Apple may be in talks with Microsoft to license its Exchange ActiveSync protocol in order to make the iPhone compatible with Exchange Server, reports Mary Jo Foley for ZDNet. The lack of compatibility with Exchange Server has been a major issue for IT departments, and has been widely reported in so-called iPhone backlash articles. Foley claims that her sources say that Apple will soon announce that it has licensed the protocol, although details on when it would be implemented on the iPhone are not given. Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff says the deal would make sense, stating, “Apple and Microsoft would sign a deal to incorporate ActiveSync into the iPhone, just as Nokia, Motorola, and PalmOne are doing. So this wouldn’t be anything new from Microsoft’s perspective, just a deal with a new telephone handset maker — Apple.”
In additional reviews published today, Newsweek’s Steven Levy and USA Today’s Edward C. Baig praised Apple’s iPhone as a lust-worthy, fun, and impressive new device. Levy described the device as “the rare convergence device where things actually converge,” praising everything from its packaging to its easy setup, “stunning 3.5-inch display,” and Internet features. He notes that you can “merge up to five conversations into a conference,” and cites the web browsing experience as iPhone’s best feature. However, Levy cited the unit’s EDGE speed, 200-message SMS limitation, and e-mail glitches as problems, and suggested that it wasn’t a replacement iPod for many types of users. “In the future—when the iPhone has more applications and offers more performance, with a lower price—buyers will find even more value. So smart consumers may well wait for that day. But meanwhile they can only look with envy” as others are enjoying the phone.
Baig rated the iPhone 3.5 out of 4, praising the widescreen iPod and Cover Flow features, the simplicity of the phone and visual voicemail, and the “fun” of using the keyboard and interface once you get used to them. He knocked the data speeds on EDGE, the limited storage capacity, and pricing, as well as some of the device’s limitations, such as its inability to use iTunes music as ringtones and its lack of a replaceable battery. Baig also noted that music playback once locked up in an endless loop, requiring a restart, and noted his displeasure that old earphones he used couldn’t work with iPhone, and that stereo Bluetooth wireless audio is not supported.
Near-simultaneously released with Walt Mossberg’s review, The New York Times has published a review by David Pogue of Apple’s iPhone, offering a mix of strong praise for the phone’s multimedia features and interface, and blistering criticism for its AT&T-provided data services and keyboard.
Pogue’s review describes the phone’s size and software as sleek and beautiful, noting that its screen “doesn’t scratch easily” and didn’t have a mark on the body after two weeks of unprotected use. However, he noted that the screen’s glass gets “smudgy,” and noted slightly-lower-than-Apple battery run times of 5 hours of video, 23 hours of audio. Video quality was described as “spectacular” on the 3.5” “very-high-resolution screen.” Pogue loved the web browser, e-mail, and iPod features, but said that call quality was “only average,” depending on the strength of AT&T’s signal, and requiring too many steps to initiate from a locked phone situation. For these reasons and others, he said that “the iPhone is amazing,” but “no, it’s not perfect.”
In addition to complaints about the keyboard, which is “not the iPhone’s strong suit,” and the AT&T network, which was described as poor in both rankings and real-world testing, Pogue decried the lack of a memory card slot, chat program, voice dialing, third-party applications, Java, Flash, video capture, MMS, or a user-replaceable battery. He said that the EDGE network is “excruciatingly slow,” with multi-minute load times for common pages such as Amazon.com and Yahoo. “You almost ache for a dial-up modem.” It also noted “a couple of tiny bugs and one freeze,” but said that software updates, and “a future iPhone model” that “will be able to exploit AT&T’s newer, much faster data network,” will remedy some of these issues.
In his review of the iPhone, Wall Street Journal writer Walt Mossberg, along with Katherine Boehret, gave the device a glowing review, claiming that it was a “beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer.” “Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer,” Mossberg said. “Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well.” Mossberg, who had previously expressed concern over the device’s virtual keyboard, found it to quite usable. “The iPhone’s most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism… It isn’t for the average person who just wants a cheap, small phone for calling and texting. But, despite its network limitations, the iPhone is a whole new experience and a pleasure to use.”
As one of a couple of noteworthy inconsistencies in Apple’s iPhone Activation & Sync video, a screen showing activation of the AT&T iPhone Plan offers a $79.99 alternative with 900 weekday minutes, unlimited data services, and 1500 SMS Text Messages—different from today’s announced plan, shown in another part of the video, which offers only 200 SMS Text Messages at the base $79.99 price, with a $10 charge to upgrade to 1500 SMS messages. The 1500 SMS screen appears at 02:55 in the video.
