The on-going legal battle between Qualcomm and Apple has taken a twist as the US District Court for the Southern District of California has ruled in favour of Qualcomm.
The court has decided Apple’s iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus and X infringe two Qualcomm patents, while the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X devices infringe on a third. As a result, the jury has awarded Qualcomm $31 million in damages.
“Today’s unanimous jury verdict is the latest victory in our worldwide patent litigation directed at holding Apple accountable for using our valuable technologies without paying for them,” said Don Rosenberg, General Counsel for Qualcomm.
“The technologies invented by Qualcomm and others are what made it possible for Apple to enter the market and become so successful so quickly. The three patents found to be infringed in this case represent just a small fraction of Qualcomm’s valuable portfolio of tens of thousands of patents. We are gratified that courts all over the world are rejecting Apple’s strategy of refusing to pay for the use of our IP.”
The three patents support different functions on iPhones, all of which has become normalised features of the devices. Patent No. 8,838,949 enables ‘flashless booting’, removing the need for a separate flash memory and allowing smartphones to connect to the internet quicker after being turned on. Patent No. 9,535,490 speeds up internet connections. Finally, Patent No. 8,633,936 enables high performance and rich visual graphics for games, while also increasing battery efficiency.
The $31 million bill will actually mean very little to Apple. Looking at the iLeader’s 2018 full year results, it would take just under 62 minutes Apple to generate revenues to cover the $31 million, though it does set precedent around the world.
Alongside this ruling in San Diego, courts in China and Germany has also ruled Apple has infringed Qualcomm patents, questioning whether Apple is legally allowed to continue sales not only in these countries, but other territories around the world. In Germany, Apple has been barred from selling any iPhone 7 and 8 models, while in China all devices from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone X have also been banned from sale.
The legal battle between two of the digital economy’s heavyweights has been dragging on for some time now, but this round has been undeniably chalked up to Qualcomm.
Music streaming service Spotify has declared war on Apple over alleged discriminatory treatment of its app and commercial terms.
In a blog post CEO Daniel Ek announced Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission. He claims “Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience – essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”
The main issue seems to be the commercial terms Apple offers Spotify, specifically taking a cut of the fees people pay for its premium services. While this is Apple’s prerogative, that behaviour is complicated by the fact that Apple operates its own competing streaming service, Apple Music, and allegedly punishes Spotify if it attempts to use an alternative payment system.
“We aren’t seeking special treatment,” wrote Ek. “We simply want the same treatment as numerous other apps on the App Store, like Uber or Deliveroo, who aren’t subject to the Apple tax and therefore don’t have the same restrictions. What we are asking for is the following:
First, apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store. We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions—including Apple Music.
Second, consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be “locked in” or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple’s.
Finally, app stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit consumers.”
Spotify’s timing is pretty good, since regulatory and political sentiment is quite hostile to US tech giants at the moment and Apple is expected to launch a TV streaming service later this month. Spotify has created an emotively-named website – timetoplayfair.com – to further detail its case. Apple will presumably insist rules are rules, but the case against it seems reasonably strong it’s quite possible it y eventually back down on this one.
According to a recent Deloitte consumer research, 5.8 million UK mobile users are happy to move to 5G networks but only 50,000 5G phones will hit the market.
The consulting firm surveyed 4,150 respondents aged 16-75 in the UK to produce the country section of their latest report, Mobile Consumer Survey 2018. One of the responses that stood out was on the consumers’ willingness to switch to 5G when it becomes available. 12% of the respondents said yes, a further 19% said they would if the word-of-mouth is positive, and 32% thought they would eventually switch.
To extrapolate the responses to the whole mobile using population, Deloitte believed up to 5.8 million users in the UK would be willing to adopt 5G as soon as it becomes available, which will happen this year. If the experience pleases the first adopters and they spread the word, 9.2 million more would be happy to jump on board. Meanwhile, Deloitte predicted that only about 50,000 5G enabled phones will be available in the UK market this year. This would translate into a 118 to 1 chance for a willing customer to get her hand on a 5G phone. That stands lower than the chance of Tottenham Hotspurs winning this season’s Premier League (100 to 1 by William Hill at the time of writing).
