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.
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.
Apple tries to take a bite out of credit card industry
Apple is rolling out a credit card that it says is designed to do things no other card can. So how does it actually stack up?
It looks different from a traditional credit card — there’s no number on the front and the users’ name is etched in metal. The card expands the company’s digital Apple Pay services, marrying the physical card to a virtual one and integrating both with the iPhone. And it comes with a bevy of perks — quick sign-up, elimination of most fees, strong security protections and cash back. But industry experts say they aren’t impressed — the financial benefits mirror many of those already out there for consumers.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Apple says there are no fees associated with the card. That means no late fee, no annual fee, no international fee and no over-the-limit fees. It also said it aims to have among the lowest interest rates in the industry. Users must have an iPhone to use the card, which comes at a cost. But they will earn cash back on their purchases — 3 per cent on Apple purchases, 2 per cent on those with the virtual card and 1 per cent with the physical card.
“I’m underwhelmed,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Creditcards.com. “People will sign up for it, but that will be mostly because they love Apple, not because this card is better than anything that already exists.”
He points to the Citi Double Cash card, which offers an easy-to-use 2 per cent back on any purchase. Or the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card, which offers 3 points per dollar on mobile-wallet spending –worth 3 per cent cash back or 4.5 per cent off travel. Rossman said even another branded credit card, the Uber Visa card, comes out on top with 4 per cent cash back on dining purchases.
Apple points out that it is the only card to provide those rewards in real time, so that cash earned can be used immediately. Other companies often make users wait a statement cycle or until the bill has been paid. But WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou is dubious people who can afford an iPhone and qualify for the card will need that cash so quickly. He also reiterated that there are better rewards out there, particularly for people with strong credit.
“There are other cards that have better rewards and no annual fee,” he said. “There is a healthy market there, so from that perspective there is nothing unique.”
A note on the interest rates as well — the card doesn’t come out until summer but Apple has said that as of March, the variable annual percentage rate on the card could be anywhere from 13.24 per cent to 24.24 per cent based on creditworthiness. That’s right in line with the rest of the market, Rossman said.
WHAT ABOUT SECURITY?
Apple prides itself on privacy and security, so no surprise, the card sets itself apart here.
The physical card has no numbers so purchases are made with the embedded chip and the digital version lives in your Apple Wallet on your phone, where it’s protected by Face ID or Touch ID. That means that even if someone steals your phone they won’t be able to use the card to buy things.
Apple says it won’t get information on what you buy with the card or where or for how much. And it says Goldman Sachs, which Apple is working with to provide the card, will use your data only to operate the card — such as help with purchases or fraud protection — but your Apple Card data will not be used for any other purposes.
Even critics concede that the Apple Card technology provides a new layer of protection not available with other cards. And mobile payments, such as Apple Pay, are generally more secure than traditional credit cards.
However, consumers already have zero fraud liability with credit cards, said Papadimitriou. Federal law limits a consumer’s fraud liability to $50 but all the major credit card networks — Visa, Discover, American Express and Mastercard — provide zero liability for consumer cards. Apple is working with Mastercard to create the Apple Card. So, he said, the added protection may be more perception than reality for most.
HOW EASY IS IT TO USE?
Apple says users will be able to sign up for the card in the Wallet app on their iPhone and begin using it almost immediately. It also tracks spending on the phone in a more user-friendly format, eliminating some of the gibberish that fills a traditional credit card statement.
It also includes some budgeting tools, such as tracking spending and providing estimates of how much interest could be charged on a purchase to help people make an informed decision. It allows users to set up weekly or biweekly payments to better match up with their paychecks. While these perks are nice, there are similar budgeting tools on other cards and the information only incorporates purchases and payments for Apple Pay and the Apple Card, so it’s not providing a full financial picture. All the same, Apple users often enjoy the seamlessness of having the information at their fingertips.
There is still some sense of wait-and-see, as the power of the Apple brand and its fan base is strong. In general, though, credit card industry experts say this is a bid by Apple to expand its Apple Pay services. While Apple Pay is the most common of mobile-wallet payment services, only 13 per cent of smartphone users have tried it, according to industry tracking site PYMNTS.com.
“Apple makes great software, but I’m not sure they truly understand consumer needs on this,” Papadimitriou said.
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