Rollout of HTC’s two flagship Android phones the One X and EVO 4G LTE has been infinitely delayed due to Apple’s litigation against the Taiwan smartphone manufacturer. Yes, HTC has become the first victim of the recent spree of legal battles between handset makers. The new devices of HTC have been held up at Customs as a result of an exclusion order by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in December last year. The company and its carrier partners AT&T and Sprint are stranded right now unable to sell the handsets in the U.S. There is no update on when the devices will be allowed to be shipped in the market.
The HTC One X and EVO 4G LTE, almost the same versions of a single handset for two carriers, are the most recent handsets from HTC. The company unveiled the devices recently with the One X making heads turn as the first quad core handset at the Mobile World Congress 2012. Anyway, HTC is now disappointed due to the delay in delivery of the devices to its waiting customers. AT&T and Sprint, which bought and promoted the devices with huge investments, are also frustrated of the new development. At the moment, all will be blaming Apple, which won a copyright infringement suit against HTC.
“The U.S. availability of the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE has been delayed due to a standard U.S. Customs review of shipments that is required after an ITC exclusion order,” says an HTC spokesman as the first response to the development. “We believe we are in compliance with the ruling and HTC is working closely with Customs to secure approval. The HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE have been received enthusiastically by customers and we appreciate their patience as we work to get these products into their hands as soon as possible.”
ITC’s Ban on HTC
In December 2011, Apple achieved a narrow victory over HTC in getting certain number of its fresh handsets banned from shipping in the U.S. Responding to Apple’s infringement suit the International Trade Commission ordered an import ban on a number of HTC phones from April 19, 2012 for infringing on Apple’s ‘data tapping patent.’ HTC was, however, allowed to ship refurbished devices with the patent issue for the purpose of replacements until Dec. 19, 2013. The order doesn’t consider the new HTC phones like the One X and EVO 4G LTE as refurbished versions, which has now led to the blockage of the handsets at borders, analysts think.
Anyway, according to blogger Florian Mueller, Apple’s legal win over HTC was a narrow one, because it was on a petty data tapping patent issue. “If Google can implement this popular feature, which users of modern-day smartphones really expect, without infringing on the two patent claims found infringed, this import ban won’t have any effect whatsoever,” Mueller then wrote. “Otherwise HTC will have to remove this feature, which would put HTC at a competitive disadvantage as compared to other smartphone makers, including other Android device makers.”
Impact of the holdback of HTC devices
Well, Apple is the chief beneficiary of the ban over HTC’s new handsets in the U.S. But, if the ban continues, it will gravely reflect in Apple’s iPhone business. It is because unavailability of One X and EVO 4GLTE will largely impact both AT&T and Sprint, which also sell Apple’s flagship iPhone in the country. Since these carriers have made all payments to HTC for the handsets and done broad marketing campaigns also, the delay will largely distress their business. It may even force the carriers to move to court against Apple, comments Eric Zeman of Information Week.
“How much is this patent-related delay costing AT&T and Sprint as they wait for the devices to clear customs? That’s hard to gauge. If it drags on for months rather than weeks, it will have a material impact on the quarterly numbers for both carriers. Were I the CEO of AT&T or Sprint, I’d be on the horn with Apple and its lawyers all day and all night hammering out a way to move past this situation,” Zeman rages up.