September 2, 2012

Applesauce: All Things Apple – September 2, 2012

My family wasn’t very rich growing up. My parents had to make do with what they had and stretch every penny as far as it could go. Often, this meant my mother would have to make batches upon batches of red beans and rice every single night for dinner. When she didn’t have enough to make it fresh, we had left overs. Red beans and rice. Every night.

This Apple v Samsung trial is my red beans and rice.

So pull up a bowl. Let’s have some Applesauce for a change!

Inní mér syngur vitleysingu
Just when you thought the trial between Apple and Samsung was over, it’s not. These two have been fighting all across the globe, accusing one another of infringing on a number of patents, including design patents, utility patents, and trade dress patents. Last Friday, Apple scored a major win in these fights when the Sam Jose jury awarded the iPhone maker $1.5 billion, to paid out by Samsung. This wouldn’t be the American legal system without a few appeals, of course. Beyond these appeals, the trial now moves into injunction hearings, where Apple will try to persuade the court to ban several devices. It’s the trial that never ends, and it goes on and on, my friends…

This being America, we tended to turn this trial into something a bit more than it was. Sure, the results of this verdict are very important, changing the entire landscape of the existing smartphone world. Not satisfied with simply letting this unfold as a legal matter of business, many embraced the trial as an issue of Copying vs Innovating, or even Monopolies vs Capitalism. In a sense, we turned this into the geekiest version of the Super Bowl ever, even geekier than the 1991 Tecmo Super Bowl game for the Nintendo video game platform. There were two teams battling it out in what we thought would be an end-all battle to death, with one side emerging the winner, the other the looser. We brought in cameras and loads of press. Each day in court was damn-near live-Tweeted, and article upon article were released detailing the events of each day. Each side even had their own backstory, where they had come from and how they ended up here. Samsung fans argued that Apple’s late Steve Jobs once bragged about ripping off from great artists. Apple fans came up with picture after picture showing how Samsung, time and time again, ripped off not only Apple, but Palm and RIM.

All we needed to complete the metaphor were over priced tickets, gambling and cheerleaders.

If only this case were as cut and dry as the Super Bowl. Sure, there will be another season, and maybe Samsung will next time around, but for now, we’re still stuck in the middle of it. Just like the Super Bowl, as each company walked away from the legal gridiron, reporters and journalists everywhere looked for statements about what had just transpired in court, about which moves were most effective, and where these sides would do things differently if given another chance. Rushing to a Monday morning meeting following the verdict over the weekend, one Samsung executive put it succinctly: “It’s absolutely the worst scenario for us.

Samsung’s official statement was worded a little differently, a little less frantic and hurried. “We initially proposed to negotiate with Apple instead of going to court, as they had been one of our most important customers. However, Apple pressed on with a lawsuit, and we have had little choice but to counter-sue, so that we can protect our company.” Then, Samsung went on to say they were “disappointed” with the way the trial turned out, calling the verdict “regrettable.”

It’s the exact statement you’d expect to hear from the losing team. They did vow to fight on, of course, saying they’d do their “utmost” until their arguments are accepted. Samsung also begged their fans to stick with them through this mess, saying, “We trust that the consumers and the market will side with those who prioritize innovation over litigation, and we will prove this beyond doubt.”

Apple, on the other hand, gave the tech-version of “I’m going to Disneyworld!”, saying, “At Apple, we value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.” I still say it’s the commercials who really won.

Now that Apple can see just a little farther across the sea from their enormous pile of cash they keep somewhere on a private beach in California, (get it? The $1 Billion, if paid out in twenties, adds to the mass of their cash pile oh forget it) they’ll now be asking Judge Koh to ban certain devices for sale in the US. All told, Apple has decided that at least 8 Samsung smartphones have violated the patents so much that to continue selling them would be detrimental their bottom line. Seven out of eight of these devices are some variation or another of the Galaxy line, starting with the Galaxy S 4G all the way up to the Galaxy S II Epic 4G. The Galaxy Prevail and the Droid Charge also get a spot on the banned list, but they might not be the last of the litter. Apple still has time to add other phones to this list, namely, the giant elephant in the room, the Galaxy S III.

The Galaxy S III has been Samsung’s latest hit and in truth, has been selling rather well. Many tech aficionados have given it their stamp of approval, and even some stalwarts of the Apple community think it’s a fine phone. But let’s look at this ban as it stands. The Galaxy phones (The S, The S II and the S III and whatever funny names the carriers decide to tack on) have been released on an annual cycle ever since 2010. Sound familiar? The Galaxy S was released in 2010, the S II in 2011, and so on. As such, these early Galaxy phones are most likely relegated at this point to free or $29.99 options at your favorite carrier. In fact, the Droid Charge is being offered for free with a new, 2-year contract on Verizon. According to Apple (and the jury agrees) these phones most resemble Apple’s designs.

So, if Apple persuades the court to have these phones banned, all they’re really doing is removing the older, cheaper or free options for consumers. Will this drive customers to buy Samsung’s newest offerings? Will it drive them to go ahead and try a new phone? I have to wonder if this move will actually hurt Samsung at all. Isn’t Samsung a happier manufacturer if their customers are buying the latest and greatest rather than the value pack models they’re offering just to move them out of the warehouse? According to a piece by Martha White at, Samsung is already benefitting from this verdict, suggesting customers are taking this as a sign that they should go ahead and buy that new S III before they aren’t allowed to anymore.