The question is constructed, and responses distributed like this:
Odds aside, there is a fundamental element missing from this question: the consumers’ willingness to pay. And this includes two parts: paying for the “5 times faster” service and paying for the handsets that can carry such service.
Nearly half (48%) of telecom professionals answering Telecoms.com survey believed consumers would not pay more than 10% for 5G over what they pay now. Handsets are another issue. Huawei’s flagship 5G phone would cost a whopping 2,299€ (£1,972). The most affordable 5G phone that has been given an official price is the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G which is priced at 599€ (£514). Samsung has not given price indication of the 5G version of its Galaxy S10 series, but the 4G version is priced at £799. It is also worth noting that neither Huawei nor Samsung has managed to ship premium segment products in volume. Apple, the only brand that has delivered volume in this segment, is also seeing consumer enthusiasm weakening, and we would not see a 5G iPhone soon either.
If the payment consideration had been factored in the survey question, we might see the chances for those consumers really willing and ready to switch to 5G to actually do so vastly improved.
The next generation USB standard will be based on Intel’s Thunderbolt protocols, as well as be backward compatible with earlier generations of USB.
Intel earlier announced that its upcoming 10nm processor will be the first to integrate Thunderbolt 3, and it has already been supported by both Windows 10 and macOS. According to the latest announcements from both Intel and the industry association and standardisation body USB Promoter Group, Intel has made the Thunderbolt 3 specifications available for royalty free use by the industry.
“Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today’s simplest and most versatile port available to everyone,” said Jason Ziller, General Manager, Client Connectivity Division at Intel. “By collaborating with the USB Promoter Group, we’re opening the doors for innovation across a wide range of devices and increasing compatibility to deliver better experiences to consumers.”
The USB community is obviously happy to see that the move from Intel will likely avoid the branching of the next generation USB standards. “The primary goal of USB is to deliver the best user experience combining data, display and power delivery over a user-friendly and robust cable and connector solution,” said Brad Saunders, USB Promoter Group Chairman.
The key advantages of USB 4 include:
High speed: up to 40 Gbps operation, which will double the 20 Gbps speed of USB 3.2 and Thunderbolt 2, or more than 80 times faster than the USB 2.0 speed of 480 Mbps;
Multi-channel data communication: enabling multiple simultaneous data and display protocols
Backward compatibility: USB4 will be compatible with USB 3.2, USB 2.0, and Thunderbolt 3
“The USB 4 solution specifically tailors bus operation to further enhance this experience by optimizing the blend of data and display over a single connection and enabling the further doubling of performance,” added USB Promoter Group’s Saunders.
After making the Thunderbolt specs public, Intel’s role will expand to industry wide testing, auditing and certification.
The USB4 interface is likely to continue with the USB Type-C standard, which will save more real estate for computer OEMs, if they can replace most of the legacy ports. When it comes to mobile devices, the co-existence of different standards of USB connections for charging and for data transmission has been a source of consumer frustration as well as a key contributor to electronics wastes. Apple has also been notorious for going its own way with cable standards, though recently there has been rumour that the next iPhone might ditch Lightning for USB Type-C connection.
The USB4 specifications will be published around mid-2019, according to the USB Promoter Group announcement.
Innovations demonstrated at a fringe event outside of the sound and fury of MWC showed promise to solve some real-life problems.
MobileFocus, a long-running fringe event during the MWC week in Barcelona, brought about two dozen companies to showcase their innovations that may not hit the frontpage but are illuminating nonetheless. There were big companies, like Lenovo, which displayed a slew of its new PCs, but most exhibitors are single product small companies. Some of them promoted ideas as straightforward as Bluetooth speakers focused on design, or water-proof cases to take smartphones into the pool. Others are trying to address more sophisticated issues. At least three of them impressed.
