iPhone 4 Prices Slashed; iPhone 5 Launch Imminent?

While most of the rumors of the iPhone 5, the next version of the iPhone, have been wild guesses by ‘trusted unknown sources’, there is one thing which has been consistent in all the rumors. All of them seem to indicate that Apple will launch the iPhone 5 in September. A recent report also indicated that Apple had already ordered shipments of 15 million iPhone 5 units from its supply partners in anticipation of huge demand.

Usually, just a few weeks before the launch of a new iPhone is scheduled, Apple or its retail partners cut the prices of the current models to quickly sell out the existing stock.

Today, Engadget and PhoneArena have reported that both Radio Shack and Target will start offering price cuts on the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS.

Radio Shack has cut down the price of the 16 GB iPhone 4 from $199.99 to $169.99, and the price of the 32 GB iPhone 4 from $299.99 to $269.99. The price of the 8 GB iPhone 3GS will now be dropped to just $19.99. These price cuts will be effective only on the AT&T iPhone models.

Similarly, Target has also announced a few price cuts which vary depending on the carrier. Both the AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4 16 GB devices will be going for $149.99. The iPhone 3GS will be sold for $19.99, while the Verizon 32 GB iPhone 4 will be priced at $249.99.

Obviously, if you plan to buy the new iPhone 5, these price cuts won’t matter at all.

Apple Enables iTunes Previews to 90 Seconds For International Users

Since the iTunes store launch in April 2003, users of the store have been requesting a longer preview windows for songs. Earlier this year, Apple finally started offering iTunes previews that were 90-second long (up from the previous 30-seconds) for US customers. Now, it seems that Apple has quietly expanded its 90-seconds iTunes previews outside of the US to other countries.

According to numerous reports, the 90-second previews have been expanded to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, and some parts of Europe. The extended previews includes local labels as well as the ones that already had rights in the US. However, not all songs will have 90 second previews at this time.

In the US, Apple made the change by emailing music labels telling them that they would automatically extend the previews to 90 seconds. The decision to expand 90-second preview to international users may have been made by Apple and not directly by negotiating with music labels. Both the labels and publishers may have had objected to the terms but might not have had a legal stance. The reason for the delay in expansion to international markets is unknown.


HTC, Samsung and LG to Launch New WP7 Mango Smartphones in September

September is going to be an exciting month. The iPhone 5, or whatever the next version of the iPhone is going to be called, is supposed to be launched by Apple in the first week of September.

By September, we should also see the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S 2, the current king of Android smartphones in the U.S. smartphone market.

Today, Digitimes reported that there is going to be yet another major release in September. According to the report, HTC, Samsung, LG and some other manufacturers are going to launch new Windows Phone 7.5 Mango powered smartphones in September. The first WP7 Mango smartphone, the Fujitsu IS12T was announced last week.

Windows Phone 7

The new Mango phones by HTC will be powered by 1.5 GHz processors and will have display sizes ranging from 3.8 to 4.7 inches. Samsung is apparently working on a variant of the Galaxy S 2, which will be powered by Windows Phone 7.

Even Nokia is planning to unveil its first Windows Phone 7 device around the end of September. It will be interesting to see if all these new devices help Microsoft grab market share from Apple or Android.

Microsoft and its partners will have to time these launches right. It is very likely that the iPhone 5 launch may completely overshadow all these device launch announcements.

Apple to Release Redesigned iTunes 11 in September [Rumor]

One of the most hated, yet most used, Apple products on the market right now is iTunes. Even Mac users recognize that Apple’s media management software is more than a little bloated.  Unfortunately, it’s so incredibly powerful that it’s hard not use it. Apple also makes it even more difficult by forcing it on anyone who wants to use an iPhone, iPad, iPod or even a Mac with the Mac App Store.

There may be good news, however. Reports are indicated that Apple is planning on releasing a new version of iTunes in September. While that isn’t a huge deal by itself, there is something more to it. iDownloadBlog is reporting that Apple is planning on  completely  redesigning iTunes with the upgrade to version 11.

Interestingly enough, the basic design of iTunes has not changed since its inception. It has always had the controls at the top, with lists on the left side and content displayed on the right. There has always been that “Now Playing” area in the middle, and a search bar on the top right. It is well overdue for a significant face lift.

