Qualcomm Inc. filed lawsuits in China seeking to ban the sale and manufacture of iPhones in the country, the chipmaker’s biggest shot at Apple Inc. so far in a sprawling and bitter legal fight.

The San Diego-based company aims to inflict pain on Apple in the world’s largest market for smartphones and cut off production in a country where most iPhones are made. The product provides almost two-thirds of Apple’s revenue. Qualcomm filed the suits in a Beijing intellectual property court claiming patent infringement and seeking injunctive relief, according to Christine Trimble, a company spokeswoman.

“Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them,” Trimble said. Apple shares initially gave up some gains from earlier on Friday before recovering, while Qualcomm stock maintained small losses.

Qualcomm’s suits are based on three non-standard essential patents, it said. They cover power management and a touch-screen technology called Force Touch that Apple uses in current iPhones, Qualcomm said. The inventions "are a few examples of the many Qualcomm technologies that Apple uses to improve its devices and increase its profits,” Trimble said.

Apple said the claim has no merit. “In our many years of ongoing negotiations with Qualcomm, these patents have never been discussed,” said Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock. “Like their other courtroom maneuvers, we believe this latest legal effort will fail.”

Qualcomm made the filings at the Beijing court on Sept. 29. The court has not yet made them public.

“This is another step to get Apple back to the negotiating table,” said Mike Walkley, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Inc. “It shows how far apart they are.”

There’s little or no precedent for a Chinese court taking such action at the request of a U.S. company, he said. Chinese regulators would also be concerned that a halt of iPhone production would cause layoffs at Apple’s suppliers such as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which are major employers.

Conversely, supporting Qualcomm might help Chinese phone companies such as Guangdong Oppo Electronics Co. to gain share against Apple, Walkley said. Investors aren’t concerned about a disruption to iPhone supply because they believe Apple would immediately compromise if there was any threat to production.

“Apple’s not going to miss one day of production,” he said. ‘If for any reason they get a negative judgment, they’d go back to paying Qualcomm in the short term. They’re not going to risk their business model for this.”

The two companies are months into a legal dispute that centers on Qualcomm’s technology licensing business. While Qualcomm gets the majority of its sales from making phone chips, it pulls in most of its profit from charging fees for patents that cover the fundamentals of all modern phone systems.

The latest suits come at a crucial time for Apple. It just introduced iPhone 8 and X models aimed at reasserting leadership in a market that’s steeped in competition from fast-growing Chinese makers. Suppliers and assemblers in China are rushing to churn out as many new iPhones as possible ahead of the key holiday season, so any disruptions would likely be costly. The Greater China region accounted for 22.5 percent of Apple’s $215.6 billion sales in its most recent financial year.

Apple uses some of Qualcomm’s modems -- chips that connect phones to cellular networks -- in some versions of the iPhone. It’s cut that relationship back by using alternatives from Intel Corp. in some markets.

The legal battle started earlier this year when Apple filed an antitrust suit against Qualcomm arguing that the chipmaker’s licensing practices are unfair, and that it abused its position as the biggest supplier of chips in phones. Qualcomm charges a percentage of the price of each handset regardless of whether it includes a chip from the company, and Apple is sick of paying those fees.

Qualcomm has countered with a patent suit and argued that Cupertino, California-based Apple encouraged regulators from South Korea to the U.S. to take action against it based on false testimony. Earlier this week, Qualcomm was fined a record NT$23.4 billion ($773 million) by Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission, a ruling the company is appealing. Qualcomm is also asking U.S. authorities to ban the import of some versions of the iPhone, arguing they infringe on its patents.

Soon after its first legal salvo, Apple cut off licensing payments to Qualcomm. That’s about $2 billion a year in highly profitable revenue, according to analyst estimates, and the chipmaker was forced to lower earnings forecasts. Qualcomm stock is down 19 percent this year compared with a 35 percent gain by the benchmark Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index. Apple shares are up 36 percent this year.

 

Credit: Bloomberg

Apple laid claim to the future of the smartphone Tuesday with a 10th anniversary iPhone X, touting the device as the next generation of mobile computing.

The iPhone X was one of three new iPhone models unveiled at the first event at Apple's new "spaceship" campus, as the California tech giant sought to spark fresh momentum in a global smartphone market seeing slowing growth and tougher competition.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, speaking at the inaugurative event at the new campus theater named for late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, said the newest flagship handset is a milestone for the company a decade after the first iPhone release.

"Ten years later, it is only fitting that we are here in this place, on this day to reveal a product that will set the path for technology for the next decade," Cook said, calling the iPhone X "the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone." The iPhone X has an edge-to-edge 5.8-inch (14.7-centimeter) "super retina" display that has improved resolution, and uses facial recognition to unlock the device.

