A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a location-based social networking service referred to as “iGroups.” The application describes a system through which multiple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users at an event, meeting, or other gathering could exchange information automatically by having their devices exchange encrypted, location-tagged “tokens,” which would then be sent to a trusted service—such as Apple’s MobileMe—and used to determine that all the users were at the same place or event. Once this has taken place, the users could then send location information and messages amongst the group as they move about and experience the event, potentially facilitating discussions on where to meet after the event is over, and also making it possible to precisely locate non-GPS devices by determining their proximity to a GPS-enabled device using a short-range communications protocol such as Bluetooth. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via Patently Apple]
According to comments made by René Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile USA parent company Deutsche Telekom, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier may start offering the iPhone as soon as later this year. The Financial Times reports that Obermann told the publication T-Mobile USA hopes to start selling the iPhone later this year or next year, but in the meantime will focus on Android-powered smartphones. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to offer an Android-powered phone, the HTC G1, and has since expanded its Android lineup with several other models, including the Google-branded, HTC-built Nexus One. [via MDN]
China Mobile hopes to reach a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone, and possibly the iPad, in the near future, according to recent comments made by China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou. “We’re hoping we’ll come to an agreement (with Apple) on the iPhone as soon as possible,” he told AFP reporters at a news conference in Hong Kong. “We will continue to express our interest in the iPhone. But not just the iPhone, also the iPad.” China Mobile has reportedly been in talks with Apple about the iPhone since November 2007, but the negotiations have stalled multiple times over issues such as revenue sharing and App Store control. During this period, Apple reached an agreement with rival carrier China Unicom to carry the iPhone; Unicom launched the handset in China in October 2009.
In a statement released to the press today, HTC Corporation officially responded to Apple’s lawsuit against the company, which was filed on March 2. “HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC. “HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible.” The press release also contains a photo of the HTC-built T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition, which the company points out was the first 3.5-inch color touchscreen smartphone in the U.S., pre-dating the original iPhone by five years. Apple’s lawsuit and accompanying ITC complaint accuse HTC of “infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.”
Apple has launched a number of new enhancements to its iWork.com beta Web-based document sharing service, including improved access on iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad devices. Mac Rumors reports that an email sent out to iWork.com users touts a redesigned user interface, which includes “a redesigned Sign In and Shared Documents page for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch [that] makes it easy to access your documents while on the go. The new interface and improved scrolling help you find your shared documents faster.” To access the new features, users can visit iwork.com from their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
According to a recent smartphone brand loyalty survey conducted by Crowd Science, 39% of BlackBerry users would buy an iPhone if purchasing a smartphone “tomorrow.” 34% of BlackBerry users would purchase an Android device, while 92% of iPhone owners and 87% of Android owners would definitely/probably repurchase another iPhone or Android device, respectively. iPhone and Android owners showed similar brand loyalty in the recommendation section of the survey, with 97% of iPhone users and 100% of Android users saying they would recommend their current phone to friends and family. Curiously, 52% of BlackBerry users would recommend the iPhone, compared to 28% who would recommend Android. The study consisted of 1,140 respondents who were randomly recruited via the Crowd Science Sample Beta program from websites serving more than 20 million unique visitors.
Nearly 10,000 Microsoft employees, or roughly 10% of the company’s global work force, are iPhone users, according to a new report. Citing two people who heard estimates from senior Microsoft executives, the Wall Street Journal reports that nearly 10,000 iPhone users were accessing the Microsoft employee email system in 2009, despite a change to the company’s corporate cellphone policy that only reimburses service fees for employees using Windows-powered phones. In one particular meeting among Microsoft executives, Andy Lees, a Microsoft senior vice president who oversees development of the mobile-phone software business, and his boss, Robbie Bach, explained that employees often use rival products like the iPhone to better understand the competition, but were rebuffed by COO Kevin Turner, who said, “[w]hat’s good for the field is good for Redmond.” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took a similar stance, saying that his family always drove Fords, as his father worked for Ford Motor Company. Still, some Microsoft employees choose to use iPhones, even if they need to disguise their handsets, or keep them hidden around senior executives. “Maybe once a year I’m in a meeting with Steve Ballmer,” said one employee. “It doesn’t matter who’s calling, I’m not answering my phone.”
