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This is really surprising: it seems Apple's ambitions of entering the phone market dated back to the early days of Apple.
Hartmut Esslinger, founder of design firm frog design, designed a touchscreen phone prototype for Apple while he was under contract by the company to work on projects like the Apple IIc.
If you've read Steve Jobs' biography, you might remember frog design as the company that won an Apple contest intended to create a "consistent design language" for all Apple products.