Apple upped the ante by boosting the starting price of the new handset to $999 for US customers. It will be available starting November 3 in more than 50 markets. "I think it will have very strong appeal to the Apple core and the high-end market," Reticle Research analyst Ross Rubin said of iPhone X.

Rubin believed that payment installment plans and price subsidies or promotions offered by carriers would mean the iPhone X "won't be a big stretch" for people in the market for premium smartphones. Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which offer more modest improvements over their predecessors and will sell later this month at starting prices of $699 and $799, respectively.

All three new handsets will be capable of wireless charging and are adapted for augmented reality with more powerful processors and cameras. The also had memory space boosted in a nod to modern day demand for storing rich data like video.

The unveiling comes with Apple seeking to recapture the magic of the first iPhone release in 2007 as it struggles to maintain market share. Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategies called the new flagship iPhone X "an engineering marvel, especially when compared to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8."

Moorhead said the handset "is not just a late copy of the competition. Apple did it their way by perfecting the experience. "

Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research called the iPhone X "a far bigger upgrade" than previous devices, but questioned whether Apple was stretching its market too thin. "What Apple doesn't want is for people to want the best but not be able to afford it and therefore hold onto their existing phones rather than buying what they consider second best," Dawson said in a blog post.

For the iPhone X, Apple developed what it called an A11 Bionic chip as part of a system that lets handsets recognize owner's faces to unlock screens or pay via the Apple Pay mobile payments system.

Apple is touting the edge-to-edge OLED display -- the organic light-emitting diodes used in high-end televisions -- to win over customers. "For more than a decade, our intention has been to create an iPhone that is all display," Apple chief designer Jony Ive said in a statement. "The iPhone X is the realization of that vision."

The iPhone 8 models boast upgrades from the prior generation handsets. They have Bionic chips, improved cameras and are made with "aerospace-grade aluminum" and durable glass, according to Apple.

Apple's success with the iPhone has transformed it into the world's most valuable company, but it is struggling to keep its share of an increasingly competitive smartphone market. Chinese electronics colossus Huawei passed Apple in global smartphone sales for the first time in June and July, taking second place behind South Korean giant Samsung, according to market tracker Counterpoint Research.

Samsung last month unveiled a new model of its Galaxy Note with a similarly high price tag as it seeks to mount a renewed challenge to iPhones. Other makers are also scrambling for market share, including Google, which is expected to soon unveil a second-generation of its flagship Pixel smartphone.

Apple unveiled an updated version of its smartwatch, as it claimed the device had become the top-selling watch in the world ahead of rivals such as Rolex and Fossil. The Apple Watch Series 3 has its own mobile connectivity that allows users to remain connected without a smartphone for phone calls, music and other functions.

Also unveiled was a new generation Apple TV, this version of the set-top box updated to stream ultra-rich 4K video from the internet. Apple is working with Hollywood studios as well as streaming television providers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime to bulk up the library of 4K shows or films, according to Cook.

While hardware grabbed the spotlight, Apple also emphasized behind-the-scenes technology such as augmented reality, machine learning, and linking to the array of smart devices in homes.

"Apple is trying to differentiate through design and experience," Rubin said. "There is a lot of emphasis on Apple technologies positioning us beyond the phone."

 

Credit: Economic Times

 

 

Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. launched a new chipset with built-in artificial-intelligence capabilities to power its next-generation smartphones and take on rivals Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

Though Huawei is well known in the smartphone business, it is No. 3 world-wide behind Apple and Samsung. It is lesser known as a maker of chips for its own phones. The company says its new Kirin 970 chip will power its forthcoming Mate 10 smartphone, set to launch next month to compete against the coming 10th-anniversary iPhone.

Huawei's new chipset was unveiled Saturday at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin. It comes as the company has been pouring resources into the more profitable high-end phone market, long dominated by Apple. Its current flagship phone, the P10, launched this year with a base price of $685.

The Shenzhen-based company has said the Mate 10 will have improved camera and battery life. It also said the new Kirin chipset will power stronger image-recognition abilities and other camera features on its phones.

While Huawei's rivals are likely working on chip upgrades as well, "making AI computation faster and more efficient will give Huawei an edge, if it can demonstrate improved performance or battery life when conducting everyday tasks," said Tim Coulling, analyst at electronics-research firm Canalys.

Huawei has been steadily gaining market share from rivals in the smartphone wars. In China, where Apple has been losing ground, Huawei recaptured the top spot from Chinese brand Oppo in the first quarter, according to Canalys.

Globally, it had 10% of the market in the first quarter, according to Canalys, behind Samsung's 23% and Apple's 15%. While it is a major player in Europe, its sales remain low in the U.S.

 

Android phones sometimes follow Apple's lead when it comes to key functionality features, and the next generation of smartphones could be no different. Future Android devices are expected to mimic one of the upcoming iPhone 8's most anticipated new features: 3D facial scanning.

