An ongoing spat between journalist Dan Lyons—posting as his satirical alter-ego “Fake Steve Jobs”—and AT&T has the potential to cause iPhone service outages Friday afternoon. Following a profanity-filled rant (NSFW) in which Lyons compared AT&T to a record company wanting customers to purchase less copies of an album due to high demand, Lyons subsequently proposed “Operation Chokehold,” suggesting that iPhone users flood AT&T’s cellular network with traffic by turning off Wi-Fi and using their 3G connections for data-intensive activities, such as streaming video, for approximately one hour at Noon Pacific Time (3:00PM Eastern Time) on Friday.
Following the “Chokehold” post, AT&T called the scheme “irresponsible and pointless,” adding that “there is nothing amusing about advocating that customers attempt to deliberately degrade service on a network that provides critical communications services for more than 80 million customers.” Lyons’ responded, noting that the company has made over $10 billion in profit over the last nine months, and has seen wireless data revenues soar 80% over the last eight quarters, while dropping its capital expenditures by 30% over the same period. A Facebook group dedicated to “Operation Chokehold” now has over 1,750 fans, and despite a later statement from Lyons claiming that he doesn’t want to “cause any actual harm to my fellow AT&T users,” questions remain as to whether the protest will have any impact on the network on Friday.
Recent reports from iPhone developers indicate that Apple has softened its stance on using private APIs—features not authorized by Apple for third-party developer use—in iPhone applications. One iPhone developer, Vimov, indicated that instead of simply rejecting its application for using private APIs, Apple approved it with a request that the developer resolve the issue in its next update. An unrelated developer, Jonah Grant reported a similar experience with his application. The iPhone SDK Developer Agreement prohibits the use of private APIs, which, unlike public APIs, may include features that Apple could change in future OS updates, and thus does not want third-party developers to use. In the past, applications that made use of private APIs have been rejected by the App Store review process, and Apple has even gone so far as to implement an automated check for the use of private APIs. The change in policy appears to be aimed at increasing approvals while educating developers about reasons for future rejection. Earlier this month Steve Jobs personally intervened to reverse the rejection of the Knocking application, which also made use of a private API. (via AppleInsider and Daring Fireball).
China Unicom reports that it has now sold 100,000 iPhones since the device’s official launch in China in October. The carrier had indicated in early November that it had signed up only 5,000 subscribers in the first weekend of the iPhone launch, and later reports from a major online electronics retailer revealed that only five iPhones had been sold through that particular outlet. However, China Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing now reports that the carrier has actually sold 100,000 iPhones in the past 40 days, indicating in an interview on Thursday that most reports have been focusing on the contract-free price of the iPhone in China (US$1,033 for the 32GB iPhone 3GS) rather than the subsidized pricing models that are available under various monthly plans, four of which actually offer the iPhone hardware for free under contract. Further, Chang described earlier reports that China Unicom had contracted with Apple to purchase 5 million iPhones over a five-year period as “not entirely accurate” but added that the company is rethinking its marketing strategy and believes it could possibly sell more than that number. The official iPhone sold in China does not include Wi-Fi capabilities due to government regulations, while fully-capable iPhone models have been available for import into China from other countries such as Hong Kong since long before the official iPhone Chinese release. It is commonly believed that these factors have contributed to comparatively slow sales of the official iPhone in China, where mobile phone subscribers are estimated to number more than 720 million.
According to a report from BBC News, British department store Tesco will begin to sell the iPhone in the UK starting on December 14th on a twelve-month contract. The lowest rate plan is expected to be £20 per month (US$32.50), while an 8GB iPhone 3G will sell for £222 (US$360) on a twelve-month contract, the shortest currently available in the UK. Customers willing to sign a 24-month £60 (US$98) per month contract can get the 8GB iPhone 3G or 16GB iPhone 3GS for free. By comparison, O2 sells the base iPhone 3G model for approximately £97 (US$160) for the handset and a lowest rate plan of £30 (US$50) on an 18-month contract, while Orange provides rate plans as low as £30 (US$50) on an 18-month contract with a free iPhone. Vodafone is also expected to begin carrying the iPhone next year but has not announced any pricing details as of yet.
