Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin has called for consolidation of mobile operating systems, and a renewed focus on user experience. “The first imperative for us is world-class user experience,” Sarin said. “The easier the interface, the more you use it and the more you get onto the Internet.” Sarin explained that mobile operating systems are crucial components of that experience, but that there are currently too many on the market — as many as 30 or 40, he estimated. “We have to reduce that number. There’s no way that developers of cool applications can develop for that many operating systems. If we had three, four, five, that would be better,” he said. Sarin went on to praise the iPhone for its user experience, saying, “Apple has raised the bar with the iPhone, and we all now know how important user interfaces are. We as an industry will have to raise our game to provide the kind of user interface that our customers are now becoming accustomed to.” Vodafone was at one time rumored to be the front-runner among possible carriers for the iPhone in the UK; it was later announced that the iPhone would be offered by rival carrier O2.
Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile unit will begin selling the iPhone in Austria in the first half of 2008, according to T-Mobile chief executive Hamid Akhavan. T-Mobile already offers the iPhone in Germany. Last November, Austrian T-Mobile chief Robert Chvatal said that the company would offer the iPhone sometime this year. Akhavan also said that T-Mobile would launch the first Google Android phone in the fourth quarter.
Apple has released its new “The Great Thing” iPhone TV commercial, which like the ads released earlier this week, focuses on the device’s internet capabilities. In the 30-second spot, the narrator asks, “What’s so great about having the internet in your pocket?” The ad then shows the user viewing a trail map for a winter resort, a Zagat restaurant listing, and using the jetBlue airways website, while the narrator explains, “Well, then you can see the trail map while you’re on the mountain… find a good place to eat in town when you’re hungry… and change your flight when you’re just not ready to go home. That’s what’s so great.” The ad is currently available for viewing on Apple.com.
Results of the latest ChangeWave consumer cell phone survey suggest that “record numbers” of consumers are abandoning their basic cell phones for more advanced, feature-rich models. The January survey of 4,182 consumers showed Apple and Research In Motion to be the major beneficiaries of this shift, with the iPhone the top choice among respondents planning to purchase a new cell phone in the next six months. 17% of those respondents listed the iPhone as their top choice, while BlackBerry phones from RIM were the top choice of 15% of the group. In addition, the iPhone continues to lead in customer satisfaction, with 72% of respondents who use the iPhone reporting they are “very satisfied” with the device. Phones from RIM finished second in this category as well, with 55% of BlackBerry owners reporting high satisfaction.
French internet provider Iliad has announced that subscribers to its Free brand using jailbroken iPhones (and iPod touch units with a VoIP microphone attached) can make unlimited calls to French fixed, land-line numbers. Free is offering complete instructions for the calling process, which involves installing Siphon, a SIP-VoIP application developed by Touchmods, on its website. As Free was the first company to donate an iPhone to the Touchmods team, the application is currently locked to Free’s service; however, the Touchmods team has said that the SIP-VoIP application will be available in an open version at a later date.
FolioLink, an online portfolio service for photographers, artists and creative design professionals, has announced a new version of its service that automatically optimizes clients’ online portfolios for the iPhone and iPod touch interface. According to the company, all FolioLink Flash templates automatically morph into a compatible version for iPhone and iPod touch users, allowing visitors using the devices to navigate using taps, drags, and pinches. Commercial and artistic photographer Matt Hoyle said, “FolioLink is a great service for professional photographers and with the latest service update I now have the advantage of reaching people who access my site on an iPhone. As a professional photographer, my images are my livelihood, and FolioLink has made organizing, presenting and updating my images easy and widely accessible.” FolioLink accounts start at $239/yr.
