Yesterday, 9:08 PM
- As rumored, Samsung's (OTC:SSNLF) Galaxy S6 eschews the plastic-heavy designs of its predecessors in favor a body with a metal frame and both front and back glass panels - both panels use Corning's (NYSE:GLW) recently-launched Gorilla Glass 4 (offers better damage resistance).
- Also as expected: The standard S6 is accompanied by the S6 Edge, a premium model with curved sides. Samsung has also launched a new version of its Gear VR headset (relies on Oculus' VR platform) that uses the S6/S6 Edge for its display instead of the Note 4.
- The S6's display size is unchanged from the S5's 5.1", but (as was the case for the Note 4) the resolution has been upgraded from 1080p to 2560x1440 - that's a positive for OLED materials supplier Universal Display (NASDAQ:OLED). An 8-core Samsung Exynos processor powers international S6 models - Qualcomm Snapdragon processors have historically powered U.S. models, but that might not be the case this time.
- A new fingerprint sensor (previous) only requires users to touch the home button (a la Apple's TouchID) rather than swipe over it, as is the case with the S5's sensor. Synaptics (NASDAQ:SYNA) should receive an ASP boost, provided it remains Samsung's fingerprint sensor supplier and not rival FPC.
- Other features: Wireless charging support; a 16MP rear camera with optical image stabilization, improved software, and an F/1.9 aperture (good for low-light shots); a 5MP front camera that also has an F/1.9 aperture, 32/64/128GB storage tiers (up from 16/32/64GB); and far less bloatware - Samsung claims the S6 has 40% fewer software features than the S5.
- Initial reactions are positive. "Samsung finally builds a premium smartphone," proclaims Ars Technica. The Verge calls the S6/S6 Edge "dramatically nicer and better phones than Samsung has ever produced." More than a few observers have spotted major design similarities with the iPhone 6 (NASDAQ:AAPL).
- The phones go on sale on April 10. Samsung needs a hit: It's coming off a Q4 where its smartphone unit share fell to 20% from 28.8% a year earlier (per IDC) amid stiff competition from Apple and Chinese Android OEMs.
Fri, Feb. 27, 3:35 AM
- Just two days after winning $532.9M from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) for patent infringement, Smartflash is again suing the tech giant, this time over using its technology without permission in devices not included in the previous case, such as the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2.
- Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) seems to have taken a cue from the victorious patent firm, announcing that it is suing Apple for infringing on its patents that are essential to 2G and 4G/LTE standards.
- Previously: Apple to pay $532.9M in iTunes patent trial (Feb. 25 2015)
Thu, Feb. 26, 12:15 PM
- "Spring forward," reads Apple's (AAPL +0.3%) invite for a an event to be held at 1PM ET on Monday, March 9 at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center.
- Many expect the event to revolve around Apple Watch, which is set to begin shipping in April, and for which full pricing details haven't yet been announced. Developers have already begun writing Watch apps - for now, they'll have to interact with complementary iPhone/iPad apps - via Apple's WatchKit SDK.
- Previously: Apple reportedly orders 5M-6M Watch units
- Previously: Details about WatchKit and Apple Watch's UI
Wed, Feb. 25, 12:43 PM
- As of 2012, Cisco (CSCO -0.9%) had 60 products on a Chinese government list of products approved for purchase by state entities. As of late 2014, it had none, according to Reuters' analysis of government data.
- PC/server virtualization software vendor Citrix (CTXS +0.5%) has also seen its products disappear from the list, as have Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) McAfee security software unit. While the total number of products on the list has risen by over 2K since 2012 (to nearly 5K), the number of approved foreign tech brands has fallen by a third.
- The data highlights the ripple effects of the 2013 NSA spying uproar, as well as China's broader interest in promoting local tech firms relative to foreign suppliers. Bloomberg reported in December the Chinese government is "aiming to purge most foreign technology from banks, the military, state-owned enterprises and key government agencies by 2020."
- Cisco's Chinese sales have already been under heavy pressure for several quarters. Thanks in part to the government's efforts, the networking giant's Chinese orders fell 19% Y/Y in the January quarter, compared with just a 1% drop for other Asia-Pac markets.
- Lenovo (OTCPK:LNVGY), ZTE (OTCPK:ZTCOY), and Huawei are among the local firms likely to benefit from the government's attempts to buy local.
Wed, Feb. 25, 3:43 AM
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been ordered to pay $532.9M after a federal jury found its iTunes software infringed three of Smartflash's patents that relate to accessing and storing downloaded songs, videos and games.
- Apple tried to avoid a trial, which was filed last May, by having the lawsuit thrown out, but this month U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap ruled that Smartflash’s technology was not too basic to deserve the patents.
Mon, Feb. 23, 12:39 PM
- "Look for the stock price to rise to $160 over the next year for a 25% return including dividends," writes Barron's Jack Hough in a weekend column. "Expect a big dividend hike when the company updates its capital-return program, likely in April. The current yield looks undersized at 1.5%."
