Apple has always prided itself on its uniqueness. Usually this has related to its products' design and software features, but this week the company's unique nature was shown by its legal department, which mounted fresh legal action claiming that Samsung owes it $40 for every Galaxy handset it sells.
The iPhone maker made the claim during a hearing at the US District Court, Northern District of California. The case claims recent Samsung smartphones, such as the Galaxy S3, infringe on five critical patents owned by Apple and is due to be heard on 31 March.
The patents relate to Samsung phones' data tapping, unified search, asynchronous data synchronisation, slide-to-unlock feature and auto-complete technologies. As a side note, during a previous case with Motorola, Apple claimed one of the same patents involved in its new Samsung offensive was worth just 60 cents per phone.
The move is atypical to most technology companies, which are currently moving to diffuse the ongoing, never-ending cycle of patent claims raging between them.
Samsung has already signed licensing deals with Google, Cisco and IBM, promising to play nice with them when it comes to patents. Even HTC and Nokia have joined the game, signing a cross-patent licence agreement in February.
V3 welcomed the deals, viewing them as a sign that smartphone makers were finally going to stop quibbling about who copied who, and re-focus on creating better phones.
But our hopes were short lived, as Apple's move against Samsung shows that even though it risks painting itself as the villain, it has no intention of making peace with its competitors.
This is particularly true when you consider Apple's past successes in the courtroom. Before its latest claim, the court ruled that Samsung owes $930m in damages to Apple, which isn't small change by any means.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
The executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, has penned a length post telling mobile users how they can switch from iPhone to Android devices.
Fresh from offering tips on using cloud computing, Schmidt has now turned his attention to the mobile market, using his page on Google+ to show users how easy it is to move to Android, and all it can offer.
“Like the people who moved from PCs to Macs and never switched back, you will switch from iPhone to Android and never switch back, as everything will be in the cloud, backed up, and there are so many choices for you,” he wrote.
"The latest high-end phones from Samsung (Galaxy S4), Motorola and the Nexus 5 have better screens, are faster, and have a much more intuitive interface."
What follows is a lengthy, complicated and caveat-heavy list of the steps you’ll need to take for this switch to Android, which runs to just over 600 words. This includes how to get Gmail on your phone, back up photos and move your music to your new device.
While Schmidt attempts to paint the transition as painless – as anyone who has ever moved phone, even within the same ecosystem, will know – such a task is never easy, and is always fraught with frustrations.
This isn't an issue with Android, or Apple, or anyone else, it just seems that anything that requires moving data is complex and time-consuming. Still, at least industry leaders such as Schmidt are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to try and help the average user, which is nice.
By V3's Dan Worth, who's happy with his iPhone
Google has officially turned 15 marking a milestone moment in the search-turned-hardware and software giant's history.
While Google has celebrated the news, like all teenagers, Google's fifteenth year looks set to be a turbulent one. This is because despite concerns from privacy groups, having taken control of well over 90 percent of the search market, Google has been increasingly eager to create new ways to monetise its valuable customer data over the last half decade.
The story of Google and its quest for customer data, as all great start-ups do, started in a basement, where in September 1998 Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched the first iteration of Google Search. Taking on the then embedded leaders, like former heavyweight Yahoo, Google proved a hit and by July 2000 the search engine was listed as the world's most popular, responsible for one billion indexes.
Riding off the early success and clearly realising the value of its search data, Google decided to embark on a wave of service releases designed to expand and refine the amount of data it could collect. This started in 2001 when it expanded its search engine to offer image search to its users. However it was only in 2005 when Google really hit its stride, releasing its Earth, Maps, Talk and Video services and making what could be argued as its most important purchase to date - Android.
The purchase of Android was a clear bid by Google to increase the data it could collect, with smartphones and tablets running the OS offering the firm a means to collect previously unknown information, like customer location data. Aware of this, Google's focus has gradually shifted to devices as well as software, with the company releasing its first own-brand Nexus device, the Nexus One in 2010 and buying former mobile heavyweight Motorola in 2011.
Since then Google's device and software development business has boomed, with Android currently being listed as the most used mobile operating system in the world. However, the success has come with a cost, with numerous privacy groups getting increasingly angry about the amount of data Google's storing. This anger culminated over the summer when it was revealed Google was one of the main companies targeted by the NSA during its PRISM campaign - which saw the agency siphon vast amounts of customer data from Google.
Unperturbed by this, Google's unveiled its latest KitKat Android version and has pushed forward with the development of its Google Glass wearable computer - a device again surrounded by privacy concerns. For this reason, while Google's first 15 years may have been entirely focused on collecting customer data, its next 15 may well be about finding ways to secure it and win back concerned customers trust - a fact apparently not lost on Google, which according to recent reports has begun working to better encrypt data being stored and passing through its data centres.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
It was revealed today that Nokia only managed to shift 7.4 million Lumia smartphones in the second quarter of 2013. While this is in some ways positive as it's a marked increase on the modest 5.6 million the Finnish firm shifted in Q1, it's still a massive issue when you consider how well other smartphone makers are doing. Take Samsung, with its seemingly unstoppable wave of Galaxy devices. The Galaxy S4 flagship managed to beat Nokia's quarterly Lumia sales in just one month, storming past the 10 million sales milestone a mere four weeks after launch.
