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Early Verizon iPhone 4 tests: slow data, better calls

Following prior iPhone launch traditions, Apple has offered a handpicked collection of reviewers early access to the Verizon iPhone 4, embargoing their reviews until this morning. Their conclusions are collectively mixed, focused on four primary differences between the AT&T iPhone 4 and Verizon CDMA version, and wavering on the wisdom of making a purchase now.

Data Speeds: Virtually all of the reviewers agree that Verizon’s data speeds are much slower than AT&T’s in areas where both phones get solid service. Downloads and uploads are commonly twice as fast on AT&T’s network, so Verizon customers will see photos and videos take much longer times to upload when away from a Wi-Fi network, while apps will take longer to download and install. On the other hand, reviewers claimed that subtle redesigns to the Verizon iPhone 4’s antenna enable it to avoid “death grips” that can kill calls and data on the prior iPhone 4.

Hotspot Access: Apple’s iOS 4.2.5/4.2.6 renaming and repositioning of Tethering to become the new Personal Hotspot feature was generally praised. Personal Hotspot is now accessible from the top level of the settings menu, and though it is slow using Verizon’s network, it is expected to debut on AT&T within days of the official Verizon iPhone 4 launch.

Data Versus Calls: Confirming a known deficiency of Verizon’s CDMA network, reviewers noted that the Verizon iPhone 4 cannot make calls and receive data at the same time, as the AT&T iPhone 4 can. However, unlike the original EDGE-only iPhone, which sometimes blocked calls when data services were in use, the Verizon iPhone 4 appears to allow calls to go through and stops data services when they come in.

Call Quality: Reviewers generally agreed that calls sounded somewhat better and were less likely to drop when using the Verizon iPhone 4. However, call performance did vary between geographic regions, and The New York Times’ David Pogue suggested that Verizon’s network might buckle under a “stampede of new iPhone customers.”

Wisdom of Buying the Verizon iPhone 4: Though the reviewers were generally positive on the addition of Verizon as an iPhone service provider, several cautioned that Verizon/AT&T performance varied considerably between locations, and some warned potential Verizon customers that they would be unwise to jump on board right now. Pogue specifically noted that Apple was asked about but would not guarantee the iPhone 4’s longevity in light of the anticipated release of the fifth-generation iPhone in summer. If Apple follows past patterns, he suggests that “you’ll be stuck with an outdated phone in only five months.”

Verizon iPhone order server errs out; Apple rejects orders

In an unexpected repeat of the problematic online launches of past iPhones, the pre-ordering systems set up by both Verizon Wireless and Apple have turned away some iPhone 4 customers who arrived for the companies’ 3:00AM sign-up process. Attempts to order the iPhone 4 through Verizon Wireless’s web site failed for more than five hours, as some customers who attempted to sign in to the ordering page were presented with a broken “Sorry, an error has occured” page, promising to get “this fixed as soon as we can.” Other customers reported successes in ordering only after extended problems with the site; one noted that “Verizon’s web site was a disaster” with an early-morning order taking an hour to get placed. Separately, some customers attempting to order the iPhone 4 through Apple’s online Apple Store website were presented with inaccurate information denying their eligibility to pre-order the phone, despite confirmations from Verizon that they were in fact eligible.

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As has become common with Apple’s iPhone launch problems in recent years, Twitter discussions have popped up to express the frustration and distress of customers who have been unable to place their orders. Apple has previously made only modest attempts to apologize for pre-ordering issues, instead citing high demand for its products.

Updated 9:08AM: iLounge’s editors have been testing both Apple’s and Verizon’s ordering systems this morning with mixed results. One editor has found that adding an additional line of service to an existing account appeared to be successful in placing an order through Verizon’s site, whereas other editors have been unable to get orders placed through either Apple’s or Verizon’s pre-ordering systems. It’s obvious at this stage that some users (and some web browsers) are having different experiences than others, though the reasons for continued generic error messages on some accounts remain unclear. We’ve updated the title of this story to reflect the uncertain nature of the errors.

AT&T to add 2GB of data to tethering plan

AT&T today announced that it plans to add 2GB of data usage to its smartphone tethering plan. According to the release, current tethering customers will automatically get the additional 2GB of monthly data usage added to their plans at no extra charge as of February 13; customers who sign up for tethering afterwards will get the additional data from the start of their tethering plan. The total cost for 4GB of data plus tethering capability will be $45 per month, the same price iPhone users paid for 2GB of data plus tethering in the past; users who exceed their data limits will be charged an overage fee of $10 per gigabyte. The change coincides with the release of an “AT&T Mobile Hotspot” app and the launch of the HTC Inspire 4G, however, the announcement makes no mention of whether a similar app will be offered for iPhone users, or if the company plans to make use of iOS 4.3’s Personal Hotspot feature. Notably, Verizon Wireless has said that it will also charge $20 for use of the iPhone’s Personal Hotspot feature, but the 2GB of data included in the Verizon plan is for Personal Hotspot use only, while AT&T’s extra data will be applied to collective use across all devices.

