Samsung was just ordered to pay Huawei $11.6 million in China patent dispute

Why it matters to you

When companies battle it out in courts, they tend to have less time and resources to devote to new products.

Huawei and Samsung recently battled it out in Chinese courts when the former accused Samsung of using its intellectual property. Well folks, it looks like the court agrees — Samsung has been ordered to cough up $11.6 million in the patent case.

This is actually the first of a slew of lawsuits against Samsung in China –it was first filed in May 2016. This particular case seems to relate to the use of unlicensed 4G technologies, which have been used in a massive 30 million Samsung phones, at least according to XDA-Developers.

More: Huawei must honor patent judgment or face U.K. ban of its phones

It’s currently unclear if Samsung will pay up or if it will file a countersuit, as it has done in other suits — Samsung hasn’t announced its next steps yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the case continue. For now, the ruling is a pretty big victory for Huawei.

Samsung has countersued Huawei in a series of other cases, spanning a total of six patents, arguing that it had attempted to resolve the dispute “amicably.” Originally, Huawei demanded Samsung pay a whopping $12.7 billion in compensation.

Patent disputes are pretty common in the smartphone world, and Huawei, Samsung, Apple, and other companies have been in and out of courts regularly over the past few years. In China, the disputes are even trickier.

“In general, it is tougher for foreign brands to operate in China given the many rules and regulations that they have to abide to that China sets for them.” said IDC analyst Xiaohan Tay in a CNET report.

Huawei isn’t only getting good news. The company was recently warned by the U.K. High Court to pay a global licensing fee for patents filed by U.S. company Unwired Planet, or face a sales ban in the U.K.

Google’s new AI solution will help make Android phones smarter, more secure

Why it matters to you

You may not notice the changes outright, but Google is putting privacy first with its new AI solution– while also ensuring that your phone is as smart as it can be.

Google is always looking to improve its mobile services, and its latest efforts will see the company turn to a new method called “federated learning.”

The method is being tested now by Google, and represents a pretty big change in how machine-learning systems work on Android. Right now, user data is sent to the cloud on a case-by-case basis, while federated learning would essentially download machine-learning models to the device, modify the model locally, then send a summary of the changes to Google’s servers. The main difference here is where data is mainly stored.

More: Google air conditioner design could let you see straight through the machine

The new method is being tested on Gboard, Google’s popular keyboard. Data stored on the device will include things like the timing and context of suggestions, according to Google. After that data is stored on the device, it is processed on the phone and will begin building an update for the machine-learning model, which will later be sent to Google’s servers.

There are some issues associated with the new system. For example, Google notes that higher latency and slower connections, as well as an uneven distribution of data, can all affect how well the system works. In order to better manage these issues, Google will use what it calls “federated averaging algorithms,” which help reduce the upload time of updates, as well as how much energy the phone uses. These algorithms basically compress data into smaller packages before it’s uploaded. Uploads will only take place when a phone is idle, charging, and connected to Wi-Fi.

There are some big advantages to federated learning. For example, Google notes that the method should help improve privacy. That’s because Google won’t have access to the processed data, but rather only the small update packages sent to Google’s server. Not only that, but users will experience improvements in machine-learning models immediately, rather than having to wait for Google to launch an update.

Apple AirPods: Review

Do Apple’s AirPods sound great? Not really. But they’re about way more than playing music.

Let’s just get all the fun comparisons out of the way up top. Wearing AirPods is like wearing a toothbrush in your ear. No, it’s like your earbuds are melting down the side of your face. They look like tiny hair dryers! Tiny candy canes! Tiny bean sprouts! Tiny golf clubs!

Apple AirPods:

5/10

Wired

Never have Bluetooth headphones been so easy to pair. AirPods turn Siri into an omnipresent being. Battery life and fit are both better than you might expect.

Tired

U-G-L-Y, they ain’t got no alibi. All the best features only work with Apple gear. They don’t sound as good as they should for the price.

