Apple launched the iPhone on January 9, 2007 and took the whole world by storm. Their vision of phone without the keypad was nothing new, but they created a thing which was still something new due to usability.
Though they released the first phone in 2007, they filed for a phone patent in the year 1985. The above is an image showing the patent which relates to the shape of the phone. The design for which they applied possess a flip mechanism in the shape of Apple.
This clearly shows that Apple had the vision of entering the phone market at some point of time in future. Before the release of the iPhone, it was trying to cooperate with Motorola, but they didn’t reach any fruitful gains. As a reminder, Motorola Rokr E1 was the phone which was developed by co-developed by Motorola and Apple. The music player installed on the phone was made by Apple.
Companies file for patents in advance without releasing a product. They want to reap benefits. Say, if some company releases a product matching to their registered patent, and that product becomes a hit. Then, the company possessing the patent can make big fortunes in the name of the licensing or court cases. However, these patents are subject to approval and jurisdiction.
Source – Patent Page