One Way or Another, Apple Will Launch 5G iPhones in 2020
Fast Company, which has had a number of scoops about Apple's (AAPL) hardware engineering efforts, reports that Apple "has lost confidence" in Intel's (INTC) ability to deliver its XMM 8160 5G modem in time for its Sep. 2020 iPhone launches.
Likewise, UBS analyst Tim Arcuri reports that Apple "is increasingly in jeopardy of being unable to ship a 5G iPhone in 2020." He also reiterates his view that Apple, which according to multiple reports now has a large modem engineering team, is working on a 5G modem that will be ready for iPhones in 2021 (developing a modem from scratch generally takes time).
Intel responded to the reports by saying that it's still planning to supply the XMM 8160 for devices launching in 2020. However, even if it turns out that Intel can't ship the XMM 8160 in time for 2020's iPhone launches, or can't do so while meeting Apple's volume and performance requirements, it's hard to imagine Apple flat-out delaying the launch of its first 5G iPhone until 2021.
While it's understandable that Apple (unlike many Android OEMs) is reportedly choosing not to launch a 5G phone in 2019, given that 5G networks are still in their infancy and the company cares a lot about getting the user experience right, not launching one in the fall of 2020 would do a lot more harm, since 5G availability will be much better at that point and 5G support will likely be considered standard on high-end smartphones by that time.
Fast Company also reports that Apple "recently held talks" with Samsung and Taiwan's MediaTek about potentially supplying it with modems. However, MediaTek is more of a low-end and mid-range modem supplier, and Samsung is a major smartphone rival (but then again, Apple still relies on Samsung for iPhone displays and memory chips) and doesn't have much of a history of supplying modems to third parties.
Qualcomm (QCOM) , whose 5G modems are set to go inside of the lion's share of 5G phones shipping this year and recently unveiled a pretty competitive second-gen modem, is also a potential option. However, Apple and Qualcomm might need to settle their bitter licensing dispute for one or both companies to be comfortable with a 5G modem deal for 2020 iPhones.
If Apple feels that it has no choice but to turn to Qualcomm to satisfy its 2020 5G modem needs, that could help drive a settlement for a legal battle that currently doesn't appear close to ending. But either way, expect someone's 5G modem to be inside of Apple's 2020 iPhones.
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Facebook's Shadow Looms Over Snap's New Services
The glass-half-full view of the new services that Snap Inc. (SNAP) just unveiled: Some of the services are genuinely innovative and/or useful, and at least a couple of them open up new revenue streams.
The glass-half-empty view: Facebook (FB) already offers services that are similar to some of the things that Snap is unveiling. And in those areas where Mark Zuckerberg's company doesn't have anything comparable, it's not hard to imagine Facebook once more borrowing an idea or two from Snap.
At an event held on Thursday, Snap revealed:
- App Stories, a solution for letting third-party apps integrate their own versions of Snapchat's Stories service. Dating app Tinder and group video chat app Houseparty will be among the first apps to support App Stories.
- Scan, a developer platform for creating augmented reality features using the camera function within the Snapchat app. One integration lets users get answers to math problems spotted by their cameras; another leads a GIF that's related to a detected object to appear.
- Audience Network, a mobile ad network that lets developers show vertical video ads similar to the kind that are run against Snapchat Stories.
- Snap Games, a service that lets users play games in real-time with friends through the Snapchat app. Users will have the option of viewing 6-second ads to unlock game features and in-game currency.
Audience Network has an uphill battle on its hands. Facebook and Alphabet/Google GOOGL each run popular mobile ad networks, and they have major advantages relative to Snap in areas such as scale, advertiser relationships and user data.
Meanwhile, Snap Games will be competing against Facebook's Instant Games platform, and Scan will compete against Facebook's Spark AR platform for adding augmented reality effects to photos and videos shot with the camera feature within Facebook's apps. In each case, Snap's offering is currently more advanced in key respects -- Instant Games, for example, lacks Snap Games' real-time gaming abilities -- but it's not hard to imagine Facebook catching up in time.
And considering how Facebook's various stories services borrowed liberally from Snapchat Stories (and in doing so, did a number of Snap's user growth), it wouldn't be surprising to see Facebook launch something like App Stories in time, perhaps with Instagram's help.
On the whole, it's encouraging that Snap is still thinking outside the box about improving user engagement and finding new ways to monetize. But the company still has a ways to go before it can put worries about its long-term profitability to rest.
Amazon, Like Facebook, Is Eager to Head Off Regulators
CNBC observes that Amazon.com (AMZN) has significantly pared back its efforts to promote its own private-label goods on its website. The move, which has to go over well with Amazon marketplace sellers, comes as politicians and regulators in both the U.S. and Europe have started scrutinizing the ties between Amazon's direct e-commerce and marketplace businesses.
The move also comes shortly after it was reported that Amazon plans to stop preventing U.S. marketplace sellers from selling goods at a lower price on another website. That policy change, which mirrors one carried out in Europe six years ago, came after Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked the FTC to probe Amazon's pricing rules for marketplace vendors for potential antitrust valuations.
As CNBC notes, there could be a financial benefit to Amazon's decision regarding private-label promotions: The company could redeploy the space it was using to promote private-label goods to create more inventory for its burgeoning ad business. Likewise, the decision to stop preventing sellers from charging less elsewhere could help Amazon appeal to some of the direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce startups that to date have been wary of working with it.
However, just like Mark Zuckerberg's weekend op-ed calling for a slew of new regulations that Facebook (FB) and peers would be subject to, Amazon's recent actions give the impressions that it's now more sensitive to political and regulatory criticism of its business practices and market power, and is hoping that an ounce of prevention can help it avoid a pound of government-imposed cure.
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