Readers have also pointed out that one cropped screen displays 74.40GB of usable storage capacity for iPhone, versus the 7.24GB initially shown as available. This error is most certainly based upon the storage capacity of an 80GB iPod, and does not reflect a current iPhone model.
Apple has updated its retail store page to indicate that its stores will be closing at 2:00 p.m. on June 29 to prepare for the iPhone launch. The page sports a graphic stating “The wait is almost over. iPhone. Coming Friday, June 29 at 6:00 p.m.” Underneath the graphic is the following message: “Apple retail stores will be closed on June 29 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. to get ready for the premiere of iPhone. We’ll open the doors again at 6:00 p.m., when you can be one of the first to see, try, and buy the iPhone. Be sure to arrive early — iPhone is available on a first-come, first-served basis.”
In addition to their publicized disclosure of iPhone plan prices for individual customers, AT&T and Apple have also released pricing details for family phone users and existing AT&T customers. Family plans start at $80 and all have unlimited night and weekend minutes, 200 SMS Text Messages, and the same unlimited data features as individual plans. The $80 plan includes 700 minutes, while $100 (1400 minutes), $120 (2100 minutes), $160 (3000 minutes), $210 (4000 minutes), and $310 (6000 minutes) plans offer correspondingly more time.
The company also added that existing voice plan customers can add an iPhone data service plan for an additional $20 per month with 200 SMS Text Messages. Paying $10 more ($30 total) will increase the SMS number to 1500, or $20 more ($40 total) will increase the SMS number to unlimited.
Apple has posted a new iPhone video entitled “Activation & Sync,” covering the steps users will take to setup and sync the device. The video contains a few new details on the iPhone and how it will work with iTunes. During account activation, the video shows a spot for an AT&T “Pre-approved credit check code” which implies that those who need to make other arrangements (such as a co-signatory) will probably be given a number by AT&T that bypasses the normal credit check process based on an authorization already stored in AT&T’s system. It also appears that there will be 7.23GB of free space on a new 8GB iPhone. Absent from the iPhone’s iTunes Summary tab are options for “Enable Disk Use” and Manual Mode, but it does include options for “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” and “Only sync checked items.”
The “Info” tab in iTunes includes settings for Address Book, Calendar, Mail Accounts, and Bookmark settings. The Address Book settings include Yahoo as a sync option, while the Calendar section has an option “Put new events created on this phone into…” which suggests that the iPhone may not directly support multiple calendars. The Sync Mail Accounts option lets you sync account settings, not necessarily account data, while the Sync Safari Bookmarks will sync your bookmarks from Safari on a Mac, or Safari or IE on Windows. Little is different in the Music, Photos, Podcasts, and Videos tabs compared to syncing an iPod, but notably absent are tabs for “Games” and “Ringtones,” which may suggest that ringtones cannot currently be replaced.
In a small footnote to its announcement of rate plans on the Apple.com web site, Apple today disclosed that a “Minimum new 2-year wireless service plan and activation fee” are “required to activate iPhone features, including iPod;” the first time that the company has suggested that iPhone’s iPod functionality may be limited for those who are not subscribers to AT&T’s services. It is unclear whether iPhone will continue to work as an iPod, or as an Internet data device, once someone ceases to be an AT&T customer.
AT&T and Apple have revealed six service plans for the iPhone. All three plans include unlimited data, Visual Voicemail, 200 SMS text messages, rollover minutes, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling. The first plan, priced a $60 a month, includes 450 anytime minutes and 5000 night and weekend minutes. The second, which runs $80 a month, includes 900 anytime minutes and unlimited night and weekend minutes. The third plan offers 1350 anytime minutes and unlimited night and weekend minutes, at a price of $100 a month. Plans four, five, and six offer 2000, 4000, or 6000 minutes for $119.99, $169.99, or $219.99, with unlimited night and weekend minutes. All plans are based on a new two-year service agreement with AT&T, and include a one-time activation fee of $36. Family plans are also available.
“We want to make choosing a service plan simple and easy, so every plan includes unlimited data with direct Internet access, along with Visual Voicemail and a host of other goodies,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think these three plans give customers the flexibility to experience all of iPhone’s revolutionary features at affordable and competitive prices.” Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO, AT&T said, “AT&T has invested more than 16 billion dollars in its wireless network between 2005 and 2007, and iPhone customers will enjoy the best voice and data network in the nation.”