Amber is an elegant looking private cloud datacentre. It is also a high-speed Wi-Fi router and in-home media casting centre (with DLNA), and other functions. This product would appeal to the users that are interested in saving their files in the cloud but are concerned with the security of public clouds (e.g. iCloud, which has been compromised in some high-profile cases). With this device physically located in the user’s own premise, hacking would become more difficult. It also has strong enough processing power (an Intel Dual-Core CPU) and embedded AI engine, so it can also do facial indexing and searching as the Google Photos offers. Trusted parties can also remotely (i.e. outside of the home environment) access files on the datacentre. Coming up next, the company will offer passive back-up on the company’s cloud, as a double security. By passive back-up, the company explained, it meant the files cannot be shared from the cloud. The California-based start-up expects the products to hit the market in the next month.
e-Checkup is designed to measure a user’s blood pressure with a set of sensors added on the back of a smartphone and the application to go with it. Although the wellness functions on smartphones and smartwatches will measure pulses, very few have offered blood pressure measuring, presumably because it is harder to get right. The company claimed that this is the world’s first accurate cuff-less and calibration-free blood pressure measurement system. The application gamifies the measuring processes by asking the user to keep pressing against the sensors to keep an on-screen water stream steadily pouring into a lake. Readings will be made when the water level rises to a defined bar. The Lausanne-based Leman Micro Devices expected that this technology could be cleared by the FDA for a Class II risk device category soon. That would be the same class as the latest Apple Watch. It is also in advanced discussions with unnamed smartphone OEMs to integrate the sensors in their upcoming phone models to make the testing experience more ergonomically pleasant (the mock-up on the top of the picture).
DeviceAssure is a B2B security tool to detect counterfeit mobile devices. The service offered by the Dublin-based company can run both on-device and cloud-based test of the product down to chipset level to decide whether it is genuine. Three new “developments” in the counterfeit trade have made the detection job both more challenging and more pertinent. Counterfeiting techniques are much more advanced. This “Galaxy 9” looks very bit the part except that it is a $80 fake, and an ordinary user would find it hard to tell with his naked eyes.
Distribution is more efficient, helped by the online shopping channels. Last but not the least, the bloatware or even malware preinstalled on these phones are more sophisticated. The last of the three new trends makes it particularly desirable for the company’s corporate customers to be more vigilant against counterfeit end user devices. For example, corporate IT teams need to be able to block counterfeit devices from connecting to the corporate networks to defend against malware being distributed; or banks should be able to stop counterfeit handsets installing online banking applications as their customers’ security could be more easily compromised. The company representatives did admit, however, that it took them a while to understand why, out of all kinds of enterprise customers, telecom operators were the least concerned with counterfeit phones, so long as the users pay the phone bills.
Some of the companies also have a booth inside MWC, but most of them only attend fringe events like this. A few companies at MobileFocus also ride on the big themes like IoT security, but most of them start with solving a more concrete problem, which makes the fringe events more refreshing. Edinburgh Fringe has given us Stephen Fry, might MWC fringe give us tomorrow’s Steve Jobs?
Just days after Samsung’s big reveal Huawei has launched a foldy phone of its own on the eve of Mobile World Congress 2019.
In contrast to the Samsung Fold the foldy screen of the Huawei Mate X is on the outside of the folded device. It also seems designed to be more compact when folded and is slightly biggers – 8 inches, when unfolded. Lastly it seem to come with 5G from the start thanks to Huawei being in control of its destiny in that departments.
Regrettably Huawei feels the need to go down the hyperbolic launch event path forged by the late Apple boss Steve Jobs. So the theme for the big Barcelona event was ‘Meet the unprecedented’, despite the launch having been precedented three days ago. The obligatory superlative was satisfied with the somewhat qualified claim this it is ‘the world’s fastest foldable 5G phone.’ This presumably means Huawei thinks its 5G modem is faster than the Qualcomm X50, which is an interesting claim.
