Port of Seattle

Last week the AT&T HTC One X and Sprint EVO 4G LTE were delayed at U.S. customs following an International Trade Commission exclusion order and subsequent review that Apple won against the Taiwanese company, banning them due to infringement on a specific aspect of an Apple patent wherein linked phone numbers would open an options menu. HTC in December said it already had a workaround, and sure enough it's present in the One X and EVO 4G LTE.

But this customs delay caused HTC to miss its launch date for the EVO 4G LTE at Sprint, and has caused AT&T to show an out-of-stock message on the One X. HTC stock was smacked by nearly 6 percent by the end of last week. And now that U.S. Customs has cleared the EVO 4G LTE, the market obviously feels comfortable with the idea that HTC has skirted this particular patent issue. The stock already has recovered from last week’s punishment. [HTC Corp at Google Finance]

But we really should be taking a long-term view of this situation. Similar to our friends from Waterloo who sell BlackBerry, HTC has been struggling in the U.S. market lately. Samsung quickly has become the top selling phone vendor on the planet.  And according to Gartner’s latest numbers, Samsung sells more than four times  the number of Android phones versus its closest competitor. 

So HTC really needs a comeback in the U.S. market. And that’s why a delay by International Trade Commission hurt as much as it did. Having just come home from a Canadian long weekend up in cottage country, these short term delays at U.S. customs remind me more of mosquito bites rather than bullet wounds. They’re irritating, but not deadly. They heal quickly and we forget about them.

But there’s no denying that Apple is putting some serious pressure on Android. Giving credit where credit is due, Apple single-handedly reinvented the user experience on a mobile phone. Android, BlackBerry, and others have copied Apple. 

Steve Jobs made no secrets about how he felt about this. I’m not saying that Apple never copied anyone either ... obviously it has.  But, unfortunately, that doesn’t matter. Patent law doesn’t care whether the plaintiff has infringed other IP in the past. 

The way I see it, Android vendors are exposed to future IP litigation by Apple. These first customs problems are the mosquito bites. But are the bullets still coming? And what are HTC, Samsung, and even the mighty Google doing to sidestep these bullets through future software redesign? 

HTC’s problems also go way beyond patent litigation. The company’s stock price has fallen from about 2,500 Taiwan dollars last April down to nearly 400 Taiwan dollars today. That kind of collapse is on the order of what happened to RIM.  But in the case of HTC, it's fighting purely on hardware. It doesn't own a platform like Apple or RIM. It doesn't have the supply chain strength to compete against Samsung. And to me, these are bigger issues than patent litigation.

 

Reader comments

Customs delay a short-term nuisance, not a killing blow for HTC

38 Comments

*sighs* No one know if there was copying going on. Yes Android did exist before the iPhone was announced. Hell Google bought the company that had the OS in development if my memory is correct. The thing that makes i Tards absolutely NUTS is that the demo of Android before the iPhone and the demo of Android after iPhone was announced was dramatically different. Was there influence? Did Google change directions with the OS? *shrugs* Only Google's Android development team can say for certain. All I know is anyone who works in software knows that directions can and do frequently change in development. Look at MS's Windows Neptune and then Odyssey for god sake that dramatically changed as Windows XP was born. And we won't even talk about Longhorn that was scrapped and rewritten from the ground up with Windows Server guts that eventually became Windows Vista.

That said. Look at Android 1.0 http://handheld.softpedia.com/images/software/screens/Screenshot-Android...

Look at iOS 1.0

http://photos.appleinsider.com/ios-111205.png

Only a complete idiot would say there was any copying in there. And the concept of an app drawer is nothing new. I had an App on my iPaq back in 2001 that did that.

If anything Apple was the one to blatantly rip off Android's status window.

Why bring this up then? Normal people are tired to death from this argument. I don't give a fcuk what Android did or did not copy. It'll be all forgotten in two years. Too bad that HTC and Sprint have to pick up the tab now though.

While I agree, this could very well be an example of "death by a thousand cuts" no one delay is killer. But if it happens time and time and time and time and time again. Customers are going to get fed up with this.