The timing of this release makes perfect sense. September is the month that many have pegged for the release of iCloud and iOS 5. There have also been reports that a new version of the iPhone is due to come out around then as well.

iDownloadBlog says that we can expect deep integration of iCloud into this new version of iTunes. They also report that the iTunes Store will become more a part of the app. Currently, the iTunes Store is basically a built-in web browser that navigates only to the store.

iDownloadBlog also claims that iCloud backups will be integrated into iTunes. That means that when you backup your device to the cloud, you will get a local copy as well. This also applies for app data as well.

Apple Has More Cash than the United States Government

When Apple announced its Q3 2011 results last week, everyone was surprised. Apple had managed to beat even the most optimistic estimates on Wall Street and had posted a record quarter, even by its own lofty standards.

Each figure reported in the Q3 results just made my jaw open wider with awe, until it finally it the floor. Apple had posted revenues of $28.6 billion, and a net profit of $7.3 billion. What was even more impressive was total value of its cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities – $76.2 billion. Going over those figures again, I went nuts and started dreaming about all the things I could do if I had that kind of money.

I could picture Steve Jobs diving into a pile of gold Krugerrands and cash, a la Scrooge McDuck. I even wrote a long post on “What Apple Could Do With its Billions in Cash“.

Today, however, the Financial Post reported something that completely blew my mind. Apple, now has more cash reserves than the U.S. Government’s operating balance, which is less than $74 billion, according to figures revealed by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Just think about it for a minute – Apple has more cash than the most powerful government on the planet. Obviously, the numbers aren’t comparable and don’t have a lot of significance, but they do illustrate the fact that Apple’s power has increased by an order of magnitude, since its near demise in the late 90s.

Its market cap is now just $33 billion less than Exxon Mobil, the most valuable company in the world. My bet is, when the iPhone 5 launches in September, Apple will easily cross the $400 billion valuation mark and beat Exxon to become the most valuable corporation in the world.

Android Leads the Pack in the US with a 39% Market Share; iOS Comes Second with 28%

Android has been leading the U.S. smartphone market in terms of market share since a few months now. We already reported that Comscore’s numbers suggest that Android has a massive lead over its closest competitor – iOS.

Today, Nielsen released some updated statistics which confirm what we all know. Android is way ahead of the other platforms with a 39% market share, while Apple’s iOS comes second with a 28% share. Apple’s share, which had plateaued, has been growing again, since it launched the iPhone 4 on Verizon.

US Smartphone Market Share - Android, iOS, Blackberry

Both the platforms are growing at the expense of RIM’s Blackberry, which is now down to 20%. Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7 together have a 9% share, which is expected to grow further, especially with Android’s patent troubles in the U.S. HP’s webOS and Nokia’s Symbian have a 2% share each.

However, when it comes to hardware, Apple leads all the way, with just 2 devices. It (with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4) has a 28% share. HTC comes second with a 14% share for its Android devices and a 6% share for its Windows devices. Motorola comes second with a 11% share for its Android devices, while Samsung comes in third with an 8% share for its Android devices and a 2% share for its Windows smartphones.

Samsung is expected to launch its bestseller – the Samsung Galaxy S2 – in the U.S. market soon. Considering the success it has seen worldwide, that should boost its percentage share significantly.

For now, at least until Apple launches the iPhone 5, I’m tempted to say this: Apple can suck it. Android FTW!

HTC’s S3 Acquisition Could Ward Off Apple’s Patent Threat

The patent wars just keep getting interesting. As we already know, Apple had filed a lawsuit against HTC regarding infringement of patents held by Apple which relate to the technology used in the iPhone. About 2 weeks back, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge gave an initial ruling in favor of Apple, stating that HTC did infringe upon 2 of Apple’s patents.

We also reported how Apple’s win against HTC could lead to a ban on the import of all Android devices in the U.S. Google obviously knows that, and has asserted that it “will make sure they don’t lose.”

Well, it turns out that HTC may have some leverage after all. On July 6, HTC announced that it had bought S3 Graphics from VIA. At first, the acquisition didn’t make much sense, but then it did. A lot. S3 Graphics had won a ruling in its own patent lawsuit which could lead to a partial ban on the import of Macs, which use chipsets from Intel or AMD, in the U.S.

Now that HTC controls S3, it could use those patents to force Apple to enter into a cross licensing agreement with HTC, thus preventing the ban on its Android devices. It has already stated openly, that it is willing to negotiate with Apple on the issue. It’s not yet clear if HTC could use the S3 patents to get a ban on the import of Macs, but it seems highly likely. Apple has already challenged the validity of S3’s patents at the U.S Patent Office. We should know the results of the patent reexamination process soon.

