Chinese blog UMPCFever (translated link) has photographically confirmed two previously rumored features of the iPhone OS 3.0—an autofocus feature for the still picture camera, and a digital compass—along with new details on their user interfaces. Believed to rely upon new camera hardware found in the upcoming 2009 iPhone, the autofocus feature places a blue box on the existing camera screen to show the current area of crisp focus, enabling users to move the focus area with finger gestures. Sample images show the new camera producing notably sharper, if less colorful images than a prior-generation iPhone camera used for comparison.
Separately, UMPCFever shows an image of a new magnetic compass application, which provides a digital readout and a full rotating analog compass on screen. The application appears to be similar in graphic design to Apple’s voice recording software, previously revealed in beta versions of the iPhone OS 3.0, and is expected to be available only for the 2009 iPhone due to hardware changes. Additional photographs add further credence to previously discussed new features, such as a movie recording mode, and suggest additional debugging tools will be available to help optimize CPU performance.
The second 360|iDev iPhone Developer Conference has been announced and will be held in Denver, CO from September 27-30, 2009. Held in San Jose in March, the first Conference offered hands-on training and conferences hosted by experienced iPhone developers on a variety of iPhone development topics, as well as opportunities for iPhone developers to meet up and network. Registration is open now, with the first 100 registered attendees receiving a discounted price of $360, as compared to the normal registration price of $480. Attendees at WWDC can qualify for a special registration price of $200 by meeting with the 360|iDev organizers. A call for papers is also open, and will run through Apple’s WWDC for those developers who may be working on applications for the new iPhone 3.0 OS. More information can be found on the 360|iDev web site.
Images from Hong Kong depict several significant changes from the bezels of prior iPhones to the next-generation model, if their source is to be believed. Listings pages from Hong Kong-based part vendor China Ontrade depict what the company claims to be the first next-generation iPhone parts to be supplied directly from the factory, including liquid crystal displays and front bezels. Notably, the bezels appear to show a repositioned and redesigned ear speaker, now significantly higher above the display than the present speaker, and ringed with metal, a change that may make room for additional front-mounted sensor or camera hardware. Alternately, the metal ring may be there to protect a front-facing camera from smudging.
Also changed is the bezel’s color, which has shifted from the prior silver in all iPhone and iPhone 3G models to a nearly black metallic color reminiscent of the backs of later fifth-generation iPod U2 Special Edition models. In the photos, the bezel now stops short of ringing the entire iPhone face, ending at roughly the edge of the LCD screen. The site does not specify what differences there are between the new iPhone’s screen and its predecessor, but the company lists the new screen at $73 versus $35 for the prior version. It is unclear whether the bezel and screen are legitimate components, as China Ontrade sells both identical and modified aftermarket parts for prior-model iPhones. [via iFun.de]
AT&T announced today that it will be upgrading its existing 3G network to provide significantly faster mobile Internet speeds. The upgrade to High-Speed Packet Access technology will provide 7.2 Mbps speeds, doubling the current 3G network speed and serving as a step toward the deployment of an even higher-speed LTE (4G) network in the future. In addition, AT&T has announced plans to enhance its mobile broadband coverage by nearly doubling its wireless 3G spectrum in most metropolitan areas to provide better in-building coverage and network capacity. These improvements will be rolled out later this year, and the company expects to have them fully deployed by the end of 2011.
A report released today by AdMob Metrics indicates that the iPhone and iPod touch accounted for 43% of worldwide smartphone Internet traffic in April and 59% of the smartphone traffic in the U.S. Nokia was in second-place worldwide at 35% and Research in Motion second-place in the U.S. at 17%. Worldwide HTML mobile browsing usage from the iPhone was 65% overall. This comes despite the iPhone presently having an 8% worldwide smartphone market share.
The report also indicates that the iPhone and iPod touch together accounted for 26.2% of requests worldwide, suggesting that many iPhone and iPod touch users are transferring larger amounts of data per request than users of other smartphone models. [via CNN Money]
Orange, Apple’s wireless partner in France, announced today that it has sold its millionth iPhone in that country. Originally selected to be Apple’s exclusive carrier in France, Orange began selling the iPhone there in November 2007, as one of only a handful of companies participating in the launch of the first-generation device. Orange enjoyed an exclusive arrangement with Apple until December 2008, when France’s competition council ordered Apple to permit the iPhone to be sold by other carriers as well. The sale of 1 million iPhones represents an important milestone for the growing success of the iPhone outside of the North American market.
