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Qualcomm patent dispute forces Apple to pull iPhone 7 and 8 from its stores in Germany

In more bad news for Apple, the company’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models are not currently on sale in its own retail stores in Germany.
This follows an injunction issued by a Munich court last month related to patent litigation brought by chipmaker Qualcomm that’s being enforced from today. The patent dispute concerns smartphone power management technology that’s used to extend battery life.
In December, the Munich court sided with Qualcomm, finding that Apple is infringing its patented power savings technology in the two models — granting a permanent injunction.
The court ordered Apple to cease the sale, offer for sale and importation for sale in Germany of infringing iPhones.
Apple has said it will appeal.
The Apple Germany website currently offers the newest models of the iPhone (the XS, XS Max and XR); and older models from 2014 (iPhone 6 and 6 Plus); 2015 (iPhone 6S and 6S Plus); and 2016 (iPhone SE). But buyers looking for 2016’s iPhone 7 or 2017’s iPhone 8 will be disappointed.
Yesterday Qualcomm announced it had posted security bonds totalling €1.34BN required by the court, enabling the injunction issued by the District Court of Munich on December 20 to be enforced.
The bonds are required to cover potential damages incurred by Apple should the judgment be overturned or amended on appeal. Qualcomm had said on December 20 that it would post the bonds “within a few days.”
In a statement yesterday the chipmaker also claimed the court had ordered Apple to recall infringing iPhones from third-party resellers in the market.
But at the time of writing, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models are still being offered by Apple resellers in Germany.
Amazon.de currently offers both handsets, for instance. Gravis, Germany’s biggest reseller of Apple products, also told Reuters it was still selling all Apple products, including the two models.
Qualcomm has also been pursing patent litigation against Apple in China and the U.S., and last month Apple appealed against a preliminary injunction banning the import and sales of old iPhone models in China.
In that case, the patents relate to editing photos and managing apps on smartphone touchscreens.
In the U.S., Qualcomm has most recently accused Intel engineers working with Apple of stealing trade secrets.
The feud dates back further, though. Two years ago the FTC filed charges against Qualcomm accusing it of anticompetitive tactics in an attempt to maintain a monopoly in its chip business — with Apple officially cited in the complaint.
Cupertino also filed a billion-dollar royalty lawsuit against the chipmaker at the same time, accusing it of charging for patents “they have nothing to do with.”
The legal battle between the pair shows no signs of fizzling out, and has led Apple to reduce its reliance on Qualcomm chips — with Intel the short-term beneficiary.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the latest litigious development in Germany, but pointed to its statement from December 20 in which it takes a broad swipe at Qualcomm’s “tactics.”
In the statement, Apple also said resellers in the market would continue to stock all models.
It writes:

Qualcomm’s campaign is a desperate attempt to distract from the real issues between our companies. Their tactics, in the courts and in their everyday business, are harming innovation and harming consumers. Qualcomm insists on charging exorbitant fees based on work they didn’t do and they are being investigated by governments all around the world for their behavior.

We are of course disappointed by this verdict and we plan to appeal. All iPhone models remain available to customers through carriers and resellers in 4,300 locations across Germany. During the appeal process, iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models will not be available at Apple’s 15 retail stores in Germany. iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR will remain available in all our stores.

The sideswipe at Qualcomm’s “tactics” is perhaps also a reference to the use of a controversial PR firm, Definers, which — as we reported in November — sent pitches slinging mud at Apple seemingly on Qualcomm’s behalf.
Late last year Facebook confirmed it had severed its own business relationship with the PR firm after it was revealed to have used anti-Semitic smear tactics to try to discredit Facebook critics.
We’ve asked Qualcomm for comment on its use of the PR firm.

