NUTS: Sprint Tries to Block AT&T, Apple Gives Samsung Headaches

Sprint joined the Justice Department in suing AT&T in an attempt to block the carrier’s merger with T-Mobile, while Apple and Samsung continue to battle it out in court around the world.

News Under the Sun is a weekly column rounding up all the events in the mobile industry. Want the news but don’t want it every day? Subscribe to our weekly Facebook or Twitter page.

Sprint Sues AT&T, Tries to Block Merger

Sprint filed a lawsuit to block AT&T’s pending $39 billion merger with T-Mobile, continuing its advocacy against the deal on behalf of consumers and competition. Sprint likely hopes its suit will aid the Department of Justice’s case against AT&T.

But U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ordered AT&T and the DoJ to discuss a settlement. AT&T will likely offer to sell part of T-Mobile along with additional compensation, but it’s unclear if this will sway the DoJ to drop the case.

If the merger fails, T-Mobile is entitled to a $6 billion break-up fee in cash and other assets from AT&T, but only under certain conditions. AT&T will not have to pay if T-Mobile loses too much value or if the Federal Communications Commission takes too long to decide.

IPhone rumours Fly as Release Nears

Sprint may sell the iPhone 5 in mid-October, according to Bloomberg, which cites sources familiar with the matter. Neither Sprint nor Apple confirmed the report, which also questions whether Sprint will retain its unlimited data plans should it carry the iPhone.

Deutsche Telekom reportedly began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 in Germany. The T-Mobile parent company is supposedly doing so in-store only to keep the offer low-profile.

Apple asked Foxconn and Pegatron to begin producing the iPhone 5. Analysts say Foxconn, which is shouldering 85 per cent of the load, produces 150,000 devices a day.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Police Department launched an investigation to determine how its officers helped Apple security employees search for a lost iPhone 5 prototype. Apple security workers visited Sergio Calderon after using GPS to track the device to his home, but Calderon denied knowledge of the phone and claims Apple’s employees masqueraded as San Francisco police.

Google Confirms Android Update, Faces Setback in Oracle Case

Google chairman Eric Schmidt said a new version of Android, dubbed “Ice Cream Sandwich,” will arrive in October or November. The update is an effort to end software fragmentation going forward. Developers earlier criticised the OS, saying it was difficult to create apps compatible across multiple devices.

Meanwhile, the company’s case with Oracle is forcing it to reexamine the past. In a deposition, Google engineer Joshua Bloch, a former Sun employee, admitted he possibly copied nine lines of Android code that legally belonged to his former employer.

Google objected to the jury selection method for its case with Oracle. Judge William Alsup suggested the jury come from a pre-cleared pool originally meant for a criminal trial. Google’s lawyers argued this jury would not represent the company as well as one chosen for a shorter case. Analysts believe Google’s objection is an attempt to buy more time.

The judge also likely wants to avoid protracted litigation. Alsup recommended Google CEO Larry Page and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison work out a settlement.

But the Oracle case wasn’t Google’s only headache. South Korean officials raided the company’s Seoul offices on the Korean Fair Trade Commission’s recommendation. The investigation seeks to determine whether Google’s Android OS stifles mobile search competition, as rivals allege.

In addition, Google streamlined operations and focused on more profitable divisions like Google+. The company shut down nine projects, including social search Aardvark and sharing program Sidewiki. The Fast Flip program, Google Pack program and Image Labeler also got axed.

Apple, Samsung Continue Legal Battles

Apple filed a suit in a Tokyo District Court to suspend Galaxy S, Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Tab 7 devices in Japan. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said it was “no coincidence Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad.”

Apple also succeeded in banning the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany.

In Australia, Sydney Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett said the burden is on Apple to prove the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is hurting iPad sales.

While Samsung continues to face legal problems, the company is also focusing on software. The company may purchase the MeeGo platform, since Intel turned its attention away from the little-used mobile OS.

Justice Department, Microsoft Takes Heat for Data Tracking

An appeals court ruled the Justice Department must reveal how it uses cell phone data to track suspects. The American Civil Liberties Union alleged the DoJ did not obtain proper warrants to examine suspects’ GPS location data, questioning whether this led to unlawful convictions.

Microsoft took pains to ease customers’ location tracking fears, saying its Windows Phone 7 devices don’t store location data without users’ knowledge. But Microsoft still faces a lawsuit alleging its phone’s cameras capture location data even when owners employ privacy settings.

HTC Sues Apple With Google Patents

HTC filed another suit against Apple, this time using nine patents from fellow-Apple competitor Google. The patents give the Taiwanese phone maker enough ammunition to lodge a complaint with the International Trade Commission alleging the Cupertino, Calif.-based company infringed upon the nine patents in question. Google did not give an official reason for transferring the patents to HTC, but the gesture makes good on the software giant’s earlier pledge to support the company.

Microsoft Picks Up More Royalties

Android makers ViewSonic and Acer agreed to pay royalties to Microsoft for each Android and Chrome OS-based device sold.