Last night Apple announced the launch of an RSS feed for iPhone Developer news and announcements. The new RSS feed provides information on a range of topics of interest to iPhone developers including tips on submitting apps to the App Store, current turnaround times for app review, developer program updates and development and testing techniques. While targeted at iPhone Developers, the feed is publicly available for anybody who may be interested in following iPhone-related development news from Apple.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian iPhone carrier Telstra quietly enabled iPhone tethering this weekend, allowing iPhone users to now access the Internet from their computers via either USB or Bluetooth. Telstra has offered this feature on its other mobile phones for some time, but insisted that Apple would not permit it to enable tethering on the iPhone. Apple indicated, however, that tethering decisions rest with the carriers themselves, and Australia’s other three cellular phone carriers have been providing tethering access for the iPhone since shortly after the iPhone 3.0 update was released in June. A list of the iPhone carriers around the world which provide tethering capabilities can be found on Apple’s Locating iPhone Wireless Carriers page.
Additionally, reports indicate that the iPhone has had a successful launch in South Korea. Sales of 60,000 units were noted for its first day of availability, representing 15% of the total number of smartphones that were sold in South Korea during the entire third quarter. Even though South Korea provides one of the most advanced sets of mobile products and services in the world, smartphones still only represent 1% of the total mobile market in that country. KT Corporation, the iPhone’s South Korean carrier, hopes that the introduction of the iPhone will improve the popularity of smartphones in that country.
Israel’s three main cellular carriers will begin selling the iPhone this week. Cellcom, Israel’s largest mobile carrier is scheduled to begin selling the iPhone on Wednesday at midnight, while Partner Communications and Pelephone will begin sales on Thursday. Estimates suggest that 80,000 Israelis already have iPhones purchased outside of the country, and unlocked for use on the Israeli cell phone networks. The three Israeli mobile carriers have committed to purchasing 80,000 units each, however analysts expect the actual numbers to be much higher, believing the iPhone could boost average revenue by up to 30 percent. (via Reuters).
This week will see the iPhone released in Guam, and expand to two additional carriers in Singapore. GTA TeleGuam has announced that it will launch the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G in Guam on Friday, December 11th, as it will offer the iPhone with any existing MPULSE wireless subscription plan and a two-year contract. Customers will be able to pre-order the iPhone beginning today either online through the company’s web site or at any of its retail stores.
A separate report in The Wall Street Journal indicates that both MobileOne Ltd. and StarHub Ltd. in Singapore will begin to offer the iPhone 3GS in Singapore starting on Wednesday, December 9th. The larger Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. has been been selling the iPhone in Singapore for some time now.
A Swiss iPhone developer has published research that indicates that security vulnerabilities affecting the iPhone are not limited to jailbroken iPhones. Developer Nicholas Seriot has created a proof of concept app called SpyPhone as a demonstration of how Apple’s own APIs could be misused to read or edit a user’s address book or gain access to a user’s web surfing history or recent location information. For such attacks to succeed, a malicious application would still need to get past Apple’s App Store approval process to be available for non-jailbroken iPhones, however this is not outside of the realm of possibility as such an app would not require the use of any exploits or third-party APIs, and the spyware portion could be hidden by delayed activation or an encrypted payload.
The security researcher detailed these potential iPhone privacy risks in a talk he delivered in Geneva on Wednesday, during which he also outlined possible defense strategies, suggesting that Apple should design the iPhone OS to require users to authorize read or read-write access by iPhone applications to potentially sensitive on-device information such as the Address Book, add firewall functionality to the device and ensure the keyboard cache is not as readily available to third-party applications. (via The Register).
Following last month’s official launch of the iPhone on China Unicom, China’s most popular online retailer is reporting much lower than expected sales of official iPhone units in China. Taobao.com, the largest Chinese e-commerce web site reports that it has sold only two 8GB iPhones and three 16GB iPhones since it began selling them on Nov 22nd. Although China Unicom is also selling the iPhone directly, Taobao is considered to be China’s top online retail site for buyers of electronic devices. To comply with local regulations, iPhones sold by China Unicom do not include Wi-Fi capabilities and sell for a higher price than fully-capable iPhone models that have long been available through unofficial sources: A 32GB iPhone 3GS from China Unicom costs 6,999 yuan (US$1,024) without a contract compared to about US$800 in Hong Kong, making it difficult for official China Unicom iPhone models to compete. (via PC World).
