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Russian interest in iPhone growing

A group of Russian leaders were recently seen passing around an iPhone at a business conference, the latest indicator of Russian interest in the phone, according to a new report. Citing a journalist attending the conference, the Washington Post reports that Dmitry Kozak, the Russian minister of regional development, was seen showing the device to Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president-elect, and Alexander Tkachev, the local governor. According to Eldar Murtazin, head of analysis for Mobile Research Group in Moscow, there are approximately 500,000 iPhone users in Russia—a number that seems overly optimistic, as it would dwarf Apple’s sanctioned sales in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and German. Murtazin claims that iPhone sales in the country are third-highest in the world, after the U.S. and China, adding, “Russian people love anything that is forbidden.” The report goes on to state the iPhone has become commonplace at the Kremlin and in Russia’s parliament, and is now widely available at electronics stores and through Internet sales across the former Soviet Union.

AT&T to subsidize 3G iPhone?

AT&T plans to subsidize as much as $200 of the price of the 3G iPhone, according to a Fortune report. Citing a person “familiar with the strategy,” the report states that the subsidy would bring the price of the base-model 3G iPhone to $199 for customers who sign two-year contracts, a price that would help AT&T lure more customers away from rival carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Subsidized iPhones will reportedly be available only through AT&T and not at Apple Stores, and may feature more robust locking techniques in hopes of preventing customers from using the cheaper phones with other services or carriers. The report goes on to say that Apple will cease shipments of the current-generation iPhone roughly two weeks before the 3G iPhone’s likely June 27 debut, and that the new model will be 2.5mm thinner than the original, and will sport true GPS capabilities, as well.

AT&T intros iPhone Text Accessibility Plan

AT&T has announced its new Text Accessibility Plan (TAP) for iPhone, designed to give customers with disabilities access to all the iPhone’s non-voice communication abilities without having to pay for voice service. The plan will include unlimited text messaging, web browsing and e-mail for $40 a month, and is available to new and current iPhone users with qualifying disabilities through AT&T’s National Center for Customers with Disabilities. “Our Text Accessibility Plan allows customers who are deaf or have hearing or speech disabilities to literally tap out their communications on the go,” said Carlton Hill, vice president of Product Management, Voice Products and Affiliate Marketing for AT&T’s wireless unit. “Now with TAP for iPhone, users can tap, flick and pinch the innovative Multi-Touch touch screen for a completely new world of functionality.” For more information about AT&T’s NCCD or other offerings for customers with disabilities, visit the company’s disability resources web page; Apple also offers a page explaining the accessibility features of the iPhone.

Report: New iPhone to be lighter, smaller?

Following yesterday’s report that Hon Hai has been instructed by Apple to begin preparing material supplies for the 3G iPhone, the Taiwan Economic News has printed a story containing supposed specifications of the new handset. According to the report, the new iPhone will weigh between 3.9 and 4.2 oz., compared with the current model’s weight of 5.6 oz. A new plastic casing is said to help with the weight reduction, along with a new, smaller LCD screen measuring 2.8 inches, down from the current iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen. As a screen size reduction of this sort would likely impact use of the touchscreen for keyboard-style input, it is possible that these reports refer to a separate, smaller “iPhone mini” or “iPhone nano” model, rather than a complete successor to the original iPhone. [via AppleInsider]

Rogers to offer iPhone in Canada [updated]

After more than a year of rumors, Rogers Wireless has confirmed that it will offer the iPhone in Canada, and will launch the handset later this year. Ted Rogers, President and CEO of Rogers Communications, said in an official statement: “We’re thrilled to announce that we have a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to Canada later this year. We can’t tell you any more about it right now, but stay tuned.” Rogers Wireless is the largest Canadian wireless communications service provider.

Update: Toronto’s CityNews has posted a video of Rogers’ announcement, as well as some interviews and commentary .

Apple building iTunes controller for iPhone, iPod touch?

Following an inspection of code found in the latest build of the iPhone 2.0 beta firmware, Apple appears to be working on a new mobile iTunes management application, possibly called “Remote,” for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the code and information allegedly provided by a developer to TUAW, the application would allow the devices to connect wirelessly to, and play videos, podcasts, and music from local iTunes libraries. Screenshots taken of the program and its internal code (Translated Link) show that the program may have been developed under the name “MobileRemote,” matching the internal names of other iPhone and iPod touch applications, such as “MobileMail,” “MobileSafari,” and “MobileAddressBook.”