Correct me if I'm wrong by up til now injunctions have purely been on shipping products correct? There is a distinct possibility the patent wars have taken a new turn if they are going to start holding up systems at the docks. Its one thing if a customer can't get a phone. Its another when they have preordered one and are sitting and waiting on it.

Why? Is RIM going to replace their CEO with a guy that has a history in Enterprise Software and wants to remake RIM as an Enterprise Software company? If Leo hadn't pretty much tried to change HP from a hardware company to a software one it could very well have been a different story.

I doubt HTC considers it a nuisance. With Samsung getting set to release the GS3 HTC needs to get sells right now.

Exactly right, it was far from a nuisance.

Further it was un-necessary. They already said back in December that they had programmed around this patent, and advanced copies were already in the US and being sold, by importers as well as AT&T, (not to mention submitted to the FCC).

This is where the some posters (apologists for the ITC) don't get it.

Vast quantities ALREADY entered the country. If the ITC was obligated to inspect these, why weren't these inspected prior to delivery to AT&T?

Why, because Apple saw the excitement over this phone and demanded an inspection. It was FAR from a routine inspection. Once there is a ruling, a companies word and worst case, a sample phone is usually sufficient to convince the ITC.

So why the big hold up at Customs? Because Apple complained, making what proved to be an baseless allegation.

And over what? A feature that should not be patentable in the first place. Use of a link? If Apple can patent the use of a link, then the internet is dead.

I wouldn't say the internet is dead. Ask any gov't or corporation that continues to try & exert control on it. The internet in my view has become an almost organic entity unto itself. If... If we ever truly develop AI that is self aware, then we have got troubles with the internet.

As for Apple I see 2 realities...
First actions like this, generally ignored by the public at large or unseen, bring out nerd rage overkill. Most of us, I'm sure you as well Icebike are a source of what to buy when friends & family ask for advice. Mine is always avoid Apple. I say that realizing I'm setting myself up as a source of 'tech support' for those peeps but it is what it is.
Second look at Apples customer base. It didn't really grow so much as it cannibalized itself. What I mean is for all the hype & hoopla surrounding a new product release it is by & large existing customers who buy the new must have Apple gadget. Then they flood the used market with last yrs Apple tech that gets bought & shuffled by the same people. I have watched this behavior for yrs with fascination. Working in the graphic design/publishing biz, that Apple used to dominate, I saw this occur every yr without fail with the Mac. But thankfully enough of us in small biz got a clue & managed to get our employers off the Apple crack. They saved considerable money, meaning the biz & employees made more, & for all the talk of viruses & security, a little common sense & there have been no problems.

Microsoft is a little different. They have approached other vendors with offers & made the case, rightly or wrongly we don't know, that their technology is infringed. But instead of seeking a blanket ban they come to licensing agreements that everybody willingly enters into. I don't use a Windows Phone as I prefer Android & currently use an HTC Rezound. But when non tech savvy people ask me I refer them to low end Android or Windows Phone without hesitation. Never do I recommend Apple.

I'm sure many from iMore lurking here will disagree with me. But market share doesn't lie. As we are starting to see the iPad go down in dominance like the iPhone did before it, the cannibalistic nature of Apples customer base will further erode their market dominance they enjoy in some segments. They will need those billions in the bank to stay alive when that happens.

I suspect if ITC exclusion orders become more frequent, we're going to see more of these patent disputes settled quickly with licensing agreements. Neither Apple nor Android manufacturers can afford the risk. If this doesn't happen, I fear the entire market could grind to a halt as all manufacturers use their patents offensively to block competitive imports. That would be a mess.

The problem is Apple doesn't want to settle. Steve Jobs wants Android dead. He has gone on record saying this. And with him gone I'm pretty sure Cook would rather chop off an arm then counter the ghost of Steve Jobs. Make no mistake even now Jobs is as powerful a force as he ever was.

I don't disagree with you, but suspect Cook and Apple will quickly change their tactics if a competitor gets an ITC exclusion order that impacts the iPhone or iPad. Plus Cook has indicated a willingness to at least talk with Samsung over patent disputes as demonstrated by his meeting with Samsung CEO on Monday, although we don't know if he is actually negotiating in good faith yet.

