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DOJ asks appeals court to pause enforcement of Qualcomm antitrust ruling

 

The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to temporarily halt enforcement of an antitrust ruling against Qualcomm, citing the necessity of the company in 5G networking, and support from both the Energy Department and Defense Department.

Qualcomm offices

“For DoD, Qualcomm is a key player both in terms of its trusted supply chain and as a leader in innovation, and it would be impossible to replace Qualcomm’s critical role in 5G technology in the short term,” wrote Ellen Lord, the Under Secretary for Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, in a filing seen by Reuters. The company was one of the first to market with a 5G modem for smartphones and tablets.

The Trump administration and others in U.S. government have strongly opposed Chinese businesses gaining dominance in the 5G space. The worry is not just economic, but that the Communist Party could push for backdoors that would enable spying and cyberwarfare. State-sponsored hackers have repeatedly probed American networks.

The antitrust case in question was brought by the Federal Trade Commission, which won an initial verdict in late May. The agency successfully argued that Qualcomm engaged in anti-competitive patent licensing, and U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ordered the firm to license to rival chipmakers.

Qualcomm quickly launched an appeal, but has had no luck staying enforcement pending the outcome.

Apple and Qualcomm settled their own patent licensing fight in April. After the fact it was revealed that Apple had plotted a years-long scheme to reduce its royalty payments, which is likely why the case settled on the first day of trial, netting Qualcomm between $4.5 billion and $4.7 billion.

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Japan Display inks $738M bailout deal, including reported $100M from Apple

 

Ailing LCD manufacturer Japan Display on Friday said a consortium led by China’s Harvest Group has successfully raised the requisite funds to execute an 80 billion yen (about $738 million) bailout plan, $100 million of which is thought to come from Apple.

iPhone XR

After months of negotiations, Harvest agreed to increase its investment in JDI to meet the 80 billion yet target, reports Reuters.

Harvest was reportedly willing to invest nearly $500 million to keep JDI afloat. In June, JDI confirmed the amount, adding that a single customer had agreed to a $100 million infusion as part of Harvest’s offering.

Previous reports identified Apple as the mystery JDI investor. Apple is JDI’s most important customer, with the tech giant’s iPhone LCD panel orders accounting for some 60% of JDI’s revenue for the 2018 fiscal year.

Apple was originally expected to make its investment through TPK Holding, a Taiwan-based display maker in talks to kick $230 million into the bailout pool. TPK stepped away from the deal in June.

Alongside Harvest, Hong Kong-based Oasis Management will invest between $150 million to $180 million. According to today’s report, Oasis has offered to furnish additional funds to offset potential currency fluctuations. JDI plans to formalize the bailout at a shareholders meeting in August, the report said.

JDI is a joint venture that combined the display arms of Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba in a bid to better compete with Korean powerhouses Samsung and LG Display. While the company enjoyed some early success, it erred by investing heavily in LCD production and largely ignoring a wider industry trend toward OLED panels.

Apple became intertwined with JDI after fronting a large sum to help the display maker build a $1.5 billion panel factory in 2015. JDI now finds itself in arrears and with a funding shortfall as the iPhone maker and others reduce LCD orders on a path toward OLED.

In addition to the supposed $100 million investment, Apple has agreed to slow JDI’s debt repayment timeline and potentially increase orders to stabilize the firm’s finances. Reports also suggest Apple this year awarded JDI a portion of future Apple Watch OLED panel orders as the company works to shift production away from LCD technology.

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Apple to launch three OLED iPhones with 5G alongside budget model in 2020, analyst predicts

As the 2019 iPhone rumor season heats up, JP Morgan is already looking ahead to 2020 and predicts Apple to launch three OLED handsets with speedy 5G connectivity alongside a less expensive model next fall.

iPhone XS

A research note published Monday by analyst Samik Chatterjee largely backs up previous analyst predictions and scuttlebutt out of Apple’s supply chain, but adds a new low-cost model into the mix for 2020.