UK’s O2, Carphone Warehouse sold out of 8GB iPhones, not restocking [updated]

UK cellular retailer Carphone Warehouse has sent out an email indicating that it is out of 8GB iPhones, and does not expect to be restocked. The email, sent to publishers running a promotion for the recent price cut on the 8GB model, says: “Thanks to the most phenomenal response to the promotion, The Carphone Warehouse is now out of stock on the Apple iPhone. Please can you remove all reference to the iPhone promotion in your copy. We apologize for the short notice but would like to thank everyone who participated in the campaign. Carphone do not expect to receive any additional stock at this time.” An earlier report indicated that the price cut had boosted sales, with O2 locations in Newcastle, Birmingham, and London reporting sell-outs of the 8GB model, and one Carphone Warehouse employee indicating that sales had “doubled” since the promotion began. [via Fortune]

Update: According to an internal O2 memo received by Engadget, the 8GB iPhone has been moved to end-of-life status by the UK iPhone carrier. “Due to the highly successful sales of the Apple 8GB I-Phone [sic], supply chain have today run out of stock & will not be replenishing stock of this product as it has now gone to end of life,” the memo states.

O2 price cut boosts iPhone sales

UK iPhone carrier O2’s move to temporarily lower the 8GB iPhone’s price by £100 has boosted sales, according to a Mobile Today report. O2 stores in Newcastle, Birmingham, and London said they sold out of the 8GB model on the day the price cuts; the stores are expecting more iPhones to be delivered this weekend. An employee at Carphone Warehouse’s flagship Oxford Street store said sales had doubled, from 30 to 60 iPhones per day, while another Warehouse employee added: “We usually sell one or two a day, but yesterday we sold about 20 – it was like launch day again.” The price reduction, which was announced last week, applies to all 8GB iPhones purchased with an O2 iPhone tariff, and will run through June 1.

Report: TIM to launch 3G iPhone in June

Italian carrier Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) is set to launch the 3G iPhone in June, according to a new report. La Repubblica, a well-respected Italian daily, claims (Translated Link) the Italian selling price of the 3G iPhone may be substantially higher due to the lack of a revenue sharing agreement, and that TIM would begin carrying the phone several months before competitors in lieu of long-term exclusivity. It is unclear whether a change of this sort in carrier strategy by Apple would be a result of apparently slower than expected iPhone sales in Europe that have led to recent price-cuts on the phone in the UK and Germany. Evidence of a potential iPhone deal with TIM has notably been found in the device’s firmware, dating back to version 1.1.2, however, the iPhone still has not officially launched in Italy. [via Engadget]

European carriers facing losses on first-gen iPhone

European iPhone carriers are facing “significant losses” on unsold first-generation iPhone stocks as they attempt to clear shelves for the arrival of the 3G model, according to The Times Online, which reports that both O2 in the UK and T-Mobile in Germany overestimated the number of iPhone units that would sell in Europe. Kathryn Huberty, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, said losses on the early model would be “significant” due to recent price cuts announced by both companies, despite the promise of monthly revenue from new iPhone customers. The article suggests the cuts are part of a move to empty inventories ahead of the 3G iPhone launch, which expected later this year. An O2 spokeswoman, however, said the price cut was “not a reactive move but part of a well thought out strategy of maximizing the success of the iPhone in the UK.” As we reported earlier, Orange, the iPhone’s carrier in France, is said to be in talks with Apple over similar price cuts for the iPhone; neither O2 Ireland or T-Mobile Austria yet appear to be involved in the proposed cuts.

Apple, Orange negotiating iPhone price cut

Apple and Orange are in talks to lower the price of the iPhone in France, according to a report from French business daily Les Echos. Citing a source close to Orange, the article says that Apple is encouraging Orange to adopt the subsidized pricing model, currently being used by O2 in the UK and T-Mobile Germany to sell iPhones with mobile contracts, in order to boost sales. Orange is said to be seeking a revision in its revenue-sharing agreement with Apple in return for subsidizing the phone; however, the company told Les Echos there was “no question of changing the business model of the iPhone,” adding that “everything is going well.” According to the report, sales of the iPhone in France have reached 100,000 units since its launch on November 29, 2007.

Apple posts new WWDC iPhone sessions, awards info

Apple has expanded its list of iPhone-related sessions for its Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held June 9-13 in the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Technical sessions and labs scheduled for the event now include “Audio Development for iPhone,” “iPhone Game Development Lab,” and “How Do I Do That? Tips and Tricks for iPhone Application Development.” Apple has also posted details of two Apple Design Awards for iPhone developers — the iPhone Developer Showcase award “highlights innovative and compelling new iPhone applications built using the Beta iPhone SDK,” while the Best iPhone Web Application award “highlights web applications designed specifically for Safari on iPhone, which offers iPhone users innovative, compelling, valuable, and highly desirable capabilities.” Both awards will be presented during the June event.

AOL rolls out Mobile Search for iPhone beta

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AOL has officially launched the beta version of AOL Mobile Search created specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch. Previewed at the CITA event earlier this month, the iPhone/iPod touch version of Mobile Search was built especially for the devices’ multi-touch interface using AJAX technology. According to the company, it “delivers comprehensive and relevant search results by bringing together content from across the Web and the mobile Web, as well as from Moviefone, MapQuest, AOL CityGuide and other AOL services.” Users can now access AOL Mobile Search for iPhone by visiting search.aol.com from any iPhone or iPod touch.