“With the advent of the all-scenario era, consumers are increasingly looking forward to revolutionary experiences,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, who you can hear more from in the video below. “To support the hyperconnected 5G period, Huawei Consumer BG remains committed to the all-scenario smart ecosystem strategy. We will spare no effort to drive pervasive connectivity to individuals, office and homes, and create a world-leading 5G all-scenario smart living experience that is unlike anything that has come before.”
That’s about it for now. It looks like a pretty cool device, but it wants to be considering it will set you back $2,600. This first set of foldy phone launches seems to be as much about bragging rights, technological chest-beating and headline chasing as anything, but that doesn’t mean they’re not interesting. Prices will have to come down, of course, but maybe no by that much if they can demonstrate genuine, useful added value from the first new smartphone form factor in over a decade.
Xiaomi used Mobile World Congress 2019 to launch a 5G version of its Mi Mix 3 smartphone. The product will be available in the markets by May 2019.
Under the banner of “We Make It Happen” and billed as its first Mobile World Congress product launch (despite that it took place one day before MWC started), Xiaomi introduced the Mi Mix 3 5G version. The original 4G version of the phablet / super-sized phone was launched in October 2018. The new 5G reincarnation is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 equipped with the new X50 5G modem.
“Xiaomi has spent tremendous efforts developing a 5G smartphone solution and Mi MIX 3 5G represents Xiaomi’s quest to create innovative products for everyone,” said Wang Xiang, Senior Vice President of Xiaomi. “We are also delighted and honoured to be working with our partners to make 5G a reality for even more users all over the world.”
By partners on this particular occasion he definitely included Qualcomm and Orange, both of which endorsed the product launched. Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm Incorporated, shared the stage at the event. “We are thrilled to continue our long-standing collaboration with Xiaomi to help bring deliver unprecedented 5G speeds and transformative user experiences to consumers through their latest flagship smartphone, Mi MIX 3 5G,” he said.
Then a live 5G video call on the Mi Mix 3 5G was made on stage with an off-site Orange Spain executive, using Orange network. This may look commonplace nowadays, but it made history for Xiaomi: it was Xiaomi’s first 5G video call outside of China, the company claimed. It did not let go the opportunity without a subtle poke on AT&T either. When pointing at the on-screen 5G symbol, the Xiaomi product development director stressed this is real 5G, “not fake 5G”.
With the exception of 5G, all the other features and specs of Mi Mix 3 5G are the same as its 4G predecessor. The 5G version will be available in May and is priced at 599€.
Also introduced at the event is Mi 9, its new flagship smartphone launched in China a few days ago. Xiaomi spent a fair amount of time promoting the triple-camera, especially the AI performance to support different picture taking scenarios. Also being highlighted was Mi 9’s full-curved back cover, which it claimed to be inspired by the works of Antoni Gaudí, much to the delight of the local audience.
The Mi 9 is priced at 449€ for the 64GB version, and 499€ for the 128GB version. It is open to pre-order from today in Spain, France, and Italy.
The new product launches are packaged as steps taken to carry out the company’s “dual-core strategy” of Smartphone+AIoT that Xiaomi’s founder launched recently. Xiaomi’s executive threw in quite a few impressive numbers as proofs. For example, the number of monthly active users of MIUI (Xiaomi’s skin on top of Android) has reached 224 million; more than 2,000 products have been brought to the market by over 200 companies in the Xiaomi ecosystem; there are 132 million activated Xiaomi consumer IoT products, which has made it the world’s largest consumer IoT company.
It is also collaborating with IKEA and Philips to popularise smart homes and smart lighting. To make the point, Xiaomi’s executive went into a demo home environment on stage, attempting to switch off the smart air purifier with Google Assistant voice command. He did not quite pull it off. The air purifier refused to switch off, twice. Then he gave up.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the iPhone maker from Silicon Valley and the Wall Street stalwart are mulling over the idea of jointly issuing a credit card to Apple users.
Quoting people familiar with the situation, the paper claimed that Apple and Goldman Sachs may start a trial of the card on their own staff in the coming weeks before it is launched later in the spring. A similar partnership was earlier reported in May 2018 by the same paper.
