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If accurate, Android better hope Apple didn't patent the more widely rounded edge!

One of the most bizarre design spats played out in court in late 2012 when Apple, Inc. (AAPL) accused archrival Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935) of not just stealing its user interface look, but also the shape of its phone itself.  In various jurisdictions Apple argued that any smartphone with relatively sharp, narrowly rounded edges in an "industrial" type frame design with less than four face buttons was in infringement of Apple's design -- an argument summarized as Apple claiming to "own the rectangle".
 
As tenuous as such broad design claims might be, it's true that Apple's design for the iPhone has always stayed relatively true to a general look with long, straight sides and sharply rounded (small radius) corners, giving its phones the classic "iPhone" industrial look.
 
Over time Android devices came to emphasize rounding of their faces and edges to try to avoid the appearance of mimicking Apple, and also to avoid the threat of being sued by Apple.  Apple meanwhile seemed to gravitate towards sharper and sharper edge rounding.

iPhone designs
The evolution of the iPhone's design [Image Source: TechnTechie]

But a pair of leaks -- while from questionable origins in China -- suggest that Apple may be reversing direction, returning to a more rounded look.

Weibo rounded edges
An iPhone 6S prototype? [Image Source: Weibo]

The first leak is an apparent design sketch (published by Japan's MacFan and sourced to Chinese leakers), while the second is a set of photos that appear to be taken of a prototype body design under testing at Hon Hai Precision Industry Comp., Ltd. (TPE:2317) subsidiary Foxconn.  Foxconn's Chinese facilities in Shenzhen are the primary iPhone assembly plant.
 
The first leak -- the sketch -- shows a possible iPhone 6C with rounded edges.

iPhone 6C
[Image Source: MacFan]

The Foxconn leak -- posted to Chinese forums site Weibo -- shows an iPhone 6S with a protruding camera design, possibly to allow more advanced internal optics and exposing the internal image sensor to more light.  It also shows similar rounded edges.

The leaked images are similar to a Jan. 2014 leak on Weibo from a regular iPhone leaker with a mixed track record.

Weibo leak
The Jan. 2014 leak from CTech on Weibo [Image Source: Weibo]

According to 9 to 5 Mac expected changes for the tenatively titled iPhone 6 include a larger screen size (possibly the rumored 5.5 inch phablet-size screen), and possibly a smaller screen (similar to the current 4-inch model) as well.  The design is also supposed to unify the iPhone and iPad design paths that currently appear far apart.

Android phonemakers better hope that Apple doesn't evolve its designs along a path towards more round edges, or they may be smacked with new lawsuits, courtesy of Apple's surely pending patents.

Sources: Weibo, MacFan, 9 to 5 Mac





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