As reported by CNBC, Chatterjee expects Apple to launch a trio of high-end iPhones with 5G baseband modems and 5.4-, 6.1- and 6.7-inch OLED screens. The strategy would be a departure from the current lineup, which boasts two top-tier OLED variants in iPhone XS and XS, and a cheaper LCD model in iPhone XR.

Beyond 5G and OLED, at least two of the top iPhones will adopt “world facing,” or rear-facing, time of flight (TOF) 3D sensor technology for augmented reality and virtual reality applications, the note said.

Apple has long been rumored to integrate TOF into its popular smartphone as a means to map the world around a user.

In 2017, prior to the unveiling of TrueDepth on iPhone X, a report claimed Apple was investigating a rear-facing, laser-based 3D sensor for AR applications and faster, more accurate camera autofocus operation. More recently, noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo last September said Apple was unlikely to turn to TOF in 2019, and would instead continue to rely on multi-lens cameras seen in iPhone XS and XR.

Reports of Apple’s interest in the technology resurfaced last December when Sony announced plans to start production of TOF chips this summer to meet anticipated demand from “several” smartphone makers.

Apple’s current TrueDepth camera assembly uses a single vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) to project structured infrared light — a grid of dots — onto a user’s face. Deviations and distortions in the grid are measured to generate a 3D map that is applied to user authentication algorithms.

TOF systems also create depth maps, but instead of evaluating structured light, the arrays measure the time it takes pulses of light to travel to and from a target surface. The technology can operate at longer distances and produce better data than existing solutions like TrueDepth.

As for 5G, Kuo in June reported Apple plans to bake the wireless technology into two iPhone models next year — 5.4- and 6.7-inch OLED variants — while a 6.1-inch OLED model will retain LTE connectivity. Like Chatterjee, Kuo also believes the future handsets will support mmWave frequencies that promise ultra-fast transfer speeds.

JP Morgan’s report diverges from the predictions of Kuo by claiming all three OLED models will net 5G compatibility.

Finally, Chatterjee says Apple is looking to chase “a much more value’ category than it has been used to with its recent launches.” What, exactly, this means is up for debate, but the report speculates the company could launch a fourth iPhone model in the same vein as 2017’s iPhone 8, sans OLED display or 5G modem.

The upgrades should be enough to help Apple sell an estimated 195 million iPhones in 2020, Chatterjee said. As a result, JP Morgan raised its Apple stock price target $6 to $239.

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Samsung received estimated $683M payment from Apple in Q2, still projects 56% decline in profits

 

Samsung on Friday released a bleak earnings forecast for its second fiscal quarter of 2019, projecting operating profits more than halved from last year due to ongoing weakness in the company’s bread-and-butter memory chip business.

Operating profit likely dipped to 6.5 trillion won (about $5.5 billion) during the three-month period ending in June, Samsung said in a regulatory filing. The tentative result beats industry estimates but represents a year-over-year decline of 56%, reports CNBC.

The first quarter result would have been worse was it not for a one-time payment from Apple, which reimbursed Samsung for missing contractual purchasing obligations for OLED panels.

The earnings forecast recognizes Apple’s payment, Samsung said without offering further detail. According to analysts, Samsung received an estimated 800 billion won for unfilled orders of display panels bound for iPhone, Reuters reports.

Reports in June said Apple and Samsung met to discuss an alternative to the monetary penalty but failed to agree on a middle ground.

Samsung Display is in a tight spot after investing in a state-of-the-art OLED production facility to serve Apple’s needs. The company’s sixth-generation “A3” line is capable of pumping out large quantities of next-generation OLED mother glass and was tipped to supply display parts for what was thought to be a glut of current and future iPhone orders. With slow iPhone X sales and lower-than-expected iPhone XS demand, however, the plant is reportedly operating at less than half of its output capacity.