The iPhone finally launched in South Korea over the weekend, with strong demand seen by carrier KT. Apple had seen difficulties in getting the iPhone past the country’s telecommunications regulatory body, receiving preliminary approval in September, followed by final approval earlier this month. According to KT, roughly 65,000 people placed orders for the iPhone since it became available for pre-sale on November 22. We’re hoping that this iPhone will be a trigger point for the smartphone market in Korea,” said Yang Hyun-mi, chief strategy officer at KT. Explaining that smartphones currently make up just one percent of all cell phone sales in South Korea, she added, “we just think it will be really huge.”
Apple has begun field testing a next-generation iPhone model, according to device usage records from an iPhone/iPod touch application. Mac Rumors reports that developer Pandav, who uses PinchMedia to provide analytics for its app iBART, found a device identifying itself as “iPhone3,1” in its usage logs for November. Apple has in the past used the first number to identify a major architecture change between models, with the original iPhone being labeled “iPhone 1,1,” the iPhone 3G appearing as “iPhone 1,2,” and the iPhone 3GS labeled “iPhone 2,1.” Evidence of the new model was found in iPhone OS 3.0 as early as this March; Mac Rumors also notes that Apple began field testing the iPhone 3GS last October, roughly eight months ahead of its launch.
AT&T is now offering refurbished iPhone 3GS units through its online store. Refurbished 16GB models are priced at $149, while 32GB units are selling for $249; both prices are with a two-year contract, and both white and black units are available. In the past, AT&T’s refurbished units have been listed with a notice that they include a warranty of 90 or more and may have “minor scratches.”
Supermarket chain Tesco has announced that it will soon offer the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in its stores through its Tesco Mobile brand, making it the fourth U.K. carrier to sell the device. BBC News reports that a Tesco spokesperson said the company hopes to offer the phone “in time for Christmas,” which would put its roll out ahead of Vodafone’s, which isn’t expected until early next year. Tesco Mobile is a joint venture between the supermarket firm and O2, and offers phones both on contact and on a pay as you go basis from its stores around the U.K.
A number of iPhone users are voicing their displeasure over a bug in iPhone software 3.1.2 that sees the phone randomly start searching for service. According to a thread on the Apple Support Discussions site, the problem appears to be software related, as users on AT&T, Rogers Wireless, and Telus have been affected; the only current fix once the phone begins searching is to reboot the device. It is unclear as to whether the problem is limited to iPhone 3G units, but no verified users of other models have complained on the thread thus far, suggesting that the bug may be specific to that iPhone model.
Update: A number of users, including one iLounge editor, have confirmed in the comments that the bug is indeed affecting all models of iPhone.
According to the latest data from mobile advertising firm AdMob, the iPhone accounts for 50% of all worldwide smartphone ad requests. The company’s newly-published October Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link) also shows the iPhone accounting for more than 22% of requests from all handsets worldwide, making it the top handset model, followed by the iPod touch with 9.8%. In the U.S. market, the iPhone fares even better, taking a 55% share of all smartphone ad requests. Among the top handset models in the U.S., the iPhone is number one with 24.1% of requests—an improvement over its worldwide numbers—while the iPod touch again comes in second with 11.4% of requests, also an improvement over its international numbers. AdMob’s percentages are based on ad requests, impressions, and clicks, tracked over the more than 15,000 mobile web sites and applications to which the company serves ads.
Apple is preparing to launch a pair of new TV advertisements for the iPhone 3GS that directly attack competing carriers, most specifically Verizon Wireless. Both ads—uploaded online with the titles “What Time’s the Movie?” and “Did You See My Email?”—feature the iPhone being used against a white backdrop, similar to most of Apple’s recent iPhone commercials. While both ads show various apps in use, the theme for each is not the apps themselves, but instead the fact that AT&T’s 3G network allows for data access while on a call, something that Verizon can’t offer due to its different network technology. BusinessWeek reports that the new ads are scheduled to air tonight during programs like House, The Daily Show, and Dancing With the Stars; continue reading to see both commercials below in embedded form, or follow the above links to watch them separately on Vimeo.