- Hough notes Apple (AAPL +2%), unlike most tech peers, reports EPS on a GAAP basis, which (by including stock compensation and other expenses) serves to deflate the figure. He also highlights Apple's negative cash-conversion cycle - it's paid by customer for products before it pays suppliers - which is a big reason why its FY15 free cash flow/share consensus ($10.17) is well above its EPS consensus ($8.53).
- At $160, Apple would trade at 17x forward EPS, on par with the S&P 500's current valuation. Hough: "Considering Apple’s understated earnings, its cash hoard, its avenues for growth, and its history of beating expectations, it’s time for the stock to carry at least a market valuation, if not a premium."
- Meanwhile, Mizuho's Abhey Lamba, who downgraded on Jan. 15 (ahead of earnings), remains cautious. "From 75 million units we saw in the December quarter, we think [iPhone sales are] going to decelerate more meaningfully into the March quarter. We think the Apple Watch is not big engouh to offset the gap the phone is going to leave."
- Shares have rallied to fresh highs. Apple's market cap is now at $768B.
Mon, Feb. 23, 3:26 AM
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has announced a €1.7B plan to build and operate two European data centers, powering its online services, including the iTunes Store, App Store, iMessage, Maps and Siri, for customers across Europe.
- Like all Apple data centers, the two 166K sq. meter facilities will run entirely on clean, renewable energy sources, and are expected to begin operations in 2017.
Thu, Feb. 19, 7:03 PM
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is "pushing its team to begin production of an electric vehicle as early as 2020," Bloomberg reports. The WSJ and Reuters recently reported an EV project is underway, but didn't provide a timetable.
- Bloomberg adds Apple's car team now has ~200 people, after "ramping up hiring within the past couple of months as the company sought out experts in technologies for batteries and robotics." EV battery maker A123 Systems just sued Apple for allegedly poaching senior engineers for a battery project, while stating it also believes Apple has tried to hire battery experts from LG Chem, Toshiba, Samsung, and other firms.
- Meanwhile, 9to5 Mac has (with the help of sources) compiled a list of auto experts thus far added to Apple's team. In addition to Ford VP Steve Zadesky (previously reported by the WSJ), the list includes three Tesla hardware engineers, former Mercedes-Benz R&D chief Johann Jungwirth, former A123 CTO Mujeeb Ijaz, and several senior designers/engineers previously working on other Apple products.
Thu, Feb. 19, 2:28 AM
- Samsung Electronics (OTC:SSNLF) has acquired mobile wallet startup LoopPay, indicating its intention to launch a smartphone payments service to compete with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Pay and others.
- Despite strong backing, mobile payments have been slow to catch on, as many retailers have been reluctant to adopt the infrastructure required for the mobile payment options to work.
- LoopPay, however, works off existing magnetic-stripe card readers at checkouts by transmitting a magnetic signal similar to that of a swiped card.
- Previously: Samsung reportedly in talks to launch Apple Pay rival (Dec. 16 2014)
Tue, Feb. 17, 12:58 PM
- The WSJ reports Apple (AAPL +0.3%) has ordered 5M-6M Apple Watch units for Q1 production ahead of the device's April launch. Half of the orders are for the cheaper Sport model, and 1/3 are expected to be for the standard Apple Watch. Notably, Apple plans for production of the high-end Apple Watch Edition (18-karat gold case) to top 1M units/month in Q2.
- The paper also reports Apple axed plans to have the Watch support blood pressure, heart activity (EKG), and stress level monitoring, among other health-related features, due to a mixture of reliability, complexity, and regulatory issues. They might find their way into future models.
- Not surprisingly, speculation is swirling about Apple's electric car ambitions. Adding to the frenzy: A minivan linked to Apple and sporting rooftop cameras has been spotted around Silicon Valley. It's not clear if the vehicles are part of an EV project or, say, a mapping project.
- While the WSJ has reported Apple isn't looking to create a self-driving car, Reuters has reported the company is "studying the potential for automated driving." It adds Apple is "gathering advice on parts and production methods, focusing on electric and connected-car technologies," and confirms the company is "exploring how to make an entire vehicle."
- Former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gasse is skeptical Apple will sell a full-blown car. "Ford, the healthiest US car company, made $835M in net income last quarter, less than 4% of their $34B in sales ... There isn’t an inkling of an explanation for why and how a superior product designed and built by Apple would bring superior returns ... Furthermore, there is no Moore’s Law for cars."
- VC Jason Calcanis predicts Apple will buy Tesla within 18 months, citing (among other things) Tesla's head-start in EV development, touchscreen UI investments, and plans for a battery gigafactory that could also benefit other Apple products. Elon Musk reportedly met with Apple M&A execs back in 2013.
- Also: The New Yorker has published an in-depth profile of Jony Ive that touches on his design philosophy and role in the Apple Watch's development.
Fri, Feb. 13, 7:44 PM
- In non-electric car news, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tim Cook slipped some Apple Pay details into his talk today at Stanford's cybersecurity summit, mainly that the U.S. government would begin accepting the payment solution: "Like for example when you pay for admission to your favorite national park."