AT&T has announced plans for a major expansion of its 3G wireless broadband coverage in 2008. The plans include expanding service to more than 80 unspecified new cities, as well as an enhancement in upload speeds provided by an upgrade to High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) technology. The planned expansion is expected to deliver 3G services to nearly 350 leading U.S. markets by the end of 2008, including all of the top 100 U.S. cities. A list of cities currently supporting 3G can be found here; the 3G initiative will include the roll out of more than 1,500 additional cell sites nationwide. “Fast wireless broadband is the foundation for a whole range of new and emerging applications that our customers are adopting, including everything from social networking to sending live video and large business files,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO for AT&T’s wireless unit. “With these aggressive initiatives, we’re expanding the scope and the speed of our 3G capabilities, connecting people with their world and enabling more customers to do more with their wireless devices, wherever they may be.” Although not directly mentioned in the announcement, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has previously said that a 3G-capable iPhone model will be released this year.
A number of iPhone users upgrading from older 4GB or 8GB units to the new 16GB model have been presented with conflicting information regarding whether or not their AT&T contracts are being extended, and whether they should attempt to use their prior iPhone SIM cards in the new model. A discussion thread on Apple’s support site outlines the problems, with an Apple employee admitting to not having a concrete answer. “Use the SIM from your current iPhone,” said Apple employee Nathan C., before editing his post to say “My apologies these steps may not work. You may need to activate it with the new SIM choosing the option to ‘replace’ an existing phone on your account.” Another user claims that an AT&T sales agent said that the original 2-year plan would end as soon as he activated the new iPhone, and that a new 2-year contract would be initiated. iLounge has contacted AT&T for clarification on the issue, and will be updating this story once we receive a response.
Update: Mark Siegel, Executive Director of Media and Analyst Relations with AT&T, told iLounge in an email, “If you upgrade from an 8 to a 16 GB iPhone, you sign a new contract. However, we automatically backdate it to the starting point of your contract on the 8 GB phone.” He added that the company “will make every effort to ensure that our reps provide customers with the correct information,” and clarified that customers should activate the SIM card that comes with the new model.
DoCoMo Chief Financial Officer Masayuki Hirata has said talks with Apple to sell the iPhone in Japan are currently focused on technological issues and profit sharing. “The handset is easy to use and can open new markets, which makes this an interesting proposition,” Hirata said in an interview. “We are in continuous contact with the company, but the specifics are still in the future.” The first challenge of bringing the iPhone to DoCoMo is the difference in cellular technologies. While the iPhone uses older, more widely-used GSM technology, DoCoMo’s network uses W-CDMA technology. “The global GSM market is measured in hundreds of millions of users, compared with 50 million W-CDMA subscribers in Japan,” Hirata said. “It’s unlikely they will launch iPhone in Japan exclusively for DoCoMo.” In addition, Hirata also said that DoCoMo needs time to evaluate Apple’s profit sharing model. Traditionally, Japanese service providers buy handsets directly form the manufacturers and sell them as their own. Previously, rival Japanese carriers KDDI and Softbank have both been said to be in talks with Apple over the iPhone.
Apple has released two new TV commercials for the iPhone focusing on the device’s internet capabilities. The first, “Facebook,” talks about how you can check on your Facebook account from the iPhone, while demonstrating the social networking site’s iPhone and iPod touch interface. The second new advertisement, “Cars,” shows how the iPhone’s internet access can come in useful when dealing with a car salesman. Both are filmed in the style of Apple’s original series of iPhone ads, with the device being used against a black background, while an unseen narrator speaks above the song “Perfect Timing” by Orba Squara. Both ads are available for viewing on Apple.com.
According to the latest data from Canalys, Apple was the third-largest manufacturer in the global “converged smart mobile device” market, which encompasses smart phones and wireless handhelds, in the fourth quarter of 2007. The research and analysis group estimates that Apple took a 6.5% share of the global market, trailing only Nokia, which had a 52.9% share, and Research In Motion, which accounted for 11.4% of the market. “When you consider that it launched part way through the year, with limited operator and country coverage, and essentially just one product, Apple has shown very clearly that it can make a difference and has sent a wakeup call to the market leaders,” said Pete Cunningham, Canalys senior analyst. “What it must demonstrate now is that it can build a sustainable business in the converged device space, expanding its coverage and product portfolio. It will also need to ensure that the exclusive relationships that got it so far so quickly do not prove to be a limit on what it can achieve.”