What makes this particularly sad is that – like HTC and its stellar One smartphone – Nokia is making decent, revolutionary smartphones. Take, for example, the Lumia 925: the phone is absolutely full of custom Nokia services and technology that really makes the most of Windows Phone 8. These include an amazingly good rear camera, with a custom Carl Zeiss lens and a sixth glass camera element that make it the current top smartphone when it comes to imaging prowess. The 925 also has a slew of impressive Here location services.
Sure the Galaxy S4 has its own share of custom features, running Samsung's Touchwiz user interface, but most of these are superfluous, or simply don't work. Take, for example, Eye Scroll and Air Gesture. Both services sound cool on paper, with Eye Scroll making the phone automatically scroll down when you've finished reading a section of text, and Air Gesture letting you interact with the S4 without actually touching the display using Minority Report-style gestures. However, actually using them is a downright chore, with Eye Scroll taking forever to actually realise you've stopped reading and Air Gesture requiring your hand to be so close to the screen, it's all but pointless.
This, combined with the S4's pretty much untouched Galaxy S3-style design, makes the Samsung phone feel a little dull, especially when compared with Nokia's colourful wave of Lumia devices. Because of this, while the sales speak volumes in the world of business and we can't deny Samsung has done an amazing job creating Apple-level buzz around its devices, the low Lumia sales are slightly disheartening. Here's hoping Elop's optimistic promise rings true and the soon to arrive Nokia Lumia 1020 does something to change this.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
Statistics from an eBay study appear to show that 64 percent of the one million mobile applications on multiple platforms [Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Nokia Ovi] that went into development in 2012 never materialised, either due to rejection by app store gatekeepers or simply never being finished. This equates to roughly £3bn of wasted development time.
An even more surprising nugget of information revealed by the survey showed that a mere 42 percent of retail apps made it to consumers. That's a failure rate of 58 percent from companies whose aim is to sell products by all means possible.
That's not to say that they abandoned their plans altogether, the mobile web is certainly a more efficient means of creating cross-platform retail experiences.
V3 has covered a number of m-commerce stories in recent weeks, with all signs pointing towards a younger generation aspiring to buy their flared jeans and miniskirts (that's what the kids are buying these days, right?) via mobile apps. And yet it would seem that it's proving rather difficult to get right if these statistics are anything close to representative of the industry as a whole.
Olivier Ropars, the senior director of Mobile Commerce at eBay Europe, which most certainly has a vested interest in this area of the market, said of the statistics: "Many brands and retailers have created apps, but driving regular traffic to the app is another matter.
"EBay offers consumers access to the world's largest marketplace from just one app, which is why smart retailers and brands are using eBay as part of their mobile strategy."
Vested interests aside, Ropars does make an interesting point about retail apps. There must be a certain point at which consumers start to grow tired of having twenty apps that all do pretty much the same thing. Perhaps it's time for retail groups to team up and form an app that encompasses a broad selection of stores.
Elsewhere, the BBC took a different angle on yesterday's anniversary, getting hold of statistics which appeared to reveal that a large proportion of the apps in Apple's App Store are ‘zombies'. It showed that a little over 500,000 of the 800,000 apps in the store never make it into the ‘top 300,000', receiving negligible download numbers as a result. It's hardly a huge surprise, but certainly a headline grabber nonetheless.
There are plenty of reasons for this, including poor marketing strategies and simply poor quality. Paolo Pescatore from analyst firm CCS Insight said that it's a tough world out there for app developers who want to get noticed. "This is a common problem and not unique to Apple," he said. "If you're a new developer, it's hard to get visibility for your apps in any app store.
"We track the top apps being downloaded from all the major app stores and it's always the same names. We very rarely see new players breaking through. They face a monumental challenge."
Apple revolutionised an entire industry when the App Store came into being five years ago, but after the celebration must come the realisation that being a little fish in what is now a gigantic, multi-billion dollar pond makes making abreakthrough harder than it has ever been.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who avoids shopping at all costs
While we enjoy a lovely, balmy summer (Is this right? – Ed) it's easy to forget that, as they say in Game of Thrones, Winter is Coming.
Ah, the crackle of a crisp winter’s night, eating hearty food, sitting in front of the telly without feeling guilty, running up astronomical heating bills…it’s part and parcel of the Great British Winter.
Of course, most people would rather do away with the huge bills we have to fork out to keep ourselves warm, especially when we’re often wasting energy on heating when we’re not even in, or it’s coming on too early or going off too late.
While this may be good news for the energy companies in theory, they’re actually making moves to simplify and improve our use of their services, both through smart metering technology, but also apps that allow us to run our heating more efficiently.
