The Mobile Patent War

There are approximately one zillion lawsuits going on between cell phone manufacturers at the moment, mostly in attempt to cause the opposing party grief and exploit the system for a few million dollars. Today, Motorola filed a massive lawsuit against Apple, “alleging that Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iTouch and certain Mac computers infringe Motorola patents“. They claim that Apple is infringing on their 3G, 802.11 and antenna design, (they might want to think about that one…) and key smartphone technologies – including wireless email, proximity sensing, software application management, location-based services and multi-device synchronization.

Motorola is asking the ITC to do the following:

Issue an Exclusion Order barring Apple’s importation of infringing products, prohibiting further sales of infringing products that have already been imported, and halting the marketing, advertising, demonstration and warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of such imported products in the United States”

This is unlikely to happen, and Apple will probably just countersue with a complaint of their own. These lawsuits will continue on for the next few years until they find something else to fight about.

The software patent system is completely botched, and lawsuits like this do absolutely nothing to advance technology. It’s just a cat-and-mouse game between the companies, each trying to cripple the other for personal gain.

Funnily enough, Nokia is suing just about everyone, probably as a hail mary attempt to save the Finnish economy.

[Ars Technica]

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Wall Street Journal: VZW iPhone in 2011

Okay. I know this is getting old, but we now have some fairly solid proof that the iPhone is, in fact, coming to Verizon. Soon.

Apple Inc. plans to begin mass producing a new iPhone by the end of 2010 that would allow Verizon Wireless to sell the smartphone early next year, said people briefed by Apple.

The report says that the Verizon iPhone will be similar in design to the current iPhone 4 on AT&T, but Apple is also developing a fifth generation iPhone with a new form factor. It is unknown if this would be a replacement model, or if it would complement the current hardware. This could be Apple’s way to compete with the varying models of Android phones currently on the market.

There is no mention of whether or not the iPhone will support LTE, Verizon’s 4G network, but it would be a smart move by Apple to adopt this new technology before it’s too late.

[Wall Street Journal]

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Apple Launches New Ad Focusing on the Retina (Display)

Today, Apple released a new commercial highlighting what might just be the best feature of the iPhone 4: the Retina Display. The advertisement shows off various reasons why you don’t need to ever see a single pixel again. The catchphrase is definitely every, and the narrator details just what you need to see in 960×640 goodness.

This is the highest resolution phone screen ever. So, every freckle, every wrinkle, every letter, every word, every tweet, tune, battle, and memory looks more beautiful than ever before.

So, effective ad? I’d personally say yes, as the Retina Display is one of the iPhone 4′s biggest selling points to geeks, but the normal, everyday consumer may not know what a 960×640 display all crammed into 3.5 inches will do for their everyday tasks. This is also the first new commercial launch since the iPhone 4′s release date, meaning that Apple may be gearing up for a Holiday Season blitz to push the phone into as many people’s hands, especially in the face of rising competition from many sides, even on their traditionally-safe U.S. partner, AT&T.

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Google Goggles Now in App Store, But Only for Certain Devices

Google Goggles is now available for download in the iTunes App Store, but you have to have the right device. The only two devices with hardware good enough to be accepted by Google are the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. Why not iPod touch 4, iPhone 3G, and below you ask? Simple; the app requires an auto-focus camera.

Google Goggles is one of those features Android, Google’s very own smartphone OS, (previously) could claim exclusivity to. The app takes a photo of an object, and scans a vast internet database to find images that are similar. It then figures out what those images are labeled as, and then gives you as much relevant information as it can. For example, a picture of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France would be examined, searched, and then you would get background information, such as history, statistics and facts, and location.

All things considered, this is a very interesting move by Google, as the search juggernaut has advertised this app and its capabilities as being specific to Android in the past. If you are curious on how Google Goggles works, hit up this link to see a demonstration on various objects, landmarks, and products.

Google Goggles is available in the iTunes App Store for free, and is compatible with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4.

Edit: To clear up some confusion, Google Goggles is available as an update to the Google Mobile app (link below). If you already have it, update the app via the App Store. If you don’t, download it via the link below.

[App Store]

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Apple TV 30 Day Rental Loophole

It looks like some of Apple’s programmers were sleeping on the job, because a forum member over at MacRumors has found a rather awesome loophole on the Apple TV. Basically, if you rent a video on iTunes, and stream it to the Apple TV, the “24/48 hour countdown” is never triggered – so you have a full 30 days to watch the movie or show at your leisure, as many times as you like. (As long as you don’t start the video on iTunes itself.)

