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Apple signs iPhone distribution deals in Germany, Italy

Apple has reportedly signed a number of deals that will help ensure wide availability of the iPhone 3G. In Germany, Apple has reached a deal with computer reseller Gravis to sell the iPhone 3G with T-Mobile contracts through its chain of stores. The phones will also be available through T-Mobile shops. As Apple lacks its own retail store in Germany, the deal with Gravis will help widen distribution of the phone in the country. Apple runs only a single store in Italy, and has decided to allow local Apple Premium Resellers to offer the iPhone 3G through their stores, supplementing the sales of Vodafone and Telecom Italia, both of which will offer the handset. The company is expected to take a similar approach in the Netherlands, allowing Apple resellers to sell the iPhone. The Carphone Warehouse became the first third-party reseller of the iPhone when the device launched in the United Kingdom last November.

SoftBank reveals Japanese iPhone 3G pricing

Japanese iPhone carrier SoftBank has revealed pricing details for the handset. In a statement the company revealed that it will offer the 8GB iPhone 3G for 23,040 yen (around $215), while the 16GB model will be sold for 34,560 yen (around $322), subsidized. According to a Reuters report, the company expects the monthly charges for iPhone customers to be 7,280 yen (around $68), including unlimited data-transmission usage. The iPhone 3G will launch in Japan on July 11.

Apple, O2 working on in-store activation for iPhone 3G

Apple and O2 are scrambling to ready Apple’s own retail stores in the United Kingdom for the launch of the iPhone 3G, according to a Mobile Today report. The report states that Apple’s retail stores are currently not set up to run the necessary credit checks needed for in-store activation, and that workers are unfamiliar with the process of signing customers up for subscription contracts. “We are currently working closely with Apple to enable them to issue contracts in store. Full details are still to be confirmed,” said an O2 spokeswoman. The spokeswoman went on to confirm that non-subsidized iPhone 3Gs, which will be sold to pay-as-you-go customers, will be available at full price from Apple’s stores, as well as O2 and Carphone Warehouse.

TIM, Vodafone outline pre-paid iPhone 3G cost

Both Telecom Italia Mobile and Vodafone have revealed their pricing on the iPhone 3G for pre-paid customers. The non-subsidized iPhone will be available through both carriers for 499 euro for the 8GB model (around $777) and 569 euro for the 16GB model (around $886). Unsubsidized pricing for the iPhone 3G remains uncertain in a number of regions, including the U.S., where certain AT&T customers may have to pay the higher price due to contract limitations. In addition, images that briefly appeared on TIM’s site indicate that plans will start at 30 euros per month, although no official announcement regarding service pricing has yet been made by either carrier.

Telstra to offer iPhone 3G in Australia?

Australian carrier Telstra is set to be announced as the country’s third iPhone 3G service provider, according to a new report. Citing people close to the company, Australian IT reports Telstra chief Sol Trujillo may make an announcement next week, and could launch the device as early as July 22. Sources also indicated that Telstra retail chief David Moffatt and a team of his senior executives were given a preview of the new flagship Apple retail store in Sydney last week. According to the report, previously announced carriers Optus and Vodafone have already seen heavy interest in the device. Vodafone’s pre-registration site has seen around 40,000 visitors a day since launching early last week, while Optus has been forced to stop accepting advance deposits on the phone, as demand is simply too high. “Due to an overwhelming response, we have removed the deposit-taking mechanism from [our] website,” said an Optus spokesperson. Telstra has yet to comment on the story.

Morgan Stanley: iPhone sales to double in 2009

Investment bank Morgan Stanley has raised its price target on Apple stock from $185 to $210, based on expectations of doubled iPhone sales in calendar year 2009. “We believe the market generally expects a doubling of iPhone units with the lower price point ($199) and we believe this is realistic, if not conservative,” the firm said in a note. It expects sales of 27 million iPhones in 2009, with an average revenue of $550 per unit. Finally, the bank said it believes that the mass market distribution and lower price of the iPhone 3G will drive revenue growth from software and services over time.

UK showing strong interest in iPhone 3G

O2, the iPhone’s exclusive carrier in the United Kingdom, has revealed that more than 130,000 potential customers have pre-registered their interest in the iPhone 3G since the product’s unveiling last week. Only 35,000 people pre-registered their interest in the previous iPhone between September 18 and November 9 of last year, suggesting that the inclusion of 3G cellular technology and a substantially lower price has helped spur interest in the new handset. Ronan Dunne, O2 UK chief executive, said the price of the original phone had been “an issue for some segments of the market,” while adding that iPhone customers were spending an average of 30% more a year on their mobile plans. [via AppleInsider]

