August 12, 2012

Applesauce: All Things Apple – August 12, 2012

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

In the calm before the new iPhone storm, the world looks to the ongoing drama in San Jose, California to busy themselves as they wait for the next best Apple smartphone.

One has to wonder: When will these patent lawsuits become old? Perhaps they´ve already become old for many. Maybe the new private information being brought into the public eye is just interesting enough to give you that special sort of satisfaction you can only get from watching two giant people wrestle one another to the ground.

I´m not here to judge. I´m just a guy, with some sauce, ready to talk Apple. Sauce, that is.

We Could Forever
Patent trials aren´t normally all that exciting. For context, lets look at the trial between Apple and HTC. Apple sued HTC for using their “swipe to unlock” feature on their phones.


So a few thousand more people are pawing at their phones in the same way iPhone users are swiping at their phones. It´s hard to believe that Apple feels this is a legitimate violation of their patents. Yet, I understand why Apple is taking such an aggressive stance against these sorts of violations. After all, if they don´t say anything now, they could be in a world of hurt 5 years from now when every phone looks just like an iPhone and acts just like an iPhone, and when that day comes, what´s to stop a regular, workaday consumer from picking up a lookalike phone for $100 less, severely cutting into Apple´s tidy little profit margins. We all know Apple will do damned near anything to protect those profit margins. You don´t become the behemoth they´ve become by letting those margins slip by the wayside. So while it may seem like nonsense for Apple to say they´ve got a patent on rounded corners and rectangles, it sounds ridiculous until you realize that anyone and everyone could easily copy the same design. They´re only acting in the best interest of the company and the share holders– let´s not forget those shareholders, y´all– when they try to protect their designs. Parenthetically, I also have to wonder how many companies would be able to create something as elegant as the iPad and iPhone even if they built a direct rip-off. After all, if creating an iPad-alike tablet with the same sort of elegance, ease of use, and “it just works” performance is so easy, why didn´t anyone do it before? So, as in any debate between Apple and Google, or Android and iOS, or even Apple and anybody (people really love to hate Apple, for some reason,) this trial has brought out its fair share of people wondering aloud why Apple is being such arses about corners and rectangles and icons. From where I´m sitting, Apple hasn´t yet proven that Samsung has infringed upon their patents as much as they´ve proven that Samsung likes to copy them. Likewise, Samsung has yet to prove that they haven´t infringed upon Apple´s patents or copied their designs. Rather, they seem hell bent on proving that EVERYONE copies, even Apple, and that if rounded corners and rectangles are out there, then they should be employed by anyone who wants to put them to work. I have to wonder, however, if many are missing one very large point in this entire matter.

Apple and Samsung exist because people like you and I have money. Apple and Samsung want as much of our money as we´re willing to give them. In the free market economy, each company is mostly allowed to build and sell whatever they want, and customers are free to buy it. In the pre-iPhone and iPad days, people were buying Nokia, Palm and RIM style phones. Samsung and others had phones which closely resembled these phones. The whole QWERTY racket certainly had its day before Apple stepped onto the scene. When people started buying Apple´s rounded corners and rectangles, other companies began to worry, and rightfully so. There are those who complain that Apple is trying to protect patents on shapes which shouldn´t be patentable. After all, how hard could it have been to  get a phone to work on such a monolithic design? Well, if the evidence we´ve seen so far is any indication, they put in years of very long days and tireless work to perfect the design, getting it just to their liking. Apple did much more than slap some software on a rectangle slab. They took a humongous gamble in a world where people couldn´t even comprehend a cell phone with the full web and scant buttons. Had the iPhone failed, had the software been buggy, had people looked at the first iPhone and thought, “That´s just a rectangle, anyone could do that,” Apple would not be the same company they are today. Instead, the world bought it up. There was an instant, immediate and emotional reaction to the iPhone, and competitors took notice. It´s also very true that where competitors missed the mark was in assuming it was just the lack of buttons, shape and touch-screen alone which made the iPhone so special. The software is what sold this gamble to the world. The iPhone is an entire package. You can´t separate it and say, “The shape is what makes it an iPhone,” or “iOS is what makes it special.” After all, Android on an iPhone is still Android, for better or worse. And I think that´s what Apple is protecting. They put in long hours, days, weeks, months and years to make something good enough to put a dent in the universe. They bet the farm on their work, on their product, and it paid off. People began buying them up like crazy. If Samsung wants a piece of that pie, they´d better get to work. Otherwise, it´s just silly to start yanking and pulling parts of the phone they feel are what make it special and trying to slap it on their device. Apple doesn´t want people to associate their phones with mediocrity, and these days, it seems that´s what Samsung has been selling.