One such intiative that’s growing in size and awareness is the British Gas Connected Homes project run (obviously) by British Gas, which is centred around a mobile application called Remote Heating Control (RHC) that works on Android and iOS devices.
The app allows you to both control the timer for the heating in your home, and simply turn your heating on and off, from any location, so can ensure you’re not wasting money by pumping out heat when you’re not at home, or don’t really need it on.
Speaking with Kassir Hussain, the technology director of the British Gas Connected Homes project, it’s clear the firm is keen to end the issues seen by its customers around heating management, and it sees mobile technology as a key to this conundrum.
“How many times do you really look at your boiler interface? Most people just set it once and leave it and it’s the last thing on their mind to keep changing it, as they’re rushing around in and out of the house,” said Hussain.
“About £142 is wasted per year this way, and that’s a huge sum of money, so the RHC app should help reduce this: it doesn’t require any training and is easy to use, like most mobile apps.”
Installing the necessary kit on your boiler isn't cheap - a fully qualified engineer installation and the kit costs £229, although existing British Gas customers get a £30 discount. As this implies, the service is open to all homes, not just those with British Gas. The apps are free, though.
So far the firm has got about 20,000 units into people’s homes, but is hoping to increase this in the coming months and years by making people more aware of the capabilities on offer.
“We actually find people use it more when they’re just at home to adjust the temperature, whether in bed or in the living room, and this helps them better manage what they’re using. For some people the boiler is in an awkward place, under the stairs or in a cupboard, and they just can’t be bothered to alter it,” added Hussain.
While the idea of controlling your heating from your phone or tablet is a bit far out for most people, it’s clear British Gas is determined that it can revolutionse this, and Hussain makes a valid point as to the future of the project.
“In the future we’ll wonder how we did without connected home technologies, just like we can’t imagine the world without lightbulbs now. We need to get out there and make people understand why this technology is so important to them.”
Come the winter, perhaps there will be a few more home owners able to use technology to save themselves a few pounds, while they curl up on the sofa with a plate of sausage and mash and the Game of Thrones boxset on the TV.
Samsung seems to have changed its mind over how businesses can get their hands on the company's Knox mobile security service.
The latest development in V3's epic saga to find out when Knox will arrive in the UK and how businesses will be able to make use of it occurred in early June when a Samsung spokeswoman told us: "Knox will be available as a software update for compatible Samsung devices later this year."
This would be fine other than the fact that Samsung told us in early May that Knox was available already on S4 handsets in the UK, but it was down to the mobile operators to offer it to their corporate customers.
The confusion was further compounded when we started getting reports suggesting numerous companies and even government agencies in the UK are already moving to roll out Knox and Samsung listed it as a core feature on its recently unveiled Galaxy S4 Mini smartphone.
The reports suggesting Knox-enabled smartphones are already in the UK began at the start of May when the Cabinet Office hinted it was considering following the US Department of Defense's example and approving the service for official use. Sadly Samsung is yet to respond to V3's request for comment on the report and whether some samples have already been activated in the UK.
The lack of clarity is particularly sad as Knox could be a huge selling point for Samsung's Galaxy range of tablets and smartphones in the enterprise, being a key tool that could remove the ongoing security concerns around Android. Knox is a security feature that is designed to offer a similar sandboxing service to BlackBerry Balance. The feature in theory will let users set up separate work and home areas on the phone, meaning businesses can have app management and data wipe powers on the work side, while being unable to touch non-work data stored on the user's personal side.
While this won't stop business users getting infected with Android malware, either by falling victim to a nefarious phishing message or downloading a Trojanised application on the phone's personal side, it will at least help IT managers offer frontline protection on the work side. Here's hoping Samsung makes its mind up once and for all on when Knox will actually arrive in the UK soon.
30 Apr 2013
Google will always be a search company first. In spite of all the other things the firm has its hands in, search is its lifeblood. It makes plenty of ad dollars from it and it's become synonymous with the company.
That is why Google has been so keen to add to its mobile search repertoire. The firm has just added two new features that look to extend its search power into the mobile sector.
First, the company introduced Google Now for iOS. The move is a bit of a mobile warning shot at Apple. If Google can show off some Android features to iPhone users than the firm may be able to find some converts.
Secondly, the firm added app activity integration into its entire search platform. The integration allows users to see aggregated user info when they search app titles online. For Google, the move takes them one step closer to complete convergence of mobile and PC platforms.
Both moves speak to the company's ambition with search. It's no longer an independent part of a user's online experience. Search is now a piece of a greater whole of a users experience both mobile and sedentary.
You can think of search as Google's foundation. It is the thing that everything else flows from. When you search for something on Google it leads you to other services that the firm offers.
It's not just search, its search and then some. It's the core that lead Google to become all the things it is today. Plus, judging from the recent announcements it is also is the thing that looks to be guiding the company into tomorrow.