Uh oh, Chris committed the ultimate taboo among the hardest of hardcore Android fans: he dared suggest that Android was anything than a pure font of originality, and that Andy Rubin didn't spend 2005 to 2008 with his eyes and ears closed to the outside world.

Google has plenty of interesting ideas of its own, but if you don't think January 9, 2007 had a major influence on Android, I envy your doe-like innocence as to how the world actually works. It's pretty obvious that Android owes its touchscreen focus to the iPhone, seeing as how even Android prototypes later into 2007 were still mostly BlackBerrys with dynamic notification bars.

If you want to see actual copying... well, Samsung. I like a lot of Samsung hardware, but when the company has an iPhone-like home button that mysteriously disappears on US devices, a TouchWiz UI whose main goal is to look eerily famliar, and a tarted up version of Vlingo (S Voice) that's about two inches away from Siri, it's not hard to see why Apple is upset.

I challenge you to tell me where the copying is....

Look at Android 1.0 http://handheld.softpedia.com/images/software/screens/Screenshot-Android...

Look at iOS 1.0

http://photos.appleinsider.com/ios-111205.png

There is a hell of a lot of difference between influence and copying. You want to see out and out copying? See Apple's blatantly rip off Android's status window.

Oh and I hate to break this to you. Apple wasn't the first company on the market with a touch screen phone. See the LG Prada a.k.a the phone that was announced on December 12, 2006.

Here is the deal with Apple. They never innovate anything. They simply are the first to market...usually and they do that by cutting corners on QC, features (The first iOS phone's programming interface was web tech and it didn't even have cut and paste.), and limited hardware. That is their claim to fame and why they can routinely ship before everyone else. I challenge you to find an Apple user who recommends any Apple gen 1 device. They are either a fanboi or a liar.

And as for Android development. Like I said before. If you know ANYTHING about development you damn well know that prerelease software is at the whim of project management. Ever hear of Windows Odyssey, Windows Neptune, or Longhorn? No? Because all were scrapped before they became Windows XP and Windows Vista. Was there influence? Of course? Was there as much influence as i Tards like to make it out to be? No.

There's so many basic factual errors in this response, and a lack of general understanding of technology, that it's comic.

No kidding, there were touchscreen phones before the iPhone. You don't think I know that? The point has never been that Apple pioneered the idea of touch -- it's that it was the first with a truly intuitive, finger-driven, multi-touch interface that was in a mainstream product. Before the iPhone, it was almost exclusively resistive-touch devices that were mostly useless if you didn't bring out a stylus. None of them had thought to bring desktop-level OS features to mobile, like Safari's rendering (remember, Windows Mobile was just an early mobile OS with UI concepts borrowed from Windows, not actual components).

That LG Prada? It was given an iF design award in fall 2006, leaked (NOT announced) in mid-December 2006, and wasn't officially shown until mid-January 2007. LG considered suing Apple, but quickly dropped it... why? Because it didn't have a case. The boring truth is that technology developments often happen in near-simultaneous bursts from multiple designers as manufacturing processes come online and logical paths follow. The difference is that LG was making a single-touch basic feature phone attached to someone else's luxury brand, while Apple was designing the roots of a multi-touch smartphone trading on its own successes.

Given how HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others have all had major device launch goofs at some point in their history, I wouldn't buy into your "only Apple does wrong" mythology. Not at all. Just ask an HTC Thunderbolt owner how much battery life they get, or how smoothly their software updates have gone. Apple's not immune, but it's also higher profile -- so of course it draws more heat when there's a glitch. Don't confuse media attention for higher incidence rates.

I'm well aware of Microsoft's codenames, and they weren't scrapped -- those are all the pre-release names during the alpha and beta stages, before Microsoft had settled on final badging. Windows 95 was "Chicago," for example. And while there wasn't as much of that "start your photocopiers" as Apple rhetoric suggested, there's actually some well-documented, public e-mail around the Mac OS X Tiger era where Microsoft panicked at what Apple was doing (mentioned by name) and told its Windows team that it needed a lot of visual spice in Vista -- hence Aero Glass and all the shiny, OS X-like reflections. Windows 8 wouldn't even have that huge focus on touch if it weren't for the iPad, although Microsoft is smart enough to use a truly original concept like Metro.