All that to say, this particular trial has netted some very interesting results. As I mentioned in my last ℠sauce, we discovered that Apple´s designers created the revolutionary iPhone whilst sitting around a kitchen table. This week, we learned that Apple didn´t even bother to spend very much on advertising for the first iPhone, what with all the free press they were receiving from the media. On Thursday, Samsung called into evidence some sales figures that Apple had been hoping to keep out of the public eye. There´s nothing in these financial statements too surprising, however. Apple dominated almost every quarter by selling no more than a few variants of their phones, whereas Samsung, with many more phones to their name, sold much less. To be fair, Samsung´s statements only go back as far as 2010 while Apple goes back to 2007. The numbers, however, don´t suggest a close race: Samsung moved 21 million phones since 2010. Apple? Nearly 86 million since 2007. If you take away the near 20 million iPhones Apple sold from late 2007 through 2010, they still have a handy lead. The jury will need this data later whenever a victor is named to determine how much money is to be paid by the loser. It looks, however, as if Samsung will be the clear loser in this case. I don´t think Apple will win this case, so much as Samsung will have lost it. With their antics early last week with the press release and their recent lawyer troubles, I think Apple could win this one on a technicality. When the stakes are this high, (the two are fighting for their future brand recognition, dominance in the market and opportunity to continue making phones) any one these companies should be glad to get a win however they can.

The Keeper
Then there´s the story of Mat Honan, the Gizmodo writer who had his digital life hacked “hard” over the weekend. Though he had what he considered to be a secure, if not outdated password locking down his accounts, the hackers were able to use a bit of social engineering to shmooze the pertinent info out of both Amazon and Apple. Honan was playing with his 18-month old daughter when he noticed his iPhone was suddenly wiped clean. Then, the same thing happened to his iPad. He ran to his MacBook Air to investigate and found that it, too, had been wiped clean and set up with a 4-digit PIN he had never set up. Soon after, he realized he was locked out of his Apple email account, his Gmail account and his Twitter accounts. The hacker, or hackers as the case may be, were some adolescent miscreants who wanted nothing more than Honan´s three letter Twitter handle, which they later used to broadcast all manner of racist and homophobic statements.

Kids today“¦I blame the video games.

One of these hackers, who claimed to have worked with partners, said he was able to look online for a few important pieces of Mat´s information, such as his billing address and Apple email address. With this information, the hacker called up Amazon, pretending to be Honan, and managed to not only change the email address, but learn the last four digits of a credit card which happened to be the same credit card associated with Honan´s Apple ID. From there, the hackers called Apple, once more pretending to be Honan, and asked for access to his Apple .me account. They gave Apple Honan´s billing address, email address and the last four digits of the credit card on file and just like that, Mat´s digital life was no longer his. Honan blogged and Tweeted his experiences as it happened creating a bit of a viral story over the weekend. On the Monday following, Amazon announced they had reversed their policy which allowed users to make any changes to their account over the phone, a nice and expedient move on behalf of the Seattle company. Apple soon followed suit, saying on Tuesday that they were placing a 24 hour hold on all over-the-air changes to Apple ID accounts, meaning customers could no longer change their passwords over the phone, but rather have to visit The worst part of this ordeal was Mat Honan, admittedly, hadn´t performed backups as he should have and as a result, lost all the pictures he had taken of his baby girl. The good news, however, is that he´s been able to work with Apple and should be able to recover all of this lost information. This should also be a wake up call for all of us, especially those who trust Apple with much of their digital life. Have you taken a few moments recently to update your privacy and security settings around the web? I suggest you do“¦

All In Forms
We´re about 32 days away from September 12 by my count, the day many assume Apple will announce the new iPhone. Or maybe the iPad Mini. Or maybe even an entirely new lineup of iPods. It really depends on who you ask. No matter what Apple releases, one website which doesn´t normally contribute to the Apple rumor mill has said people are more excited about the iPhone than they are the iPad Mini, if that´s what they´re going to call it.

Don´t you love reading vague articles?

This week, released the results of a survey this week which suggested that more Americans are excited about an upcoming iPhone “5,” not so much a new iPad “Mini.” This makes sense to everybody, does it not? After all, we´ve got plenty of experience with the iPhone. Our love affair hasn´t yet cooled. Assuming, of course, you aren´t a full fledged Google loyalist. At the moment, anticipation for the next Apple smartphone is as high as it´s ever been. Something about that rumored larger screen and that rumored 4G LTE and that rumored dock connector just really got us in the mood for some hot, new iPhone action. I don´t mean to knock the iPad of course. The sales figures released this week during the epic knock-down-drag-out between Apple and Samsung are proof positive that people love their iPads as well. We just know our iPhones better. We´re used to having them with us at all times. We know how they feel in our pockets, so to say, and this new “Mini” thing will feel more like a brand new device than a refreshing update to an existing product. When the first iPad was announced, people didn´t really know what to do with it. Is it a bigger iPod Touch? Is it a MacBook replacement? Is it a rather expensive coaster for Hipsters? We didn´t know because we hadn't put our hands on it yet, had´t gotten a chance to find new use cases for a device we never knew we needed. This new thing, this smaller thing, it´s going to have to prove itself to us, and if the history is any indication (it often is, isn´t it?) we´ll soon find a place in our hearts for a 8-inch-ish screen, right next to the 4-inch-ish screen, 10-inch-ish screen, and 15-inch screen. Apples Apples everywhere. Now you´re talking my language.

Image Credit: