Mobile dispatches: EU opens probe into Samsung over patents; strong ARM results

Mobile-phone news, it’s calling.

• The European Union has started an antitrust investigation into Samsung’s use of patents, including looking into whether the company is hindering competition from Apple and others. Samsung and Apple, of course, have been duking it out in many courts in numerous countries over patents related to the electronic gadgets both companies make. Samsung makes Android-based smartphones and tablets that compete with Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The BBC,  which quotes a U.K. expert, says that the EU “wading in” to the probe itself, without complaints from competitors of Samsung, definitely makes things more complicated for the South Korean company.

Also today, a judge upheld a ban Apple had sought in Germany on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1. However, Samsung has been selling a modified tablet that gets around the ban.

The setbacks for Samung come on the heels of news that Apple iPhones beat Samsung’s Android smartphone sales in the quarter that included the holidays — and the new iPhone 4S. Samsung remained the top smartphone vendor for 2011, however.

• Shares of ARM Holdings, which designs most of the chips in the world’s smartphones, are up more than 2 percent to about $28.95 on the Nasdaq as of this post after reporting today that its quarterly profit rose 45 percent, handily beating analyst estimates. Its shares are rising even more sharply in Europe, where MarketWatch says they have jumped 21 percent in the past 12 months. The British company also said it got a boost from tablets and smart TVs, and issued a bright outlook for the year ahead, according to Reuters.

ARM has dominated smartphone chips for years, but Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, is now poised to compete with ARM. Its Medfield chip for mobile devices is getting some good buzz. (See ARM wrestling: Intel finally putting up a fight in mobile.) But ARM seems unfazed. “We continue to introduce new technology that is higher performance and lower power at the same time,” said the company’s finance director, Tim Score, who was quoted by Reuters.



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