If accurate, the guidance foretells Samsung’s third consecutive quarter of year-over-year profit declines. Following a dismal holiday season, the Korean tech giant posted operating profits of 6.2 billion won for the first quarter of 2019, its weakest performance since 2016.

Increasing tensions with Japan and the U.S.-China trade war are in part blamed for continued memory chip pricing and demand softness. With no near term solution in sight for either trade issue, Samsung could see its profits continue to slip well into 2019.

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Apple to reportedly invest $100M in struggling supplier Japan Display

 

Apple has agreed to invest $100 million in Japan Display Inc., better known as JDI, as the struggling LCD manufacturer continues efforts to restructure its business in a bid to stay afloat, according to a local report Thursday.

iPhone XR

Apple’s iPhone XR is expected to be one of the last to use LCD screen technology.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Asahi Shimbun reports Apple intends to increase aid to JDI through Chinese investment company Harvest Group which, along with Hong Kong fund Oasis Management, is negotiating a 58.2 billion yen (about $540 million) infusion into the Japanese display maker.

Apple initially planned to throw in with TPK Holding, a Taiwan-based electronics supplier that was part of a consortium negotiating a bailout of the embattled screen maker. TPK opted to walk away earlier in June, taking with it a planned $230 million contribution.

Apple’s $100 million sum is much lower than JDI’s original request of $185 million, which came with contingencies for waiving money owed and guaranteeing LCD orders. At the time, a Wall Street Journal source claimed Apple was willing to consider JDI’s ask, but warned the tech giant might not be willing to pay the full amount.

“We are not sure yet if we would really need to tap Apple to chip in, and the amount could be lower…, but they are at least showing willingness,” the person said. “You’d be surprised to see how supportive Apple is to us.”

Whether Apple is also considering to waive JDI’s debt as part of the continuing bailout talks is unknown.

A major Apple supplier, JDI has furnished LCD displays for iPhone for years. In a crucial misstep, however, the Japanese company continued to invest heavily in LCD technology while largely ignoring a wider industry trend toward OLED panels.

Apple, which accounts for some 60% of JDI’s sales, launched its first OLED handset with iPhone X in 2017, and last year debuted two OLED smartphones in iPhone XS and XS Max. The company is expected to field an all-OLED iPhone lineup in 2020.

JDI is working to build out its OLED production capabilities and is reportedly slated to supply a portion of OLED panels for a next-generation Apple Watch. While steps are being taken to reduce risk, including a split of JDI’s LCD business, the Japanese firm faces an uphill battle in a competitive field dominated by Korean companies like Samsung and LG Display.

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Apple Pay launches in Portugal and Slovakia

 

Apple on Wednesday began rolling out Apple Pay services in Portugal and Slovakia with financial backing from a number of large European banks including Monese and N26.

“Get Started with Apple Pay” App Store section shows up for users in Slovakia. | Source: Jezsó Miklós via Twitter

While Apple has yet to confirm official availability, users in Portugal and Slovakia posted screenshots of the Apple Pay setup process to social media outlets. Others shared news of a special “Get Started with Apple Pay” section that appeared at the top of the Today page in regional App Stores early Wednesday.

The rollout in Slovakia is supported by a mix of local and mobile banks including Boon, Edenred, J&T Banka, Monese, N26, Revolut, Slovenska sporitelna, Tatra banka and mBank. In Portugal, Apple Pay is available only to users of larger banking services Monese, N26 and Revolut.

German online bank N26 was first to announce integration with Apple’s service in March, promising at the time to deliver Apple Pay to Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia. UK-based mobile bank Monese followed suit in May, saying the integration will deliver Apple Pay to 13 new European markets including the Portugal and Slovakia.

Most recently, UK financial technology firm Revolut partnered with Apple at the end of May. Today’s rollout marks the first expansion to Revolut’s Apple Pay integration, which launched in France, Poland and the UK.

