So, yesterday, we learned that the AT&T HTC One X and Sprint’s upcoming HTC EVO 4G LTE had been delayed in the US due to Apple’s how-the-hell-did-it-get-granted “link” patent. Patent #5,946,647 deals with the now standard Android method of clicking a link (like in email) and being presented with a menu displaying a list of apps you want to launch from there. Apparently, Apple’s got this locked down. Looks like something like this has never been done before in the history of software and Apple is fully responsible for this “invention.” (Sigh)
Anyway, there was a lot of talk and anger (and suspicions) on why HTC — who knew for the longest time exactly what this patent dealt with, after facing Apple in court — didn’t attempt to sidestep Apple’s patent, as to avoid action like the delays we’re seeing today (and during a crucial time for HTC financially). Well, as it turns out — they did.
This feature of a menu popup after clicking a link has been removed in the new version of Sense for HTC’s US devices. Now, clicking a link will automatically launch the appropriate app giving Android users slightly less usability, but also avoids Apple’s legal team. If a user wants to specify which links will launch which app, there is a new option inside the Settings app that deals with links called “App Associations.” Boom.
I can see in my mind’s eye… A top level Apple exec gets a hold of an international One X. He scrolls through the device only to find his patent brazenly ignored by the rival smartphone manufacturer. His face turns blood red and eyes widen. He rushes to grab the telephone, calling up the top officials at the ITC and US Customs, demanding they block the biggest threat to their upcoming iPhone 5 — HTC’s One X and EVO 4G LTE. Little does he know, the US versions shipped with tweaked software. HTC be trollin’.
It’s still unclear if Customs will see things our way. It’s very possible they could still interpret HTC’s new method of handling links as a violation of Apple’s patents. But, providing HTC’s workaround is adequate, we could see this whole mess sorted out a lot sooner than later. Let’s hope those One’s and Evolte’s will be in everyone’s hands again shortly.