Best Buy to offer Verizon iPhone from launch

Big box retail chain Best Buy has announced that it will offer the Verizon iPhone in its stores. According to the release, the iPhone 4 on Verizon Wireless will be available in both Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile outlets beginning on February 10, the same day that the device launches. “The iPhone 4 is an important device for Best Buy and we are excited to help Apple and Verizon Wireless bring it to even more consumers,” said Shawn Score, president of Best Buy Mobile. “Our customers have come to expect Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores to carry the best selection of mobile phones anywhere, and offering the iPhone 4 on Verizon’s network is our latest effort to deliver on that promise.” Apple announced earlier this morning that it will begin accepting online orders on February 9 for delivery or reserve for in-store pick up. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple to open Verizon iPhone sales February 9

Apple has revealed that it will begin taking online orders for the Verizon iPhone February 9. In a press release reminding current Verizon Wireless customers that they can pre-order the iPhone 4 beginning tomorrow from either Verizon’s or Apple’s websites, Apple also said that “all qualified customers will be able to order an iPhone 4 on Verizon through the Apple Store for delivery or reserve for in-store pick up beginning February 10.” In addition, Apple’s retail stores will be opening at 7:00 a.m. local time on February 10 for sales of the CDMA device. Apple notes that due to high demand, orders will be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis.

Apple releases iOS 4.3 beta 3 to developers

Apple has released the third beta version of iOS 4.3 to its paid developers. Listed as build number 8F5166b, it is unclear what has changed in the new version from prior betas, which included the new Personal Hotspot Wi-Fi sharing feature and enhanced AirPlay support for Safari and third-party apps. In addition, the release is once again accompanied by a new preview build of Apple TV Software 4.3. Separate versions of iOS 4.3 beta 2 for the iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, third-, and fourth-generation iPod touch are available as downloads for paid iOS developers from Apple’s iOS Dev Center.

For more information on iOS 4.3, see our Full Breakdown article.

Apple posts iOS 4.2.6 ahead of Verizon iPhone launch

Apple has posted iOS 4.2.6 for the CDMA iPhone in preparation for Verizon’s launch on February 10. According to Mac Rumors, the version is listed as Build 8E200, as compared the 8E128 build of iOS 4.2.5 seen on demonstration iPhones at the Verizon announcement last month, meaning Apple has likely made some additional modifications and improvements in the weeks since. iOS 4.2.6 for the CDMA iPhone is available now as a direct download from Apple; no other iOS devices have received new updates.

AT&T sued for overstating iPhone, iPad data use

A new class action lawsuit has been filed against AT&T, claiming that the company over bills for data usage, Courthouse News reports. According to the suit, which was filed in federal court by Patrick Hendricks, “AT&T’s bills systematically overstate the amount of data used on each data transaction involving an iPhone or iPad account,” going on to describe it as being “like a rigged gas tank that charges pump that charges for a full gallon when it pumps only nine-tenths of a gallon into your car’s tank.” Hendricks claims that the over billing and “phantom” data usage were discovered and confirmed by an “independent consulting firm retained by plaintiff’s counsel, which conducted a two-month study of AT&T’s billion practices for data usage.”  The firm “found that AT&T systematically overstate web server traffic by 7 percent to 14 percent, and in some instances by over 300 percent.” While the complaint admits that the overcharges “have a modest effect on an individual customer’s bill, they have a huge effect on AT&T’s bottom line,” citing fourth quarter 2010 wireless data revenue of $4.9 billion. Hendricks is seeking restitution and class damages for money received, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, unfair and fraudulent business practices, unfair competition, and violations of the federal Communications Act.

IDC: Apple slips to fifth among mobile vendors in Q4 2010

According to new data from IDC, Apple slipped from fourth to fifth on the list of top mobile phone vendors during the fourth quarter of 2010. The IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker shows that Chinese manufacturer ZTE passed Apple, moving into fourth place on the list with unit shipments of 16.8 million compared to Apple’s 16.2 million, giving the companies 4.2 and 4.0 percent of the market, respectively. Nokia remained on top with unit shipments of 126.8 million, good for 30.8 percent market share, and was followed by Samsung, with shipments of 68.8 million and share of 20.1 percent, and LG, with shipments of 33.9 million and a market share of 7.6 percent. For the whole of 2010, Apple remained in fifth place, with unit shipments of 47.5 million and a market share of 3.4 percent.

