I'm pointing to the idea of popularity of an invention being nonobvious as an indicator that the idea was also nonobvious.
I don't see why the burden of proof is not on you for this claim.
First, because of the way the patent act is written - it says that if a patent application can't be shown to be obvious, then it will be issued. That makes sense logically, because proving that something is nonobvious after having disclosed it is going to be nigh-difficult if not impossible. What are you going to do, wipe everyone's memory and then quiz them?
Second, even disregarding that, I've already met the burden of proof - I provided evidence in the form of "you admitted this is valuable" and "this didn't exist". Together, that indicates it was probably not obvious, or someone would have done it. It's your turn to rebut it, with evidence, not just saying "it's clearly obvious".
And as of yet, you have pointed to no indicators as to whether something is obvious.
The indicator I am using is the metric that the invention in question could have been invented even if the patent had not been granted. We can never know this in the absolute sense that we can't change the past and see how it affects the future, but I think reasonable people can agree that a blue and gold polka dot smartphone could be invented even without a patent
Of course the invention in question could have been invented - it was invented, or else we wouldn't be talking about it. Your indicator is essentially "this was invented, therefore it could have been invented, and since it could have been invented, no one had to invent it because it was obvious". That circular logic applies to everything from the space shuttle to cancer vaccines.
(i.e. the R&D costs of figuring out how to do it are negligible compared to a phone of any other color)
The implementation costs are negligible... the R&D costs - figuring out that it is an improvement, doing user testing, etc., are quite high compared to the implementation costs... and, I believe, that ratio was your metric indicating it should be patentable.
Tell that to Zynga, or any of the indie designers they've ripped off.
If this were not true, then no one would ever design any games or software seeing as how unprofitable it would be.
Well, there's a lot of shovelware out there, and not much in the way of new designs, you'll notice. It's starting to become like Atari in the 80s.
On the contrary, it's pretty easy. [youtube.com]
Writing an application that mimics some very small subsection of a much larger UI is not very hard. If this was all there was to Apple's UI, then they *really* don't deserve a patent. This software is an "easy copy" of Apple's UI like how a picture of a Ferrari is an "easy copy" of a real Ferrari. Is it easy to copy a Ferrari? Maybe yes, maybe no, but a picture of a Ferrari is not proof that it is easy (unless you have a very low standard for what counts as a Ferrari).
However, once you can buy a Ferrari and take it apart, it's pretty easy to copy with a machine shop and some skilled workers. And since we're not talking about the engine, but the UI, it's even easier to make a body case of a Ferrari and build a fiberglass look-alike. I'd give a Hollywood special effects shop a week, tops.
Similarly, I'd give a team of Russian hackers a week or two to reverse engineer any UI you build, even if it took you months and months of trial and error and alternate designs to come up with the best one.
But they also come up with new aspects, which is why the UIs are evolving. Those new aspects that others copy, because they believe they're the best aspects, must not have been obvious, or they would already have been incorporated - since, as you say, they're acknowledged as the "best".
By this definition of obvious, *nothing* would ever be obvious because for anything, there was a point in time at which it didn't exist.
You're confusing "new" and "nonobvious" - they're actually two different statutes. If something has never been done before, then it's new, by definition. However, if all of the pieces of it had been done separately and they could be readily combined, then it's obvious, even though it's new. Peanut butter sandwiches are known; tuna fish sandwiches are known. Maybe no one ever put them together, because yech, so it's "new", but it's also an "obvious" combination of known elements.
But if the patent claim was peanut butter + tuna + [previously unknown substance], then that's not obvious, no matter how obvious peanut butter + tuna would be.
In the definition above, the UI designers come up with new aspects, which others than copy. Those new aspects haven't been done before. When the resulting UI is "known aspect" + "known aspect" + new aspect, then it's not obvious.