Qualcomm's next generation of Snapdragon chips, which will be announced at the end of the year, will have greatly improved, new image signal processors (ISP) and will likely enable even better depth-sensing capabilities for smartphone cameras, according to a report from CNET.

That new processing power could potentially allow phones with the highest-tier Qualcomm chips — which in the current generation of devices include the flagships from OnePlus, Samsung, and HTC — to offer the same 3D facial sensing feature expected to replace Touch ID in the iPhone 8 as its go-to biometric security feature.

The new 3D scanning capability will ostensibly change the way we interact with our phones yet again, like when the iPhone 5S introduced Touch ID in 2013 and other phonemakers adopted it to follow suit. So Android devices will probably want to adopt the tech as soon as possible to stay competitive.

The new Qualcomm chipset will reportedly use infrared light sensors, which would likely be attached to a smartphone's camera module, to "measure depth and render high-resolution depth maps for facial recognition, 3D reconstruction of objects and mapping." Biometric security features would be one of the most obvious uses for the functionality, although it could also be harnessed for other things, like VR.

You can check out a demo of Qualcomm's 3D mapping and image reconstruction tech in the video below, but there's no footage of the biometric feature described in the CNET report.

Demo of Qualcomm's 3D mapping and image reconstruction

The chips could also help to improve Android cameras, which for many, specifically ex-Google SVP of Social Vic Gundotra, lag behind Apple's latest dual lens setup in the iPhone 7 Plus.

The iPhone 8's 3D facial sensors (and everything else about the phone) haven't been confirmed yet, so it might be premature to call the feature the future of smartphone security. The rumor mill is strong however, and Qualcomm is ready to stake its own claim in the functionality — so you shouldn't be surprised if we're all unlocking our new phones with our faces by this time next year.

 

Credit: MASHABLE

Samsung's on a streak of not copying the iPhone, with original features like curved edges and iris scanners actually outpacing innovation at Apple. But that could end with its upcoming Galaxy Note 8.

A new report from The Investor claims the Korean electronic giant's follow-up to last year's disastrous Note 7 will come with a pressure-sensitive screen. The screen technology is said to be similar to the iPhone's display, which has supported 3D Touch since the iPhone 6S launched in 2015.

The new display, which is able to detect how hard you press it, will be used to "replace all the functionality of a home button and open a hidden menu with shortcuts to different features."

It's unclear if the new screen will replace the thin pressure-sensitive area that only covers the bottom portion of the Galaxy S8's display. But it's better late than never since Android Nougat already supports the special displays.

Copying the iPhone's pressure-sensitive screen isn't even the worst part. The report also says Samsung's going to call it ... 3D touch. Oh boy, do you hear that? That's Apple's big scary lawyers getting ready to leap out from behind their desks and run straight to Samsung HQ.

Samsung will have to face the laughs of a billion Apple fanboys for being so unoriginal, but there might not even be a courtroom battle between the two tech titans.

Eagle-eyed readers will recall that Huawei's Mate S, the world's first Android phone to copy the iPhone and sport a pressure-sensitive display, also called its technology 3D touch (with a lowercase "t"). If Huawei can get away with the name, perhaps Samsung could, too.

Despite initial excitement, 3D Touch hasn't exactly become a must-use feature on iPhone. Apple has yet to announce a compelling feature that makes use of it. A long-press works just the same on iOS and Android devices that don't have pressure-sensitive screens.

There's not much else we don't already know about the Note 8. We know that it'll be announced on Aug. 23 and The Investor claims it'll launch on Sept. 15, which matches reports that the phone would launch in mid-September to beat the Apple's iPhone 8.

Several comprehensive leaks suggest the Note 8 will be a pricey beast of a phone. It'll reportedly come with a 6.3-inch display, Snapdragon 835 chip, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, dual cameras that might offer even better optical zoom than the iPhone 7 Plus, and an S Pen with enhanced stylus features.

The one thing that won't get a significant improvement is battery life. Samsung's reportedly going with a 3,300 mAh battery, which is smaller than the S8+'s 3,500 mAh battery. It'd also be smaller than the Note 7's battery, which has the same capacity as the S8+.

The smaller battery might turn some Samsung fans off, but there probably isn't much to worry about. Battery capacity and longevity aren't always directly related. Software optimizations and power efficiencies from the chipset can make up for a smaller battery. Just look at the iPhone; iOS and Apple's custom A-series chips allow it to last just as long or longer than Android phones with bigger batteries.

Whatever Samsung announces later this month, it's sure to attract the world's attention. The company will no doubt boast about the phone's myriad new features, but all it really needs to do is make sure there aren't any explosions again. If the safe S8's anything to go by, then Samsung should be in good shape with the Note 8.

 

Credit: mashable.com

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