How We Rate

  • 1/10A complete failure in every way
  • 2/10Sad, really
  • 3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
  • 4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
  • 5/10Recommended with reservations
  • 6/10Solid with some issues
  • 7/10Very good, but not quite great
  • 8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
  • 9/10Nearly flawless
  • 10/10Metaphysical perfection

In truth, AirPods look like… Bluetooth headsets. In fact, they look like the Bluetooth headset Apple made for the original iPhone back in 2007. If you follow Apple’s design philosophy of making things thinner, simpler, rounder, and whiter over time, you could easily get from that to these in nine years.

If you’d prefer something a little more contemporaneous, they also look exactly like Apple’s wired EarPod headphones, minus the cable. Whether that’s weird or bad is up to you. I say they look both weird and bad.

Looks aren’t everything, though, and the fact is AirPods look the way they do because of their most important feature: they have no wires. There’s nothing to break or tangle, nothing to plug in, nothing to get caught on a stranger’s backpack on the train every freaking day. Just sweet aural freedom. Sure, you might lose them, but that’s a you problem, not a headphones problem.

The AirPods sit fine in my ears, actually better than the EarPods. They even stayed in while I ran. The battery lasts a little longer than the five hours advertised. In the six days I’ve had them, I’ve only had to charge them one time.

The oddest thing about the AirPods isn’t how they look; it’s that Apple’s evidently not all that concerned with how they sound. Your $159 doesn’t buy you any better audio than you’ll get from the EarPods that come free in the box with your iPhone. I mean, look: they sound fine. Statistically, most people are fine with the EarPods, and they’ll be fine with the AirPods too. But if you’ve ever purchased a pair of headphones that cost more than $50, I’d bet they sound better than the AirPods. If you’ve spent more than $100, they definitely do.

So what’s that premium pricing going toward, aside from no strings attached? For one, the microphone is fantastic. The dual-mic setup, along with Apple’s clever noise-cancelling tech that uses subtle vibrations to know you’re speaking, makes for one of the clearest remote-input devices I’ve ever used. Good riddance to Siri never hearing you, and to holding your headphone cable a quarter-inch from your mouth while you walk and talk.

More important, though, is the tight integration between hardware and software that Apple still excels at supplying. It starts from the very beginning: you take the AirPods out of their box, open up the lid to the dental-floss-dispenser case, and set them down next to your iPhone. A pop-up window appears from the bottom of your phone’s screen, asking if you want to connect your new AirPods. Of course you do! So you press the very large “Connect” button, and you’re done.

From then on, as soon as you flip open the charging case and put the AirPods in your ears, a bright ding will let you know you’re connected to your phone. If you’re listening to music and take one bud out, it automatically pauses. Put it back in, and it starts playing again. (This is the only imperfect part of the equation, by the way—it works most of the time, but not all.) If you only have one bud in to start, it automatically shifts to mono sound. Double-tap on the headphones to invoke Siri. The AirPods will work as standard Bluetooth headphones with any device, but features like auto-pairing and Siri will only work with headphones that incorporate Apple’s new W1 chip.

The AirPods will cut out for a split second if I put my hand in just the right spot or bury my phone a bit too far into my bag. It doesn’t happen often, and it is, sadly, still better than most other Bluetooth headphones. And I’ve never had it spontaneously disconnect completely, which is more than I can say for most AirPods competitors.

headphones-case.jpg

Having Siri two taps away isn’t just the best thing about the AirPods. It’s the reason they exist. In some spots, they’re even too reliant on Apple’s voice assistant. Most headphones let you change volume or songs with gestures and buttons. With the AirPods, you have to either dig your phone out or double-tap on the bud, wait for Siri to stir from its slumber, say “Next song,” and wait again for Siri to do your bidding. Siri has gotten dramatically better in the last couple of years, and minimalism is great and all, but another swipe option or two wouldn’t hurt.

Of course, Apple could add more gestures with a simple software update. AirPods are, after all, a computer for your ears. Apple’s not the first company to try this approach; Bragi and Doppler have brazenly run down this same path. But Apple has something those two upstarts don’t: An entire ecosystem at its disposal. It’s easy to imagine Apple making the AirPods the centerpiece of how you interact with all your devices, particularly as Siri becomes more important. (And, hopefully, faster.)

