Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn recently needed to defend itself against allegations of employee mistreatment following a rash of employee suicides. The Daily News reports that a 24-year-old Foxconn worker named Chu recently threw herself from her rented apartment in Shenzhen, marking the eighth Foxconn employee suicide this year. “We regret to see the recurrence of such incidents,” Foxconn said in statement. According to the article, Foxconn employs roughly 300,000 workers at its Shenzhen complex, where a 24-year-old male worker leaped to his death less than two weeks ago. The company came under fire last year for its employee treatment following the suicide of 25-year-old Sun Danyong, who reportedly lost a prototype iPhone prior to his death. Foxconn is an Apple manufacturing partner on the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Mac product lines.
Washington-based company SoftView has filed a lawsuit against both Apple and AT&T claiming patent infringement. SoftView claims that the iPhone’s Mobile Safari browser infringes upon its patent for “Scalable Display of Internet Content on Mobile Devices,” for which it applied in 2005 and was granted in 2008. The patent’s abstract states, “Mobile devices enabled to support resolution-independent scalable display of Internet (Web) content to allow Web pages to be scaled (zoomed) and panned for better viewing on smaller screen sizes. The mobile devices employ software-based processing of original Web content, including HTML-based content, XML, cascade style sheets, etc. to generate scalable content. The scalable content and/or data derived therefrom are then employed to enable the Web content to be rapidly rendered, zoomed, and panned. Moreover, the rendered displays provide substantially the same or identical layout as the original Web page, enabling users to easily navigate to selected content and features on familiar Web pages.” SoftView is seeking an injunction against Apple as well as damages. [via The Loop]
HTC announced today that it has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), outlining five HTC patents it believes Apple infringes upon with its iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. “As the innovator of the original Windows Mobile PocketPC Phone Edition in 2002 and the first Android smartphone in 2008, HTC believes the industry should be driven by healthy competition and innovation that offer consumers the best, most accessible mobile experiences possible,” said Jason Mackenzie, vice president of North America, HTC Corporation. “We are taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most importantly our customers that use HTC phones.” HTC is requesting that the ITC “halt the importation and sale of the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States.”
Update: According to a copy of HTC’s complaint to the ITC obtained by iLounge, the five patents cited by HTC “relate generally to hardware and software used to implement telephone directories within mobile telephone systems,” as well as “power management methods implemented in portable electronic devices.”
What appears to be a second fourth-generation iPhone prototype has been purchased and disassembled, with pictures posted online. Mac Rumors reports that the submission they received said the unit was purchased by a Vietnamese businessman along with an iPad; the photos were originally posted on a Vietnamese forum. The shots confirm that this particular unit is operational, and is running some sort of firmware diagnostics program. Notably, the unit has no screws on the bottom and is labeled on the back as a 16GB model; it appears otherwise identical to the unit acquired and photographed by Gizmodo last month. The teardown shots also show an Apple-branded processor inside, which Engadget, citing Chipworks, claims is an Apple A4 processor, similar if not identical to the one found in the iPad.
AT&T may be in the process of pushing up the upgrade eligibility dates of iPhone users ahead of this summer’s anticipated fourth-generation iPhone launch. MobileCrunch, citing a reader email and other unnamed sources, reports that several users who purchased an iPhone 3GS on launch day last year have had their eligibility dates pushed up to June 21 from November 21, suggesting that Apple plans to release its next iPhone on or before that date. Apple is widely expected to unveil the next-generation iPhone at its 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference on June 7.
Movistar in Spain has announced its data plan rates and pricing (Translated Link) for the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G, along with a unique deal for iPhone customers. The carrier will be offering 30MB-at-a-time access for €3, as well as monthly plans of 200MB for €15, 1GB for €25, and 5GB for €39. Notably, current iPhone users on the €25 or €39 monthly plans may apply for a free microSIM card, which will enable them to share their data plan with the iPad; iPhone users currently on the €15 month plan may migrate to one of the higher plans to become eligible for the sharing option. [Thanks, Carlos]
Newly discovered court documents relating to a class-action lawsuit filed against Apple and AT&T in 2007 have confirmed that the two companies originally signed a five-year iPhone exclusivity deal. Engadget quotes a briefing filed by Apple, which reads, “[t]he duration of the exclusive Apple-[AT&T] agreement was not ‘secret’ either. The [plaintiff] quotes a May 21, 2007 USA Today article – published over a month before the iPhone’s release – stating, ‘AT&T has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for five years-an eternity in the go-go cellphone world.’ [T]here was widespread disclosure of [AT&T’s] five-year exclusivity and no suggestion by Apple or anyone else that iPhones would become unlocked after two years… Moreover, it is sheer speculation – and illogical – that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term would produce monopoly power….” It remains to be seen whether the five-year exclusivity deal is still in place, however, as it has been speculated that the terms of the two companies’ iPhone deal may have been part of the negotiations over iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G data plans.
