Apple ‘Self-Healing Elastomer’ Patent Hints at Waterproof iPhone

Apple has been granted a patent that puts further weight to rumours of an upcoming waterproofiPhone. The patent reveals a “self-healing elastomer” or rubber inside the phone’s ports (such as the Lightning port and headphone port) that could lose and regain its shape to keep the innards from being exposed to water and other debris.

The company may have plans to make a waterproof iPhone without changing much of the outer aesthetic, it appears. The patent, which was filed for in 2014 and granted on Thursday last week, reveals a rubber seal on external jacks that would supposedly open when you insert a connector like the headphone, and once removed, it regains its shape to block the device’s opening.

“An electronic device has a self-healing elastomer applied over one or more external electronic connectors. The self-healing elastomer may obscure the electronic connectors from the user as well as provide environmental protection for the connector and the electronic device,” the patent abstract reads.

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There could be more application of this technology, do note. “Electronic probes may temporarily penetrate the self-healing elastomer to mate with the electronic connector. After removal of the probes the self-healing elastomer may elastically reform and self-heal.”

It is also worth pointing out that not every patent Apple files (or any other company for that matter) actually makes it to a finished product. However, these patents give us an idea of the features one could expect from the company’s future products.

That said, Apple has been seemingly interested in making its devices waterproof. A rumour from earlier this year suggested that the iPhone 7 could have the ability to withstand water. Also, the iPhone 6s has been found to contain seals that protect the device from water. Apple has never advertised for this feature.

Samsung Takes Apple Patent Case to US Supreme Court

Samsung, on the losing end of a massive smartphone patent lawsuit, appealed on Monday to the US Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a ruling that it pay $548 million to rival Apple.

The two hi-tech behemoths went to court over the designs that have now become commonplace on most popular smartphones, with a court ruling in 2012 in favor of Apple.

At issue were design features by now familiar to consumers: a black, rectangular, round-cornered phone front, a surrounding rim, known as the “bezel” and a grid of 16 colorful icons.

Those design elements were protected, prompting the jury to award Apple all the profits from sales of smartphones containing those features, Samsung lawyers said in their filing.

“While Samsung prefers to compete in the marketplace, not the courtroom, the company feels that it is important to appeal this case to the US Supreme Court on behalf of all US companies, big and small, that could be affected if this legal precedent stands,” the company said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.

Several of the world’s technology titans filed briefs supporting Samsung while the case was in federal circuit court in Silicon Valley, according to the firm.

Attorneys for the South Korean consumer electronics titan argued that the massive payout was not warranted, because smartphones “contain countless other features that give them remarkable functionality wholely unrelated to their design.”

“Even if the patented features contributed one percent of the value of Samsung’s phones, Apple gets 100 percent of Samsung’s profits,” the appeal said.

In response to an AFP inquiry, Apple said it stands by its comment after the trial victory in 2012.

“The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money,” the Apple statement said.

“They were about values. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.”

Samsung pays up
Samsung early this month agreed to pay smartphone rival Apple just over $548 million (roughly Rs. 3,672 crores) in the years-long patent battle in federal court in California.

However, the agreement came with one key proviso, as the two tech giants agreed to continue “to pursue the existing cases in US courts.”

Samsung said in a legal filing that it would pay Apple the partial judgement awarded but that it reserved the right to get money back if the amount is modified or overturned on appeal or if the validity of patents at issue is successfully challenged.

Apple said in the joint filing that it disagrees with Samsung’s contention that it has a right to be reimbursed.

A court in September awarded Apple the partial judgment. Samsung’s options narrowed to simply paying the money or trying to take its fight to the US Supreme Court.

The hefty sum is significantly less than the billion dollars Apple sought at the outset of the 2012 patent trial in Northern California, and doesn’t put to rest an argument over who should pay Apple’s legal costs said to total $1.8 million (roughly Rs. 12 crores).

In another sign that the legal fight would drag on, Apple also asked the court for a green light to file a motion asking for supplemental damages for products that weren’t calculated into the award.

Samsung and Apple decided last year to drop all patent disputes outside the United States, marking a partial ceasefire in a long-running legal war between the world’s two largest smartphone makers.

The arch-rivals have battled in close to a dozen countries, with each accusing the other of infringing on various patents related to their flagship smartphone and tablet products.

But neither has managed to deliver a knock-out blow with a number of rulings going different ways, and in an announcement they agreed to drop all litigation outside the United States, suggesting a line was finally being drawn.

Global Smartphone Sales Growth to Hit Single Digits for First Time: IDC

Global smartphone sales growth will cool to single digits for the first time ever amid a slowdown in China, a new market forecast said Thursday.

The research firm IDC said it expects worldwide smartphone shipments to grow 9.8 percent in 2015 to a total of 1.43 billion units.

The forecast was updated to reflect slower growth in many Asian markets, Latin America and western Europe.

The cooling is expected to continue through 2019, IDC said.

One key market in focus is China, which will be hit by an economic slowdown and is largely saturated.

“IDC maintains its view that China has largely become a replacement market,” the new forecast report said.

The strongest growth will come from the Middle East and Africa, with gains of nearly 50 percent, overtaking other emerging economies such as India and Indonesia.

“With the smartphone market finally slowing to single-digit growth, maintaining momentum will depend on several factors,” said IDC analyst Ryan Reith.

“The main driver has been and will continue to be the success of low-cost smartphones in emerging markets. This, in turn, will depend on capturing value-oriented first-time smartphone buyers as well as replacement buyers.”

In some emerging economies replacement cycles will be less than the typical two-year rate, “mainly because the components that comprise a sub-$100 (roughly Rs. 6,700 range) smartphone simply do not have the ability to survive two years,” Reith said.

