Softbank has reported a fiscal third quarter net profit jump of 41%, thanks in part to strong sales of the iPhone and related services, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Japan’s third-largest carrier by subscribers, Softbank said net profit for the December quarter was 24.1 billion yen (roughly $265.9 million), up from 17.1 billion yen in the year-ago quarter. “When we launched the iPhone [in the summer of 2008], some people said those phones were not suited for Japanese cellphone users,” said Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son at a news conference. “But those [skeptics] have been proven completely wrong ... The iPhone is selling so well that we are really feeling the boost from it.” Mr. Son declined to say how many iPhones Softbank had sold, but said Apple’s handset was “the biggest contributor to third-quarter handset sales,” and “a major contributor to growth in data communication revenue.”
The iPhone saw its share of the worldwide smartphone market shrink in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to a new report. Citing data from ABI Research, the Wall Street Journal reports that the iPhone’s share of worldwide smartphone sales dipped from 18.1% in the third quarter to 16.6% in the fourth quarter, despite the fact that iPhone sales increased 18% to 8.7 million units during the same time period. According to the report, the overall smartphone market grew 26% in the fourth quarter, with Motorola introducing its first Android-based phones and Nokia Oyj increasing sales by 4.6 million units. The last time the iPhone lost market share was in the fourth quarter of 2008, suggesting that the dip in worldwide sales may be a cyclical occurrence based in part on Apple’s traditional mid-year iPhone introductions, which offer opportunities for competitors to release new models later in the year.
Intellect Wireless has filed a lawsuit against Apple in U.S. District Court in Illinois claiming patent infringement. The complaint states that the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS infringe on at least two patents held by company owner Daniel Henderson relating to the receiving and display of “caller ID information, non-facsimile pictures, video messages, and or Multimedia Messaging Service.” Intellect Wireless has previously sued other companies, including Helio, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Virgin Mobile, with similar claims of patent infringement; the company is seeking damages and other relief in its complaint against Apple.
Announcing its fourth-quarter fiscal results, AT&T has revealed that it handled 3.1 million iPhone activations during the holiday quarter. According to the announcement, this was the second-highest quarterly iPhone activation total to date, with more than a third of those activations coming from customers who were new to AT&T. Overall, the company saw net gains of 2.7 million wireless subscribers, the second-highest quarterly net gain in the company’s history; based on the numbers, the iPhone accounted for well over a third of those additions.
According to data found in AdMob’s December Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link), iPhone OS saw strong international growth during 2009, with Apple taking its place as the leading mobile device manufacturer in Latin America, Western Europe, North America, and Oceania during Q4. Overall the worldwide share of ad requests coming from either iPhone or iPod touch units increased from 9% in Q4 2008 to 36% in Q4 2009. When considering smartphone market share only, the iPhone generated the most requests of any cell phone in the Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, North America, and Oceania markets during Q4, with an overall worldwide share of 51%. Notably, the rival Android OS platform also saw significant growth during 2009, representing 16% of worldwide smartphone ad requests during Q4 2009, compared to just 1% in Q4 2008.
Taiwan-based Wintek, a leading supplier of touchscreen panels for a number of devices, including the iPhone, claims to have settled a dispute with striking workers that resulted in apparent chaos at one of its Chinese plants late last week. Prior reports stated that more than 2,000 workers gathered at the plant, causing damage to vehicles and factory facilities and protesting the company’s rumored decision to not pay out Lunar New Year bonuses. Despite the reported vandalism, Wintek claims that the strike was settled by promising to pay out the bonuses, without any affect on the plant’s production or capacity.
AT&T has been meeting individually with regional executives to brief them on some upcoming changes to the network. Citing an unnamed source, BGR reports that the company is prepping its network to compensate for unannounced devices, as well as future devices that will use “heavy data.” The report also claims that changes to its current data and tethering plans will come once the network is able to “sufficiently handle the [data] load.” While details have yet to emerge, it has been speculated that Apple’s upcoming tablet device will be able to connect to 3G networks for Internet access when away from Wi-Fi.
