAs and earlier smartphones. You may recall playing breakout on your BlackBerry (as well as handling all of your email accounts), or using the web browser or calculator on your Motorola RAZR flip phone. Or how about that snake game on your Nokia cell phone?

Hardware drives software, and vice versa. In the case of the iPhone, hardware is a good place to start. Apple is not a hardware (component) maker, and the iPhone’s form, function and interface simply would not be possible without the requisite and pre-existing touch-screen technology, which Apple bought ‘off the shelf’, for the iPhone.

LG announced and marketed a rectangular capacitive-touch smartphone, arguably, almost a year before the iPhone’s January 2007 unveiling.[1] When looking at the LG Prada, one can’t help but to notice that it looks like an earlier version or prototype of the first iPhone, including a silver trim around a black rectangular frame and the placement of the camera on the back (top left corner). This YouTube video show multiple angles of the LG Prada in detail.[2] Sure the LG Prada’s OS and GUI are rougher than iOS, but then again, the LG Prada was developed at least a year or so before the iPhone (which equates to a generation in smartphone technology years). These sites provide clear side-by-side pictures that highlight their hardware and software similarities.[4]

I’ll let others argue whether or not Apple “copied” the LG Prada. If you think Apple developed the iPhone independently of the LG Prada, despite their similarities, and the LG Prada’s earlier public release, you wouldn’t be unreasonable for thinking so. While Apple didn’t invent the concept of computer applications, but it did create the App Store and popularized the term “app.”

This is all to say that technology, like other industries, builds on and improves earlier ideas and products.   Apple’s unique and polished iPhone user experience, built on a leading “App Store,” is a great example. I’m sure most readers are familiar with this notion, as well as with the history and meaning of computer applications.   However, in a world of patent trolls and pyric IP litigation, and corresponding calls for patent reform, it’s a notion worth recalling.

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