Apple and AT&T have announced that iPhone users will be able to activate their handsets using iTunes, instead of traditional in-store activation. iTunes will guide users through steps to choose a service plan, authorize their credit and activate their iPhone. Once activation is complete, users can then use iTunes to sync their contact information, calendars, email accounts, web browser bookmarks, music, photos, podcasts, TV shows and movies to the iPhone just like an iPod. “Users will be able to activate their new iPhone in the comfort and privacy of their own home or office, without having to wait in a store while their phone is activated,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “There are tens of millions of people in the US who already know how to sync their iPods with iTunes, and syncing their new iPhone with iTunes works the same way.” Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO, AT&T, added, “iPhone’s innovative activation and sync is just one example of how this is going to be a real industry game-changer.”
The iPhone may provide as much as $200 million in extra revenue for Apple on launch day, according to TheStreet.com. Using estimates of 200 units per store and an average selling price of $550 — it is still unknown whether there will be equal amounts of 4GB and 8GB available — along with the hard number of 1,962 stores carrying the device, a sell-out of 392,000 units would generate $216 million in revenue for Apple on June 29, not including online sales. Apple has previously announced that it will adopt a subscription-style revenue accounting system for the device.
Another executive of a major cellular phone manufacturer has voiced a vote of support for the iPhone. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Brian Stech, director of global marketing for Motorola’s phone division, said, “Really, the iPhone benefits the entire industry.” Stech believes that the iPhone will drive sales and customer awareness in the smartphone segment. Some analysts, however, believe that it will be later, more affordably-priced iPhone models that have the biggest effect. “When the iPhone Nano comes out at $120, everyone is in big trouble,” said John Jackson, a Yankee Group analyst. The report also claims that the iPhone will allow direct, over-the-air downloads of iTunes-purchased media to the device, although neither Apple nor AT&T have made such an announcement.
Continuing our previous update from the iPhone Guided Tour, Apple has used the 24-minute long video to unveil a collection of new and unexpected iPhone features, including support for viewing Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents that have been sent via e-mail.
Internet and E-mail: Google search is the default for the integrated Safari browser, but Yahoo can be used instead. Accessing search is available by touching the URL. The built-in e-mail application can read not only JPEGs and PDF files, but also Word and Excel documents. Business users have frequently cited ambiguity over iPhone’s support for Word or Excel documents as a potentially fatal omission, so their inclusion removes just one more potential barrier to the phone’s popularity. Apple claims that in “about a week,” you’ll be thumb-typing faster on iPhone than any other small keyboard. Through a settings menu, mail can be checked manually, or automatically every 15, 30, or 60 minutes. You can also choose between 0 and 5 lines to show in the mail window preview, and change between five font sizes for easier reading.
Stocks: The stock application allows you to view historical stock performance for a company on a scale of 1 day to 2 years, with 1 week, 1 month, 3 month, 6 months, or 1 year options in-between. It also lets you know whether the markets are open or closed. You can add additional stocks to the list, and scroll through them if they don’t all fit on your screen with the performance graph in place.
Maps: Zooming in or out can be accomplished with one or two simultaneous finger presses, in addition to pinching and expanding gestures. Though GPS is not—as some assumed—built into iPhone, a list of commonly used locations (such as Home) can be saved as starting and ending points. Maps can be overlaid with current traffic conditions using the bottom-of-screen car icon, which calls up Google’s traffic information to provide red and green map overlays.
Settings: Airplane Mode can be activated to deactivate the unit’s Wi-Fi, cellular and Bluetooth radios during a flight. An Airplane icon appears on the unit’s top left corner, and all of the wireless icons disappear. You can choose from 25 built-in ringtones, including Alarm, Ascending, Bark, Bell Tower, Blues, Boing, Crickets, Digital, Doorbell, Duck, Harp, Marimba, Motorcycle, Old Car Horn, Old Phone, Piano Riff, Pinball, Robot, Sci-Fi, Sonar, Strum, Timba, Time Passing, Trill, and Xylophone. Marimba is the chime currently most associated with the iPhone; there does not appear to be any way to use your iTunes music as a ringtone.
Freshly debuted on the Apple.com web site, the new iPhone Guided Tour (also called Apple iPhone Welcome) features on-screen narration by Apple’s Bob Borchers through various features of the phone, including new ones.
