Exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier AT&T has announced completion of a software upgrade across its 3G cell sites nationwide in preparation for faster speeds. The software upgrade included deployment of High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, the same used by the iPhone 3GS, to offer download speeds of up to 7.2 megabits per second, provided the cell site has the required backhaul connection. AT&T claims that the deployment of enhanced backhaul connections for the cell sites will occur over the course of 2010 and 2011, adding capacity and boosting speeds.
A pair of new reports suggest that Apple plans to hold a special media event on January 27, not Jan. 26 as had been rumored, at which it will likely introduce a possible beta version of iPhone OS 4.0 and an accompanying SDK. Citing multiple sources close to Apple, AllThingsD reports that the company is planning to hold a media event on Wednesday, January 27 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, at which it will announce a major new product, most likely the long-rumored tablet. French-language Mac4Ever adds (Translated Link) that in addition to the tablet, Apple will also announce a beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and its SDK at the event. According to the report, the SDK will include a tablet simulator, and will make it easier for developers to adapt apps to different screen resolutions, opening the door for a higher resolution display on the fourth-generation iPhone. [via Engadget]
The iPhone has seen continued strong sales in France since the device spread from Orange to competing carriers Bouygues Telecom and SFR in April. According to a Le Figaro report (Translated Link), Apple is expected to see 2009 sales between 1.8 and 2 million iPhones in France, representing around 8.5% of the 23.5 million phones sold in the country this year, and 20% in terms of market value. “Sales are significantly higher than that of Christmas 2008, since all operators offering the iPhone,” said Matthew Cortesse, director of telecoms research firm GfK. Among smartphone sales, Apple is expected to have sold more than half, with total smartphones sales expected to come in at around 3.5 million units.
SmarTone/Vodafone is preparing to launch the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in Hong Kong. The carrier will become Hong Kong’s second to offer the iPhone directly, but has little information about its plans and pricing online, offering only a simple form to sign up for future updates. Competing carrier 3 has sold the iPhone 3GS since July, and offers pricing between HK $4,880 (roughly $630) for a 32GB iPhone 3GS on the cheapest plan—which offers 100MB of data and 400 basic minutes for HK $138 (~$18)—to free for a 16GB model with the most expensive, HK $398 (~$51) monthly tariff. The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS were also previously available unlocked directly from Apple online.
A German iPhone user has reported receiving a refurbished iPhone 3G in a box labeled for an 8GB iPhone 3GS. “David,” a moderator on the apfeltalk forums, has posted a photo (Translated Link) of the box’s serial number/IMEI label, which clearly says “iPhone 3GS v2.2, 8GB;” iPhone 3G S also appears on the box’s contents label. David reports that the phone inside is indeed an iPhone 3G, running software 3.0.1, despite the box’s markings. Evidence of an 8GB iPhone 3GS model appeared as early as this August in a supposed internal Rogers Wireless memo and on the carrier’s website; it is expected that this new low-end model would replace the current 8GB iPhone 3G in Apple’s lineup.
After selling only 5,000 iPhones in the handset’s first five days on sale, China Unicom has revealed (Translated Link) that it has now sold more than 300,000 iPhones in mainland China. A China Unicom GM told the press December 27 that the company would hit the 300,000 sales mark either later that day or on the 28. The announcement comes just 20 days after the company announced it had reached the 100,000 unit plateau; by comparison, it took the company 40 days to reach that milestone, suggesting that sales are beginning to accelerate. China Unicom launched the iPhone in mainland China on October 30. [via iPhonAsia]
AT&T has abruptly ceased online iPhone sales to customers in the New York City area without explanation. The Consumerist reports that a NYC-based reader alerted them to the issue after receiving a message from the AT&T site that the iPhone was unavailable. Later checks found that no zip code in New York City, or in the suburbs of Westchester County or northern New Jersey, would allow for an online iPhone purchase, either. The site contacted AT&T Customer Service via online chat to ask about the issue, and was told that “the phone is not offered to you because New York is not ready for the iPhone. You don’t have enough towers to handle the phone.” In a written statement, AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook was not as forthcoming, saying only that the company “periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels.” The iPhone remains available through AT&T and Apple Retail stores throughout the city.
Update: AT&T is resuming online iPhone sales in NYC, according to the AP.
Rogers Wireless and Fido have extended their free tethering offer through May 3, 2010. In an email sent out by Rogers, the companies explain that the promotion, which was launched this summer, was set to expire on December 31, and provides tethering at no extra charge to customers with a data plan or data add on of 1 GB or more, including the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. In addition, the email states that “customers who are currently eligible to use tethering can continue to do so at no extra charge until the promotion’s end date.” Any data used while tethering counts towards the customer’s monthly limit.