KT has announced (Translated Link) that it will officially begin sales of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in South Korea on November 28. “We are thrilled to bring iPhone to South Korea,” said Kim Woo-sik, CEO of KT’s personal customer group. “Our customers will enjoy the power and benefits of using the revolutionary iPhone on KT’s 3G network.” All three iPhone models will be available with three different “i-” plans, with the 16GB iPhone 3GS and 8GB iPhone 3G available for free with the W 95,000/month—roughly $82—“i-Premium” plan; pricing rises through the three tiers to a maximum of W 396,000 (~$343) for the 32GB iPhone 3GS on the W 45,000/month (~$39) “i-Light” plan. Despite the official announcement and a confirmation from Apple, South Korea remains missing from Apple’s list of countries where the iPhone is available.
A new iPhone worm affecting jailbroken units is targeting owners who use their device to access Internet banking services from Dutch online bank ING. BBC News reports that the worm was discovered by security company F-Secure, and uses the same SSH vulnerability—specifically, jailbroken iPhones that have had SSH activated without having the default password changed—to redirect the bank’s customers to an unauthorized look-a-like site with a login screen. According to F-Secure, this new worm is more dangerous than prior threats because it can behave like a botnet, enabling the phone to be accessed or controlled remotely. “It’s the second iPhone worm ever and the first that’s clearly malicious - there’s a clear financial motive behind it,” F-Secure research director Mikko Hypponen told the BBC. “It’s fairly isolated and specific to Netherlands but it is capable of spreading.” Hypponen added that while the number of infected phones is thought to still be in the hundreds, the worm could potentially jump from phone to phone when multiple vulnerable devices are running on the network, such as at Wi-Fi hotspots. A spokesperson for ING Bank said the company was going to post a warning about the worm on its official website. “We are also briefing call centre personnel,” she added. “It’s important to remember that the worm only affects jail-broken phones and it is only aimed at customers in the Netherlands.”
In an interview with BusinessWeek, Apple senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller made several interesting comments about the continuing growth of the App Store and the company’s app approval process. “We’ve built a store for the most part that people can trust,” Schiller said of the App Store. “You and your family and friends can download applications from the store, and for the most part they do what you’d expect, and they get onto your phone, and you get billed appropriately, and it all just works.” Comparing Apple to a brick-and-mortar retailer that must determine what products to put on store shelves, Schiller continued, Whatever your favorite retailer is, of course they care about the quality of products they offer. We review the applications to make sure they work as the customers expect them to work when they download them.”
Schiller reiterated the company’s count of more than 100,000 apps available in the App Store, and said that roughly 10,000 are submitted each week; Schiller claimed that most are approved, while about 90% of rejections are sent back to the developer due to a technical issue, such as a bug or unexpected operation. The other 10% are mostly inappropriate. “There have been applications submitted for approval that will steal personal data, or which are intended to help the user break the law, or which contain inappropriate content,” Schiller said. However, about 1% or fewer of returned apps fall into a gray area that Apple hadn’t previously anticipated; Schiller used apps written to help users cheat at casino games as an example. “We had to go study state and international laws about what’s legal and what isn’t, and what legal exposure that creates for Apple or the customer,” he said.
Schiller said the company is also taking a hard line on potentially illegal use of trademarks—particularly those owned by Apple. “If you don’t defend your trademarks, in the end you end up not owning them,” Schiller says. “And sometimes other companies come to us saying they’ve seen their trademarks used in apps without permission. We see that a lot.” The executive did say that the company is working to make its trademark guidelines more sophisticated and transparent. “We need to delineate something that might confuse the customer and be an inappropriate use of a trademark from something that’s just referring to a product for the sake of compatibility,” he said. “We’re trying to learn and expand the rules to make it fair for everyone.”