This week, Apple won a "huge" battle in the smartphone patent war. The United States International Trade Commission ruled that a common smartphone feature called "data tapping," which allows a user to dial a phone number simply by tapping it in an email, text, or website, was protected under an Apple patent. Squaring off against Apple was HTC, a Taiwan-based Android phone manufacturer. (Many smartphones, Android included, have imitated Apple's "data tapping" technology.) While the feature in question may seem small, the case could have far-reaching consequences for Apple, Google, and all Android phones. Here, three possible consequences:
1. It will kill innovation
"Apple's smartphone patent win is our loss," says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. There are still billions of people all over the world who don't have a smartphone, and there's ample opportunity for new companies to provide them with new gadgets and more choices — unless giants like Apple monopolize the market with this sort of litigation. "In the world we're heading for, any innovative sector will have a very brief wild west phase until a handful of companies get rich enough to lawyer up and start suing everyone, and then the market closes down."
2. HTC will soldier on
This is actually just a "limited" legal victory for Apple, given that it originally alleged that HTC had violated 10 patents, says Roger Cheng at CNET. True, your HTC phone is probably in violation of Apple's patent, and will likely require a software upgrade. That may mean that HTC users will have to type in phone numbers themselves in the future. But that's hardly the end of the world — and certainly won't be the end of HTC.
3. Apple will launch a new war on Google's Android
Apple might use this win "to launch complaints against any or all other manufacturers of Android based smartphones running any or all versions of Android," says Rik Myslewski at The Register. That "could cause a world of hurt for the U.S. Android ecosystem." Indeed, if Apple can "chip away at Android's usability," says Darreel Ehterington at GigaOm, the company could seriously hinder Android's ability to win new customers.