In the US, Canalys estimates that Apple took a 28% share of the converged device market in Q4 2007, behind only RIM’s 41%, and greater than all Windows Mobile device vendors’ shares combined. However, Cunningham believes Apple will need to expand its product line and continue innovating if it wishes to hold, or improve upon, its current position. “Apple’s innovation in its mobile phone user interface has prompted a lot of design activity among competitors. We saw the beginnings of that in 2007, but we will see a lot more in 2008 as other smart phone vendors try to catch up and then get back in front,” Cunningham said. “Experience shows that a vendor with only one smart phone design, no matter how good that design is, will soon struggle. A broad, continually refreshed portfolio is needed to retain and grow share in this dynamic market. This race is a marathon, but you pretty much have to sprint every lap.”
Apple today announced the release of two new iPhone and iPod touch models, each with double the storage capacity of the previous top-end models. The iPhone now comes in a new 16GB model for $499 (£329 UK), which will be sold alongside the $399 8GB model. Similarly, the iPod touch is now available in a 32GB model for $499 (£329 UK), joining the 16GB model for $399 and the 8GB model for $299. “For some users, there’s never enough memory,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod and iPhone Product Marketing. “Now people can enjoy even more of their music, photos and videos on the most revolutionary mobile phone and best Wi-Fi mobile device in the world.” Both the 16GB iPhone and the 32GB iPod touch are available now.
Update: Our friends at iFun.de report that the 32GB iPod touch is available in Germany for 459€, while the 16GB iPhone will sell for about 499€.
According to the latest browser market share data from Net Applications, the iPhone gained market share in both December ‘07 and January ‘08. The iPhone had a .12% share of the market in December, compared to a .09% share in November. Its share of the market rose to .17% during the final two days of December, and data shows it had a .13% share of the browser market in January. The iPod touch has also seen its share of the market rise, from .01% in November to .02% in December, and claiming .04% of the market in January. Together, the iPhone and iPod touch accounted for a .17% share of the browser market in January. In addition, Net Applications also investigated the proliferation of the iPhone outside countries where it has seen an official release, and found it to have a presence “in almost every country on Earth.” Net Applications’ data comes from the browsers of “site visitors to its on-demand network of live stats customers,” and is compiled from “approximately 160 million visitors per month.”
O2 is now offering “Bolt Ons” for its iPhone customers. The extras, all of which are priced at £7.50 per month and are meant to supplement existing coverage, include unlimited O2-to-O2 calls, unlimited anytime texts, unlimited weekend calls, unlimited fixed line calls, and an extra 200 anytime minutes. A note on the O2 site says “All our unlimited Bolt Ons are subject to an excessive usage policy.” In addition, the company is also offering “Discount Country” plans for £3 a month, which allow for lower call and text rates to the selected area. Discounts are available for the USA and Canada (9p/min), Australia or New Zealand (14p/min), South Africa, Turkey, India, Pakistan or Bangladesh (28p/min), and China (43p/min). Finally, the company is offering the My Europe Extra add-on, which allows customers to “receive calls for free and make calls to the UK and other included European countries for 25p/min” when traveling in Europe or Spain. My Europe Extra runs £10 per month, while the same coverage in Spain, which is listed separately, runs £5 per month.
A pre-release, “Rough Cuts” version of iPhone Open Application Development by Johnathan A. Zdziarski is now available from O’Reilly Media. Zdziarski is the developer of the first fully-functional application using the open iPhone toolkit, and most recently was responsible for explaining the situation regarding release of the iPhone 1.1.3 jailbreak update. According to O’Reilly’s web site, the book “explains in clear language how to create applications using Objective-C and the iPhone API, which in some ways resembles Apple’s desktop API and in some ways strikes new ground. After covering installation of the toolkits and some background about the operating system and Objective-C, the book offers detailed recipes and working examples for everyone’s favorite iPhone features. Graphics and audio programming, the CoreImage and CoreSurfaces interfaces for games programming, interfacing with iTunes, and the use of sensors are all covered.” Users who purchase the online Rough Cuts version can send suggestions, bug fixes, and comments directly to the author and editors, helping to shape the final release. The Rough Cuts version of the book is available from O’Reilly for $20 for an online-only copy. A pre-order of the print book runs $26, or users can purchase a bundle that offers both early online access and a final print copy for $44.