Chinese officials have raided a counterfeit iPhone factory in Huaqiangbei in Shenzhen, China. According to a Shenzhen Daily report, 28 people have been taken into custody for questioning, and seven were arrested by police. The raid turned up more than 1,000 fake iPhones, which sell for 500 yuan (roughly $74) as opposed to more than 5,000 yuan for a real model, as well as 6,000 batteries. The report claims that Apple officials expressed their appreciation for the police’s “commendable efforts, and the company is sending staff to the area to learn more about the case. [via TUAW]
Apple is in talks with Microsoft to have the latter’s search service Bing replace Google as the default search on the iPhone, according to a new report. Citing two people familiar with the matter, BusinessWeek reports that the talks have been under way for weeks, but could still potentially fall apart and may not be concluded quickly. Google has been the default search engine on the iPhone since its launch, with Yahoo! an alternative, and also provides the data and maps for the iPhone OS’ Maps application, but has been in increasing competition with Apple through its smartphone operating system Android. In addition, Apple purchased mapping company PlaceBase in 2009, and it is possible Apple plans to implement the company’s technologies in to a new version of the Maps application that is less dependent on Google’s services.
Disgruntled employees at a plant belonging to Taiwan-based Wintek, a leading supplier of touchscreen panels for a number of devices, including the iPhone, have gone on strike, disputing working conditions and pay. According to China Daily, more than 2,000 workers gathered at the Suzhou, China plant on Friday, smashing vehicles and factory facilities while protesting harsh working conditions, spurred on by a rumor that the company was not going to pay out an expected year-end bonus from 2009. The workers claim that at least four people have died from long-term exposure to hexane, a toxic chemical workers had been asked to during the cleaning of touchscreen panels. “The truth has been hidden from public view. There are people dying from long-term exposure to the toxicant used in the factory but no one is paying attention to that. There needs to be further investigation,” a worker named Zhu told China Daily. Local authorities claim that there have been no deaths reported, and 47 people who showed signs of hexane exposure had received proper treatment; the company says it will be distributing the bonuses over the coming month. It is unclear what, if any, affect the strike might have on iPhone supplies.
AT&T has lowered the cost of its unlimited voice + data iPhone plans. The price of the individual unlimited voice and data plan for iPhone users has been lowered from $130 per month to $100, while unlimited Family Talk plans that include two iPhones have been lowered to $180. Unlimited texting remains a $20 for individuals or $30 for Family Talk plans. Current customers can change to the new, lower-priced plans without incurring a penalty or contract extension; the price drop comes on the heels of similar price drops from Verizon Wireless on its unlimited plans.
A new claim by an anonymous iPhone developer suggests that Apple plans to publicly unveil the next version of the iPhone OS in the very near future. iLounge has received an email from a well-known app developer, claiming that “we’ve submitted an updated app for the new iPhone OS 4.0 software.” A separate report from earlier this month claimed that Apple would be announcing a beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and an accompanying SDK at a special event, rumored to be held on January 27. The beta SDK was said to include a tablet simulator, and make it easier for developers to adapt applications to different screen resolutions, opening the door for higher and/or lower resolution displays on future iPhones and iPods. Apple has in the past partnered with select developers to create applications on new iPhone OS releases prior to their public unveilings to be used as demos for new features of the operating systems.
Update: Though the email in question unambiguously stated that the company had developed an app “for the new iPhone OS 4.0 software,” iLounge contacted the developer for clarification and learned that the reference was a mistake: the app is now “version 4.0” released for iPhone OS 3.1, the developer has offered “sincere apologies.”
Vodafone UK shipped 50,000 iPhones to pre-registered customers on the first day of sales, according to a new report. Macworld UK reports that Vodafone UK chief executive Guy Laurence citied “exceptional demand” for phone, enough so that some customers are reporting delays in receiving their iPhones. The official Vodafone Twitter feed claimed on Thursday that “all pre-orders should be delivered today/tomorrow unless your area is affected by severe weather.” Vodafone UK joins O2 and Orange UK as the third major carrier to offer the iPhone in the region.