Do you want to wear these AirPods all the time, though? Will you ever? If my experience so far is any indication, it’ll be a while before wireless earbuds of any kind are more than a near-futuristic novelty. And it doesn’t help that the AirPods look like two antennae sticking out of your ears.

Right now, you can get better-sounding wireless headphones for the same price or less. They’ll fit better, look better, work better. If you buy the AirPods you’re buying them for being really, ridiculously convenient, and not much else. And you can even get that for less, too, at least when the W1-equipped Beats X earbuds come out later this fall. (Though those are, improbably, even uglier than the AirPods.)

All that said, I’m really looking forward to what the AirPods become. They have the potential to be the kind of project that goes from accessory or hobby to critical piece of Apple’s future. The AirPods, above all else, are Siri machines. And just like Siri, they have a bright future—and a seriously awkward present.

A Few Months Later

After a few months of using the Airpods, a weird thing keeps happening to me. I still don’t think AirPods sound very good, I still don’t think they look good, and a few of their features still drive me absolutely insane. And yet, I keep finding myself going back to the AirPods. For all their faults, Apple’s candy-cane headphones are so easy to pair, and so comfortable to wear for hours at a time, that I can overlook the many faults. Sometimes.

Life with the AirPods is a study in tradeoffs: It’s great that they’re so loose and comfortable in my ear, except that means I can’t hear my podcast once the train gets noisy. I love that I can just pop one bud out and my music will pause, but when I’m holding that bud in my hand I tend to accidentally tap on the side and start the music playing all over again. Their simplicity is half the point, but it drives me up a wall that I can’t change volume without getting my phone or begging Siri. I love that there are no wires! I hate that I can’t take them off and drape them around my neck.

I love using the AirPods for phone calls above all else. They’re the first Bluetooth headphones that sound as good as if I’m holding my phone to my face. And in general, they’re a totally viable set of headphones that never fall out, even when you think they will. What I really want, though, is a cross between these and the PowerBeats3: the light, simple earbuds, with a cable that goes behind my head and some basic controls. Maybe even a cable you can disconnect? I’m dreaming, I know. But there’s a happy medium in there somewhere, between the beauty and freedom of wireless and the controls and quality of the slightly tethered. Until we get there, pick a side. Or buy two pairs of headphones.

Update: This review was updated in April 2017 with additional notes from the author.

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China court orders Samsung to pay $11.6 million to Huawei in patent dispute

Why it matters to you

When companies battle it out in courts, they tend to have less time and resources to devote to new products.

Huawei and Samsung recently battled it out in Chinese courts when the former accused Samsung of using its intellectual property. Well folks, it looks like the court agrees — Samsung has been ordered to cough up $11.6 million in the patent case.

This is actually the first of a slew of lawsuits against Samsung in China –it was first filed in May 2016. This particular case seems to relate to the use of unlicensed 4G technologies, which have been used in a massive 30 million Samsung phones, at least according to XDA-Developers.

More: Huawei must honor patent judgment or face U.K. ban of its phones

It’s currently unclear if Samsung will pay up or if it will file a countersuit, as it has done in other suits — Samsung hasn’t announced its next steps yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the case continue. For now, the ruling is a pretty big victory for Huawei.

Samsung has countersued Huawei in a series of other cases, spanning a total of six patents, arguing that it had attempted to resolve the dispute “amicably.” Originally, Huawei demanded Samsung pay a whopping $12.7 billion in compensation.

Patent disputes are pretty common in the smartphone world, and Huawei, Samsung, Apple, and other companies have been in and out of courts regularly over the past few years. In China, the disputes are even trickier.

“In general, it is tougher for foreign brands to operate in China given the many rules and regulations that they have to abide to that China sets for them.” said IDC analyst Xiaohan Tay in a CNET report.

Huawei isn’t only getting good news. The company was recently warned by the U.K. High Court to pay a global licensing fee for patents filed by U.S. company Unwired Planet, or face a sales ban in the U.K.

This Ford crib will trick your baby into falling asleep

Babies are not to be reasoned with.

