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.
According to the latest data released by research company Gartner, Apple gained more worldwide smartphone market share in 2009 than any other company. When breaking smartphone sales down by operating system, Apple placed third with 14.4% of the market, behind only Symbian with 46.9%—down from 52.4% in 2008—and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, with 19.9% of the market. By comparison, Apple held only 8.2% of the smartphone OS market in 2008, making its 6.2% gain the largest in the category, followed by Android, which went from a 0.5% share in 2008 to 3.9% in 2009, and RIM, which saw a 3.3% gain for its BlackBerry OS. Joining Symbian with market share losses were Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, which went from 11.8% of the market in 2008 to 8.7% in 2009, and non-Android Linux-based OSes, which saw their share decline from 7.6% in 2008 to 4.7% in 2009. Overall, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units in 2009, a 23.8% increase from 2008.
A new job posting on Apple’s website suggests the company is looking to expand the range of devices running iPhone OS beyond the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The listing for a “Platform Bring-Up” Engineering Manager says the company’s Core Platform team is “looking for a talented and inspired manager to lead a team focused on bring-up of iPhone OS on new platforms.” According to the listing, the team is “responsible for low level platform architecture, firmware, core drivers and bring-up of new hardware platforms,” and consists of “engineers with experience in hardware, firmware, IOKit drivers, security and platform architecture.” Job responsibilities of the position include “[w]orking closely with the hardware and custom silicon teams to bring-up new platforms and prototype systems” and “[d]efining the software roadmap to support a range of hardware platforms, including iPhone & iPod.”
Apple has started airing two new television ads for the iPhone 3GS. While both commercials feature the same white background as other recent iPhone ads, these new advertisements feature different narration voices, and are more testimonial in nature, telling how the narrator uses the iPhone. In “First Steps,” a mother tells how she recorded her son’s first steps using the iPhone, then sent the video to family members and initiated a three-way call with them to discuss the footage. “On Hold” features a male narrator explaining how he doesn’t mind being on hold since he can use his iPhone in the meantime to check email, pay bills, and purchase and play games. Both of Apple’s new iPhone TV advertisements are available for viewing on Apple’s website.
Apple has launched a redesigned version of its Me.com splash page for the iPhone and iPod touch, adding new download links for its MobileMe iDisk and Gallery applications, as well as access to the Find My iPhone feature. Previously, the page contained only one link, providing setup instructions for setting up Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Find my iPhone on an iPhone/iPod touch; the new page retains this link, but adds the others mentioned above. Following the Find My iPhone link prompts the user to enter his or her MobileMe username and password, and then takes them to a frame-less version of the Find My iPhone page, complete with location map and links to send a text and/or audio alert, or remotely lock/wipe the device. An Apple support document suggests accessing the service “from a friend’s iPhone/iPod touch if you need to locate your lost iPhone/iPod on a map, display a message, play a sound, or remotely lock or wipe it.”
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has said that it will consider Apple’s patent infringement complaint against Nokia, Bloomberg reports. Apple filed a complaint against Nokia with the ITC last month, seeking to block imports of the Finnish-based company’s phones. The ITC’s announcement is the latest development in the ongoing dispute between the two companies. Nokia 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 announced an investigation into Nokia’s claims against Apple in late January.
Speaking in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen criticized Apple for its decision not to support Flash on its iPhone OS devices, according to a Computerworld report. Reiterating stats claiming that 85 percent of the top 100 Web sites in the world use Flash and that it delivers 75 percent of Internet videos, while hailing its “powerful ecosystem” of partners, Narayen said Apple isn’t serving its customers by blocking access to Flash content. “Considering the amount of content on the Web that uses Flash — not allowing your consumers to access that content isn’t showing off the Web in all its glory,” Narayen said. “Apple’s business model is more trying to maintain a proprietary lock.”
The CEO also mentioned Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ statement from March 2008 that the full-blown Flash Player “performs too slow to be useful” on the iPhone, calling for a third version of the software that fell in between the desktop and “Lite” versions of the software. Narayen described Jobs’ statement as “a little bit of a red herring,” before pointing out that the new 10.1 version of the software—which is expected to make its way onto some Android and other smartphones later this year—fills that gap. Earlier this year Jobs made further comments about Flash at a closed company event, calling Adobe lazy, and its Flash player buggy, while predicting that web developers would move away from the software as they focus more on HTML5 development.
Apple has quietly increased the limit for over-the-air downloads from the App Store and iTunes Store on the iPhone. Until recently only content under 10MB in size could be downloaded over an EDGE or 3G connection—downloading of larger apps and media content had to be done over Wi-Fi. This limit now appears to have been increased to 20MB in both the App Store and iTunes Store on the device, allowing users to download larger applications and video content. The exact reason for this change is not clear, although it could be related to the impending release of the iPad, improvements in carrier bandwidth, or simply a desire to allow users to have anywhere access to larger applications on the App Store.
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has said it will consider a complaint filed by Kodak last month against Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion claiming that the two handset makers are infringing on Kodak patents related to digital cameras. Specifically, Kodak claims the iPhone and some BlackBerry models infringe on a patent covering technology for previewing photos. The ITC will also decide whether to ban the imports from Apple and RIM after Kodak claimed that the companies refused to pay patent royalties on the technology. Kodak has also filed a civil lawsuit against the two companies in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, seeking unspecified damages.
In spite of increasing competition between the two companies, a Google executive has made positive public comments about its relationship with Apple. Reuters reports that Vic Gundotra, head of mobile engineering for Google, said, “Apple is a very close and valuable partner and we’re very excited about the relationship we have with them today. We have no reason to believe that’s going to change.” Speaking at an industry roundtable discussion at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Gundotra was also pressed on the issue of Google’s presence on the iPhone, and responded, We don’t want to comment on those rumors. We think that relationship is stable.” A report from January stated that Apple was in talks with Microsoft to see the latter’s Bing service replace Google as the default search engine on the iPhone; a more recent analyst note said there was a “high” likelihood of the deal becoming a reality. Apple CEO Steve Jobs also took a couple of shots at Google during a recent company meeting, reportedly saying that some “teams at Google want to kill us,” and added that Google’s “Don’t be evil” mantra is “a load of crap.”
According to new data from application analysis service Flurry Analytics, the announcement of the iPad has led to a huge spike in iPhone development. Flurry saw over 1,600 new iPhone OS application starts in January, compared to under 600 in December. In addition, this spike in new iPhone OS applications has helped the iPhone gain in percentage of overall application project starts versus Android, which accounted for nearly 30% of new project starts in December, compared to under 20% in January. According to the company, “the recent spike in Apple iPad support has swung the pendulum back in Apple’s favor to a level not seen at Flurry in six months. The unprecedented surge in support for iPad is a positive early indicator for its commercial potential.” Flurry tracks over 20,000 live applications and over 2 billion user sessions each month, across the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and J2ME platforms. Apple is expected to launch its first iPad models in late March.