To celebrate its success, Orange France is offering iPhone plan customers unlimited viewing of the French Open tennis tournament via the Roland-Garros iPhone application. [via CNet].
Suggesting that he has direct knowledge of the features of Apple’s next-generation iPhone, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber claims that recent rumors “are indeed accurate” that the new iPhone will include a magnetometer and improved camera with autofocus capabilities, a higher-resolution image sensor and video recording features. While the device’s video feature will not be spectacular, he suggests, it will be convenient, easy to use, and “one of the major features Apple plans to tout regarding the new model.” He also says that he “believe[s]” reports that the device will sport a 600MHz processor, 1.5 times faster than the prior iPhone models, and expects a doubling of both the device’s storage capacity and RAM for the same $199 and $299 prices as prior models, collectively making the new iPhones faster at loading and switching between apps. Additionally, Gruber notes that the new iPhone’s shell will be so similar to its predecessor’s that earlier cases will remain compatible, with only “subtle” changes.
Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone model at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on June 8, 2009.
Following a report from earlier this week claiming that AT&T was considering a limited data access plan for iPhone users which would drop the monthly cost of an iPhone by $10, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega has confirmed that the company is contemplating cheaper data offerings. The executive explained that it would be costly for them to cut the price on unlimited Internet access, but that the company could offer more limited package for a lower fee. “Right now we continue to study what is the best thing that is available, not just from an iPhone point of view, but what you can do to stimulate additional demand,” said de la Vega, adding, “[w]e view Apple as a strategic partner for us, a very good partner to have now and into the future.”
Recent developments suggest Apple is in negotiations with Telecom New Zealand to offer the iPhone 3G, and possibly the next-generation iPhone. First, a representative from Telecom NZ posted a message from the company’s retail head Alan Gourdie on Twitter, saying the company is “in negotiations with Apple,” adding that it is “very focused on the 3rd gen iPhone.” Several hours later, a National Business Review article also claimed the company was in negotiations with Apple, with a quote Gourdie saying that Telecom was in “discussions - deep discussions - with Apple.” The iPhone 3G is currently available in New Zealand from Vodafone.
According to the latest figures by market research firm Gartner, the iPhone saw its share of the smartphone market more than double year-over-year for the first quarter of 2009, as worldwide smartphone sales increased despite an overall decrease in worldwide mobile phone sales. Apple’s share jumped to 10.8% in the quarter, compared with its 5.3% share in the first quarter of 2008. Unit sales grew similarly, from 1.7 million units in Q1 2008 to 3.9 million in Q1 2009. Overall smartphone sales were roughly 36.4 million units, an increase of 12.7% from the 32.3 million units sold in Q1 2008. Apple rival Research In Motion also saw gains, as the Blackberry’s smartphone market share rose from 13.3% in Q1 2008 to 19.9% in Q1 2009.
Aoyama Gakuin University, located in Tokyo, Japan, is providing all staff and students with free iPhone 3G units as part of an attendance tracking system. According to the Mainichi Daily News, the school will leverage the iPhone 3G’s GPS to determine if students are at school or not, with the system scheduled to go live in the fall. In addition, the school plans to expand the use of the iPhone to include simple testing, questionnaires, homework submission, and educational video review. Aoyama Gakuin plans to pay all basic charges for the phones itself, and recently entered into a partnership with Japanese iPhone carrier SoftBank on “Mobile & Net Society Education and Training.” [via MDN]
Apple has sent an email to registered iPhone developers, asking them to download a pre-release application in order to run a high-volume test of the company’s Push Notification servers. The email provides developers with a redemption code good for the download of the Associated Press app for iPhone OS 3.0, with instructions to notify the company if the app does not begin receiving notifications within 48 hours. The email also notes that the application can only be installed on devices running iPhone OS 3.0 beta 5, and that the functionality of the application will expire in seven days.
Security software companies McAfee and Symantec are both developing products for the iPhone, according to a new report. Speaking with Reuters, McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt said the company was working on security software for both the iPhone and Mac, which he described as “a much more comprehensive suite for the Apple family.” DeWalt did not say when the software might be ready for release, or how such software, which normally requires more access to system files than iPhone applications are currently allowed, would be distributed.
Also well known for its security software, McAffe rival Symantec is instead working on a MobileMe-like backup service for the iPhone. Symantec Senior Vice President Rowan Trollope said the service would protect data on the iPhone and allow users to use the device to access information stored on their home computers or on the web, adding that although the company closely monitors iPhone security issues, it has no plans to introduce any security products at this time.