“It seems like the knee-jerk reaction from the consumer was… they just ran to the store and they bought it up,” says Trip Chowdry, managing director at Global Equities Research, speaking with White. What’s interesting, then, is while some are saying consumers are rushing to BUY new Samsung devices, some are saying people are in a hurry to DUMP their Samsung smartphones.

According to used gadget retailer, customers have been coming in droves to sell their Samsung devices, a move which chief gadget officer Anthony Scarsella suggests is an indication that customers are suddenly worried that these phones will begin to lose their resale value as a result of the latest verdict. “Consumers seem to be jumping ship,” said Scarsella, who said his site saw a 50% increase of Samsung smartphones being sold. “We expect this trend to continue, especially with this latest verdict.”

This smells like bunk to me, or at the very least, a coincidence. I don’t believe consumers think in terms of resale value for smartphones, which have widely become a throw-away device after two years. For instance, if someone decides to finally jump on the smartphone wagon, but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money, do you think they’d rather buy a 2-year old Samsung Galaxy S for upwards of $200 on eBay, or would they rather sign another 2-year contract and get a one year old Droid Charge for free?

Others believe these customers are leaving their Sammy devices behind for fear that they will no longer receive software updates in the future. Again, I have to call this one bogus. It’s likely these older phones have already received the last update that’ll ever be available to them. Of the 8 phones listed in the ban, only one— the Samsung Galaxy S II— is eligible for the latest Android offering, Jelly Bean 4.1. The rest are stuck at 4.0. Maybe Apple is taking a simpler approach in these bans, trying to merely remove any phone which too closely resembles the iPhone from the shelves. Such a move would cause the iPhone to stand out even more as a device unto itself rather than a device with an “inevitable” design. Then again, fewer phones for Samsung to peddle to their customers likely means less revenue, in the end. Quite the quandary, no?

All Alright
It’s honestly no secret that the Apple suit against Samsung is thinly veiled suit against Android. Steve Jobs didn’t notoriously threaten to go all “thermonuclear” on Samsung, or HTC, or Motorola, and yet, these three manufacturers have one tiny little thing in common: A little green robot. So, I imagine it’s probably safe to say Google was paying very close attention to this trial, using this time to figure out their next move. Shortly after the verdict was issued on Friday, Google gave a comment to the Verge, essentially separating themselves from the fray. “The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don’t relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office,” said Google, with a palpable air of fear in their voices. After all, Apple’s been busy shooing them away from iOS all year. Now that they’ve got a landmark decision to add to their arsenal, it might just be easier for Google to play nice rather than try to fight. So, it isn’t that much of a shocker to read that Google’s CEO Larry Page has been in talks with Tim Cook over the past few days, discussing casual topics of conversation, like intellectual properties and mobile patent disputes.

You know, the usual. There is the entire matter of pinch-to-zoom, by the way. Early on, Android didn’t support pinch-to-zoom, likely due to a threat from Jobs himself. As the story goes, as soon as Jobs heard Google would be adding this feature to their mobile OS, he stormed over to the Google office and, how shall I say it? Had a few words with the Google team about the matter. Apple does hold a patent on pinch-to-zoom, though as Niley Patel of The Verge wrote this week, it involves a rather narrow implementation of the technology.

Though Apple has yet to take anyone to court over this pinch-to-zoom patent, they could take Google to task over it for their implementation of this technology in their hot new Nexus 7 tablet. Regardless, the patent system in America is in dire straits, and when companies begin to sue one another into oblivion, the consumers may likely get caught in the crossfire, either by paying royalties themselves as added on cost to the over all price, or by being given the option of two or more subpar products. While these fights likely won’t end anytime soon, the fact that two companies might be working together for peace is a good sign in my book.

The iPad Mini is a terrible name.

I said it.

I stand by it.

And if this is the name Cook and Crew decide to give the rumored smaller tablet (if it even exists) I’m sure I’ll mope around about it for the first 2 or 3 days before I finally come around to it. On one hand, I get where Apple is going with the name. It’s almost as if they’re trying to set up the iPad as their next iPod, a revolutionary device which eventually completely took over when other sizes and even colors were introduced. So, the iPad Mini…Ok, I get that. It’s a nice little nod to the now defunct iPod, which is still one hell of a device, lacking in hard drive space as it may be. I’ve said it before: I rather like the iPad Air name, as it implies a small, light, easy device. As a sidebar, wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants to all those who swear Apple will never use numbers in their naming conventions again to name the next iPad the iPad 7? Oh, those neck beards would be sore upset! This week, Macotakara claimed their Asian sources are sure the smaller iPad will be called the “iPad Mini,” complete with the word “iPad” stamped on the back.

Of course, no iPhone or “iPad Mini” rumor would be complete without the compulsory mention of a 9-pin dock connector. As a nice little audible play, Macotakara also mentions that the next iPod Nano will be getting the tiniest Wi-Fi antenna which will allow users to take advantage of iTunes Match on their postage stamp players. Of course, it would be nice if Apple tightened up the screws on iTunes Match and made it a worthwhile service as opposed to the frustrating tease that it is, but that’s another story for another day.

Image Credit:

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email