You may have run across a news report this week about Apple suing Samsung for patent infringement. You won’t read about it on Brighthand, though, because it’s a non-story.
Lawsuits in the smartphone industry are a dime a dozen. As near as I can tell, Apple is suing every other major smartphone maker for patent infringement. In addition to Samsung, there’s Nokia and HTC, and probably some others I’ve forgotten about.
The reason I call this a non-story is that it’s not going to have any real effect on smartphone users. None. The truth is, Apple is a litigation-happy company and the fact that it’s suing yet another competitor is like reporting that Charlie Sheen has said something nutty.
What’s going to happen now is that Samsung is going to pull out its own patent portfolio and find things that “prove” that Apple is actually the one infringing on Samsung’s patents, and it will then file a counter-suit. They’ll both go to court to find out which company hired better lawyers.
When I was a new reporter a decade ago, I wrote about such lawsuits with breathless excitement, but then I noticed a pattern: the announcements of new lawsuits make big news, but when they’re settled a few years later, all that happens is that maybe some money changes hands, maybe not. Maybe someone’s patents get invalidated, maybe not. That’s it. No company is driven out of business, no smartphones are pulled off shelves.
Our patent system is so messed up that companies are regularly given patents for “inventions” that are much too broad. Or for “discoveries” that have been in use for years. It’s because the Patent Office is woefully underfunded. It does the best it can, and then lets companies fight it out in court.
For smartphone users, these lawsuits are meaningless, and not worth wasting time worrying about.
The T-Mobile Sidekick 4G is not yet available, but we already have a demo unit in-house. Adama D. Brown — long-time reviewer for Brighthand — is putting together a first-impressions review but I thought some of you would like to take a look at our unboxing pictures:
The preliminary review of the Sidekick 4G will be available tomorrow on Brighthand.
IDC released its latest Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker report today, including predictions for which mobile operating systems will be gaining market share in the next few years and which will be losing it.
This market analysis firm made a safe prediction that Google’s Android OS will rise to be the dominant smartphone platform by 2015, but the rest of its other figures are far more controversial.
In the wake of Nokia’s abandonment of the Symbian OS, there’s no doubt there are going to be some changes. Although this operating system is rarely used by Americans, it is the preeminent OS in Europe and other regions — to the point that it has been the best-selling mobile platform for many years. And Nokia has been the biggest maker of devices running it.
But last month, Nokia announced that it is going to make a big gamble: all its future high-end models are going to run Microsoft’s Windows Phone.
IDC’s analysts believe this gamble is going to pay off, and Windows Phone will become the second most popular mobile OS in the next few years. These analysts clearly expect most of Nokia’s current customers to stick with it, even through a transition to an operating system made by Microsoft.
This will supposedly swell the ranks of Windows Phone users to the point where they will outnumber iPhone users and BlackBerry users by 2015.
To me, this seems a bit optimistic. I tend to think that a great many long-time Symbian users who are being forced to learn a new operating system will switch to the Android OS or Apple’s iOS.
And the IDC seems overly pessimistic about the iPhone, predicting that its sales will flatline at the current level. With millions of new Verizon customers coming on board, as well as people switching from the Symbian OS and BlackBerry OS, I find this hard to believe. I see strong growth for Apple, with it beating out Windows Phone for the number two spot in 2015.
IDC expects the BlackBerry OS to decline slightly, but I see a more severe drop off. RIM is losing the battle for developers, and despite the millions of current BlackBerry users there are comparatively few apps for this platform. That’s going to cause most consumers to switch to a rival like Android or iOS in the coming years, although many business will stick with RIM.
Generally speaking, IDC is one of the two market research companies I trust the most. But I just can’t agree with most of the conclusions in this most recent report.
You can see IDC’s exact numbers from the most recent Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker here:
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Sprint announced yesterday that it is going to release the Kyocera Echo in mid-April. I’m one of the people who is eager to try out this smartphone, as it is going to have an innovative design featuring not one, but two large touchscreens.
I really like the idea of two screens, as I’ve wanted a device that replaces the keyboard with a second display for a long time. Dedicating a big chunk of a relatively small device to a single task — text input — makes little sense to me. A second touchscreen can function as a keyboard, plus it can do so much more.
My desktop has gotten me accustomed to running multiple apps simultaneously, so I like the idea of running two apps at once on the Echo’s separate 3.7-inch, WVGA screens. I want to be able to read a new email without interrupting the movie I’m watching, for example.
I’ll confess, though, I’m a bit nervous about the exact design of the Echo, as it will have an unusual shape that will let it be used in a variety of configurations. The sliding hinge arrangement that makes this possible could be a source of problems — I wish Kyocera had gone with a simpler clamshell design with a twist-and-flip display, like the classic Sony PEG-UX50.
And there’s near universal concern about the Echo’s battery life, as its two displays are going to require an unusual amount of power. I’m not sure including a second battery with this device is going to be enough.
But we’ll know next month, as Sprint is going to launch the Kyocera Echo on April 17.
Here’s hoping that this model does well enough that other smartphone makers take up the dual-screen smartphone concept.
