Apple vs. Samsung: What It Means for Consumers

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The legal saga of Apple v. Samsung carries on today, as a San Jose, California court will review a jury\’s decision from this past August that awarded the iPhone makers $1.05 billion in damages, and claimed that Samsung had willfully infringed on numerous Apple patents.

Samsung is now requesting that the either the verdict be overturned or that the initial sum be reduced. It also wants to look into a potential case of misconduct on the part of the jury\’s foreman, who was sent into bankruptcy in the early nineties after being sued by a company with which Samsung is now \”substantial\” business partners.

Apple, as one would expect, wants to see that total sum increased, and potentially would like to see bans or restrictions placed on eight of Samsung\’s myriad smartphones. These include the Galaxy S 4G, various Galaxy S2 models, the Galaxy Prevail, the Galaxy Showcase, and the Droid Charge.

But whether or not those initial results change in Samsung\’s favor, change in Apple\’s favor, or stay the same, one simple fact will remain true: This case is going to directly affect the smartphone market as we know it.

\"\"How so? Well, read on to find out just a few of the ways this landmark trial — and its potentially changing results — will affect all phone hunting consumers in the near future.

Smartphones Are Going to Look Different

One of the more stunning aspects of the jury\’s initial decision was their ruling that Samsung\’s Galaxy phones had actively copied the physical design of the iPhone itself (Apple was not successful in this same claim for its iPad tablet, however). Yes, a court of law effectively concluded the idea of rectangular-shaped phone with rounded edges legally belonged to Apple, which could very well cause other smartphone makers to tread carefully when designing their newest products.

This doesn\’t necessarily mean that there\’ll be any huge changes — don\’t expect any circular phones or rhombuses anytime soon — but it does mean that companies will have to pour more resources into coming up with and manufacturing slightly more original designs.

In a way, this is good, since it\’s essentially forcing all non-Apple phone makers to innovate, even just a little bit. But at the same time, experimentation often leads to failure. There\’s a reason that patented iPhone design (literally, now) has become so popular in the first place. It works. It\’s comfortable. And now, many prospective smartphone consumers likely won\’t be using it unless they go Apple.

Apple Has Even More Influence Than It Already Had

Beyond design disputes, though, the jury came to the conclusion that Samsung had infringed upon many of Apple\’s software patents as well. These included pinch-to-zoom technology, the ability to drag documents on touchscreens, and the little \”bounce\” that occurs upon scrolling past the end of a webpage, among a few others traits that have helped make touchscreens the intuitive pieces of tech they are today.

All of these now technically belong to Apple, which means that CEO Tim Cook and company have control over what to do with them. Apple can be flexible here, opting to either sign lucrative licensing deals with its Android counterparts at its leisure — like it did in a rare deal with HTC last month — or withhold the rights to the technology from its competitors entirely.

\"\"In essence, it\’s a choice between profiting at the expense of its rivals or maintaining exclusivity over a wealth of tech that most smartphone owners use as if it was second nature today, which could in turn make its handsets and tablets even more profitable. Either way, Apple now finds itself sitting pretty in the driver\’s seat. Considering that it was no slouch in the first place, that\’s something that should make the Android crowd pretty nervous.

Windows Phone Could See a Surge In Popularity

Apple and Samsung are both the top — and in Apple\’s case, only — dogs for their respective mobile operating systems, iOS and Android. But while they continue to bicker and throw around millions of dollars in various legal battles, a third competitor is lying in wait: Microsoft\’s Windows Phone.

The Apple vs. Samsung drama has carried on long enough to get some people fed up of the two companies entirely, a sentiment that could shift a relatively sizable market share in Windows Phone\’s favor. Armed with a new version of its OS, WP8, some killer handsets like the HTC 8X and the Nokia Lumia 920, and a design that is truly different from the increasingly familiar feeling iOS and Android systems, the time could be now for weary or bored consumers — and manufacturers, for that matter — to make their move over to Microsoft\’s mobile ecosystem.

Samsung Is (Probably) Going to Be Fine

Whenever people see a number as large as $1.05 billion — the amount Samsung is being ordered to pay Apple in damages — they naturally get a little bit hyperbolic. There\’s been much talk of this being \”the end\” of Samsung as we know it, but the reality of the situation is that the settlement is going to only take away a fraction of the South Korean giant\’s total income.

It\’s important to remember that Samsung is currently the single most successful smartphone maker on the planet. In fact, according to the results of the last financial quarter, Samsung tops all companies with a 31.6 percent share of the total smartphone-using market, and even shipped a record 56.3 million units of its diverse portfolio of Android phones. The Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II are still leading devices among users, and they\’re likely to stay that way for the time being.

Of course, things could change down the road, and the company certainly got crushed by Apple in this particular trial. But for now, Samsung is going to remain a major, if not the major force in the mobile world.

There\’s Going to Be a Long, Hard Look at Patent Laws

\"\"Or at least there should be. Throughout the year-long case, Samsung repeatedly made the argument that many of the patents Apple called its own were too basic and fundamental to the design of touch devices in general to be seriously considered as legitimate claims. Lots and lots of onlookers agreed, which in and of itself should force the country into a deeper examination of the patent laws that have allowed a seeming endless stream of lawsuits between tech companies in the last few years.

There was nothing technically illegal about Apple\’s victory, but the kinds of things Samsung was deemed to have violated — pinch-to-zoom, square icons, a rectangular design with rounded edges, and others — have all been staples of modern smartphones for years now. The fact that Apple is now legally entitled to exclusive rights to these pieces of tech may not cause an Apple-led hegemony over mobile devices just yet. But it sets a standard, one that could remove current devices from store shelves and make future ones more expensive as a result. Nobody likes it when that happens.

So, the proper thing to do might be to, you know, talk about it. If nothing else, doing so could help keep the companies that make the products consumers know and love in the test labs, and out of the courtroom.

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