iPhone OS 4.0, the next major revision to the software that powers the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, will offer support for multitasking, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources “with a proven track record” in predicting Apple’s technical advancements, AppleInsider reports that iPhone OS 4.0, expected this summer, will include a “full-on solution” for multitasking, allowing third-party applications downloaded from the App Store to run in the background. According to the same sources, the software will include a multitasking manager built on interface technology already bundled with Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. Finally, the report states that the software is under development and has quite a “way to go” before its ready for release; no further specifics were given.
According to the latest data from comScore, the iPhone saw a very small gain in U.S. smartphone market share from the three months ending in October 2009 to the three months ending in January 2010. The report shows that Apple’s average U.S. smartphone platform market share rose from 24.8% in the quarter ending in Oct. to 25.1% in the three months ending in January, a gain of only 0.3%, leaving Apple in second place. Over the same period, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion saw market share gains of 1.7%, giving it 43% of the market, while Google’s Android platform market share more than doubled, rising 4.3% to grab 7.1% of the market. Both third-place Microsoft and fifth-place Palm saw losses during the same period, of 4% and 2.1%, respectively. The report ranked smartphone operating system platforms in the U.S. according to their share of current mobile subscribers age 13 and older.
A pair of files offering support for new gestures have been found in the latest beta version of the iPhone SDK 3.2 for iPad. 9to5Mac reports that the latest SDK’s “gestures” folder contains two previously unseen files, named “3Tap.plist” and “LongPress.plist,” presumably offering support for triple-tap and tap-and-hold gestures, which Apple currently uses in its implementations of VoiceOver and the iPhone OS’ cut-and-paste feature. In addition, 9to5Mac discovered that the files related to video chat features found in the previous beta SDK have been removed in the latest version.
China Unicom is working with Apple to build a Wi-Fi-capable version of the iPhone for the Chinese market, according to comments from Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing. During initial negotiations between the two companies, Chinese regulations required handset makers to use a homegrown standard called WAPI for wireless Internet instead of Wi-Fi, causing Apple to remove the feature from iPhones bound for the Chinese market. These regulations were later revised to allow for Wi-Fi alongside WAPI, but only after Apple had finished its redesign of the phone. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Chang’s comments to reporters indicate that the revision in policy has opened the door for a new model of iPhone with Wi-Fi capability. Without giving a specific timetable for the arrival of the new model, Chang did say that if the new model is introduced the company would consider compensating current iPhone users by allowing them greater use of China Unicom’s 3G network. China Unicom launched the iPhone in China in October 2009, and had sold 300,000 units as of December 29.
A federal judge in Delaware has signed an order halting litigation between Nokia and Apple over alleged patent infringement pending resolution of the companies’ respective claims with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC announced in January that it would investigate Nokia’s claims of patent infringement against Apple, and said it would consider Apple’s claims against Nokia in February. The Associated Press reports that the judge’s covers both Nokia’s lawsuit against Apple, filed in October 2009, and Apple’s countersuit against Nokia; it is unknown how long it will take the ITC to come to a judgement in the case.
