Facebook has been on the receiving end of a lot of government scrutiny in recent months, but it looks like Google’s turn is coming soon. According to a report from Politico, the European Commission is preparing to hand down its decision on an antitrust investigation into the search giant’s Android mobile operating system. A fine against the company is expected to be announced in July.
The probe, led by the European Union’s antitrust czar Margrethe Vestager, is reportedly looking into accusations that Google has used its dominance in the mobile marketplace to its advantage. Politico suggested the fine could eclipse the previous European Commission record penalty of $2.7 billion, also issued to Google.
The EU first took interest in Google’s alleged abuse of Android back in 2016, when the Commission first informed Google that it may be in violation of antitrust rules with its massively popular mobile operating system. According to the initial charges, Google is accused of requiring phone manufacturers to install the company’s Chrome web browser and its search tool on their devices. Google allegedly offered financial incentives to place its apps on phones, but also threatened to cut off access to the Google Play Store if companies didn’t comply.
Google also allegedly prevented phone makers from creating devices that run on modified or forked versions of Android by requiring the companies to enter into an “Anti-Fragmentation agreement.” Companies were only allowed access to Google’s proprietary apps, including the Google Play Store, if the entered into the arrangement, according to the European Commission.
“A competitive mobile internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe,” Vestager said at the time. “We believe that Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”
The EU hit Google with a $2.7 billion fine for manipulating search results to favor its own shopping service over third-party options that may have produced better results, but that penalty may end up looking like peanuts compared to the one Google gets for possible Android antitrust violations. It’s possible (albeit unlikely) that Google could be fined up to $11 billion, or 10 percent of the company’s annual turnover, according to the Financial Times. That would represent a significant blow to the company—which may be exactly what the EU wants to deliver.
The EU has applied increased pressure to Google in recent months, and its competition commission has reportedly expressed interest in trying to break up the company. Those types of inquiries have also spread to other countries. Last month, a number of Democratic Senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the possibility that Google is tracking the location of Android users without permission. Australia’s government launched a similar probe.
Google still holds about 90 percent of the search market and just under 90 percent of all smartphone operating system market worldwide. The company isn’t hurting for the time being, but it should expect further scrutiny as long as those positions hold.
Samsung to invest $115 billion in its foundry business by 2030
Samsung is earmarking $9.5 billion a year for Samsung LSI and Samsung Foundry.
Samsung Electronics is one of the largest semiconductor players around, and the manufacturer is investing $115 billion (133 trillion won) over the next 12 years to take on Qualcomm and Intel. Samsung says its goal is to become the world leader in semiconductors and logic chips, and the company will invest $9.5 billion a year from now through 2030.
Samsung will invest $63.4 billion (73 trillion won) toward domestic R&D — where it is looking to add 15,000 jobs to “bolster its technological prowess” — and spend $52 billion (60 trillion won) toward production facilities that will make the logic chips. Samsung has long been the dominant player in the memory business, but with that market shrinking the South Korean manufacturer will be looking to diversify.
While the $115 billion seems like a staggering amount at first, it’s in line with what Samsung has been spending in recent years. Just last year alone Samsung invested over $15 billion in R&D, and Intel also spent over $10 billion toward developing new products.
LG V50 ThinQ 5G launch in South Korea delayed
The delay is due to LG wanting to further optimize the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and Qualcomm X50 5G modem inside of the V50. LG also said it’s working with Qualcomm and South Korean carriers to improve 5G service and phone interoperability.
LG V50 ThinQ 5G price & release date: What we know so far (it’s not much)
LG didn’t say when the V50 will be available in South Korea. Android Authority reached out to LG for comment on a new release date and whether the delayed launch in South Korea will affect the U.S. launch, but did not receive a response by press time.
The delay comes at a bad time for LG, which saw rival Samsung launch its first 5G smartphone April 5 in South Korea. LG likely had hoped to use the Galaxy S10 5G’s launch momentum for its own 5G smartphone, but now we don’t know when the V50 will debut.