Ford Motor Company knows this, and is here to help you trick your precious little one into slumbery submission. Just how will a car manufacturer do this, exactly?

Say hello to Max Motor Dreams, a crib that mimics the experience of being on a car ride. 

Ford knows that there are scores of infants that for some reason fall asleep more easily while being driven around in a car seat — often by exhausted parents. And while Ford probably wouldn’t mind people putting more miles on their cars, it’s that exhausted part that has them worried. 

“After many years of talking to mums and dads, we know that parents of newborns are often desperate for just one good night’s sleep,” explained crib designer Alejandro López Bravo in a press release. “But while a quick drive in the family car can work wonders in getting baby off to sleep, the poor old parents still have to be awake and alert at the wheel. The Max Motor Dreams could make the everyday lives of a lot of people a little bit better.”

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The crib combines lights, sounds, and movement to mimic a car ride. But not just any car ride — the baby basket is paired with a smartphone app that parents can use to record the specific “journey motion, sound, and lighting” of their own car trips. 

That’s right, no half measures when it comes to pulling a fast one on your little Einstein. The tiny tike will hear every sputter and rev of your Ford Fiesta as she dreams those magical baby dreams. 

So, how to get your hands on one of these? Right now, that’s a difficult proposition as the Max Motor Dreams was only created as a one-off test. However, according to Ford, “following numerous enquiries, the company is considering putting the unique cot into full‑scale production.”

If this future crib ever gets mass produced, in other words, it will be because of popular demand. Until that time, try a rocking bassinet and a white-noise machine. And try to get yourself some sleep. 

WATCH: Someone designed a rocking chair that looks straight out of space

Microsoft Surface the most popular tablet, says J.D. Power

Why it matters to you

Sure, tablets are not the most popular devices on the market, but if you need one, better go with Microsoft.

Tablets aren’t the most popular of mobile devices on the market, but of the ones that are available, it looks like customers are most partial to those made by Microsoft. On April 7, J.D. Power announced that Microsoft won the award for U.S. Tablet Satisfaction, edging past Apple and its iPad. This marks the first time the Seattle-based company has won the award, which has previously been claimed by the iEmpire.

Microsoft’s aggregate score of 855 points out of 1,000 (Apple achieved 849) was due largely to its tablets’ high marks in terms of features and styling and design factors. “These [Microsoft] tablet devices are just as capable as many laptops, yet they can still function as standard tablets. This versatility is central to their appeal and success.” said Jeff Conklin, vice president of service industries at J.D. Power in a release.

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Customers were most impressed with Microsoft in three performance areas — pre-loaded applications, internet connectivity, and availability of manufacturer-supported accessories. As it turned out, Microsoft Surface owners also use their accessories the most (in particular the Type Cover and Surface Pen). Tablet enthusiasts were also impressed with Microsoft’s variety of input/output connectivity and the amount of internal storage.

And while Apple generally hangs its hat on design, it would appear that customers are quite taken with Microsoft’s aesthetics, too. Indeed, when it came to tablets, Microsoft won over users in terms of tablet size, quality of materials, and attractiveness of design. That said, both Apple and Samsung produce tablets that leave customers quite happy as well, but just not quite as happy as Microsoft, apparently.

On the other end of the spectrum were Acer and Asus, who this year were below average when it came to customer satisfaction. Amazon, surprisingly enough, scored in the middle of the road — apparently, book lovers are quite pleased with its e-reading options.

So if you’re looking for yet another device to add to your stash, you may want to look at Windows and its Surface tablet.

Italy issues a nationwide Uber ban

Uber’s latest regulatory roadblock happens to be the entire country of Italy. In a court ruling issued today, all of Uber’s services were banned in the European country after a Rome judge ruled in favor of Italy’s major taxi associations that the ride-hailing service amounted to unfair competition, according to a report from Reuters. That means Uber’s Black, Lux, Suv, X , XL, Select, and Van services are all blocked from operating in Italy and Uber cannot advertise at all in the country.