- More than 2,000 banks have signed on to the service so far and the government is a major new merchant.
- The bigger deal may come in a related move: enabling the service for federal payment cards, including Social Security and veteran benefits, as well as federal expense reimbursement.
- Social Security benefits go to 55M Americans to the tune of $71B/month in traffic.
Fri, Feb. 13, 6:17 PM
- Some more color on reports that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been hiring auto engineers, including from Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA): The company has several hundred employees working on project "Titan," toward an Apple-brand electric car that one source says resembles a minivan, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- It might not end up as a released car, the report notes -- lots of work along the way could be used to boost other Apple products -- but the size of the team is telling.
- VP Steve Zadesky was reportedly given permission to create a 1,000-person team for the project and to work off-site from Apple HQ.
- Building cars is expensive, requiring billion-dollar plants, but Apple's $178B in cash means the barrier to entry is far smaller than for others.
- A self-driving car (a la Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)) is not in Apple's plans, a source says.
- After hours, TSLA -0.9%.
- Previously: Talent showdown between Tesla Motors and Apple (Feb. 10 2015)
Fri, Feb. 13, 2:22 PM
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is actively recruiting automobile industry experts to work at a secret lab, sources tell Financial Times.
- The hires are reported to include vehicle design experts.
- Earlier this week, CEO Tim Cook called CarPlay (auto OS) a key technology platform for the company in the future.
- CarPlay is expected to be included in some future Ferrari, Daimler, Volvo, and Volkswagen models.
- Though this week's events have rekindled some rumors of an iCar, there's nothing solid yet from Apple indicating it's heading in that direction.
- The plans of Apple in auto has some bearing on Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), BMW (OTCPK:BAMXY), and even General Motors (NYSE:GM) with its OnStar asset.
- Apple isn't the only tech giant dabbling in the auto sector, Google has ambitious self-driving car and Android integration projects of its own.
- Related: Talent showdown between Tesla Motors and Apple.
Wed, Feb. 11, 3:09 PM
- Four months after setting a $203 Apple (AAPL +2.1%) target in an open letter, Carl Icahn has upped his target to a lofty $216 in a new letter.
- Icahn's target is based on a multiple of 20x an FY15 (ends Sep. '15) EPS estimate of $9.70 - up from a prior $9.60 and well above an $8.57 consensus - and $22/share in cash.
- Notably, Icahn's EPS estimate is based on a 20% "real cash earnings" tax rate, rather than the 26.2% "effective" tax rate used by Apple, which recognizes taxes on unremitted foreign earnings. He declares his estimate is only $0.39 above consensus if the tax rate difference is accounted for.
- As one would expect, the activist investor uses his aggressive target to renew his call for larger buybacks. "[W]e continue to hope that Tim Cook and Apple’s Board of Directors, on behalf of all shareholders, take advantage of this dramatic market value anomaly and increase the magnitude and rate of share repurchases while this remarkable opportunity still exists."
- Apple, whose shares were already rallying before Icahn's letter was published (perhaps aided by Tim Cook's Goldman conference talk), has made new highs and is closing in on $125.
Tue, Feb. 10, 4:11 PM
- Tim Cook (NASDAQ:AAPL) states during a Goldman conference talk Apple is partnering with First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) on an $850M California solar farm. Apple is a week removed from announcing plans to invest $2B to build a Mesa, AZ global "command center" for its data center infrastructure that will run on renewable energy. (live blog, webcast)
- Cook also states the Apple Pay rollout is "going faster than I thought it would, much faster." Apple has provided few details thus far about total Apple Pay transaction volumes.
- He asserts once more Apple Watch (set to ship in April) will be a game-changing product, as debate continues to swirl about the size of its market opportunity. "The customizable nature of the Apple Watch is incredible."
- Apple closed up 1.9%, making new highs and becoming the first U.S. company to post a $700B+ market cap along the way. First Solar closed up 4.8%, spiking in the final minutes of trading thanks to Cook's disclosure.
- Update: First Solar has issued a PR about the solar project. It's located in Monterey County, and is expected to be finished by the end of 2016 after starting construction in mid-2015. Apple will receive 130MW of electricity through a 25-year power purchase agreement, and PG&E the other 150MW.
Tue, Feb. 10, 11:34 AM
- Some anecdotal evidence suggests a tug-of-war has broken out between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Tesla Motors (TSLA -0.5%) over top talent.
- Tesla has hired over 150 Apple employees across divisions, according to a Bloomberg report issued last week.
- But no reason for worry in Cupertino, Apple has hired about 50 engineers from Tesla in what a tipster tells Business Insider is a vehicle development project.
- The best guess from analysts is that the companies might compete on next-gen infotainment OS and vehicle-to-vehicle communication standards.
- If Apple were to make a strong entry into the automobile sector it opens up a few interesting questions for investors on where to place their bets.
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Apple Inc designs, manufactures, & markets mobile communication & media devices, personal computers, & portable digital music players, & sells a variety of related software, services, accessories, networking solutions, & third-party digital content.
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