Apple to update iPhone devices in China to get around sales ban

14 Dec 2018

Apple Store in Hong Kong. Image: © Prism6 Production/

Chinese court recently banned iPhone models from 6s to X in Qualcomm patents dispute.

Apple is planning to skirt around an injunction in China by updating all pre-iOS 12 devices with a software update.

“Early next week, we will deliver a software update for iPhone users in China addressing the minor functionality of the two patents at issue in the case,” the company said in a statement.

Earlier this week, we reported how the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court granted Qualcomm an injunction request. The case is part of a wider global legal dispute between Apple and Qualcomm.

Tweaking the tech

Qualcomm alleged that there are patent violations on some features that let users reformat the size and appearance of photos, and manage applications on a touchscreen while navigating through phone apps.

The injunction affects devices that range from the iPhone 6s up to last year’s iPhone X. However, the patents in question do not cover Apple’s latest iOS 12 operating system, which is installed on the latest XS, XS Max and XR models. By simply updating the software on the pre-iOS 12 devices, it is envisaged Apple will be able to evade the ban in China.

The company will push the software updates to users to “address any possible concern about our compliance with the order”.

The case in China is the latest chapter in an epic legal war being waged between chipmaker Qualcomm and Apple.

Apple sued Qualcomm last year, claiming the latter was charging exorbitant royalties for what it claimed were unique Apple innovations. Qualcomm countersued, claiming that the iPhone’s success would not have been possible without its technology.

In a legal salvo in September, Qualcomm alleged that Apple stole intellectual property (IP) and gave it to Intel, ostensibly so Intel could make lower-price chips for the iPhone. Intel modem chips are used in the new iPhone XS, XS Max and iPhone XR smartphones.

In a case that echoes the seven-year-long legal battle between Apple and Samsung, it will be interesting to see where the next skirmish will be fought after China.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years