- Rent a show/movie on your Mac’s iTunes
- When you begin watching the rental on the Apple TV, no warnings appear indicating that you must finish watching the movie within 24/48 hours
- The iTunes rental counter should still show 29+ days remaining
- Note: if you do try to watch the movie through iTunes, it will kick off the 24/48 hour countdown

This lapse in code will probably be fixed quickly, either with an update to iTunes or the Apple TV… but, you don’t have to update, now do you?

[MacRumors]

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Apple TV Cost $64 to Make

According to iSuppli, the hardware inside the newest Apple TV cost Apple just shy of $64. They also note that the original Apple TV – which cost $237 to make – was built more like a nettop PC, whereas the current Apple TV is built with almost the same hardware as the iPhone. It seem that Apple is not only unifying their software, but their hardware as well.

Compared to the first-generation Apple TV, the new model offers a dramatically improved ratio of hardware cost to retail price. The initial version of the Apple TV appeared to be a near give-away or subsidized product for Apple, sold at prices that weren’t much more than the underlying hardware costs. With the second generation version of the hardware, the Apple TV’s price is about 35 percent above its BOM and manufacturing cost.

This cost does not factor in R&D, software, or other non-hardware expenses, so Apple’s actual net profit is probably a bit less than $35 per unit.

Check out the chart for a complete breakdown of the bill of materials, and hit the source for additional notes on the teardown.

[iSuppli]

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iPad the Fastest Adopted Consumer Electronic Device

A report by CNBC shows that the iPad is quickly becoming one of the most popular gadgets to have ever existed, crushing entire electronic markets single-handedly. When reading, remember that the numbers don’t compare every tablet computer to large groups of devices in other categories, but solely Apple’s iPad. Mind blowing. (That’s like a single car model outselling every other car in production combined.)

iPad sold three million units in the first 80 days after its April release and its current sales rate is about 4.5 million units per quarter, according to Bernstein Research. This sales rate is blowing past the one million units the iPhone sold in its first quarter and the 350,000 units sold in the first year by the DVD player, the most quickly adopted non-phone electronic product.

It’s incredible to think that one product, created by one company, is selling more units alone than the combined efforts of every other manufacturer. Comparing the sales of the iPad to the other tablets on the market would be equally embarrassing, considering there isn’t any real competition yet on the market.

(more…)

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Netflix App Updated with Video Out

Nice! Netflix has updated their iOS application with video out, so you can hook up your iPhone 4 or iPod Touch 4g (sadly, those are the only supported models), to a TV for big-screen streaming. A welcome addition, especially for those without an Apple TV or console that supports Netflix’s Instant Queue.

What’s New In Version 1.1.1
  • Support for video out on iPhone 4 and iPod 4th Gen
  • Bug Fixes

Check it out on the App Store.

[9 to 5 Mac]

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Applications (Almost) A Go on the Apple TV

According to Steve Troughton-Smith, creator of Orbit, Lights Off, and many other popular apps, applications can “definitely” be installed on the Apple TV. The only problem is actually launching them, since the Apple TV’s frontend, LowTide, has no built-in app launcher.

via @stroughtonsmith

So, not only is the AppleTV set up for installing applications (of UIDeviceFamily 3), but the installation actually works.

The application definitely installs on the AppleTV, I used iPhone Explorer to verify: http://twitpic.com/2un568

Troughton-Smith has a very informative blog post written about the matter, and if your interested in details regarding the possibility of apps on the Apple TV, check it out.

Effectively, all the pieces are in place to build a remote-control driven 720p iOS app. All Apple needs to do is build the distribution mechanism and open the floodgates, and ‘Universal’ apps would be a definite possibility.

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Unguarded iPhone UDIDs Could be a Privacy Concern

Every iOS device is assigned a unique UDID, or “Unique Device Identifier”, which acts like a serial number or license plate to identify each unit. Applications from the App Store are carefully screened, but according to Eric Smith, Assistant Director of Information Security and Networking for Bucknell University, not all adhere to the security guidelines that Apple has put in place.

The intended role of the UDID as a unique token to remotely store local application preferences is a convenient tool for programmers, but the potential for the abuse of privacy is remarkably high. Apple addresses this concern in their application development guide:
“For user security and privacy, you must not publicly associate a device’s unique identifier with a user account.”
While Apple promotes the use of the “unique identifier” API as a development tool, there is nothing in place which prevents these same application developers from using UDIDs as a tracking agent — nor are there any restrictions in place to prevent companies from sharing this data with one other.

Smith’s study showed that 68% percent of the applications tested transmit the UDID back to a remote server, and only 18% encrypt the data. Many apps – even those from large companies like Amazon – send the UDID along with personal info via plain text, meaning that anyone who intercepts the it can easily view it.

(more…)

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