Speaking at an investor conference this week, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made several comments concerning the iPhone and iPad. Regarding the iPhone, Stephenson said he expects the device to be an important part of the company’s handset lineup for “quite some time.” The Wall Street Journal reports that he also said that major carriers will eventually move to a “variable pricing model” to help deal with the large amount of data consumed by smartphone users, noting that AT&T handles half of all U.S. data traffic. Regarding the iPad, Reuters reports that Stephenson said he does not expect the device to help drive new service subscriptions for the company as most users will choose a prepaid data plan. “My expectation is that there’s not going to be a lot of people out there looking for another subscription,” he said, adding that the device would be a mainly “Wi-Fi driven product.” [via Mac Rumors]
A handful of new Apple job postings suggest the company is looking to expand its iBookstore into foreign markets and strengthen its mobile advertising team. A listing for an iBooks Asia Pacific & Canada manager describes the position as working with management, partners, production, and marketing to determine strategies for iBooks in “Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries,” coordinating launches, and securing content. Separately, a listing for an iPhone Advertising SDK Manager calls for “managing a talented team of developers working on the frameworks included in the iPhone SDK,” a job that will include “day to day management of the engineering, as well as related frameworks” and “interacting with the engineering team, program managers, other engineering teams, and executives.” Other mobile advertising-related postings for a Product UX/Design Engineer, a Senior Interactive Designer, and Senior Interactive Web Developer describe a job with Apple advertising as “an opportunity to redefine the advertising on mobile devices.” [via Silicon Alley Insider/Mac Rumors]
In response to an inquiry from iLounge, HTC offered its initial response to Apple’s lawsuit, which claims that HTC has infringed on 20 iPhone-related hardware and software patents. “HTC only learned of Apple’s actions this morning via media reports, and therefore we have not yet had the opportunity to investigate the filings,” a HTC representative told iLounge. “Until we have had this opportunity, we are unable to comment on the validity of the claims being made against HTC.” The representative also said the company “values patent rights and their enforcement but is also committed to defending its own technology innovations,” adding that “HTC is a mobile technology innovator and patent holder that has been very focused over the past 13 years on creating many of the most innovative smartphones.”
Apple has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against HTC “for infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.” According to the announcement, the suit was filed concurrently with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and in U.S. District Court in Delaware. “We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” Apple filed a similar suit against Nokia in December 2009, but only after Apple itself was sued by the Finnish cell phone maker earlier in the year.
DiGi Telecommunications has reached an agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in Malaysia. According to the company, it will launch the handsets “in the coming months,” with an exact launch date and package details to be released later. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, DiGi signed a three-year agreement with Apple, which will signal the end of Maxis Communications’ exclusivity in the region. “The competition is going to be brutal,” said Scott Lim, CEO of MIDF Amanah Asset Management Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur. Maxis first launched the iPhone 3G in Malaysia in March 2009.
According to a survey published in mobile advertising firm AdMob’s January Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link), iPod touch users download more apps and spend more time using apps than iPhone or Android users. The report states that iPod touch users download an average of 12 apps per month, 37% more than iPhone and Android users, and spend an average of 100 minutes a day using apps, 25% more time than iPhone and Android users. iPod touch users are also younger on average than users of other platforms and devices, with 78% of iPod touch users surveyed below the age of 25, compared to 25% of iPhone users and 24% of Android and webOS users. According to the survey, 16% of iPhone users said they intend to purchase an iPad, compared to 11% of webOS users and only 6% of Android users; a similar percentage of Android users were instead interested in the Amazon Kindle. Finally, 91% of iPhone users and 88% of iPod touch users would recommend their device, compared to 84% of Android users and 69% of webOS users. AdMob’s January survey included 963 respondents across all of the platforms.
Rogers Wireless has introduced its new North American One Rate wireless data plans, designed for Canadian residents who frequently find themselves travelling to the United States. Generally priced at $10 more than their Canada-only equivalents, the new plans allow Rogers customers travelling to the U.S. to use their device’s data capabilities the same way they would at home, without incurring roaming fees when using data within their monthly allotment. Adding the One Rate option to the high-end 1GB smartphone data plan results in a price of $40, instead of $30 for Canada-only coverage; a 500GB plan is also available. It is unclear whether promotional accounts, such as the $30/6GB that many Rogers Wireless iPhone users are on, will qualify for the new One Rate offerings.
Apple has posted yet another new iPhone 3GS TV advertisement online. Joining “On Hold” and “First Steps,” which were posted yesterday, “Family Travel” continues the new theme of having a different narration voice giving a testimonial-style, use-specific explanation of how the iPhone has improved their lives—in this particular case, allowing the narrator to check the family into their flight, find a place to grab a snack inside the airport, show the kids their favorite movie, and ensure the living room lights are turned off back at the house. All three of Apple’s new iPhone TV advertisements are available for viewing on Apple’s website.