Apple sued over iPhone 4 glass breakage

Apple has been sued in a California court over the iPhone 4’s glass housing. LA Weekly reports that Donald LeBuhn has filed a class action suit in L.A. County, claiming that the company is aware of the problem and refuses to warn customers that “normal” use of the device could lead to a broken glass panel. Citing LeBuhn’s suit, the report states that he purchased an iPhone 4 in September, and has the glass break on him three weeks later when his daughter accidentally dropped the phone three feet to the ground. The suit also points to Apple’s statements that the glass is “20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic” as misleading. “Months after selling millions of iPhone 4s, Apple has failed to warn and continues to sell this product with no warning to customers that the glass housing is defective,” the suit reads. LeBuhn is asking Apple to refund of the purchase price of the iPhone 4 to all those in the class action suit, to reimburse customers for any repair fees they’ve incurred, and to make restitution for “their overpayment in purchasing defective iPhone 4s.” [via The Washington Post]

Liv Games releases Legendary Wars

Liv Games has released Legendary Wars, a new hybrid fantasy game for the iPhone and iPod touch. A blend of traditional real-time strategy, RPG and castle defense play, Legendary Wars takes the player through five mystical and tumultuous zones of Lengendaria as they set out to unravel the secrets surrounding the mysterious Sunstones. The game provides a varied set of arcade mini-games, three unlockable game modes and an immersive storyline set in a vibrant, lighthearted fantasy world. An assortment of playable characters range from Elven Archers to Magical Unicorns and each unit has upgradable stats and unique combat abilities that players use against hordes or Netherworld creates and bosses to lead their army to victory. Players can choose from a variety of gameplay styles such as castle defense, castle siege, ambush and free build and must mine resources and recruit units to send into battle, direct units to perform special attack or defensive moves and collect gems in battle to fority defenses, improve resource production and upgrade units. Legendary Wars requires iOS 3.1.3 or later and is available from the App Store for $3.

AT&T to push Android once iPhone exclusive ends

Speaking on a conference call discussing the company’s fourth quarter financial results, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said the company will put its focus on Android now that it has lost iPhone exclusivity in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. “We’re going to be a heavy participant in the Android market this year, so you’re going to see a significant shift in [the] mix” of phones sold by AT&T, said Stephenson, adding that the company plans to “very aggressively” market its stable of Android phones. Interestingly, Verizon Wireless used as similar strategy against AT&T prior to its announcement that it will be carrying the iPhone, which it launches on February 10.

Movie Stiller provides iPhone video stablization

Creaceed has released a new app to assist users with reducing camera shake when shooting videos on the iPhone and iPod touch. Movie Stiller allows users to import videos of up to 10 minutes in length from the device’s photo library and apply stabilization to compensate for horizontal, vertical and rotational motions of the device during recording. Users can choose the stabilization strength and optionally upscale the video to remove borders. The resulting stabilized video can then be exported back to the device’s library. The application performs all video processing directly on the device itself so no Internet connection is required and supports the Retina Display on the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch. Movie Stiller is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and fourth-generation iPod touch running iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store for $3.

AT&T activates 4.1 million iPhones, 442,000 tablets in Q4

Reporting its fourth quarter financial results, AT&T has revealed that it activated 4.1 million iPhones during the quarter. Notably, this was AT&T’s final full quarter as exclusive wireless carrier for the iPhone in the United States; its 4.1 million iPhone activations helped it towards a record net gain of 2.8 million wireless subscribers. In addition, the company announced that added 442,000 iPad and Android-based tablets to its network, with more than 90 percent of those being booked to the prepaid category. Notably, the iPad 3G receives data service from AT&T on a prepaid basis, suggesting that a large number of the tablet additions were for iPad.

Verizon iPhone 4 pre-orders: February 3, 3 a.m. ET

Verizon has sent out information to its corporate customers with more specifics about its iPhone pre-orders and launch. According to an e-mail received by Mac Rumors, Verizon will begin accepting pre-orders from existing customers at 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time on February 3. The e-mail states that customers will need to have their My Verizon self-serve account set-up online prior to the opening of the pre-order window, as orders can only be placed through a My Verizon account. Existing customers will be able to order upgrades and new lines, although the e-mail also notes that the pre-sale inventory is limited, so customers who miss out will need to wait until the official launch on February 10. Finally, the report states that Verizon is allowing some existing AT&T customers to trade-in their iPhones for credit when buying a new Verizon iPhone 4, at a rate of $60 for a 16GB original iPhone, $105 for a 16GB iPhone 3G, $160 for a 32GB iPhone 3GS, $280 for a 16GB iPhone 4, and $360 for a 32GB iPhone 4. Verizon will be shipping its iPhones two-day FedEx, with next day air as an option.

