Actually, apple was copying the ideas of the chinese clone makers who copied the iphone and then improved on them.
Years ago, I owned a chinese sciphone (miphone)which had dual cameras (front & back, video conferencing and quad band world phone connectability. All of these features have been recently touted as new by apple. So you are correct in saying it a takes a couple years to catch up. You're just misinformed on who is doing the catch up.
Now if they could only follow the lead of others and allow you to replace batteries, add memory cards and have an unlocked phone ... in a couple years
Don't believe it! Out of curiosity, I bought an iPhone 4 clone in Lo Wu Shopping City for about $50 and looked at several others at the same time. It might look like an iPhone from a distance, but plastic body; resistive touch screen; no installable apps (just copied icons). The built-in apps were very bad and slow. WiFi very hard to connect to anything, and flakey browser. No GPS, no GPRS, no compass; no accelerometers or gyros (though did have portrait/landscape detection); low-res screen. It worked for 3 days before the touch-screen failed (probably a connector). After that I dismantled it - no A5, that's for sure!
I was astonished it actually worked - as just a phone, it wasn't too bad. Essentially, it was a generic phone PCB wrapped-up in an iPhone look-alike wrapper.
It even had two improvements over the iPhone - dual SIM, and replaceable battery.
Anyway, they are widely available - google for Sciphone, HiPhone etc.
I agree in part with you, but I do find packaging details ie. HOW it all goes together. I then think hmm why? Yes I like the idea or no I don't. Sure purely from an electronic perspective there's not much happening, but in the mechanical arena it can be interesting.
Teardowns don't mean much when they simply identify new components. Wow, it has an XYZ from company A and a QRS from company B. Big deal. More insight and analysis of why Apple made various component and design choices would help. But it's unlikely a company will share those secrets. That's why this type of teardown is pretty much a waste of time.
It is very obvious how the real estate changes when there is no keyboard, no open/close mechanism, just a screen, battery and short parade of chips, one chip per specialist function. See how the Location chips and presumably GPS? need their space. Cameras, connector and switches add their payload but you get a lot of functionality in a mobile device!