Eastman Kodak has filed a lawsuit against Apple—as well as BlackBerry-maker RIM—which claims that the iPhone infringes on Kodak patents related to digital cameras. Specifically, Kodak claims that the iPhone and some BlackBerry models infringe on a patent covering technology for previewing photos. Kodak is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to bar Apple and RIM from shipping infringing products, and is seeking unspecified damages in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. Apple was sued by a separate company over the camera technology in the iPhone in December of last year; both Kodak and Apple were named in a suit by BetaNet later the same month.
Consulting house MOTO Development Group has performed an analysis of smartphone touchscreen sensitivity, putting the iPhone up against three Android-powered rivals: the HTC Droid Eris, the Motorola Droid, and the newly released Google Nexus One. The test used a drawing app to attempt to draw straight lines in a diamond pattern across each screen using both light and medium finger pressure. As the report notes, “on inferior touchscreens, it’s basically impossible to draw straight lines. Instead, the lines look jagged or zig-zag, no matter how slowly you go, because the sensor size is too big, the touch-sampling rate is too low, and/or the algorithms that convert gestures into images are too non-linear to faithfully represent user inputs.” The iPhone was the winner of the overall performance test, creating fairly straight lines compared to its competitors, but lagged behind the other offerings in edge performance, with noticeable curving of the lines as they reached the edges of the screen.
Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR series of graphics cores found in the iPhone and iPod touch, has introduced the PowerVR SGX545, a new embedded graphics IP core that could possibly make its way into future iPhone and iPod touch models. The new core offers the ability to drive HD screens at high frame rates, and supports a wide range of graphics programming APIs, including OpenGL ES 2.x, OpenGL 3.x, and OpenCL 1.x—a standard that allows developers to tap into the power of the graphics core to handle more common computing tasks. According to Imagination, the core has already been proven in “a test chip from Imagination and licensed by a lead partner.” The iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch also use PowerVR SGX graphics cores; in addition, Apple owns a portion of Imagination and more than doubled its stake in the company last year, from 3.6 percent to 9.5 percent.
The iPhone accounted for more than three-quarters of all cell phone sales made by Orange over the holiday season, according to a new report. Speaking in an interview with French-language Les Echos (Translated Link), Didier Lombard, CEO of Orange parent company France Telecom, said that the iPhone accounted for 77% of phones sold in a bundle, and called the momentum behind the iPhone “a phenomenon.” Although the machine-based Google translation of the article is far from perfect, Lombard does appear to be wary of the “monopoly” the iPhone has on sales, pointing out that the company has started its own “Orange Shop Application.” [via MDN]
Exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier AT&T has announced completion of a software upgrade across its 3G cell sites nationwide in preparation for faster speeds. The software upgrade included deployment of High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, the same used by the iPhone 3GS, to offer download speeds of up to 7.2 megabits per second, provided the cell site has the required backhaul connection. AT&T claims that the deployment of enhanced backhaul connections for the cell sites will occur over the course of 2010 and 2011, adding capacity and boosting speeds.
A pair of new reports suggest that Apple plans to hold a special media event on January 27, not Jan. 26 as had been rumored, at which it will likely introduce a possible beta version of iPhone OS 4.0 and an accompanying SDK. Citing multiple sources close to Apple, AllThingsD reports that the company is planning to hold a media event on Wednesday, January 27 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, at which it will announce a major new product, most likely the long-rumored tablet. French-language Mac4Ever adds (Translated Link) that in addition to the tablet, Apple will also announce a beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and its SDK at the event. According to the report, the SDK will include a tablet simulator, and will make it easier for developers to adapt apps to different screen resolutions, opening the door for a higher resolution display on the fourth-generation iPhone. [via Engadget]
The iPhone has seen continued strong sales in France since the device spread from Orange to competing carriers Bouygues Telecom and SFR in April. According to a Le Figaro report (Translated Link), Apple is expected to see 2009 sales between 1.8 and 2 million iPhones in France, representing around 8.5% of the 23.5 million phones sold in the country this year, and 20% in terms of market value. “Sales are significantly higher than that of Christmas 2008, since all operators offering the iPhone,” said Matthew Cortesse, director of telecoms research firm GfK. Among smartphone sales, Apple is expected to have sold more than half, with total smartphones sales expected to come in at around 3.5 million units.