AT&T letting longtime iPhone users return to unlimited plan?

AT&T is letting some longtime iPhone users sign back up for its $30 unlimited data plan after having switched to one of the newer tiered options, according to an Associated Press report. The report claims that AT&T has allowed iPhone subscribers who have had an unlimited data plan in the past—as in, prior to the company’s June 2010 switch to tiered data pricing—to switch back to the plan. It cites Jose Argumedo, of Brentwood, N.Y., as an example; Argumedo and a friend, who are both iPhone 4 users and who owned iPhones prior to the new handsets, were switched back to an unlimited plan after a call to AT&T customer service. AT&T did not confirm the option to return to an unlimited plan, according to the report; Verizon recently announced that it will offer early iPhone purchasers a $30/mo. unlimited data plan, although it did not provide specifics as to how long users will have to sign up.

China Mobile in talks with Apple over next-gen iPhone

China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou has confirmed that his company remains in talks with Apple over an iPhone that will run on its home-grown TD-SCDMA network, according to Reuters. “We hope that when they develop the next-generation models, since Apple can create CDMA, they can also consider developing TD-SCDMA,” Jianzhou told reporters in Davos, Switzerland. “These two years we have been discussing the issue. Right now the situation is moving forward. Apple has made it clear they will support TD-LTE,” the next-generation wireless standard developed by China Mobile. The report notes that China Mobile is the world’s largest carrier, with 584 million subscribers as of December 2009, compared to China Unicom, the current exclusive provider of the iPhone in China, with 167.4 million.

Apple Store reveals Verizon iPhone plan pricing

Following last night’s design changes, Apple’s online store has posted full details of the plans and options available to Verizon iPhone customers. Mac Rumors reports that beyond the two-year contract, new individual customers will need to choose from voice packages that include a $39.99/mo. plan for 450 minutes, $59.99 for 900 minutes, or the Nationwide Unlimited plan for $69.99. Family SharePlans begin at $69.99 for 700 minutes, moving up to $89.99 for 1400 minutes, $99.99 for 2000 minutes, or $119.99 for unlimited. Data pricing is currently locked at $30/mo. for unlimited data, and as previously revealed, the Personal Hotspot feature will include an extra 2GB of data specifically for that feature for an extra $20 a month. Finally, users will be able to choose between 250 text messages for $5, 500 messages for $10, or unlimited texts for $20; family plan customers will have both the $5 and $10 options, as well as a 5000 messages for $20 option, or unlimited for $30.

Using the above figures, this means the minimum monthly cost for an individual iPhone user on Verizon will be $69.99 without text messaging or the Personal Hotspot feature, and $129.99 for a pair of iPhone users sharing a family plan, with the same limitations. Spread over two years, the total individual cost will be $1,879.75, including the cost of a 16GB iPhone 4 but not counting any additional taxes or fees, and assuming that the customer does not use text messaging or the Personal Hotspot feature. For a pair of iPhone users sharing a family plan, the total cost increases to $3,519.74 over two years, again including the cost of two 16GB handsets but not including the cost of any additional fees, taxes, or features.

Update: Apple appears to have removed the relevant pages from its website.

Update x2: As of February 2, Verizon has officially announced its plans, confirming the prior figures from Apple’s website.

Verizon: iPhone Personal Hotspot to run $20 monthly

Verizon has revealed that iPhone owners will need to pay an extra fee in order to use the Personal Sharing feature of their handsets. Speaking with Macworld, Brenda Raney, Verizon Wireless’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications, said the feature will cost users an extra $20 per month on top of required voice and data plans, the same cost that applies to current Verizon smartphone owners. Notably, the feature comes with its own 2GB monthly data pool with overages charged at $20/1GB, unlike AT&T’s $20 tethering charge, which uses the data customers have already paid for. Announced at the Verizon iPhone event earlier this month, the Personal Hotspot feature will allow iPhone users to share their 3G connections over Wi-Fi with up to five devices; Verizon Wireless will launch the iPhone 4 on February 10.

Deutsche Bank: ‘no going back’ to RIM after iPhone trial

Deutsche Bank Equity Research’s Chris Whitmore has said that the company’s recent two-month iPhone pilot was an overwhelming success, according to Finextra. In a note to clients, Whitmore said that pilot involved using iPhones to access corporate email via a secure e-mail application made by Good Technology. Whitmore said using the iPhone “was a fantastic experience as it was easier/faster to access data (touch UI) than on the Blackberry. It was also great to only have to carry one device for personal and corporate email access.” He continued, “after testing corporate email on iPhone for the past few months, there is no going back. We expect a lot of users will feel the same way when iPhones are offered at their workplaces,” adding that he believes his own firm’s trials will “translate into large deployments.” [via 9 to 5 Mac]

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