“We’re shocked,” Uber’s lawyers said in a statement obtained by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “We will appeal this ruling that is based on a 25-year-old law. Now the government can’t waste more time and needs to decide whether it wants to remain anchored to the past, protecting privileged profits, or whether it wants to allow Italian to benefit from new technologies.”

The lawyers for Italy’s top taxi associations were a bit more celebratory. ““This is the fourth ruling by an Italian judge that ascertains Uber’s unfair competition, the latest battle in a legal war that began in 2015 to stop the most striking form of unfair competition ever registered on the Italian local public transportation market,” the lawyers told Corriere della Sera.

Uber plans to appeal the ruling. It has 10 days to do either that or cease operating its service in Italy. If it does neither, it faces fines up to $10,600 for every day it continues operating illegally. The news ends another rather rough week for Uber, as the company continues sustaining bad press over its treatment of drivers and female employees and remains stuck in a high-profile legal battle over trade secret theft with Alphabet’s Waymo division.

Don’t try to fix your iPhone 7 home button yourself

The latest iPhone repair controversy revolves around the home button.
The latest iPhone repair controversy revolves around the home button.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Fixing any broken phone is a hassle, but if you have an iPhone, you really only have one safe option: repairing your device using an Apple-certified technician. It ain’t cheap

You can take your mangled iPhone to an independent repair shop to shore up a cracked screen, certainly — but you’ll be kissing any semblance of an Apple warranty goodbye.

In the case of a broken home button on the iPhone 7, Apple appears to have taken an even more drastic step to ensure independent shops and home tinkerers from repairing their phone. Motherboard reports the iPhone 7 has a software lock that will keep the phone from unlocking if the key circuitry powering the home button is damaged or tampered with.

The software block raises new questions about the extent of Apple’s control over the iPhone and the means to repair it. At a more basic level, we’re left once again wondering how much we really own our phones if they’re programmed to brick themselves when you try to fix them.     

The software lock prevents any kind of third party-installed home button working with Touch ID or even executing its basic return-to-home-screen function when the phone’s unlocked, according to the report. Only the home button that was originally part of the device will work — unless the replacement is specially recalibrated by an Apple-approved source, that is.

Michael Oberdick, who owns indie repair shop iOutlet, demonstrated the software block on his YouTube channel. He told the Motherboard that this type of restriction could make it even harder for unlicensed shops to even fix cracked screens, because any inadvertent damage to the home button could brick the device.

Apple has used a similar method to block third-party fixes before. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners with shop-repaired home buttons had their handsets bricked by Error 53 just last year. But in that case Apple apologized for the bug and fixed it, but the issue still hasn’t completely disappeared: Australia’s top consumer agency, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), just initiated proceedings against the company in the country’s Federal Court for “false, misleading, or deceptive representations about consumer rights” in the aftermath of the lockouts. 

Consumer advocates are calling for Apple and other companies to give independent repair shops more access to their products, and some states have even considered legislation to require it. So-called Right-to-Repair laws are a controversial matter, with advocates arguing that better third-party repair access could help increase our gadgets’ lifespans and cut down on e-waste, while opponents worry about shoddy DIY home repairs and exploding phones. 

Representatives for Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

WATCH: Finally, a phone case that is also biodegradable

Huawei must honor patent judgment or face U.K. ban of its phones

Why it matters to you

Huawei’s on the hook for royalties. The U.K.’s High Court has ruled that the company must pay licensing fees or face a ban of its products.

Huawei, the Shenzhen, China-based company behind the top-of-the-line P10, is in hot water over a U.K. copyright dispute. On Thursday, the country’s English and High Wales Court handed down a judgment that could threaten the company’s ability to sell smartphones in the U.K.

It stemmed from an ongoing intellectual property battle between Huawei, Google, and Samsung, and Unwired Planet, a holding company. In 2014, Unwired Planet alleged that all three firms had infringed on six patents related to networking standards. Google settled in mid-2015, but Samsung and Huawei counterclaimed on the basis of the U.K.’s competition law.

More: Look who BlackBerry’s suing now!

In a series of trials that ran between October 2015 and July 2016, Huawei argued that five of those were standard-essential patents (SEPs) — patents which by law must be licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. But U.K.’s High Court of Justice Chancery Division Patents Court wasn’t entirely persuaded.

