Foldables are going to get weird. And I’m here for it. Just check out these leaked TCL renders from CNET. All manner of strange and wonderful folding devices — two tablets and three smartphones, including one that flips all the way around into a Futurama-style bracelet. There are renders for tablets and phones that fold both in and out.
Granted, few if any will actually come to fruition, but if this first wave of foldables opens up smartphone design in new and interesting ways like these, the industry will be all the better for it. Of course, we’re still in the early stages of all of this — and the first wave of foldables have yet to prove themselves of interest to the smartphone-buying audience beyond simple novelties.
We’ll be seeing a fair bit more of the space week at Mobile World Congress, along with Wednesday’s Samsung event, which is expected to give us another peek at the upcoming Galaxy foldable. For now, however, the Royale FlexPai is the only device that’s actually come to market, and that one still feels like little more than a developer product.
However, while TCL’s not a household name here in the space, the Chinese company certainly has experience in the display department, both through its TV business of the same name and smartphone brands like Alcatel, Palm and BlackBerry.
These sorts of renders are probably pretty standard for all companies currently experimenting with a flexible form factor. If there’s one thing all of the announced devices have proven, it’s that the industry is still a ways away from settling on a consistent design language for these devices. And it’s certainly possible that the industry will never settle on a consistent form factor.
TCL leaks foretell a weird future for foldable phones
A patent case that began back in 2011 has reached a conclusion, with Samsung ordered to pay about $539 million to Apple over infringements of the latter’s patents in devices that are now long gone. The case has dragged on for years as both sides argued about the finer points of how much was owed per device, what could be deducted and so on. It’s been eye-wateringly boring, but at least it’s over now. Maybe.
The patents in question are some things we take for granted now, UI cues like “rubber-banding” at the bottom of a list or using two fingers to zoom in and out. But they were all part of the “boy have we patented it” multi-touch gestures of which Steve Jobs was so proud. In addition there were the defining characteristics of the first iPhone, now familiar (black round rectangle with a big screen, etc.). At any rate, Apple sued the dickens out of Samsung over them.
The case was actually decided long ago — in 2012, when the court found that Samsung had clearly and willfully infringed on the patents in question and initial damages were set at a staggering $1 billion. We wrote it up then, when it was of course big news:
Apple Awarded $1.049 Billion In Damages As Jury Finds Samsung Infringed On Design And Software Patents
Since then it’s all been about the damages, and Samsung won a big victory in the Supreme court that said it only had to pay out based on the profit from the infringing component.
Unfortunately for Samsung, the “infringing component” for the design patents seems to have been considered by the jury as being the entire phone. The result is that a great deal of Samsung’s profits from selling the infringing devices ended up composing the damages. It sets a major precedent in the patent litigation world, although not necessarily a logical one. People started arguing about the validity and value of design patents a long time ago and they haven’t stopped yet.
CNET has a good rundown for anyone curious about the specifics. Notably, Samsung said in a statement that “We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers.” Does that mean they’re going to take it as high as the Supreme Court (again) and drag the case out for another couple of years? Or will they cut their losses and just be happy to stop paying the legal fees that probably rivaled the damages assigned? Hopefully the latter.
Jury finds Samsung owes Apple $539M in patent case stretching back to 2011
T-Mobile’s Galaxy Note has been one of the worst-kept handset secrets in recent memory but the one thing the carrier managed to keep close to its proverbial chest is when its customers could actually go and get their hands on one. According to CNET, T-Mobile will begin selling its version of Samsung’s 5.3-inch phablet on August 8, for a cool $249 with a two-year contract.
Of course, whether or not you should buy one is another story entirely. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the T-Mobile version per se — it’s nearly identical to the AT&T model, save for its lack of an LTE radio and the fact that it ships loaded with Ice Cream Sandwich. What really makes things dicey is the launch window that T-Mobile and Samsung have come up with.
You see, Samsung is expected to pull back the curtains on its “newest Galaxy device” just one week after T-Mo’s Galaxy Note goes on sale, and there are significant rumblings that said device is none other than the Galaxy Note 2.
If early reports hold true, the update should be a substantial one. South Korea’s MK Business News reported earlier this month that the new phablet will sort a quad-core chipset, a surprisingly beefy 12 or 13-megapixel camera, and an ever larger display — as if the Note didn’t already skew toward the unwieldy side of things. Samsung being Samsung, there’s no official word on what the company plans to unveil come the 15th — it may well be the oft-delayed Galaxy Note tablet — but it’s still a strong argument for staying at home and waiting to see what the Korean electronics giant has up its voluminous sleeves.
T-Mobile To Launch $249 Ice Cream Sandwich-Powered Galaxy Note On August 8
Sprint plans to offer unlimited data on the next iPhone even if it’s LTE. This would make the carrier the only one in the U.S. with the pairing. Verizon and AT&T went away from unlimited plans before the iPhone 4S launched in 2011 leaving just Sprint with both unlimited data and the iPhone.
Unlimited data plans used to be the norm. Now, in the age of the ubiquitous smartphone, most carriers have moved away from that model as their networks strain under the load of Netflix, Facebook and Spotify. But not Sprint. The third most popular carrier in the U.S. just confirmed that it will still offer unlimited data for the next iPhone.
This comes from a CNET interview where Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said, “I’m not anticipating the unlimited plan would change by that point.” He added, “That’s our distinctive differentiator. Frankly, [the iPhone and unlimited data] a marriage made in heaven.” Hesse is right. The two go together like John Biggs and pie.
The iPhone is a huge seller for Sprint and accounted for 44% of its new activations during its last quarter. The carrier reportedly spent big bucks getting the rights to the iPhone and it seems to be paying off. But it still needs to offer something different from the market leaders of AT&T and Verizon, and that’s unlimited data.
Sprint Confirms It Will Still Serve Unlimited Data To The Next iPhone
The Microsoft-Nokia partnership is still in its infancy, but it would seem as though that little guy is about ready to start walking. Strategy Analytics today released Q4 numbers showing that Nokia holds 33 percent of the Windows Phone 7 market share, pushing the Finnish phone giant to the top spot globally.
Windows Phone 7 devices in general are up 36 percent with 2.7 million units shipped in the fourth quarter. Nokia’s slice of the pie comprises .9 million units sold. HTC, the world’s former top Windows Phone Vendor, has now fallen to number two, reports CNET. While HTC has a new strategy and is mostly focused on Android for the time being, Nokia’s ability to gobble up WP7 market share can’t come as good news to a company that’s experiencing a bit of a growth stunt.
While this is a solid entry for the Nokia/Microsoft duo — and remember, Nokia’s Windows phones only made their way onto shelves in the fourth quarter — there’s still plenty of catching up to do.
Apple’s numbers during the same period (which, in Apple terms, would be its first quarter) accounted for 37 million iPhones being sold. In fact, the iPhone 4S sold 4 million units in its first weekend on the market.
At the same time, Nokia has been good about keeping things fresh and is expected to unveil two new devices at MWC this week, perhaps with some “Pure View” imaging features.
Nokia Top Windows Phone 7 Vendor, But There’s Still Plenty Of Catching Up To Do