This could turn out to be the smartest acquisition HTC ever made.

Microsoft Updating Office for Mac 2011 to Use Lion Features

No matter how you feel about Microsoft, Office 2011 is still the most popular office suite for Enterprise Mac users. It is simply a matter of compatibility with the rest of the business world. Unfortunately, the current version of Microsoft’s office suite does not currently support any of the new features introduced in OS X Lion.

For the uninitiated, the features I am talking about include Auto Save, Versions (which keeps a history of document changes), and full-screen mode. These are already integrated into Apple’s iWork suite, and they are very useful. It was only a matter of time until Microsoft saw the need to support them as well.

MacNN is reporting that Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit is already doing just that. However, don’t expect to get the new features in the next few days. Pat Fox, a member of the Microsoft Office team, says that the update wait should be “measured in months.” This is a little disappointing, but completely understandable.

Microsoft also made a point of noting that Office for Mac 2004 will never be supported on Lion. This is due to the program being written for PowerPC-based Macs. Lion dropped all Rosetta code, which allowed for PowerPC applications to run on the newer Intel-based machines.

While there was no word on distribution of the upgraded program, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Microsoft to bring the application to the Mac App Store. The only thing that may stop them is the face that Apple takes a cut of all sales through its digital distribution markets. However, we won’t know either way until the upgrade shows its pretty face.

Qualcomm Releases Augmented Reality SDK for iOS

TechCrunch reports that Qualcomm’s has recently released Augmented Reality Software Development Kit (SDK) for iOS. When the SDK first launched, it was only available for Android though Qualcomm had promised a version for iOS in the  near future. The SDK makes it much easier for developers to integrate virtual content with real content like images captured by cameras. Currently, iOS’s SDK supports the iPhone 4, iPad 2, and the fourth generation iPod touch. This move is certainly surprising because Qualcomm had previously only expressed interest in an iOS port since their main focus was building for devices running their Snapdragon chips.

iPhone Augmented Reality

Augmentation reality apps like Layar  and Word Lens already exist for iOS and Android so they are nothing new for the platforms, however there was no easy for developers to integrate the technology cross-platform. Qualcomm’s SDK makes it easier for developers to integrate augmented reality data across platforms which could increase developer interest in augmented reality apps. It will be interesting to see what developers come up with these tools.  In my opinion, if developers start adopting this SDK quickly, we will start seeing a rapid increase in the number of users for augmented reality apps.

HTC Looking To Strike Deal With Apple Regarding Patent Dispute

Apple vs. HTC

Over the past few weeks, a patent dispute had been going on between Apple and HTC. The judge found that HTC had indeed been infringing upon two of Apple’s patents, and initially has ruled in Apple’s favor. Today, Bloomberg reports that HTC is interested in striking a deal with Apple for the patent dispute between the companies. FOSS Patents points out that these two patent infringement could put Android in serious trouble.

We have to sit down and figure it out,Winston Yung, chief financial officer of the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based company, said by phone today. We’re open to having discussions.

HTC on July 6 announced a $300 million deal to buy S3 Graphics Co., less than a week after that company won an ITC ruling against Apple over two patents. In a July 15 initial determination, the same commission ruled in Apple’s favor on two other patents.

We are open to all sorts of solutions, as long as the solution and the terms are fair and reasonable,Yung said. On and off we’ve had discussions with Apple, even before the initial determination came out.

In addition, Bloomberg says that in a separate report the battle between Apple and Google has started to heat up. Apple’s contribution to a consortium of $2.6 billion towards the acquisition of Nortel’s patents outbid Google with a total of $4.5 billion. The report reveals that Google and Apple are both considering bidding for patents from the mobile technology company InterDigital. These patents may cost a 50% premium over its already high sale price.

InterDigital currently holds 8,800 patents related to wireless technology with 15% of them being rumored to being related to mobile phone technologies. Also, some of these patents haven’t been licensed to companies yet. According to analysts, these patents maybe worth more than Nortel’s 4G LTE patents sold to Apple’s consortium.

It will be in interesting to see how all these patents disputes turn out over the next few years. In conclusion, how could a company that claims to be innovating and not stealing be this desperate for patents?