Australian carriers battle over iPhone 3G claims

Australian mobile operator Telstra has threatened legal action over rival Optus’s claims regarding iPhone functionality on its 3G network, citing alleged consumer confusion over 3G wireless spectrum distinctions. Telstra claims the iPhone 3G will be inoperable over Optus’ 900MHz 3G band, contrary to the company’s statement that customers will “enjoy 3G services as we expand our network to 96 per cent of the population by December 2008 and 98 per cent by December 2009.” In a letter to Optus, Telstra general counsel Jennifer Circhton said that the company will monitor Optus statements concerning the iPhone 3G and “will not hesitate” to take legal action if it feels Optus is misleading customers. “Telstra is concerned that Optus may represent to customers that they can enjoy a range of 3G features and services that will not be available if the 3G device is incompatible with Optus’ 3G 900MHz network,” Circhton said. “Telstra considers any such representation misleading or deceptive or likely in breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act.”

Ovum analyst Nathan Burley said that both Australian iPhone carriers, Vodafone and Optus, may face compatibility issues with the iPhone 3G. “Although Vodafone and Optus are expanding their 3G networks in the 900MHz frequency band, the iPhone 3G will not support these networks,” Burley said. “Coverage will be limited to existing 2100MHz 3G coverage - outside these areas GPRS data performance will leave users more than unsatisfied. The device does support Telstra’s Next G network but as yet, Telstra has not announced it will be offering the device.”

Apple licenses Visual Voicemail patents, settles suit

Having been sued by Klausner Technology over patents on “visual voicemail” technology, Apple and AT&T have reached a settlement and agreed to license the patents. “The patent litigation with Apple has been settled. The patents have been licensed to Apple,” said Klausner Technology founder Judah Klausner. In December Klausner Technologies took Apple and AT&T to court over the iPhone’s Visual Voicemail feature, claiming patent infringement and seeking $360 million in damages and future royalties. Financial details of the licensing agreement and settlement between the companies were not disclosed.

Not all AT&T customers eligible for $199 iPhone 3G

After several conflicting reports, iLounge has confirmed with AT&T that the iPhone 3G will not be universally available to all customers at the previously announced $199/$299 price points. According to Mark Siegel, Executive Director of Media Relations with AT&T Mobility, only “[c]urrent iPhone customers, new customers, and current non-iPhone AT&T wireless customers who are upgrade eligible will get the iPhone 3G at the $199/$299 price points.” This description omits “upgrade ineligible” AT&T customers, a category that is explained on an AT&T upgrade eligibility requirements web page. In short, AT&T customers who have had their current phones and plans for at least two years, customers who have had a plan costing between $68.99 and $98.99 for at least 21 months, and customers who have had a plan costing over $99 for at least 12 months are all eligible; those who do not meet one of these standards are ineligible and will have to pay a higher price. Additionally, following speculative reports that it might be possible for some customers to activate their iPhone 3Gs at home using iTunes, Siegel reiterated that activations will “take place in the store.”

iPhone 3G to hit Russia later this year?

Despite the current lack of a carrier agreement for Russia, The Moscow Times reports that comments made by Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggest that the iPhone 3G may still make its way to the country later this year. “We just didn’t have a chance to close [a deal] with Russia. And I think you’ll see [agreements] happen later this year,” Jobs said during an interview with CNBC last week. The report states that an estimated 300,000 first-generation iPhones are already in use in Russia. “About 20,000 iPhone handsets are brought into the country in suitcases every month,” Eldar Murtazin, editor of Moscow-based Mobile Research Group said. “The current model, which sells officially in six countries for a marked-up $399, currently sells for about $1,000 in Moscow.”

Russian carriers Mobile TeleSystems and MegaFon have confirmed that they held talks with Apple about the iPhone, but failed to reach an agreement. A separate report from Vedomosti suggested that the problem hinged on Apple’s insistance that the carriers buy the handsets wholesale, and that they pay Apple 10 percent on every iPhone sold, as well as 10 percent of the monthly revenue from iPhone subscribers. Yekaterina Osadchaya, spokeswoman for VimpelCom, the country’s second-largest operator, said that Apple’s new strategy of cheaper, subsidized phones and its abandonment of the revenue sharing business model would bring many Russian operators on board. “VimpelCom is looking at the possibility of holding talks with Apple about a distribution agreement for the iPhones,” Osadchaya said. “This is a very auspicious year for the handset in Russia because we are rolling out 3G technology in 20 cities this summer.”

