If you’re an AT&T customer planning to upgrade to the HTC One X, or have been looking forward to purchasing Sprint’s upcoming HTC EVO 4G LTE, your wait will be longer than expected. According to several reports that surfaced yesterday (since confirmed by HTC), U.S. Customs is blocking shipments of both handsets into the country because of an International Trade Commission investigation concerning HTC’s violation of patented Apple technology.
“The US 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,” an HTC spokesperson said in a statement. “We believe we are in compliance with the ruling and HTC is working closely with Customs to secure approval… [W]e appreciate [customers’] patience as we work to get these products into their hands as soon as possible.”
Apple won a wide-ranging exclusion order banning the importation of HTC Android devices at the International Trade Commission last December — the ITC found that Android’s messaging app and browser infringed upon Apple patent #5,946,647, which covers automatically converting things like phone numbers and email addresses into actionable links that open a menu of options. The ban was delayed so HTC could engineer around Apple’s patent claims, but it went into effect on April 19th — and although HTC claimed so-called "data tapping" was a "small UI experience" that would be completely removed from its US Android devices, Customs is now reviewing the One X and Evo 4G LTE.
The HTC One X went on sale earlier this month at AT&T and is currently out of stock at the carrier’s web store; the white version is backordered at Amazon, though the gray One X is in stock as of this posting. The HTC EVO 4G LTE was expected to be released Friday by Sprint. Customers who pre-ordered the new EVO and are concerned about the situation should contact the carrier at (866) 789-8292 for information or options.
This move seems suspect to us given that all modern Android devices employ this “data tapping” feature and only two HTC handsets are currently being held, two that – by sheer chance? – are among the most feature-rich Android smartphones of 2012, class-to-class competitors with Apple’s iPhone 4S.
The intricacies of patent law and its related bureaucracies are as numerous as stars in the galaxy, so it is unclear how long this shipment hold will last, what moves HTC can make to resolve it, what the Customs investigation entails, or if any other Android phones will arrested at the border going forward.
We just hope no one unearths an Apple patent for holding a device in one hand and manipulating it with the other or drinking liquid through a straw.