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In a conference call with investors today, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo gave his company’s prediction for the number of iPhones it expects to sell in 2011. And it’s low. Very low. This has got me wondering why this carrier is being so conservative.
Shammo ‘s number is 11 million. At first glance that seems like a lot, until you consider that in Q3 of last year (the last quarter in which numbers are available) AT&T activated 5.2 million iPhones.
So, despite all the hype surrounding Verizon’s long-awaited launch of Apple’s smartphone, this carrier expects to sell in all of 2011 about twice units as many as its rival did in one quarter of last year?
Glass Half Full
There are a couple of possible explanations for this. The most optimistic is simple: the wireless carriers in the U.S., like Verizon, have a tradition of under promising and over delivering. This way their customers (and investors) are pleasantly surprised when products are out earlier than had been estimated.
So this company could simply be action cautiously. If it says it expects to sell 11 million iPhones this year and then sells 20 million, it gets to talk about the huge success of this model. If it estimates that it’s going to sell 24 million and then sells 20 million, it has to explain why sales were so poor.
Glass Half Empty
My pessimistic guess is based on this: Verizon knows things the rest of us don’t. And one of the things it might know is that it’s not going to get the iPhone 5 until next February.
Verizon is introducing its version of the iPhone 4 next month. AT&T is widely expected to introduce the iPhone 5 in June, but there’s a big question about when Verizon is going to get the next-generation model from Apple.
The best possibility is that both carriers are going to launch it at the same time, even if this means Verizon will launch a replacement for its first iPhone just four months after it hits store shelves.
The worst possibility for Verizon and its subscribers is that this carrier won’t get a new model from Apple until its current one has been on the market for a year, which would mean that AT&T would once again get to offer an Apple smartphone for more than half a year before its rival can.
Honestly, I can’t see Verizon agreeing to any such arrangement, but it would explain why this company’s CFO is being so cautious about iPhone sales projections.
You can get an iPhone 4 in any color you want, as long as what you want is black. Since this smartphone debuted early last summer, it has come in only one color, and those hoping for a version in a white casing have been hoping in vain.
Shoppers for previous Apple smartphones had a choice of white or black outer casings, but Apple never released the white version of its latest model. It announced this version last summer, but has talked about unspecified production problems of this product ever since.
In the last few days, a new round of rumors has cropped up indicating that the white iPhone 4 might finally debut in February or thereabouts. But I’m skeptical about these. At this point, the boat may have sailed on this version.
Just Too Late
The iPhone 4 in a black outer casing has now been available for almost seven months. I’m really curious how many people have been waiting all this time for a white version when they could get the black one today. Especially when you consider that you can easily buy a white case from plenty of companies and have the iPhone 4 in the color you want.
The iPhone 5 is expected to be released in June, or July at the latest. This is a safe bet, as Apple has released a new or updated smartphone in early summer of every year since 2007. There’s no reason to think 2011 is going to be any different.
So if the next-generation model is coming in June, demand for the current-generation model is going to start waning soon, especially when the next model is expected to be faster and offer other enhancements.
With both of these in mind, February or March just isn’t the time to come out with a new white version of the iPhone 4. This device just wouldn’t sell all that well, and would cost Apple a lot of money to produce and ship.
I don’t completely believe Apple’s stories about its mysterious production problems for the white casing. I suspect that Apple did the math, realized that offering its smartphone in one outer casing color was more profitable, and decided to drop the white version.
If I’m correct, then Apple is never going to say anything about offering the iPhone 5 in a white casing. Going forward, black could be the only option.
That’s good news for the case makers, who will be happy to sell Apple’s customers white cases. Or green cases, or blue cases, etc.
One of the better inventions for smartphones was push email. But you should be aware that this very handy feature comes with a significant drain to your device’s battery.
Every smartphone I know of supports push email, a system in which messages are “pushed” out to your phone as soon as they arrive on the remote mail server. It’s the opposite of pull email, in which you set your phone to check for messages on a regular schedule, or manually ask that they be delivered.
I generally have my devices configured to push both my work and my personal email to me, but I always try to keep aware how much this drains the battery.
With my current smartphone, I have recharge it every day, unless I turn push email off. When I do, it will go for much of a week on a single charge. This is with the device just sitting quietly waiting for me to use it. Naturally, if I’m on the phone a lot or using it to surf the Web, the battery life is much shorter.
A Vacation Tip
The next time you’re on vacation, be sure to turn push email off. For one thing you’re supposed to be relaxing and you can’t do that if you get notified every time you get an email from the office. But switching to manual email delivery will not just help your social life, it can also really save your battery life too.
I tend to forget to plug my phone in when I’m on the beach or some resort because I’m outside of my normal routine. If I have push email turned on, whenever I think about my phone it’s usually dead or close to it if I’ve left push email on. If I’ve switched to manual, it always has a full charge.
Just something to think about next time you’re on the road.
The Consumer Electronics Show is going on this week in Las Vegas, and the biggest smartphone-related news is going to come from Verizon.
Still, Sprint has an important announcement too. AT&T and T-Mobile, on the other hand, are almost certainly going to be overshadowed by their rivals.
