Android Designers Seek Distance From Apple Smartphones

Samsung's $1.05 billion patent infringement loss against Apple sends Android designers back to their drawing boards. Is there a safe, smart, and marketable smartphone design that's very different?
Nokia abandoned its own Symbian operating system last year to adopt Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 and gain the financial backing of Microsoft for a new generation of Lumia smartphones. Dawson said Windows Phone 8 is a clear alternative platform to the iPhone, and was unlikely to draw the attention of Apple's patent enforcement effort.

At the same time, it's unclear how many consumers will purchase Windows Phone 8 models. Windows 8 itself, with its new scrolling tile user interface, will not be available on PCs and laptops until later this year. Once it becomes generally available, sales of Windows 8-based smartphones will pick up, predicted Dawson.

Nokia rushed Wednesday to announce new models before the Apple iPhone 5 is expected to be unveiled Sept. 12. Neither Nokia nor Microsoft could say when the Lumia 820 and 920 would be delivered, which carriers would offer them, or what their prices would be, unusual omissions in a smartphone's launch.

Nokia's stock fell 16% after its Windows Phone 8 offerings were given a going-over by critics. Apple's stock rose to a new high of $676.27, up $6.04, on Thursday.

At the same time, Motorola announced three new models the same day as Nokia, with an uncertain delivery date of sometime "before the holidays" and likewise undisclosed pricing. The Motorola, Nokia, and a rumored Amazon Android smartphone all have the earmarks of being rushed out ahead of the iPhone 5. If previous iPhone announcements have any bearing, an Apple announcement will eclipse other manufacturers' attempts to command consumer mindshare for a few weeks.

During the trial, Apple was claimed to have a 50% margin on iPhone sales. It may be able to expand that margin further if Samsung and other competitors decide the only safe way to compete in smartphones is to possess a license from Apple for its patents. If it negotiates an agreement, Samsung is likely to end up paying $30 per smartphone and $40 per tablet sold, according to terms disclosed during the trial, based on a previous Apple/Samsung discussion of a patent license. Samsung rejected the fees as too high. If anything, however, Apple's patent values and its hand were strengthened by the Aug. 24 jury decision.

The case is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Apple is seeking injunctions against the sale of eight Samsung models in the United States. Dawson said of the 20 million Galaxy S III smartphones Samsung has sold since its May launch, 4 million were sold in North America. If Samsung is enjoined from further sales in the U.S., it will appeal the court's decision, he predicted.

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