Qualcomm patent dispute forces Apple to pull iPhone 7 and 8 from its stores in Germany

Twitter bug leaks phone number country codes

Twitter accidentally exposed the ability to pull an account’s phone number country code and whether the account had been locked by Twitter. The concern here is that malicious actors could have used the security flaw to figure out in which countries accounts were based, which could have ramifications for whistleblowers or political dissidents.
The issue came through one of Twitter’s support forms for contacting the company, and the company found that a large number of inquiries through the form came from IP addresses located in China and Saudi Arabia. Twitter writes, “While we cannot confirm intent or attribution for certain, it is possible that some of these IP addresses may have ties to state-sponsored actors.” We’ve requested more info on why it’s suggesting that. Attribution in these situations can be murky, and naming specific countries or suggesting state actors could be involved carries heavy implications.
Twitter began working on the issue on November 15th and fixed it on November 16th. Twitter tells TechCrunch that it has notified the European Union’s Data Protection Commissioner, as EU citizens may have been impacted. However, as country codes aren’t necessarily considered sensitive personal information, the leak may not trigger any GDPR enforcement or fines. Twitter tells us it has also updated the FTC and other regulatory organizations about the issue, though we’ve asked when it informed these different regulators.

Tech giants offer empty apologies because users can’t quit

Twitter has directly contacted users impacted by the issue, and says full phone numbers were not leaked and users don’t have to do anything in response. Users can contact Twitter here for more info. We’ve asked how many accounts were impacted, but Twitter told us that it doesn’t have more data to share as its investigation continues.
A Twitter spokesperson pointed us to a previous statement:
It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease. These types of tactics have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed — they will adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge. For our part, we are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services. We will continue to proactively combat nefarious attempts to undermine the integrity of Twitter, while partnering with civil society, government, our industry peers, and researchers to improve our collective understanding of coordinated attempts to interfere in the public conversation.
Sloppy security on the part of tech companies can make it dangerous for political dissidents or others at odds with their governments. Twitter explains that it locks accounts if it suspects they’ve been compromised by hackers or violate “Twitter’s Rules,” which includes “unlawful use” that depends greatly on what national governments deem illegal. What’s worrisome is that attackers with IP addresses in China or Saudi Arabia might have been able to use the exploit to confirm that certain accounts belonged to users in their countries and whether they’ve been locked. That information could be used to hunt down the people who own these accounts.
The company apologized, writing that “We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us, and are committed to earning that trust every day. We are sorry this happened.” But that echoes other apologies from big tech companies that consistently ring hollow. Here, in particular, it fails to acknowledge how the leak could harm people and how it will prevent this kind of thing from happening again. With these companies judged quarterly by their user growth and business, they’re incentivized to cut corners on security, privacy and societal impact as they chase the favor of Wall Street.

Twitter bug leaks phone number country codes

Xiaomi gobbles up selfie phone brand Meitu as revenue jumps 49%

Xiaomi is diversifying into a new range of phones as the Chinese smartphone maker announced impressive growth with its latest financials.
The company announced it will take over selfie app maker Meitu’s smartphone business to go after new demographics, particularly women, while it lodged impressive 49 percent revenue growth in Q3.
Xiaomi posted a net profit of 2.481 billion RMB ($357 million) for the quarter on total sales of 50.846 billion RMB ($7.3 billion). The bulk of that income came from smartphones sales — 35 billion RMB, $5 billion — as Xiaomi surpassed its annual target of 100 million shipments with two months of the year still to go. The majority of those phones are sold in China, but the company said that international revenue overall was up by 113 percent year-on-year.
The company has ventured into Europe this year, with its most recent launch in the UK this month, but now it is taking aim at a more diverse set of customers in the Chinese market through this tie-in with Meitu. Best known for its ‘beautification’ selfie apps, Meitu also sells smartphones that tap its selfie brand with optimized cameras and advanced editing features.
Now Xiaomi is taking over that business through a partnership that will see Meitu paid 10 percent of the profits for all devices sold, with a minimum guaranteed fee of $10 million per year. For other smart products, its cut increases to 15 percent.
Meitu is hardly a mainstream phone brand. Its first device launched in 2013 and it has sold 3.5 million units to date. Recently, the company cut back on its hardware — it has launched just one device this year compared to five last year — while the average sell price of its devices has fallen, causing it to forecast a net loss of up to 1.2 billion RMB (or $173 million) up from just 197 million RMB last year. Shifting the heavy-lifting to Xiaomi makes a lot of sense — despite its total cut of sales dropping to just 10 percent, Xiaomi has impressive reach and a sales platform that already features third-party hardware.
Back to Xiaomi, these results are its first ‘true’ financials since the company went public through a Hong Kong IPO back in July. It posted a $2.1 billion profit in the previous quarter but a large chunk of spending and revenue was down to the listing.