I’m attending CES, as I always do, and will be bringing you first-hand reports on any smartphones announced here.
Big Red has promised to take the wraps off its first phones with support for 4G. This carrier’s LTE service debuted last month, and currently only laptop and PC users can access it. But this is going to change soon.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that 4G devices from HTC, Motorola, and Samsung could all be unveiled at CES.
These Android OS-based smartphones are detailed in this news article on Brighthand:
The official announcement is scheduled for Thursday. I will be at the unveiling, so stay tuned for more details.
Verizon’s biggest announcement of the year — that it’s going to start offering the iPhone 4 — isn’t expected until after the end of CES.
This model is a new option device for people who like HTC’s EVO 4G but prefer a physical keyboard. It will have a smaller screen than the current model, though.
More details are available in this a Brighthand news article:
The device isn’t exactly being announced at CES, but it’s going to be on display here.
A review unit of this smartphone is already on its way to me, so keep your eyes peeled for a review.
It’s not clear what T-Mobile is going to unveil at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.
One possibility is the Motorola Cliq 2, a follow-up to a consumer-oriented Android OS smartphone that was unveiled at last year’s CES.
A dark-horse candidate is the LT Optimus 2X, an upcoming high-end smartphone that’s rumored to be heading for T-Mobile this spring. This will be one of the first phones powered by a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor.
AT this point, no information has leaked out about AT&T’s plans to announce any new handsets at CES. This doesn’t automatically mean the carrier doesn’t have something up its sleeve, but there’s a good chance it’s giving this tradeshow a bye.
In a way, that’s actually a good thing for AT&T. CES is held just a couple weeks after Christmas, and any products that are announced here have missed the very important holiday shopping season
There was a time that it seemed almost everyone owned a PDA. Palm Pilots and Pocket PCs were everywhere. Then smartphones came along, and it interest in mobile devices that weren’t also phones just about dried up.
As many consumers switched their focus, the companies that had been giants in this market dropped out, including Palm, HP, and Dell.
But Apple didn’t give up, and its iPod touch series has been the best option for those looking for an affordable handheld computer that didn’t require a monthly service change. Millions of these devices have been sold.
And now there’s a new company getting into the game. The Samsung Galaxy Player is going to be an Android OS-based handheld computer that, like the iPod touch, will be focused on games, video, and music.
Like its rival, Samsung’s offering is going to be well-supplied with features. It will be as powerful as the smartphones offered by the company, just without the phone part.
The Galaxy Player will run Google’s Android OS 2.2 on a 1 GHz processor, and it is going to include a 4-inch WVGA touchscreen and 8 GB, 16 GB, or 32 GB of internal storage. This will make it ideal for those looking for a very capable music and video player, as well as a portable gaming console. It will even support video chatting.
The latest iPod touch runs iOS 4.2 on a 1 GHz processor, and sports a 3.5-inch, 640 x 960 touchscreen. It also comes in 8 GB, 16 GB, or 32 GB versions, and has support for video chatting. It has already proved its chops as a multimedia player.
There are many thousands of games for both the iOS and Android OS, the vast majority of which sell for just a few dollars or less.
The main advantage Apple’s handheld has over its upcoming rival is iTunes, which provides users with a vast array of music, podcasts, and TV shows to enjoy on their mobile device. Still, Samsung is trying to compete with its Media Hub.
More Options Is Always Better
So there are options for those of you who have been considering a smartphone but have been holding back because you don’t want a monthly wireless service fee.
And those of you who have an iPod touch but would prefer something more open, you’ll be able to get the Samsung Galaxy Player this spring.
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I’m not saying this because I think there’s anything wrong with the Chrome OS. Instead, there just isn’t any need for it.
The Times They are a Changin’
The Chrome OS was announced back in 2009, when netbooks were all the rage, so Google created a simple operating system for this class of cheap laptops.
Since then, demand for netbooks has all but dried up. Interest has switched to tablets, as people see their advantages, especially their portability and long battery life.
There are those who are already considering the possibility of using the Chrome OS on tablets, but Google already has a very popular operating system that companies are using to power tablets: the
A Better Option
Admittedly, at this point the Android OS isn’t an ideal fit for a tablet computer — it’s lack of support for very high-resolution screens is a stumbling block. But unconfirmed reports say the next version of this operating system (code-named Honeycomb) is going to include features tablet makers are asking for, such as support for resolutions higher than WVGA. And companies like Samsung have already found work-arounds for this issue.
Developers by the thousand have embraced Android, while the Chrome OS is just getting off the ground. I see no reason for serious developers to spend time and money working Chrome apps when they’d get
a better investment from creating Android ones.
And the same is true of Google. Tablet users, as well as smartphone users, would be better off if this company put all its efforts behind a single operating system instead of two very similar ones.
It seems obvious to me that the Chrome OS is going to either be dropped or merged in to the Android OS at some point,
And I’m not the only one who believes this: Paul Buchheit, the man behind Gmail before going of to found FriendFeed, said today, “Chrome OS has no purpose that isn’t better served by Android.”