Sleep/Wake (Power) Button: Found on the unit’s top right, next to the SIM card slot, the “Sleep/Wake Button” turns off the iPhone’s screen and disables its touch controls. While the phone can still receive calls, play music, and see its volume adjusted via the side volume buttons, the screen goes completely dark and is no longer touch-sensitive. The same button is held down for several seconds to turn iPhone’s power completely off, and a slider appears on screen to confirm that you want to do so.
Phone: Borchers explains that the alphabet letters found on iPhone’s scrollable lists are, in effect, letter-specific scroll bars that you drag your finger through and stop at a letter of your choosing. When you press the Home button during a phone call to return to iPhone’s main menu, a green bar at the top of the screen appears to keep you informed of how many minutes and seconds your call is taking. Like Safari, the phone has a list of favorites that can be customized with the specific numbers you prefer to use for people of your choosing, making calls to these people easier than scrolling through larger lists. Calling is as straightforward as was previously demonstrated, but the video spotlights context-sensitive in-call menus that make switching between two callers (“swap”), merging calls, and adding a call (keypad/contacts) easy.
iPod: The top of the songs list now has a shuffle button, as does the top of each artist’s collection of songs in your library. Double-tapping on videos in progress toggles between widescreen (16:9) and fullscreen (4:3) aspect ratios, while a single tap brings up on-screen controls. The “More” icon at the bottom of iPhone’s iPod screen provides you with the option to customize the device’s list of default one-click categories, including icons for Albums, Podcasts, Audiobooks, Genres, Composers, Complications, Playlists, Artists, Songs, and Videos. Any icon can be dragged from the list to replace one of the icons already at the bottom of the screen.
iPhone Stereo Headset: In addition to the microphone mounted at neck level to help you talk on the phone, the iPhone Stereo Headset includes a button below the microphone for one-press control of the phone, or the iPod’s media playback. A single press pauses or plays back music, as well as answering or ending a call; music fades in and out as appropriate. Two presses advances a track in the music.
Apple has posted a new video-based guided tour of the iPhone. The tour, which is roughly 20 minutes in length, explains the most of the basic functions of the device, and how to use them. Of note, the tour gives explanations for all of the iPhone’s external buttons and ports, including the silent/ringer switch (found on the side with the volume up/down buttons), and sleep/wake button (found on the top of the device). The video also reveals that the iPhone’s included headphones offer a form of remote control built-in to the integrated microphone, which allows the user to answer and end calls, as well as control audio and video playback. The tour is available as a 175MB download.
Warren East, CEO of mobile-processor outfit ARM, has said that he welcomes the iPhone, and believes it will make a “huge difference” in the smartphone market. When asked about the smartphone becoming a mainstream device, East responded, “I think we’re a couple of years away, probably, but as I said, I think the iPhone is going to make a huge difference.” While East coyly replied to questions as to whether the iPhone contains a chip based on one of ARM’s designs, he did give the device praise. “Well, frankly, I think the other players are all a bit sort of… They needed somebody like Apple to come along and shake them up a bit. I mean, Nokias are pretty good (pulls out his N95 smart phone), but this N95 is probably, in some ways, just a little bit shy of an iPhone.” He also gave Apple credit for sparking innovation in the market, stating, “I think it’s that sort of second-order effect that we’ll see in the smart-phone space with the iPhone; it’s actually stimulating lots of other people to go and bring out their own devices.”
AT&T has hired 2,000 extra workers to staff its company-owned stores in anticipation of the iPhone launch. The new employees — mostly college students — were brought in for the summer to help deal with the expected crowds of iPhone customers, said AT&T spokesperson Michael Coe. In addition, customers who come to the store only to find it sold out will be able to purchase the iPhone at the store and have it shipped to them as soon as it’s available.
Are you planning to line up for the iPhone? Or sit out the June 29th launch day? We want to know.
We’ve brought back the iLounge Poll to give you a chance to easily register your opinions. As always, it’s in the left-hand column of the iLounge.com main page. Let us know your honest feelings, and if you’re lining up, tell us why! Once you’re finished submitting your answer, you can move the poll downwards on the page just by clicking on it and dragging it away.
According to AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel, a report today that AT&T will wait until the day of iPhone’s launch to disclose rate plans for the device is inaccurate. “We will disclose before the 29th,” said Siegel, noting that customers will be able to show up at stores that day knowing how much they will be charged for both the Apple-developed hardware and AT&T’s cellular service plans. “It’s not going to be anything exotic,” Siegel told iLounge, confirming that there will be separate voice and data services components to its iPhone service plans, rather than the one-size-fits-all plans some had expected. As previously stated by both companies, and re-confirmed by Siegel, a two-year service commitment will still be required.