On Wednesday, Justice Birss said that Unwired Planet hadn’t run afoul of the U.K.’s competition law, and that it hadn’t abused its position by seeking compensation.

“The FRAND licence between Unwired Planet and Huawei is a worldwide licence,” he wrote in the court’s judgement. “Since Unwired Planet have established that Huawei have infringed […] and since Huawei have not been prepared to take a licence […] a final injunction to restrain infringement of these two patents by Huawei should be granted,” Birss J ordered.

More: BlackBerry enters the patent lawsuit game as it does battle with Avaya

Huawei originally offered to pay 0.034 percent of revenues on 4G equipment, but Unwired Planet wanted 1.69 percent on 4G handsets and 2.29 percent on Huawei’s cellular network equipment.

The court awarded Unwired 0.051 percent on 4G equipment and 0.052 percent on handsets, with rates of 0.032 percent on 3G phones, 0.016 percent on 3G infrastructure, and similar rates on 2G kit and phones.

Intellectually property firm EIP, which represented Unwired Planet during the trial, said it would exercise its right to ban Huawei products from sale if the smartphone maker didn’t agree to the court’s terms.

More: Happy holidays, Apple! Santa delivers a patent lawsuit from Nokia

“The latest judgment, which sets out the basis on which Unwired Planet will be compensated for Huawei’s past infringements, also makes clear that unless Huawei agrees to enter into a worldwide licence for Unwired Planet’s patent portfolio, Huawei could be [enjoined] from selling its mobile telephones in the U.K.,” the lawyers said in a statement.

Huawei said that it welcomed the court’s decision to reduce Unwired Planet’s suggested licensing rates, and that it would evaluate the judgement before proceeding. “We welcome the decision by the Court that Unwired Planet’s royalty rate demands have been found to be unreasonable,” a Huawei spokesperson said. “Huawei is still evaluating the decision, as well as its possible next steps. Huawei does not believe that this decision will adversely affect its global business operations.”

Emirates promises VIP service for some fliers’ larger gadgets

Why it matters to you

If you’re flying to the U.S. from one of the airports affected by the ban, it’s good to know how different airlines are dealing with the issue.

Regulations imposed by the Trump administration last month meant that passengers flying from particular airports in the Middle East into the U.S. had to check any electronic devices larger than a smartphone.

This left many fliers having to decide between leaving their pricey laptop or tablet at home, or leaving it out of their sight when they boarded the plane and hoping it would be there, intact, at the other end. The rules were put in place in response to an apparent terror threat, though few details have been revealed about the potential risk faced by travelers.

Emirates is one of the carriers affected, and it has been quick to tell its customers not to worry about putting their gadgets in the hold for U.S.-bound flights.

The airline is now operating a kind of VIP service for larger tech items such as laptops, tablets, cameras, and portable DVD players that have to go to the hold for the flight. A video posted this week on YouTube highlights the new “electronics handling service” launched in response to the U.S. ban.

So instead of tucking your tech in between your socks and underpants inside your suitcase and hoping for the best, Emirates promises to “pack, label, and seal your devices” in the departure lounge, just before you board one of its U.S.-bound aircraft. The gear is packed and handled separately from other luggage, and is returned by staff in the baggage hall when you show your boarding pass and ID.

The video shows plenty of cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and labels, the clear message being that it intends to take care of your tech while it’s out of your hands, and return it to you in one piece when you arrive at your destination.

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Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem that for many people, it’s rather annoying to have to give up your tablet or laptop before you board. Understanding that some people need to work during their journey, the airline has started handing out Microsoft Surface tablets equipped with Microsoft Office to first-class and business-class passengers so they can complete important tasks at 36,000 feet.

Available for free on all non-stop flights from Dubai to the U.S., passengers are able to “download their work on to a USB which can be brought on board and plugged into the devices to continue working seamlessly.”

We’re not sure how comfortable customers will be with working on a device that they have to hand back at the end of a flight, but for some it could be a useful solution until the ban is lifted.