Xiaomi gobbles up selfie phone brand Meitu as revenue jumps 49%

TikTok adds video reactions to its newly-merged app

Just about a month after the merger of the short-form video apps Musical.ly and TikTok, the app is introducing a new social feature, allowing users to post their reactions to the videos that they watch.
Instead of text comments, these reactions will take the form of videos that are essentially superimposed on top of existing clips. The idea of a reaction video should be familiar to anyone who’s spent some time on YouTube, but TikTok is incorporating the concept in way that looks like a pretty seamless.
To post a reaction, users just need to choose the React option in the Share menu for a given video. The app will then record your audio and video as the clip plays. You can also decide where on the screen you want your reaction video to appear.
If you don’t recognize the TikTok name, that’s probably because the app only launched in the United States at the beginning of August, but it’s been available in China for a couple of years.

Back in 2017, Bytedance — the Chinese company behind TikTok as well as news aggregator Toutiao — acquired Musical.ly for around $1 billion. It eventually merged the two apps to combine their audiences and features; Musical.ly users were moved over with their existing videos and settings.
The company says Reactions will be available in the updated app on Google Play and the Apple App Store over the next day or two.

TikTok adds video reactions to its newly-merged app

Samsung forecasts slowing profit growth for Q2, missing analyst estimates

Samsung has put out earnings guidance for its Q2 which indicate quarterly growth at its slowest for more than a year — as a lack of new ideas to sell high end smartphones drags on the company’s bottom line.
The electronics maker is reporting estimated profit of 14.8 trillion Korean won (USD$13.2BN) on revenue of 58 trillion Korean won (USD$51.9BN) for the quarter.
Samsung’s expectation just misses an average estimate of 14.9 trillion won from 18 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, and shares in the company are down just over 2 per cent on the earnings guidance news.
The Q2 forecast compares to profit of 15.64 trillion Korean Won (USD$14BN) on revenue of 60.56 trillion Korean Won (USD$54.2BN) for its Q1 — when Samsung reported a record operating profit off the back of growth in its semiconductor business plus the early global launch of its flagship Galaxy S9 smartphone.
Despite that Q1 high, it had prepared investors for a Q2 slowdown — warning in April of challenging conditions ahead, citing weakness in the display panel segment and a decline in profitability on the mobile side, amid rising competition in the high-end smartphone segment.
At the same time, the global smartphone market is shrinking — even in China, the erstwhile growth engine for smartphones after Western markets saturated. So Samsung’s smartphone business is facing a dual squeeze from shrinking sales opportunities and rising competition from the likes of China’s Huawei and Xiaomi — two rival Android device makers that have been carving out additional marketshare.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s main rival for high end smartphone profits, Apple, beat analyst estimates of iPhones shipments in its Q2 in May, despite an earlier miss in the holiday quarter — showing the staying power of its high end smartphone brand and a positive, if slow burn, response to how it’s iterating its mobile business, with the iPhone X.
Returning to Samsung, the positive story for the company — continued record growth for its chip business — is still not filling the smartphone-shaped profit hole in its books, even as restarting momentum in the smartphone segment is looking increasingly tough in a very tough market. 
The Galaxy S9 is a solid smartphone but serving up more of the same equals diminishing returns in the fiercely competitive Android space. And investors look circumspect, with shares in Samsung down around 12% this year.
One wild card on the device innovation front: Samsung has been teasing its R&D work to build a foldable smartphone for multiple years. Ahead of Apple’s iPhone X flagship launch last year Samsung suggested it was targeting 2018 to finally release a product.
However this is also a risky strategy given the obvious manufacturing challenges, and — beyond that — question marks over whether a foldable smartphone is really the type of mainstream innovation that could fire up major momentum among high end handset buyers or be viewed as a niche gimmick.

Samsung forecasts slowing profit growth for Q2, missing analyst estimates