Google’s Android operating system has overtaken Apple’s iPhone OS to become the number-two smartphone OS in the U.S. for the first quarter of 2010, according to the latest data from The NPD Group. Based on unit sales to consumers for the quarter, Android moved in to second place with 28 percent of the market, trailing only BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion’s 36 percent. iPhone OS came in third with 21 percent. Among carriers, AT&T held the lead in smartphone sales with 32 percent of the market, followed by Verizon Wireless with 30 percent, T-Mobile with 17 percent, and Sprint with 15 percent. “As in the past, carrier distribution and promotion have played a crucial role in determining smartphone market share,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD. “In order to compete with the iPhone, Verizon Wireless has expanded its buy-one-get-one offer beyond RIM devices to now include all of their smartphones.”
According to the latest data from research firm IDC, Apple was the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer in the first quarter of 2010. Apple’s quarterly shipments more than doubled year-over-year in the period, from 3.8 million in Q1 2009 to 8.8 million in Q1 2010, an increase of 131% that far outpaced overall market growth of 56.7%. Apple’s record shipments were good for 16.1% of the worldwide market, up from 10.9% in the year ago quarter, but still behind leader Nokia’s 39.3% share and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, whose lead over Apple shrank significantly as it held a 19.4% share of the market. Apple was followed by HTC, with 4.8%, and Motorola with 4.2%.
“2010 looks to be another year of large-scale consumer adoption of converged mobile devices,” says Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team. “Consumers will gravitate to smartphones not just because the devices themselves look ‘cool’ and ‘slick’, but because the overall experience aligns with their individual tastes and demands. Users are seeking – and finding – experiences that are intuitive, seamless, and fun.”
Despite recent statements dismissing Apple’s impact on the company’s business, Nintendo is internally preparing to launch an assault on Apple as the latter’s iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad begin to eat away at Nintendo’s handheld gaming business. Citing sources close to Nintendo, the Times Online reports that Nintendo president recently told senior executives to treat Apple as the “enemy of the future,” after profits at the Kyoto-based company fell for the first time in six years. According to the report, sources describe a mood of concern at the company, with the hardware and software teams racing to restore the “surprise” the company considers a hallmark of its gaming experiences. The report does not describe what, exactly, Nintendo plans to do about Apple’s encroachment on its business, short of saying that it plans to “unleash the full force of its development and marketing artillery.” [via Mac Rumors]
Nokia has announced that it is suing Apple in Federal District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, alleging that the iPhone and iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G infringe on five patents held by Nokia. MarketWatch reports that the patents relate to technologies for enhanced speech and data transmission, using location data in applications and innovations in antenna configurations that improve performance and save space. “Nokia has been the leading developer of many key technologies in mobile devices” said Paul Melin, General Manager, Patent Licensing at Nokia. “We have taken this step to protect the results of our pioneering development and to put an end to continued unlawful use of Nokia’s innovation.”
The Finnish company first filed suit against Apple in October 2009, claiming that the iPhone infringes on several Nokia patents; Apple filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement in December. The lawsuits were followed by an ITC complaint from Nokia near the end of the year, alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.”
The ITC launched an investigation into Nokia’s claims against Apple in late January; it announced a similar investigation into Apple’s claims against Nokia in February. In March, a federal judge in Delaware signed an order halting litigation between Nokia and Apple pending resolution of the companies’ respective claims with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC); it is unclear whether this prior order will have any bearing on this newest lawsuit.
Apple’s 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference has sold out in only eight days, according to an update on the event’s dedicated website. Dates for the conference, to be held June 7-11 in its traditional venue of Moscone West in San Francisco, CA, were announced on April 28; John Gruber of Daring Fireball notes that last year’s event took a month to sell out, despite the fact that it included a number of Mac OS X and IT sessions that are not being offered at this year’s WWDC. In addition to providing developer sessions, Apple has for the past three years used the event’s keynote address as a venue for iPhone-related announcements, revealing the launch date for the original iPhone in 2007, introducing the iPhone 3G at the 2008 event, and unveiling the iPhone 3GS in 2009.