Apple is expected to update its regional Portugal and Slovakia websites with a dedicated webpage informing users about the service and where to use it.

Today’s Apple Pay rollout confirms in part reports over the weekend that claimed the payments solution would be made available to users in Greece, Portugal and Slovakia on Wednesday.

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Apple reportedly requires Comcast and Charter to sell iPad, Apple TV as part of iPhone deal

 

In a bid to gain access to Apple’s popular iPhone, mobile industry newcomers Charter and Comcast reportedly agreed to somewhat onerous terms that require the cable giants to also sell iPad and Apple TV, some of which are offered with carrier subsidies.

Citing people familiar with the matter, CNBC reports Charter and Comcast agreed to Apple’s stipulations in return for access to iPhone. The deal was inked some two years ago, months prior to the launch of Charter and Comcast’s respective mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services.

Comcast, which operates Xfinity Mobile, needs to sell a preset number of iPads at a subsidized cost, the report said. Along with a quota “in the thousands,” the arrangement sees Comcast eat the difference between iPad’s retail cost and the final subsidized rate.

For example, a 64GB iPad mini with cellular connectivity costs $492.99 through Comcast, while the same device sells for $529 on the online Apple store. Charter’s Spectrum Mobile MVNO does not stock iPad mini, but a 6th generation cellular-enabled 9.7-inch iPad listed on the carrier’s website carries a price tag commensurate with retail.

While Apple reported strong iPad revenue for the first quarter of 2019, the deal with Comcast was made at a time when sales were slumping. The report suggests Apple added terms to Comcast’s iPhone agreement in an attempt to goose sales of the then-struggling tablet line.

Details of Charter’s iPhone arrangement could not be learned, but the company does provide customers the option to add a 32GB Apple TV to their existing Spectrum cable subscription for $7.50 a month. After doling out $180 over a 24-month period, customers can keep the Apple TV. Alternatively, subscribers can lease a Charter set-top box for the same monthly fee, but are not allowed to keep the device when the contract expires.

Sources say the deal has helped Charter become the largest third-party seller of Apple TV units.

Thanks to iPhone’s mass appeal, Apple is able to leverage advantageous deals from the world’s largest wireless carriers. In Japan, for example, market leader NTT DoCoMo reportedly promised a 40 percent quota to get its hands on iPhone after losing marketshare to competitors that had access to the popular handset. A similar scheme in Korea landed Apple in hot water with local antitrust authorities in 2018.

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Here are all the receivers and speakers that are getting AirPlay 2

 

Feature

AirPlay 2 is a small but important addition to Apple’s audio world, allowing sound on multiple devices simultaneously. Here’s a list of the compatible speakers and receivers promised so far, and where available, the dates AirPlay 2 support is expected. Updated on May 29 with new equipment by Savant.

AirPlay 2

Apple

Apple HomePod

Arcam

Arcam rPlay

  • rPlay — May 16 2019

Bang & Olufsen

BeoSound 35

Bluesound

Bluesound Pulse 2i

  • Pulse 2i — Dec. 11 2018
  • Pulse Flex 2i — Dec. 11 2018
  • Pulse Mini 2i — Dec. 11 2018
  • Pulse Soundbar 2i — Dec. 11 2018
  • Node 2i — Dec. 11 2018
  • Powernode 2i — Dec. 11 2018
  • Vault 2i — Dec. 11 2018

Bose

Bose Home Speaker 500

  • Home Speaker 500 — April 2019
  • Soundbar 500 — April 2019
  • Soundbar 700 — April 2019
  • SoundTouch speakers —
    Coming soon

Bowers & Wilkins

Bowers & Wilkins

  • Formation Audio
  • Formation Duo

Denon & Marantz

Marantz NR1510

Devialet

Devialet Phantom

Harman Kardon

Harman Kardon Citation

  • Citation speakers — Early 2019

Libratone

Libratone-Zipp

McIntosh

McIntosh RS200

  • RS200 — May 16 2019

Naim

Naim Mu-so

Pioneer

  • VSX-934 7.2-Channel Network AV Receiver — Feb. 2019

Savant

Savant Smart Soundbar

  • Smart Soundbar
  • SmartAmp — Summer 2019

Sonos

Sonos Beam

Yamaha

Yamaha is delivering AirPlay 2 support to 14 products in April 2019.