If this does happen, it will not be the first time Apple takes part in card issuing. The company has already partnered Barclays to issue Barclaycard with Apple Rewards, by which users can earn points from purchases made at Apple or elsewhere, which can then be converted to Apple Stores or iTunes Store coupons.
Nor is Apple the only internet company to issue bank cards. Amazon, for example, has partnered with multiple banks (including RBS and NatWest in the UK) to issue different kinds of credit, debit, cash-back and other types of cards with different benefits.
Where the Goldman Sacks card will be different, according to the WSJ article, is its tighter integration with features offered by the Apple Wallet app on the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
By now, users of Apple Wallet can store in the app “credit, debit, and prepaid cards, store cards, boarding passes, movie tickets, coupons, rewards cards, student ID cards” etc. Then users can use “passes on your iPhone to check in for flights, get and redeem rewards, get in to movies, or redeem coupons. Passes can include useful information like the balance on your coffee card, your coupon’s expiration date, your seat number for a concert”, and so on.
The speculated card is said to work with these Wallet functions as well as with upcoming features. For example, Wallet may keep spending limits, track rewards, encourage users to pay down their credit card debt, and manage balances. These will not be fundamentally new ideas. Apple Watch is already attempting to improve the user’s physical wellness, and the recent update on iOS has added notification of user’s screen time.
This may bring addition benefit to Apple, at a time when its Products business is slowing down while Services is growing to be more important. As a concrete example, Apple could get higher commission fee from transactions on its own cards then on those made through Apple Pay linked to cards issued by other institutions.
For Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, the main driver would be the iOS users. Traditionally an investment and wholesale bank, Goldman Sachs only recently opened an online retail banking business in the shape of Marcus by Goldman Sachs. A joint credit card would be a good channel to access the iPhone users, which are believed to be higher spenders among smartphone users. Eventually, WSJ claimed, the card may expand to offer personal loans, wealth management services, and other financial products, which would be closer to Goldman Sachs’ heart.
With the launch of its first 5G smartphone as well as its first foldable screen Samsung has grabbed the pre-MWC headlines but what is the point of either device?
As is so often the way with new convergent product categories, this first attempt to make something that is both a phone and a tablet seems to have resulted in something that isn’t much good at being either. Essentially it’s a small tablet that can fold in half to make a very chunky phone, with a hefty price tag to match.
But we mustn’t be too negative. Samsung has been teasing the bendy screen for years and actually putting one into a commercial device is an impressive achievement. Its first effort was always going to be more of a public prototype than anything a normal person would consider buying, but it is as a commercial offering that it should be judged.
The Galaxy Fold uses a new display technology Samsung is calling ‘Infinity Flex’, which is an AMOLED screen that can be folded in half. Hence you have a 7.3-inch tablet that, when folded, becomes a 4.6-inch phone. Thus you have all the portability of a phone combined with the viewing experience of a tablet, or so Samsung would have us believe.
“Today, Samsung is writing the next chapter in mobile innovation history by changing what’s possible in a smartphone,” said DJ Koh, Samsung’s head of mobile. “Galaxy Fold introduces a completely new category that unlocks new capabilities never seen before with our Infinity Flex Display. We created Galaxy Fold for those that want to experience what a premium foldable device can do, beyond the limitations of a traditional smartphone.”
We note with dismay that Samsung has adopted Apple’s irritating habit of dropping the definite article when referring to its products, as if they’re a person rather than a thing. But that’s not enough to distract us from the fact that 7.3-inches is very small for a tablet market in which ten inches has become the norm and that, when folded, the phone is inevitably much fatter than we’ve become accustomed to with regular smartphones. Oh yes, and it costs two grand (dollars).
We spoke to Neil Mawston of Strategy Analytics to get his take on it. “Samsung Fold is the world’s most important smartphone launch since Apple iPhone in 2007,” he said. “Samsung’s Fold is a very good first-generation device. The Fold is relatively expensive, bulky and heavy, but the foldable industry has to start somewhere and this is a pretty good beginning.