That said, LG might have dodged a very big bullet by delaying the V50’s launch. Business Koreareported last week that Galaxy S10 5G owners have struggled with poor 5G connectivity and an inability to switch to 4G LTE. Samsung pushed out an update that supposedly addressed the issues, but the update didn’t help much.
Samsung snubs Apple on 5G modem supply, leaving few good options for the 2020 iPhones
Thanks to the patent war with Qualcomm reaching a crescendo mode, last year Apple’s iPhones shipped exclusively with “Intel inside” as far as cellular connectivity is concerned. That, however, is not an ideal solution for Apple, as Intel’s modems are behind the curve when it comes to features, so it has been shopping around for other options.
Apple could go with Samsung, Huawei or MediaTek’s 5G modems, but each of those choices comes with severe drawbacks. Samsung will likely charge an arm and a leg for its 5G brainchild, America’s homeland security institutions would balk at Huawei’s involvement due to geopolitical considerations, while MediaTek simply isn’t up to par yet.
SAMSUNG’S 5G MODEM OPTION IS OUT FOR APPLE, BUT WHOSE IS IN?
Surprise, surprise, even those unpalatable options have now become harder to pick from, as Korean media is reporting today that Samsung has declined Apple’s advances for its Exynos 5100 5G modem. Not only does the company need its production for the Galaxy S10 5G that will be shipping tomorrow in Korea but it could very well need it for the Note 10, too.
Samsung, it turns out, is simply unable to churn out 5G modems in the quality and quantity that Apple would demand, or so it claims. According to one “electronics industry official” there:
Apple inquired about the supply of 5G modem chip from Samsung Electronics System LSI division. However, we know that Samsung Electronics System LSI answered that the supply volume of its smartphone 5G modem chip is insufficient.
There you have it – unless Apple resolves the bad blood between the companies, Qualcomm is likely to sit its 5G push out, so the last remaining option is for Apple to go it alone, either by acquiring Intel’s wireless modem assets or starting from scratch (highly unlikely). All of these options mean either a lot of extra expenses for Apple in order to deliver a 5G iPhone in 2020, or falling behind the competition by launching one that is a cycle or two behind.
Last summer, insiders claimed that they have seen internal Intel communication regarding a memo that Apple sent Chipzilla. In it, Apple warns that it might no longer need Intel’s wireless modem designs, including the 5G ones, starting with the 2020 iPhone crop. Intel reportedly halted research in this area and might disband the whole 5G modem undertaking, as Apple was its largest and perhaps sole customer.
5G gets going and Apple’s 2020 iPhones can’t go FOMO
South Korea just launched its nationwide 5G network, with the Galaxy S10 5G being its poster child. Upon the phone’s release there tomorrow, Korea will have all of its largest networks offering 5G plans. In fact, Korea Telecom announced three 5G price tiers. Among those, there is a “Super Plan” that offers truly unlimited 5G data without speed caps, and this one will go for the equivalent of $70, a pretty good price no matter how you slice it. In fact, the Super 5G Plan is somewhat cheaper than the current unlimited 4G LTE plans in Korea, so the 5G future seems bright, and we are expecting more and more 5G handsets to enter the fray this year, especially towards the tail end of 2019.
A true nationwide shift to 5G networks is not happening this year in the US anyway, so iPhone users won’t be missing all that much until then. Next year, however, most of the flagship phones of the spring season will probably have some sort of 5G connectivity support, be it with a Qualcomm, Samsung or Huawei modem, and Apple could feel the pinch in that regard. If in the fall of 2020 Apple hasn’t solved its 5G modem supply options, however, there might be image and perception consequences. As virtually all of Apple’s 5G avenues have dried up and will incur extra expenses, patching thing up with Qualcomm would be a smart solution so we’ll keep our eyes on the patent lawsuit as it moves through the court system.
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