According to data from the latest ChangeWave wireless survey, there is strong demand for an iPhone running on Verizon Wireless’ network amongst current Verizon customers. Among Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, and T-Mobile customers, a total of 49% said they were either somewhat or very likely to buy an iPhone for themselves or someone they know if it became available on their current carrier. Of that 49%, 16% said they were “very likely” to purchase, while an additional 33% said they were “somewhat likely.” When broken down to only Verizon subscribers, the overall total of customers likely to buy an iPhone on the carrier rises to 53%, with 19% saying they would be “very likely” to buy a Verizon iPhone, joined by 34% that would be “somewhat likely” to make the purchase. By comparison, the total percentages were lower on Sprint/Nextel (44%) and T-Mobile (39%). The survey also looked at overall carrier satisfaction, with AT&T tied for the lowest percentage of respondents who said they were “very satisfied” with their service; AT&T customers also reported the largest percentage of dropped calls. ChangeWave’s survey was conducted in March among 4,040 consumers. [via MDN]
A number of new features have been found in the latest beta version of iPhone OS 4 for the iPhone and iPod touch. Boy Genius Reports that the new features include the File Sharing functionality seen previously on the iPad, multitasking widgets for iPod playback, accessed by swiping to the left in the app switcher, a button for locking the screen orientation, also found in the app switcher, and the ability to close multiple applications at once from within the app switcher. In addition to these features, Mac Rumors reports that the current beta SDK contains a preset value for video capture that suggests a future iPhone or iPod touch model will be able to capture 720p high-definition video. It has been rumored that the next-generation iPhone will be called the “iPhone HD,” which would work well if the device boasts such a recording feature.
Apple has been awarded a U.S. patent for the ornamental design of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. Filed on June 5, 2008, patent number D615,083 lists both Apple CEO Steve Jobs and senior vice president of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive as inventors. Possible examples for the “electronic device” are listed as a “computer, a portable or hand-held electronic device, media player (e.g., music, video and/or game player), media storage device, a personal digital assistant, a communication device (e.g., cellular phone), and/or the like.” [via GoRumors]
According to an update of The NPD Group’s “Entertainment Trends in America” consumer surveys, three quarters of iPhone and iPod touch users are connecting to the web to download entertainment content and apps, leading all other entertainment device categories. 19 percent of game console users and 17 percent of Blu-ray set-top product users reported downloading content and or apps; overall, 16 percent of Americans age 13 or older are using devices other than their home computers to download apps, music, video, and other content. Among iPhone and iPod touch users, free apps were the most popular download category, followed by games and music downloads.
“It’s not surprising that Apple users are ahead of others when it comes to downloading Web-based content, given the breadth of the company’s app catalog and the head start iTunes had selling music for the iPod,” said Russ Crupnick, entertainment industry analyst for NPD. “Like other groups of early adopters, consumers downloading entertainment content are mostly younger and male; however, as app stores expand beyond Apple, as connected devices become more commonplace, and as connectivity is simplified we expect to see more activity on other devices and platforms.”
Apple has released the third version of iPhone OS 4 and its accompanying Software Development Kit (SDK) for the iPhone and iPod touch. As with prior beta releases, a main Xcode and SDK beta is available for download, as are pre-release builds of the iPhone OS 4 software for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, and the second- and third-generation iPod touch. Changes made in the latest beta have yet to be revealed. Both the new SDK and pre-release builds are available now for download by registered iPhone developers from the iPhone Dev Center.
Apple has become the target of yet another patent infringement lawsuit over the iPhone. The Loop reports that California-based NetAirus Technologies has filed a patent infringement suit against the iPhone-maker, claiming that the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS infringe on NetAirus’ patent for a “Wireless Handset Communication System.” The suit claims that the entire concept behind the iPhone is infringing, instead of focusing on one or more of the device’s attributes. The patent in question describes a “small light weight modular microcomputer based computer and communications systems, designed for both portability and desktop uses,” featuring several functions similar to the iPhone’s, including “bi-directional realtime communications of voice, audio, text, graphics and video data,” a “telephone-like handset,” and a “relative large flat panel display device assembly.” NetAirus is seeking a ruling that forces Apple to halt production of the iPhone, as well as cash damages.
Apple has received regulatory approval for a WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) compatible version of the iPhone. Engadget reports that the approved phone’s model number, A1303, suggests this is a WAPI version of the iPhone 3GS, instead of being a next-generation device. Currently, iPhones sold in China lack Wi-Fi capabilities, as Apple did not have a version with WAPI — China’s homegrown wireless networking technology — ready. It is unclear when the new handset will launch, or what, if any, pricing difference there may be between it and the version of the iPhone currently available from China Unicom.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen has responded to statements made about his company and its Flash technology by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his “Thoughts on Flash” open letter. Calling the technology problems mentioned by Jobs a “smokescreen,” Narayen pointed out that more than 100 applications built using Adobe’s Flash technology were accepted into the App Store. “When you resort to licensing language” to restrict this kind of cross-platform development, he said, it has “nothing to do with technology.” Narayen also said Apple’s refusal to allow cross-platform apps onto its devices makes it “cumbersome” for developers who will have to have “two workflows,” and called Jobs’ claims that Flash causes undue battery drain “patently false.” To conclude the interview, Narayen said that he is for “letting customers decide,” but that he believes the multi-platform strategy will “eventually prevail.”