AT&T is considering a limited data access plan for iPhone users which would reduce the minimum monthly cost of an iPhone by $10, according to a new report. Citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans, BusinessWeek reports that the reduced plan could be introduced by the end of the month, and that the increased flexibility in pricing may be part of Apple’s demands for an exclusivity extension. Other options for increasing iPhone sales include reducing the up-front price of the iPhone to $99 or introducing a cheaper and/or pre-paid iPhone model.
Speaking with representatives from Oppenheimer, senior Apple officials discussed possible avenues the company could explore to further the iPhone’s market share, according to a new report. Citing a client report from Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner, AppleInsider reports that Apple executive mentioned providing increased functionality, lowering prices, expanding the products’ geographic availability, and segmenting the market with different models as possible ways to increase market share. “[T]hey are not saying they will necessarily do all of these,” Reiner told AI. “This is basically the menu of options.” Reiner went on to say that the executives also seemed excited by the growth opportunities presented by the Chinese market, but declined to comment further on timing and/or possible carrier partners for the region.
Apple has started selling the iPhone 3G online in the U.S. Previously, the handset was only available from AT&T online—both new and refurbished—and from physical Apple Store, Best Buy, AT&T, and Wal-Mart locations. Before purchase, customers will have to pass an eligibility check, and select a rate plan if necessary. Pricing for the handset remains at $199 for the 8GB model and $299 for 16GB versions; it is unclear whether Apple plans to offer online ordering in other countries as well.
A number of iPhone developers are running out of slots for the addition of Ad-Hoc testing devices, according to one developer’s blog posting. James Thompson, developer of PCalc, states that when he recently ran into problems deleting and adding new testing devices to his list, and contacted Apple about the problem, they replied saying, “Please know that each Standard iPhone Developer Program enrollment has a limit of 100 test devices please be aware that removing a device will not replenish the current amount available.”
He claims that although Apple’s user interface indicates that developers have 100 slots for the Universally Unique Identifiers (UUID) of testing devices, nowhere in the interface does it indicate that these 100 slots are limited in this manner. Thompson also points out that this restriction may become huge problem for many developers, as new iPhone and iPod touch models are released: “I can’t currently add any new testers or change their device entries if they get new ones. And I can only imagine what is going to happen when the new iPhones come along, presumably next month, and lots of people get replacements. If I bought a new iPhone for myself, I couldn’t even add it to my own list of development devices currently.”
New screenshots taken from a debugging menu in the latest iPhone OS 3.0 beta suggest that Apple is planning to add a magnetometer to future iPhone models. The shots, published by the Boy Genius Report, show a toggle switch for logging “Compass” information, along with Location, GPS, Motion, and Accelerometer info. Evidence of a magnetometer was first found in early April, with the term magnetometer specifically referenced inside a configuration file. The inclusion of a magnetometer would allow applications to understand not just where users are, but in which direction they are facing, allowing for features not presently possible on the iPhone platform. Examples could include automatic rotation of Google Street View information based on the orientation of the user, the overlay of information about the business, building, or venue the user is looking at, or the ability to place accurate star map information on the screen that corresponds with the part of the sky the user is facing. [via Mac Rumors]
Despite the fact that it doesn’t offer the iPhone, T-Mobile in the U.S. has pledged to support its customers who are using the devices on their network, according to a new report. The Consumerist reports that due to a recent T-Mobile voicemail system change, iPhone users were unable to check their voicemail, and were being sent blank text messages when they tried to call in to check their messages, or when a new one arrived. One customer who emailed about the issue received a call from T-Mobile’s Executive Customer Service, acknowledging the problem and offering a one-month service credit for his/her troubles. in addition, the representative also stated that “T-Mobile, though they do not offer the iPhone, [a]re committed to supporting users on their network who have them.” The problem was reportedly fixed “within a day or so.”
Apple has instituted a new policy under which iPhone owners who have accidentally caused water damage to their handsets—an issue not covered under Apple’s warranty—can buy a refurbished replacement unit for $199. ifo Apple Store reports that the new policy allows these users to replace their iPhones without the need to pay AT&T’s upgrade-ineligible pricing or add another two years to their contract. A commenter on the story indicates that the $199 price is good for replacements of both 8GB and 16GB units, and that it applies to the original iPhone as well as the iPhone 3G. The iPhone features four liquid submersion indicators—one in the headset jack, one in the dock connector, and two on the phone’s interior—which enable Genius Bar workers or other Apple technicians to determine whether an iPhone problem could have been caused by water damage.