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It's surely innovative and a great product, but there's very little on the iPhone that hasn't been done elsewhere before. Apple merely had the design and engineering talent to put together a coherent product based on those ideas.

If these engineers left with only vague product design ideas in their heads (e.g., use triangulation for location awareness, use an accelerometer for rotating the screen) and built their own iPhone work-alike (which is difficult work), I'd side with them as well.

The thing is very little is truly completely new and if it is it is usually isolated research on an idea which is later use in a product which gets the tag of getting the idea's elsewhere. Incremental improvement of a basic concept is how us humans work best, most concepts stretched back far enough can be said to be based on some previous work, excluding a few true outliers that have advanced us.

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