The Mobile Lowdown 04-04-11: iPhone 5 Sony; TimeWarner; Ericsson v ZTE

Our look at some of the big stories today in mobile: some more possible leaks on the iPhone 5, and a possible Sony (NYSE: SNE) Honeycomb tablet; TimeWarner and mobile services; Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) sues ZTE over phone technology.
iPhone 5: Apple has made no mention of what will be in its iPhone 5, and when we might see it, but we got a hint of one detail, by way of an anecdote from the CEO of Sony.
In an interview with WSJ’s Walt Mossberg, (reported here by 9to5 Mac) Sony’s CEO Howard Stringer (pictured) talked of how events in Japan had disrupted production at its camera image sensor facility. He also added that this would delay shipping components to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL).
These two sentences have sent Apple sleuths off and running, concluding that, because Sony does not currently supply Apple with such components, it is planning to supply them for a future product. Sony currently makes and eight-megapixel camera for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, and some have been speculating for some time now that Apple has been looking to include an 8MP camera in its next device.
Put all this together, and people are now guessing with some certainty that this is the camera that may appear in the next iPhone. The delay in production may also be the reason why Apple will not be launching the iPhone 5 during its annual developers’ conference, scheduled for this June.
Sony Honeycomb: At the same event, Engadget points out that Stringer also noted that Sony would be releasing its first tablet running the Android OS optimized for tablets, Honeycomb. This will be due out by the end of this year. Still a lot of questions about what form and branding this tablet would take: one suggestion is a Vaio clamshell (can that still be called a tablet, though?); another is a PlayStation tablet (which would fit neatly with the Xperia Play phone launch underway now).
Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner: The cable provider has been offering its customers a WiMax mobile broadband data service that it wholesales from Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR). Is it now getting ready to convert that into a full-fledged mobile offering?
FierceWireless is reporting that it it testing out a WiMax handset, among other devices, that could see it competing with other mobile operators not just by offering data services but voice as well. A Time Warner spokesperson told the blog that it is evaluating voice but has no “formal launch plans” in place.
Cable and telecoms operators have long been looking to capitalise on the vision of quad-play services, combining voice, data, video and mobile, but up to now Time Warner’s mobile efforts have had a lukewarm response in the market, with only 15,000 WiMax subscribers at the end of Q4. TimeWarner is reported also interested in striking a wholesale agreement with the new LTE operator LightSquared.
Ericsson versus ZTE: One more patent infringement lawsuit to add to the pile. This one has been filed by Ericsson against the Chinese handset maker ZTE, over wireless patent infringements in the UK, Italy and Germany. Ericsson says its suits were filed after a breakdown in negotiations with ZTE — the two have apparently been in licensing discussions for several years already.
At issue are patents related to WCDMA technology that ZTE uses in both in handsets and network equipment in the three countries, according to MarketWatch.
It’s not clear yet whether Ericsson plans to file further suits in other territories in Europe or elsewhere. Meanwhile, ZTE says it is considering countersuits against Ericsson, potentially in China, Western Europe or in other regions.
ZTE is very ambitious in the handset market but trails behind other handset makers like Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Nokia; (NYSE: NOK) in equipment — its more traditional line of business — it has a 10.9 percent share of the market, ranking fourth behind Nokia Siemens Networks, Ericsson and Huawei, according to iSuppli.