A carrier bundle found inside the iPhone’s 1.1.3 software package suggests that TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) will be the device’s exclusive carrier in Italy. Macity reports (translated link) that bundles for AT&T in the U.S., Orange in France, O2 in the UK, and T-Mobile in Germany are all present in the software package, alongside a file named “TIM_Italy.bundle,” the only bundle associated with a yet-unannounced network partner. Previously, a file named “TIM_Italy.plist” appeared in iPhone firmware version 1.1.2, offering further evidence that Apple intends for the telecom to be the handset’s carrier in Italy. According to the report, sources which Macity considers reliable had previously said that TIM has already completed negotiations with Apple to carry the iPhone, and that company is working towards a pre-summer launch of the device.
Comverse, the company behind Visual Voicemail for iPhone, has announced that the feature has been selected as a finalist for the 2008 GSMA Global Mobile Award in the Best Mobile Messaging Service category. According to Comverse, which bills itself as “the world’s leader in visual voicemail,” the feature was chosen based on its “innovativeness, interoperability between devices and between networks, ability to generate new revenue opportunities for the operator, user experience and take-up of the product.” “We are honored to be among the finalists for this coveted industry award,” said Comverse Chief Marketing Officer John Bunyan. “I extend heartfelt congratulations to the Comverse teams for an outstanding product that has attracted international recognition.” The winner will be announced on Tuesday, February 12th at the GSMA Global Mobile Awards Gala Dinner held in The National Palace in Barcelona, during the Mobile World Congress.
Following last week’s announcement of iPhone business plans by AT&T, UK iPhone carrier O2 has said that it plans to offer the iPhone to business users sometime later this year. Speaking in an interview with UK gadget web site Pocket-lint, an O2 spokesperson said that although the iPhone is aimed at consumers, the company “wants to offer it as a service for business users looking to use the smartphone in their office.” Previously, the company had directed business users interested in the iPhone toward individual plans, stating, “The iPhone is currently only available on consumer eighteen-month contracts and not yet on business tariffs and contracts. Business customers can still buy an iPhone but they will need to take out a new 18-month consumer contract on an iPhone tariff.”
Anticipation is growing for developers awaiting Apple’s software development kit for the iPhone and iPod touch, a new report suggests. The SDK, promised to be released sometime in February by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, will allow third-party developers to develop native applications for the touch screen devices. In the meantime, many developers are left wondering how Apple will handle the implementation, installation, and distribution of the applications. “We definitely want the SDK,” says Christopher Allen, who runs online developer community iPhoneWebDev. “But the real questions are, ‘How is it going to integrate with iTunes? Are we going to be able to get paid? If so, how much?’ “
Some developers believe that Apple might choose to take control of what applications make it on to its devices, and also secure itself a percentage of application revenue, by distributing third-party applications through iTunes. Cabel Sasser, co-founder of the independent Mac software firm Panic, believes this distribution method will help developers. Calling iTunes “the holy grail of distribution,” Sasser says, “It could open us up to an entirely new market and really change our business. Not everyone can locate, download and install software from the Internet.” However, this distribution model might also pose problems for developers who choose to offer their software for free. “Our philosophy is not to charge users,” says Jonathan Zweig of Jirbo, whose web-based games for the iPhone and iPod touch are amongst the most popular iPhone applications listed on Apple’s web site. “If people can’t get it free from us, they will get it from someone else.” Despite these differences of opinion, most developers agree that the iPhone represents a great new opportunity for their industry. “[The iPhone] opens up an unbelievable amount of opportunity for new ideas and game-changing software,” says Sasser. “We’re chomping at the virtual bit … just counting down the days.”