Look, it's obvious that you love Android, but you don't have to love it irrationally by painting Apple as the opposite of everything good, pretending that all its rivals put out near-perfect, similar products months in advance. Does Apple borrow from Android occasionally? Heck yes, the notification bar or something like it was something that Apple arguably needed badly. But it cuts both ways, and not equally. Apple was selling the iPhone for a year and a half before the T-Mobile G1 showed its face, and it had a full self-run app platform months before the G1 -- most credit Apple with popularizing the concept of an app portal run by the OS developer. No matter what Google did on its own, about half of its development time with Android was spent with the iPhone as a known quantity and getting far more attention than the Prada, Samsung Ultra Smart F700, and HTC Touch did at the time. Any smartphone OS designer had to adapt to what Apple had pioneered; we've seen what happens when they didn't (Microsoft, Nokia, Palm, and RIM can all directly trace their downfalls to Apple).

"None of them had thought to bring desktop-level OS features to mobile, like Safari's rendering"

Not true. I know of at least one before the iPhone. The long forgotten Openmoko Neo1973 was Linux with all those desktop-level OS features and had a webkit based browser (Safari's renderer is webkit). It was announced (though admittedly not sold) months before the iPhone.

And there are probably others that did everything Apple did, but that we've never heard of.

Thanks for pointing it out. Ironically, though, a Steve Jobs quote does say it best: "real artists ship." Open-source projects are notorious for spending forever in beta or committee, and that's exactly what happened. It's why it's a miracle Nokia got one MeeGo phone into the market, and why both Boot To Gecko and Tizen don't have great odds.

Android succeeds partly because it's not as open as Google sometimes contends: Google often doesn't allow contributions, withholds code when it's not convenient (see: Android 3.x), and pleases both carriers and OEMs that want to block, filter and remove features on their own terms. So instead of being stuck in perpetual negotiation, Google is making sure Android versions actually get finished.

Exhibit A from my above comment. Behold the typical Apple lurker who feels it necessary to continually defend the absolute laughable Photoshop work Apple did to make the Galaxy S phones look like iPhones. It's always the same claim;

"Ooh ooh look! They copied our rounded corners & our scrolling app drawer interface! And the cheap glossy plastic build. Wait... Did OUR Foxconn slave labor make these phones too? Those sons of bitches!"

Have you ever, ever seen an international version of a Galaxy S, S II, Ace, mini, or other variants? I have -- I've used them myself -- and while it's not a one-for-one dupe, there are unmistakable similarities that Samsung could have easily avoided if copying wasn't the goal. Why do you think that big central home button, which no other Android manufacturer uses, mysteriously reverts to the standard Android three- or four-button grid when it gets a US version?

Samsung knows.

I get into arguments rather "discussions" on this topic with friends all the time. It's funny how a lot of people mostly iPhone lovers think they created everything Mobie. I believe most android users are far more educated on this front and provide facts instead of saying iPhone came out first so you copied etc. Yes android was made before ios and yes androids OS changed a bit after the iPhone. Your a moron to not look a a tech that selling like hot cakes and revise your own tech in this case android to feel and look more appealing to the general public. Further, its clear that ios1 and android 1 work and look completely different. I've used both os's and once I used android I never went back! Now if I can only get my hands on my EVO LTE!!!

I'm going to have to disagree with pretty much everything in this article.
In particular, the claim that "Apple single-handedly reinvented the user experience on a mobile phone". I remember when the iPhone was announced. I was unimpressed. I had been following the development of Openmoko and they had, months prior, announced their touchscreen phone. Go look at those early screenshots. The basics are there (icons, status bar, etc). Sure, Apple's product was prettier (and more expensive) and people flocked to it. But just because it was more popular doesn't mean they get credit for every feature or design element they included.