O2, T-Mobile to offer £0-€1 iPhone 3G with contract

T-Mobile has announced that it will offer the iPhone 3G in Germany for as little as one euro with a qualifying monthly contract, following the lead of O2 in the United Kingdom, which announced that it will offer the phone for free in a similar subsidy promotion. Customers purchasing an 8GB iPhone 3G with a 69 euro, 24-month contract from T-Mobile will pay only 1 euro for the phone, with the 16GB model starting at 19.95 euros with an 89 euro monthly plan and going up to 249.95 euros with a minimal 29 euro per month contract. Similarly, O2 customers will receive the 8GB iPhone 3G for free with a £45 or £75 18-month agreement, or can choose to pay £99 with a £35 or £30 tariff. The 16GB model will be offered for free with a £75 monthly plan, for £59 with a £45 tariff, and will run £159 when purchased on a £30 or £35 plan.

O2 expands iPhone Wi-Fi coverage

O2 has announced a deal with BT Openzone to expand the unlimited Wi-Fi package offered to all iPhone customers. Beginning July 11th, iPhone users will have access to more than 3,000 BT Openzone premier Wi-Fi hotspots as part of their monthly O2 tariff, for no extra cost. The addition of BT Openzone’s more than 3,000 hotspots to O2’s existing arrangement with The Cloud brings the total number of available public Wi-Fi hotspots for iPhone customers to over 9,000.

“By working with partners like BT Openzone we can maximise the web experience for iPhone customers,” said Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2 in the UK. “Public Wi-Fi hotspots ideally complement our mobile network, providing high speed web browsing and unlimited access to services like the iTunes Wi-Fi store in a wide variety of convenient locations.”

“The availability of BT Openzone on the iPhone 3G is in direct response to strong customer demand for a quality Wi-Fi service on their device. BT aims to keep customers best connected, any time and any place. With the iPhone set to become even more popular, BT is providing high-speed internet access at premier locations in the UK,” said Dave Hughes, director, BT Wireless Broadband.

T-Mobile to carry iPhone 3G in Eastern Europe

Alongside an announcement that it will begin selling the iPhone 3G in Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria on July 11, T-Mobile has revealed that it will offer the phone in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia later this year. “We are excited to bring iPhone 3G to more of our T-Mobile customers this year,” said Christopher Schläffer, CIO of Deutsche Telekom AG. “iPhone was a breakthrough for the mobile Internet in Germany and Austria. Now with iPhone 3G’s faster speeds, we know our customers will love browsing the web even more.” Further details, such as launch dates and pricing information, have yet to be annoucned.

iPhone 3G’s third sensor revealed as second proximity sensor

The iPhone 3G’s third sensor, first revealed by iLounge in April, has been confirmed as a second proximity sensor. While the original iPhone offered only two front-mounted —one ambient light sensor and one proximity sensor—the iPhone 3G sports an array of three sensors (two proximity sensors, one ambient light sensor) in a J shape to the left of the ear speaker, moved from their original locations above and to the speaker’s right. iLounge has learned that the two-sensor array apparently provides superior face proximity detection than the original single sensor, which under some conditions failed to function properly. This detail and others are included in our First Look at the iPhone 3G.

Telefónica to offer iPhone in 16 countries

In addition to previously announced carrier deals for the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain, Telefónica has announced (PDF Link) that it will offer the iPhone in 12 Latin America countries as well as the Czech Republic, bringing the total number of countries where it will offer the device to 16. The new Latin American agreement covers Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. César Alierta, chairman and CEO of Telefónica S.A., said, “The iPhone has changed the way people communicate and access content on the move. It has already proved hugely popular in the UK and Ireland and we’re delighted that we can now offer the same benefits to our customers in Spain, Latin America and the Czech Republic. The 16 countries in which we are the carrier of iPhone have a combined addressable market of more than 500 million people – making Telefónica one of the leading global distributors of this revolutionary device.” Telefónica currently has 95 million subscribers in Latin America and the Czech Republic. For more information on international iPhone carriers, check out our Complete Guide to iPhone Service Providers.

iPhone 3G carriers, Apple vary on Visual Voicemail

As Apple has announced plans to launch the iPhone 3G in 22 countries on July 11, iLounge has contacted these countries’ carriers to find out whether Visual Voicemail will be supported on their calling plans. This feature, which provides random list-style access to voicemail messages, has proved too complex for some carriers to implement, and is missing from some of Apple.com’s iPhone 3G international web pages. Here are answers from the carriers’ representatives, along with how Apple.com describes or omits the feature from its iPhone 3G features pages.

T-Mobile (Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands): “As far as I know, VVM will still be a unique feature for the iPhone.” Apple.com’s web pages for Austria and Germany both show and describe Visual Voicemail, but the Netherlands page neither includes text nor an image of the feature. Competing network Orange has not yet confirmed whether it will offer Visual Voicemail in Austria.

Telefónica (Spain): “Yes, We will offer Visual Voicemail.” Apple.com’s Spain page shows a picture and description of the feature.