O2 to drop 8GB iPhone price to £169 through June 1

O2 is set to cut the price of the 8GB iPhone by £100, to £169, according to a Mobile Today report, which has since been confirmed by the carrier. The reduction will apply to all 8GB iPhones purchased with an O2 iPhone tariff, and will run from April 16 (tomorrow) through June 1. “The special offer will make the iPhone an unbeatable proposition in the market, helping O2 to further gain market share,” said an O2 spokesperson. The price cut follows a similar discount on the 8GB iPhone from T-Mobile Germany, which is currently offering tiered pricing from €99 to €249, depending on the tariff selected with the purchase. The 16GB iPhone is not included in either promotion, and will remain £329 from O2.

Nike+ coming to iPhone, iPod touch

Nike plans to expand its Nike+ program to include the iPhone and iPod touch, according to a new report. Stuff.tv, visiting Nike’s headquarters in Oregon, said a Nike+ spokesperson confirmed the expansion, adding that it could also make use of the devices’ Wi-Fi capabilities (and possibly the iPhone’s upcoming 3G connection) to allow users to update their training log on the fly, without the need for docking with a computer. This news follows a set of recently published Apple patent applications, which outlined a digital fitness program for iTunes and touchscreen digital media devices.

Latest enterprise beta reveals iPhone contacts search, meeting invites

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Two new features planned for iPhone software version 2.0 have been revealed in the latest version of the beta software recently distributed to enterprise developers. Screenshots taken from the release show a new search bar in the Contacts menu, which is likely a replacement for the magnifying glass icon seen in the same menu during the iPhone Software Roadmap event. A drawer button found in the Calendar application, previously seen but rendered inactive in earlier beta releases, has been shown to provide access to a meeting invitation interface. Notification of new meeting invitations appears on top of the Calendar icon on the main screen, similar to how the number of new SMS or emails are displayed above the Text and Mail icons. Apple plans to release iPhone software version 2.0 this June.

Updated iPhone SDK reveals possible 3G iPhone chip

A string of code found in the latest version of the iPhone SDK, released yesterday, points to a new baseband chipset that may be included in the next-generation, 3G-capable iPhone. The code was discovered by Zibri, the developer behind the ZiPhone jailbeaking/unlocking tool, and contains a “SGOLD3” string, which presumably points to Infineon’s S-GOLD3H chip (Infineon’s S-GOLD2 chip is used in the current iPhone). The chip supports 7.2Mbps HSDPA, cameras up to five megapixels, includes an MPEG4/H.264 hardware accelerator, and more. Last week, AT&T Mobililty CEO Ralph de la Vega hinted that the 3G iPhone would be released in the coming months; it was previously said the device would arrive in stores sometime in 2008. [via Engadget]

iPhone developers deal with expired beta firmware

Developers accepted into Apple’s paid iPhone Developer Program are reporting that the expiration of the current beta firmware, which happened early this morning, is causing test units to lock up with a pink screen, which says “This device is expired. Please install a newer version of the OS.” According to TUAW, the affected units can be easily returned to working order by performing a restore with an earlier release of the iPhone or iPod touch software; Apple has yet to comment on the problem, or to release an updated version of the beta firmware.

Survey: Chinese iPhone consumer awareness high

The results of a new survey released today by Pearl Research suggest that more than two-thirds of Chinese consumers have heard of the iPhone. The survey states that approximately 68% of respondents had heard of the iPhone, and that females were more likely to cite “trendiness” and “design” as a key factor in wanting to purchase the device, while males more often cited “utility.” Pricing was given as the most mentioned reason for disinterest in purchasing an iPhone, along with Apple’s inexperience with mobile phones, and interviews suggested that carriers’ high costs for mobile internet access could pose another challenge for Apple in the region. Finally, approximately 88% of iPod owners expressed interest in the iPhone. The survey was based on a relatively small sample size — 450 online survey respondents and 24 in-depth interviews — which, unfortunately, makes the results somewhat unreliable.

T-Mobile Germany offering subsidized 8GB iPhones

T-Mobile Germany has begun offering 8GB iPhones at substantially reduced prices (Translated Link) when purchased in conjunction with a 24 month contract. When purchased with the Complete XL plan, which offers 1,000 minutes, 300 SMS messages, and unlimited data for €89 a month, the 8GB iPhone is only €99. With the Complete L plan, which includes 200 voice minutes and 150 SMS for €69 a month, the smaller iPhone is only €149. When purchased with the €49 a month Complete M plan the 8GB iPhone is only €199, while it will cost €249 when purchased with the Complete S plan, which offers 50 minutes of talk time for €29 a month. The lower prices being offered on the 8GB iPhone will remain in effect until June 30; the 16GB iPhone remains €499 when purchased with a two-year agreement.

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