The company’s MusicCast VINYL 500 turntable will net support in the second half of 2019.

What AirPlay 2 does for you

The headline feature of AirPlay 2 is of course multi-room audio, but it also enables stereo pairing on the HomePod, along with a variety of other improvements. A substantially bigger streaming buffer versus the original AirPlay protocol helps reduce interruptions due to network issues.

There is also tighter sync between speakers. Siri meanwhile can be be asked to play/pause music on any AirPlay 2 speaker, regardless of the manufacturer, or move sound from one room to another. Just ask Siri on the HomePod to “move the music to the living room” and it will.

AirPlay 2 is now more independent as well. Instead of constantly being interrupted by phone calls, games, or videos, AirPlay 2 can continue to stream.

Speakers with AirPlay 2 compatibility now appear in within the iOS Home app, and can be assigned an individual room like any other accessory. There, speakers can be played or paused, and included within favorites.

Presently, AirPlay 2 speakers cannot be included in HomeKit Scenes.

Where to buy

Multiple retailers carry the receivers and speakers shown above, many with added perks. B&H and Adorama, for instance, will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey (Colorado and Vermont residents, see here). Those with a Prime membership can take advantage of free expedited shipping on many audio solutions at Amazon as well.

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Spotify begins testing ‘Car Thing’ voice assistant accessory

 

In the next few weeks Spotify will begin a U.S. test of its first hardware device, an auto accessory offering hands-free music control.

Spotify Car Thing

Dubbed the Car Thing, the device is powered by a 12-volt outlet and links to both a smartphone and car over Bluetooth. A small circular screen shows what’s playing, while buttons offer access to preset playlists.

By saying, “Hey Spotify,” people can make Siri- or Alexa-style requests, such as “play ‘A Flaming Ordeal’ by Raison d’etre” or “shuffle my ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’ playlist.”

Spotify is only reaching out to a select group of people for testing, and the company says it’s interested primarily in gauging in-car music and podcast habits. Spotify is concentrating on being “the world’s number one audio platform — not on creating hardware,” it wrote in a blog post.

An anonymous source for the The Verge backed this statement, saying there are no intentions to launch the Car Thing as-is, or even to the general public. Nevertheless the company has trademarked “Car Thing,” “Voice Thing” and “Home Thing,” laying the groundwork for potential commercial products.

Hardware like the Car Thing could get around a key limitation on iPhone, which is Apple’s control over voice commands. While people can ask Siri to play songs if they have an Apple Music subscription, they can’t do the same if they have Spotify Premium or any other on-demand third-party service.

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New photos show ‘beta’ Apple Card with NFC-enabled packaging

 

Newly-published photos are said to show one of the first physical Apple Cards, including its special packaging for quick iPhone pairing.

Apple Card

As anticipated the packaging incorporates an NFC tag, according to well-known leak source Ben Geskin. This should link the physical card with the digital one in the Wallet app.

The leaked card is said to belong to someone in a “semi-private” beta internal to Apple. Geskin’s name was Photoshopped in to protect the real person’s identity.

He noted also that while the card appears gold-like, that’s likely an illusion caused by ambient color temperature. In person, cards should have the same silver hue Apple showcased at its March 25 press event.

The physical Apple Card is notable not just for NFC pairing, but being made of real titanium instead of plastic. For security purposes it lacks visible account or CVV numbers, which instead have to be retrieved from the Wallet app.

Apple Card

Apple is partnering with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard for the initial U.S. launch. It has yet to set a firm date beyond sometime this summer.