According to new data released by Nielsen, the iPhone 3G was the most popular cell phone in the U.S. in 2009. Using data procured from January to October, iPhone 3G users represented four percent of all subscribers, followed closely by the RIM BlackBerry 8300 Series of phones, with 3.7 percent of the market. The Motorola RAZR came in third, with 2.3 percent of the market; only one other phone, the LG enV2, counted for more than two percent. Apple was also among the top ten brands accessed over mobile devices from January to September, coming in tenth; Yahoo!, Google, MSN, AOL, and the Weather Channel make up the top five.
According to new data from online advertising firm Chitika, nearly half of all iPod touch users have yet to upgrade to iPhone OS 3.0, suggesting Apple is having a hard time convincing users that the upgrade is worth the money. A sampling of traffic from Chitika’s advertising network shows that while 95% of iPhone owners, who received the upgrade for free, are running iPhone OS 3.0, while only 55% of iPod touch owners have the newer software installed. As Chitika researcher Daniel Ruby points out, this number becomes even more surprising when one considers that the majority of iPod touch units sold in the last six months came with OS 3.0 pre-installed. Released in July as a $10 upgrade for iPod touch owners, the update offers features such as stereo Bluetooth, Copy & Paste, Spotlight search, In-App Purchases, and Push Notifications, and saw its price cut to $5 in September; Apple is still selling some refurbished iPod touch models with the older software installed.
Vodafone in the U.K. has announced that it will begin selling the iPhone on January 14, 2010. According to the BBC News, tariffs will be available from £30 (roughly $48) for 24 months, while the phones will run from £59 (~$95) for an 8GB iPhone 3G to £239 (~$385) for a 32GB iPhone 3GS. Both business and personal contracts will be subject to a 1GB per month “fair use” data limit, and also include unlimited Wi-Fi use. Tethering will also be offered as an option, starting at £5 (~$8) for 500MB of bandwidth. Vodafone has been working for over a year to prepare its network for the iPhone launch, according to Guy Laurence, CEO of Vodafone U.K.
AdMob has released its November Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link), showing strong international growth for the iPhone and iPod touch in 2009. 50 percent of the mobile advertising firm’s November requests came from iPhone and iPod touch users, compared to 39 percent in January. Among Apple’s top 10 markets, Japan saw the biggest increase, with user growth topping 300 percent from January to November, followed by France, Australia, China, Germany, and Italy. Overall, the iPhone accounted for 71% of all unique Apple users. Interestingly, 36 percent of iPhone traffic in the U.S. was over Wi-Fi, considerably higher than other Wi-Fi capable devices; by comparison, less than 10 percent of traffic from major Android devices came over Wi-Fi. AdMob’s percentages are based on ad requests, impressions, and clicks, tracked over the more than 15,000 mobile web sites and applications to which the company serves ads.
According to the latest data from research firm ComScore, the iPhone has overtaken Windows Mobile in U.S. smartphone market share for the first time. ComScore conducts monthly surveys of U.S. mobile subscribers over the age of 13, asking them what type of phone they use, and then derives OS market share from those numbers. Based on a three-month average ending in October, the iPhone has over 8.9 million users, compared to Microsoft’s Windows Mobile with over 7.1 million. The previous three-month average from July showed Windows Mobile with 6.65 million users, compared to 6.63 for the iPhone OS. Overall, the data showed Apple behind only BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, which boasts 14.9 million users; ComScore claims there are around 36 million U.S. smartphone users. [via Engadget]
Apple has launched a new iPhone television commercial with a holiday theme. Entitled “12 Apps of Xmas,” the new commercial apes the traditional Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” by using apps to show the different gifts received, ending with “an app that can light up the tree.” The entire commercial is available for viewing on Apple’s website.
An ongoing spat between journalist Dan Lyons—posting as his satirical alter-ego “Fake Steve Jobs”—and AT&T has the potential to cause iPhone service outages Friday afternoon. Following a profanity-filled rant (NSFW) in which Lyons compared AT&T to a record company wanting customers to purchase less copies of an album due to high demand, Lyons subsequently proposed “Operation Chokehold,” suggesting that iPhone users flood AT&T’s cellular network with traffic by turning off Wi-Fi and using their 3G connections for data-intensive activities, such as streaming video, for approximately one hour at Noon Pacific Time (3:00PM Eastern Time) on Friday.