“Offering products that appeal to both types of buyers at a suitable price point will be crucial to maintaining growth and vendor success.”

IDC said Android is likely to remain dominant this year with a market share of 81.2 percent while Applecaptures 15.8 percent of the market. It expects Windows Phone to hold just 2.2 percent of the market and other operating systems 0.8 percent.

Smartphones and the Internet Are Eating Our TV Time: Nielsen

The use of Internet-ready devices like smartphones appears to have seriously cut into the time Americans spend watching traditional TV, new Nielsen data show, potentially undermining the notion that mobile devices merely serve as “second screens” while people are plopped in front of the set.

Data provided to The Associated Press show an increase in the number of 18-to-34-year-olds who used a smartphone, tablet or TV-connected device like a streaming box or game console. That grew 26 percent in May compared with a year earlier, to an average of 8.5 million people per minute.

Those devices, which all showed gains in usage, more than offset declines in traditional TV, radio and computers. In the same age group, the demographic most highly coveted by advertisers, use of those devices fell 8 percent over the same period to a combined 16.6 million people per minute.

It’s not a one-to-one tradeoff, though. Sometimes people are using smartphones while watching TV, or using them outside the home where it wouldn’t cut into TV time. In addition, some mobile device use is, well, to watch TV shows.

Nielsen’s inaugural “Comparable Metrics” report for the first time presents data on average use per minute, making it possible to directly compare various devices. The study counts all apps, Web surfing and game play but not texts or calling.

The results confirm a trend in other Nielsen data that found viewing of traditional TV – through a cable or satellite connection or an antenna – peaked in the 2009-10 season.

“It’s pretty clear the increased use of mobile devices is having some effect on the system as a whole,” said Glenn Enoch, Nielsen’s senior vice president of audience insights.

The audience for TV viewing alone fell by 10 percent, to 8.4 million people a minute, in the 18-to-34-year-old category.

The new Nielsen data also looks at time spent watching video on various devices, but not for TV-connected devices, where users were clocked playing games as well.

However, even excluding TV-connected devices, the shift in video watching away from the TV is pronounced.

For the young group, viewing on TVs fell 10 minutes to an average of 5 hours and 43 minutes a day. That’s more than compensated for the 33-minute gain in viewing video on computers, smartphones and tablets, which rose to 3 hours and 43 minutes.

Since Nielsen inaugurated its tracking service in 1949, average daily TV viewing has grown steadily, from 4 hours and 35 minutes a day to a peak of 8 hours and 55 minutes in 2009-10. That increase coincided with growing numbers of TV sets sold and the proliferation of programming on cable channels.

But viewership has been declining ever since. From late September until mid-November this year, daily TV watching accounted for only 8 hours and 13 minutes, Nielsen said.

Samsung Electronics Mobile Chief Cedes Day-to-Day Management Role

Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s long-time handset division chief is ceding day-to-day management of the firm’s struggling smartphone business, shifting his focus to long-term strategy amid growing earnings headwinds.

Samsung Group, in its annual personnel appointments announcement, said Dongjin Koh will take over as president of the mobile communications business from J.K. Shin, who will remain head of the overall mobile division for Samsung and focus on long-term strategy and developing new growth businesses.

The shift comes as the world’s top smartphone maker struggles to reverse declining market share and profits. Samsung Electronics has continued to lose market share to Apple Inc in the premium segment and to Chinese rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Inc in the lower end of the market.

Samsung has revamped its smartphone lineup, implemented new designs and cut prices for high-end products to boost sales and reverse its handsets earnings decline.

But the latest research data show the company’s third-quarter global market share continued to slide from a year earlier.

Koh, previously head of Samsung’s mobile research and development, played a key role in the development and launch of premium devices such as the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 5.

LG Zero Smartphone With All-Metal Body, 4G LTE Support Launched

LG back in September launched its new Class mid-range smartphone in Korea priced at SKW 399,300 (approximately Rs. 22,500). The smartphone was exclusive to Korean market.

The company has now revealed LG Zero, the global variant of the Class, which will be available globally. LG has announced that the LG Zero smartphone will be available in Taiwan starting this week followed by other key markets in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. It will be available in Gold and Silver colours. The company adds that the smartphone will continue to be marketed as the LG Class in Germany, Korea, Russia, and Singapore. Unfortunately, LG has announced that it will announce pricing and availability of the Zero at the time of local launch.

One of the highlights of the LG Zero smartphone, similar to Class smartphone, is its metal body, and like other recent LG handsets, it features power and volume rocker buttons on the rear panel, just below the primary camera. The handset sports LG logo branding both on front and back panels. The Zero sports an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, which the company touts comes with the image sensor from the LG G4 flagship.

For specifications, the LG Zero smartphone featured identical specifications as the Class. It features a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) IPS display. It offers a pixel density of 294ppi. The company notes that the Zero features an “Arc Glass” design at the edges giving it a slimmer profile.

It is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor coupled. Considering that the Class was backed by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC, we can expect Zero smartphone to be powered by the same chipset. One of the biggest differences between the two handsets is in RAM – the Zero packs 1.5GB of RAM while Class came with 2GB of RAM. The handset packs 16GB of built-in storage while supporting expandable storage via microSD card (up to 2TB).

The company has confirmed that the LG Zero runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. There is a 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash. The smartphone supports FM radio recording feature while also featuring a 1W speaker.

It measures 142×71.8×7.4mm and weighs 147 grams. For connectivity, the LG Zero supports 4G LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, NFC, and Micro-USB. The smartphone packs a 2050mAh embedded battery.

Announcing the handset, Juno Cho, president and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company said, “At LG, we do not believe in limiting our best technology to just our flagship devices. The LG Zero exhibits innovation not only in its design but in its ability to offer premium features at a competitive price point.”