“We forecast global foldable smartphone revenues to rise from zero in 2018 to US$2 billion in 2019. Foldable designs will account for 1% of all smartphones shipped worldwide in 2019. The first buds of the foldable smartphone era are starting to sprout.
“Foldable smartphones are a luxury gadget today, a premium product in a year or two, and a midrange device in five or so years. Think of foldable smartphones at the moment as a Rolex watch or Ferrari supercar, a show-off product for status-seekers with deep pockets.”
One last question mark comes courtesy of our eagle-eyed video producer and resident gadget geek Pierre. He noticed in the unveiling video that the opened-up screen doesn’t seem to be perfectly flat. As you can see in the screenshot below, only one half of the screen is reflecting the spotlight, which strongly implies it doesn’t open up to the full 180 degrees. Hmmm.
Somewhat overshadowed by all this foldy fun was the launch of Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone family, the Galaxy S10, S10+ and S10e. So we now have the ‘e’ variant as the lowest-priced version ($750) and then the option of two increases in size, spec and price ($900 and $1,000). The infographic at the bottom shows how the biggest one has been upgraded from last year.
The most interesting part of that launch, however, was the promise of a 5G version hitting the shelves of US operator Verizon in Q2 of this year. The Galaxy S10 5G will be even bigger than the S10+, with its 6.7-inch screen barely smaller than the foldy one, which once more begs the question of what the point of the latter is.
Other than that, details are a bit thin on the ground, including price, although we can safely assume it will cost a fair bit more than the S10+. We do know the 5G modem is the Snapdragon X50, however, with Qualcomm wasting little time in crowing about that. It also flagged up the first commercial use of its 3D Sonic Sensor, which allows fingerprints to be scanned through the screen.
“Samsung S10 is relatively well priced for its premium features, and Samsung seems to have learnt from the S9 overpricing debacle last year,” said Mawston. “Samsung’s S10 range carries some rare or near-unique features, such as 5G and Wireless Power Share for phone-to-phone recharging. Of course, Samsung’s rivals are not standing still. For example, Huawei is pumping out plenty of premium smartphones with standout features, such as the Mate 20 X with a huge 7.2-inch screen.”
Samsung announced a bunch of European 5G operator partnerships that will support the launch of the S10 5G across Europe in the middle of this year. The following operators served up canned quotes from their CEOs saying how excited they are, which we will spare you: DT, EE, Orange, Sunrise, Swisscom, TIM, Telefonica and Vodafone.
In summary this was an impressive array of launches from Samsung, presumably timed to steal the thunder away from other launches that typically take place on the Sunday before MWC starts. The foldy phone as it is now just seems to be an expensive gimmick, but we may eventually view it as the start of an era. The same goes for the S10 5G, which will initially have very little 5G network to work with, but is nonetheless a milestone in the evolution of the smartphone industry.
Ahead of MWC 2019 Vodafone has been conducting live trials of commercial smartphone networks in Barcelona and Madrid.
It reckons it’s the first in the world to do this and is timing this claim to perfection as that will give it something significant to bang on about at the show. The four week trials have been conducted with 5G phones that will be launched at some stage this year, maybe even next week. Vodafone also said it will be launching 5G in a bunch of European cities later this year.
“Vodafone’s networks are increasingly ready for 5G, which will enable us to deliver significant benefits over time for consumers, businesses and society,” reiterated Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer of Vodafone Group. “Our focus now is on optimising the customer experience before we launch 5G in some European cities later this year.”
As if to illustrate how difficult it’s going to be for operators to persuade all but the most rabid early-adopters to pay a premium for 5G, Vodafone chose to illustrate how great this first live 5G connection was by noting it was able to make “a seamless 4K video call” over it. At last, the dark days of unreliable 4K video calls are behind us – take our money, please!
The connection used NSA 5G, which was standardised in 3GPP Release 15. Vodafone is claiming download speeds of 1.5 Gbps and will back up that claim by driving a car around Barcelona and continually shouting “one point five gig” out of it or something, so that should be a bit of fun.