Exactly. Popularizing something is not the same as inventing or re-inventing. It is pure bull, especially to claim that Blackberry and Palm copied Apple. They existed in their forms before Apple, and never really changed (which is why they are nearly dead now).

They dont get credit for the creation of these elements but they certainly made it popular. And with popularity comes money. Apple did that. Nobody else. Apple took something and made the world think they needed it. Not HTC, not Samsung. So now it set the bar and showed manufactures what the people want.

The only place I'll give Apple credit is in their marketing department. That's all they deserve. They took a product that was not the best and made people think it was the best. Their marketing should get all the credit for their success.

My sentiments as well. The iPhone was the first smartphone (and for the longest time, the only smartphone) massively advertised in the mainstream media. Non-tech consumers saw the iPhone doing cool things on TV, and equated that cool task with the iPhone while the competition advertised only in tech sites / tech publications. When the non-tech consumer decided it was time to upgrade, the iPhone brand was embedded in their mind since they had not seen any competing ads in the mainstream media. It was hard to go an evening of network prime time TV without seeing several iPhone commericals vs. nothing for the competition, and then see multiple billboard ads for the iPhone vs. nothing for the competition when you went downtown. When the Android vendors finally got their mainstream advertising started, they eventually surpassed the iPhone in sales as non-tech consumer realized they had a choice. Apple started their very successful mainstream marketing campaigns with the iPod vs. nothing by the more feature rich competition, and are continuing it with the iPhone, and iPad campaigns. Wise business move on Apple's part.

It is a bit ironic since the original iPhone was more like a feature phone with no native apps (everything was going to be web based according to Steve), no copy / paste etal. The interface was smooth, but I rarely used a stylus with my Palm, or WM devices. I favored the larger screen devices, and 95%+ of my interaction was with a finger, or physical navigation controls which I preferred to all the finger scrolling / flicking introduced with the iPhone since it eliminated navigation buttons. The IE browser supplied with WM was geared more for mobile sites (which given the slow data speeds when introduced was understandable); however more feature rich browsers were available. In 2004, the Sony Clie TH55 PDA (3.5" screen, 480 x 320, tablet format, minimal front buttons, sound familiar) was supplied with the NetFront browser which could display just about any web page from that era includng the snapshot of the full page. The main interface for the Clie was a grid of icons. In 2006, using NetFront on a 4" VGA WM PDA, I was logging into my checking account desktop site (mobile site did not exist at the time), and using all features including pictures of processed checks.

I stopped reading after this bull**** line:

"Giving credit where credit is due, Apple single-handedly reinvented the user experience on a mobile phone. Android, BlackBerry, and others have copied Apple."

Nice revisionist history there, bud. You have no credibility.

But wasn't every phone prior to the iphone a phone with a keyboard? Even your precious android was a copy of a blackberry phone.

It would be really sweet to have the iphone 5 held up at customs. With apple going after Samsung in California now, it's just a matter of time before one of thees guys hits back with a successful blow.

"Apple single-handedly reinvented the user experience on a mobile phone. Android, BlackBerry, and others have copied Apple." Bold comment to write on an Android blog. Think you are trying to rustle some feathers with this skewed comment no matter what context it is in.

With HTC's recent sales woes, they really need to hit a homerun with this Evo LTE, especially with the iphone recording record sales for Sprint. It would seem that HTC/Sprint would be in the midst of a massive marketing campaign forward of this release. Not one ad this close to launch. Which then leads one to wonder why Sprint was even planning on opening early on the previous launch date before customs gate. At this rate, the Evo is gonna wind up behind the Sprint iphone in sales at the end of this quarter, and possibly even behind the Samsung Galaxy S2.

Perhaps HTC/Sprint is holding off on advertising due to the fact that LTE is not ready for primetime yet. Nothing says massive customer revolt like finding out you made a purchase under false advertising. HONESTLY HTC can't release ads touting this brand new blazing fast LTE network when at this point it hardly exists. And that's the strongest selling point for the device. Maybe they should have waited until LTE is up and running in good number of markets before launching.