Following the “Chokehold” post, AT&T called the scheme “irresponsible and pointless,” adding that “there is nothing amusing about advocating that customers attempt to deliberately degrade service on a network that provides critical communications services for more than 80 million customers.” Lyons’ responded, noting that the company has made over $10 billion in profit over the last nine months, and has seen wireless data revenues soar 80% over the last eight quarters, while dropping its capital expenditures by 30% over the same period. A Facebook group dedicated to “Operation Chokehold” now has over 1,750 fans, and despite a later statement from Lyons claiming that he doesn’t want to “cause any actual harm to my fellow AT&T users,” questions remain as to whether the protest will have any impact on the network on Friday.
Recent reports from iPhone developers indicate that Apple has softened its stance on using private APIs—features not authorized by Apple for third-party developer use—in iPhone applications. One iPhone developer, Vimov, indicated that instead of simply rejecting its application for using private APIs, Apple approved it with a request that the developer resolve the issue in its next update. An unrelated developer, Jonah Grant reported a similar experience with his application. The iPhone SDK Developer Agreement prohibits the use of private APIs, which, unlike public APIs, may include features that Apple could change in future OS updates, and thus does not want third-party developers to use. In the past, applications that made use of private APIs have been rejected by the App Store review process, and Apple has even gone so far as to implement an automated check for the use of private APIs. The change in policy appears to be aimed at increasing approvals while educating developers about reasons for future rejection. Earlier this month Steve Jobs personally intervened to reverse the rejection of the Knocking application, which also made use of a private API. (via AppleInsider and Daring Fireball).
China Unicom reports that it has now sold 100,000 iPhones since the device’s official launch in China in October. The carrier had indicated in early November that it had signed up only 5,000 subscribers in the first weekend of the iPhone launch, and later reports from a major online electronics retailer revealed that only five iPhones had been sold through that particular outlet. However, China Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing now reports that the carrier has actually sold 100,000 iPhones in the past 40 days, indicating in an interview on Thursday that most reports have been focusing on the contract-free price of the iPhone in China (US$1,033 for the 32GB iPhone 3GS) rather than the subsidized pricing models that are available under various monthly plans, four of which actually offer the iPhone hardware for free under contract. Further, Chang described earlier reports that China Unicom had contracted with Apple to purchase 5 million iPhones over a five-year period as “not entirely accurate” but added that the company is rethinking its marketing strategy and believes it could possibly sell more than that number. The official iPhone sold in China does not include Wi-Fi capabilities due to government regulations, while fully-capable iPhone models have been available for import into China from other countries such as Hong Kong since long before the official iPhone Chinese release. It is commonly believed that these factors have contributed to comparatively slow sales of the official iPhone in China, where mobile phone subscribers are estimated to number more than 720 million.
According to a report from BBC News, British department store Tesco will begin to sell the iPhone in the UK starting on December 14th on a twelve-month contract. The lowest rate plan is expected to be £20 per month (US$32.50), while an 8GB iPhone 3G will sell for £222 (US$360) on a twelve-month contract, the shortest currently available in the UK. Customers willing to sign a 24-month £60 (US$98) per month contract can get the 8GB iPhone 3G or 16GB iPhone 3GS for free. By comparison, O2 sells the base iPhone 3G model for approximately £97 (US$160) for the handset and a lowest rate plan of £30 (US$50) on an 18-month contract, while Orange provides rate plans as low as £30 (US$50) on an 18-month contract with a free iPhone. Vodafone is also expected to begin carrying the iPhone next year but has not announced any pricing details as of yet.
Last night Apple announced the launch of an RSS feed for iPhone Developer news and announcements. The new RSS feed provides information on a range of topics of interest to iPhone developers including tips on submitting apps to the App Store, current turnaround times for app review, developer program updates and development and testing techniques. While targeted at iPhone Developers, the feed is publicly available for anybody who may be interested in following iPhone-related development news from Apple.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian iPhone carrier Telstra quietly enabled iPhone tethering this weekend, allowing iPhone users to now access the Internet from their computers via either USB or Bluetooth. Telstra has offered this feature on its other mobile phones for some time, but insisted that Apple would not permit it to enable tethering on the iPhone. Apple indicated, however, that tethering decisions rest with the carriers themselves, and Australia’s other three cellular phone carriers have been providing tethering access for the iPhone since shortly after the iPhone 3.0 update was released in June. A list of the iPhone carriers around the world which provide tethering capabilities can be found on Apple’s Locating iPhone Wireless Carriers page.
Additionally, reports indicate that the iPhone has had a successful launch in South Korea. Sales of 60,000 units were noted for its first day of availability, representing 15% of the total number of smartphones that were sold in South Korea during the entire third quarter. Even though South Korea provides one of the most advanced sets of mobile products and services in the world, smartphones still only represent 1% of the total mobile market in that country. KT Corporation, the iPhone’s South Korean carrier, hopes that the introduction of the iPhone will improve the popularity of smartphones in that country.