Microsoft reportedly inked similar deals with Wistron, General Dynamic Itronix, Velocity and Onkyo. The software giant may profit enormously from the settlement if it resembles an earlier agreement with HTC, which gives Microsoft $5 every handset it sells.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Nvidia chairman Jen-Hsun Huang hinted the Windows 8 platform may run mobile apps in an interview with CNET. The redesigned Windows 8 is reportedly tablet-friendly and set to be Microsoft’s next flagship OS.

Investors Ask RIM to Sell Patents

Research in Motion’s Canadian investor Jaguar Financial said the company should consider spinning off its patents or selling itself to increase investor returns. CEO Vic Albioni said the Waterloo-based company is putting all its eggs in one basket by depending on its QNX operating system to restore the BlackBerry name. The criticism comes as RIM faces declining sales, market share and stock price.

The South African government also wants something out of RIM. Officials in the country demanded access to RIM’s encrypted BlackBerry Messenger service. “There is evidence that criminals are now using BBM to plan and execute crime,” said Obed Bapela, South African deputy communications minister. “We want to review BBM like in the U.K. and Saudi Arabia.”

Verizon Launches Droid Bionic, New BlackBerry Torch

Verizon began selling the highly-anticipated Droid Bionic, the carrier’s first dual-core LTE capable phone, for $300 with a two-year contract. The Droid Bionic runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and features a 1-gigahertz processor with 1-gigabyte of RAM. It also boasts a 4.3-inch touch screen with dual-layer anti-reflective coating, an 8-megapixel camera capable of 1080p video capture and a front-facing camera for video chat.

Verizon also began selling the Torch 9850, a touchscreen BlackBerry OS 7 device, for $200 with a two-year contract. The new Torch features a 3.7-inch display with a 1.2-gigahertz processor. It also has a 5-megapixel camera capable of 720p video capture and comes with 16-gigabytes of storage in a microSD slot, which consumers can upgrade to 32-gigabytes.

LightSquared Hits Another Roadblock

The National Oceania and Atmospheric Administration, Transportation Department and a federal advisory board will ask the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to recommend LightSquared’s satellite wireless system undergo more tests before government approval. The move comes after federal officials said LightSquared may interfere with services that track hurricanes and other weather patterns.

HP Looks to Keep Software

HP announced plans to break up its WebOS software business and put the platform under a new division. Palm, will now operate under HP’s Office of Strategy and Technology and report to executive vice president Shane Robinson.

HP made a dramatic exit from the PC and mobile business, saying it would stop making smartphones and tablets, spin off its PC business and focus on software and services for businesses.

Sony Brings in New Security Chief

Sony hired Philip Reitinger, previously the director of the U.S. Homeland Security’s National Cyber-Security centre, to become its senior vice president. Reitinger says he will start a formal review of Sony’s computer networks to prevent another string of hacks like the ones the company experienced earlier this year.

Facebook Doubles Revenues

Facebook’s revenue doubled to $1.6 billion in the first half of the year. The social network does not release financial information, but an anonymous Reuters’ source disclosed the figure. Facebook’s good numbers are likely a direct result of its positive and growing relationship with advertisers.

Employees Can Legally Vent on Facebook

The National labour Relations Board ruled workers couldn’t be fired for venting about their workplaces on social networks. The ruling will return several former Hispanics United of Buffalo employees to work, after they were fired last year for posting unflattering things about their employer on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted to pass the America Invents Act in an attempt to clean up patent regulation. The act grants intellectual property rights on a “first-filed,” rather than “first-invented,” basis. Aides believe President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law in the next two or three weeks.

Another proposed bill aims to protect U.S. citizen’s personal information from online breaches. The “Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act of 2011” would require companies maintain personal data to implement privacy and security programs.

Apple Hong Kong Store Ready For Debut

Apple is planning to open a 20,000-square foot, two-story store in the International Finance centre Mall later this month. The new store will be Apple’s fifth in China and its first in Hong Kong. It already has two stores each in Beijing and Shanghai, and Chinese media reports the iPhone maker may soon open two more stores.

Besides building another retail store, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company will match each employee’s donations to non-profit organisations by up to $10,000 annually. The company will start the program on September 15 in the U.S. and eventually spread the offer worldwide.

GameStop Pushes IPhone, IPad as Gaming Devices

GameStop is expected to nationally roll out its iOS trade-in device program, which previously debuted in select stores and offers a suite of Apple’s mobile devices. The report dovetails with the mobile gaming industry’s success with smartphones, leaving behind Nintendo and Sony’s dedicated portable gaming systems.

THX May Certifying Mobile Phones

Audio standard THX reportedly intends to certify handsets’ audio capabilities to ensure mobile devices choose the best picture and sound settings. It may also licence out its Media Director software.

News Under the Sun is a weekly column rounding up all the events on in the mobile industry. Want the news but don’t want it every day? Subscribe to our weekly Facebook or Twitter page.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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