Vodafone (Australia, Italy, New Zealand, & Portugal): “Vodafone will not support Visual Voicemail at the time of launch but is planning to roll out the service later this fiscal year.” Apple.com shows nothing for Visual Voicemail in Italy, which will also be serviced by TIM. The Australia, New Zealand, and Portugal pages include a Visual Voicemail photo, but text has been omitted—a sign that support in these countries is tentative. Competing network Orange has not yet confirmed whether it will offer Visual Voicemail in Portugal.

TeliaSonera (Denmark, Finland, Norway, & Sweden): “I have no further information to disclose than was in the press-release issued yesterday.” Apple.com shows no mention of Visual Voicemail for Denmark, Finland and Norway, and only a photo without text for Sweden.

Globe Telecom (Philippines): “We will announce at a later date the functionality and plan details.” Apple.com’s generic “Asia” web page is listed as its reference point for the Phillippines; no mention of Visual Voicemail is made in that text, but a photo is included.

Swisscom (Switzerland): “We currently don’t comment on the supported functions but around 11 July things will be clear.” Apple.com describes and shows Visual Voicemail on its Switzerland page. Competing network Orange has not yet confirmed whether it will offer Visual Voicemail in Switzerland.

SingTel (Singapore): “Sorry but at this point, I’m not able to share any other information.” Apple’s Singapore page neither shows nor describes Visual Voicemail as a feature.

Softbank (Japan): “We are sorry but there is not any information about iPhone at this moment except sale date. When we [are] ready to inform, it will be released on our website.” Apple’s Japanese page shows and describes Visual Voicemail.

Optus (Australia): “Pricing and plans will be revealed a little closer to launch.” Apple’s Australian page includes an image of Visual Voicemail but no description.

Rogers Communications (Canada): “Details on features, price plans and retail availabilty will be made available at a later date. Stay tuned.” Apple’s Canadian web page includes a description and image for Visual Voicemail.

Additionally, Apple’s Mexico (America Movil), Hong Kong (Hutchison), and France (Orange) pages all describe and depict Visual Voicemail.

We will be updating this story as we receive more information.

AT&T: Only one iPhone 3G data plan; speeds ‘much faster’ [updated]

Following reader comments and questions, iLounge contacted AT&T to clarify ambiguous details on iPhone 3G service plans, which will be offered starting on July 11. We asked AT&T to clarify its stance on text messaging, which presently is included in AT&T’s $20 EDGE data plans for first-generation iPhones, but is not listed as an included feature in its $30 3G data service plan for iPhone 3G. Mark Siegel, Executive Director of Media Relations with AT&T Mobility said only that the company would “discuss details of data pricing, including text messaging, closer to launch.” When asked if iPhone 3G users, such as those living outside 3G coverage areas, would be able to sign up for the prior EDGE-only data plan instead, Siegel told iLounge that “[t]here is one price for the data component,” suggesting that the $30 a month data charge will apply to all iPhone 3G users regardless of the available service in their immediate area. When asked about Apple’s claim that performance of the 3G iPhone would be roughly 3 times current EDGE speeds—significantly slower than the 3G network’s capabilities—Siegel also told us that “depending on the situation, the [3G] download speeds can be much faster than mentioned by Apple. I think they were simply being careful in what they said and not overstating a claim.” We will continue to track reader inquiries on these topics and follow up with AT&T leading up to the iPhone 3G launch.

Update: Asked if new AT&T customers will need to go through an in-store signup process, and if existing iPhone customers will need to go through the same process, Siegel responded simply: “Activation is in-store.”

AT&T confirms $30, $45 data plans for iPhone 3G

Replacing its $20 add-on iPhone EDGE network data plan, AT&T today announced that 3G data plans for the iPhone 3G will cost $30 per month for consumers and $45 for business users, in addition to the separate cost of any voice plan. The new pricing raises the minimum two-year cost of an AT&T data service contract from $480 to $720, with the business user plan costing $1,080 over two years, offsetting the apparent price drop of iPhone hardware from $399 to $199. AT&T’s new data service will enable U.S.-based iPhone users to achieve transfer speeds of roughly 2.8 times current EDGE speeds, slower than the faster 3G data speeds offered by other telecom companies; however, the plans will offer “unlimited” 3G data service use. AT&T will remain the exclusive service provider for iPhone hardware in the United States, initially offering its 3G services in 280 major U.S. markets, with a planned increase to 350 by year’s end. Full details are found in an AT&T iPhone 3G press release.

Apple posts ‘Hallway’ iPhone 3G TV ad

Apple has posted its new iPhone 3G TV advertisement, named “Hallway.” First shown during today’s WWDC keynote address, the ad features a spy theme, with a mysterious package being moved down a hallway, and opened up to reveal an iPhone 3G. The narration says: “It’s finally here: the first phone to beat the iPhone. It surfs the web and downloads data twice as fast, for half the price. Introducing the new iPhone 3G.” The video is available for viewing now on Apple’s web site.

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