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Crisis expert: AT&T has 48 hours to respond to iPhone complaints

Following four days of complaints from current iPhone users who are being quoted prices of $399 and up to upgrade their current handsets to the iPhone 3GS, a crisis communications expert has suggested that AT&T has roughly 24-48 hours to respond to the criticism. “It’s time for AT&T to step forward and be an industry leader,” said Dallas Lawrence, vice president of digital media at New York-based Levick Strategic Communications, in an interview with Computerworld. “The next 48 hours will be very telling. AT&T needs to embrace the message, to acknowledge a mistake’s been made, and to make things good.” The online complaints have culminated in a Twitter petition—now with more than 8,000 supporters—calling for AT&T to offer iPhone 3GS upgrades to all iPhone customers for the same $199 and $299 pricing it offers to new customers. The number of names attached to the petition has nearly doubled in the last 24 hours.

“AT&T has the opportunity to turn a potential negative into a positive,” said Lawrence, adding “[t]hey should forget the immediate gratification [of higher revenue] and invest in the longer term to keep iPhone users.” Lawrence went on to say that this vocal group of users will only get more agitated the longer it takes the U.S. iPhone carrier to respond, and that if the company were his client, he would tell them to immediately apologize and guarantee the cheapest upgrade pricing for all iPhone users. “And they should say they will do that for every iPhone that Apple launches, because they want the iPhone users to be part of the AT&T family for life,” Lawrence added. “That would be the type of statement that would be leading—outside the industry norm—and would let iPhone users know they can make a commitment to AT&T because AT&T has made a commitment to them.”

Apple patent points to enhanced emergency calls

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A newly-disclosed Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a system to enhance emergency calls on the iPhone. Titled “Method and system for prolonging emergency calls,” the patent describes a system for determining when a call is an emergency call, either by automatically classifying numbers as emergency services—such as 911—or via an emergency tagging system in the contacts application. When an emergency call is detected, the phone could then implement a number of different tactics to help facilitate the call, including but not limited to deactivating Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or various sensors, implementing a confirmation alert before the call can be ended, and providing options for “emergency phrase buttons,” which would allow the user to simply touch the screen to send his/her current location, an “unable to speak” message, phrases describing the user’s problem, or an automated request to contact a certain contact, all via pre-recorded audio messages. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. Continue reading for more images from the patent application. [via MacRumors]

Apple, AT&T release iPhone 3GS launch day details

Both Apple and AT&T have outlined their plans for June 19, when the iPhone 3GS goes on sale. Apple will open its retail stores worldwide at 8 a.m. local time to begin sales of the phone and to allow those who pre-ordered to come in and pick their units up, while AT&T plans to have two queues outside its stores—one for those who pre-ordered, and one for those planning to purchase their unit that day. The pre-order customers will be allowed inside the stores at 7 a.m. to pick up their device, while the regular customers will need to wait until 8 a.m. Although both Best Buy and Walmart offer the iPhone 3G in their stores, it is currently unclear whether they will also carry the iPhone 3GS, or whether they will have units available on launch day. iLounge has contacted both companies for clarification and will update this story when we hear back.

In addition, AT&T has posted a video explaining its launch day plans; continue reading to watch.

iPhone 3GS SGX GPU to cause game coding headaches?

The new iPhone 3GS contains a PowerVR SGX graphics core, according to a new report, which also suggests that the new OpenGL ES 2.0 features may cause difficulties for game developers. Citing people familiar with the matter, AppleInsider reports that the new iPhone contains the new PowerVR SGX chip from Imagination Technologies, which has been integrated into the handset’s system-on-a-chip, manufactured by Samsung. Prior reports had suggested that an “international electronics systems company” had licensed the SGX technology for its own use in a multi-use, multi-year deal. It was later revealed that Apple had bought 8 million shares, or a 3% stake, in Imagination, further evidence of a relationship between the two companies.

The new SGX technology enables OpenGL ES 2.0-specific rendering features, including programmable shaders, while maintaining support for OpenGL ES 1.1 fixed-function rendering. However, games written to take specific advantage of the iPhone 3GS’s OpenGL ES 2.0 capabilities will need to contain two codebases, one for OpenGL ES 2.0 and one for 1.1, or break compatibility with older devices. This creates obvious difficulties for smaller developers who may not have the resources to create both sets of code; it also makes it less likely that currently-available games will be updated to take advantage of the iPhone 3GS hardware, as the financial benefits will most likely not be able to make up for the development time spent.

iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3.0 news: a quick summary

The news out of Apple’s WWDC 2009 came so quickly that our News column has barely been able to keep up with it all. Here’s a quick summary of what was announced, along with links to our full articles:

WWDC 2009 Keynote in Brief: Learn about new MacBook Pro models, the $29 Snow Leopard upgrade, iPhone OS 3.0 and iPhone 3GS announcements in our text play-by-play from the event. See over 100 pictures in our photo gallery, as well. Accessory problems twice interrupted the Keynote.

iPhone 3GS Announced: A weird name for a largely iterative upgrade to the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS features a 3MP still camera, 640x480 video camera, voice controls, twice the storage capacity (16/32GB), improved responsiveness, and modestly improved battery performance. It hits June 19 for $199/$299.

iPhone 3GS Upgrade Fees: AT&T and Apple are hitting “early upgraders” with $200 to $400 fees if they want the iPhone 3GS, depending on when they purchased the iPhone 3G or other AT&T phones.

iPhone 3GS Data Plans Announced: AT&T, Rogers, and O2 are amongst companies announcing plans with no changes for prior 3G service offerings, but potentially higher charges for features such as MMS and PC/Mac Internet tethering.

iPhone 3GS Gets Enhanced Remote Support, New Headset: Apple has updated the iPhone 3GS headphone port with support for the Earphones with Remote and Mic, which it includes along with the device.

iPhone 3GS Radiation Data Released: The iPhone 3GS puts out less potentially dangerous radiation at maximum in five of six measures than its predecessor, but more in the sixth.

iPhone 3G 8GB Now $99: AT&T and Apple will continue to offer the black 8GB iPhone 3G for a reduced price of $99, and are closing out the 16GB model for $149.

iPhone OS 3.0 Coming June 17: Free for iPhone and iPhone 3G users, $10 for iPod touch owners, it adds a variety of new software features to every iPhone OS device, and unlocks new hardware features in certain devices as well. iTunes video downloading and Find My iPhone are newly announced features, atop the massive list we’ve been compiling since March.

Rogers reveals Canadian iPhone 3GS pricing

Rogers Wireless has revealed its pricing for the iPhone 3GS in Canada, via Keith McArthur, the company’s official rep on Twitter. The pricing is mostly consistent with the U.S., with the 16GB model offered for $199 CAD with a three-year contract and the 32GB running $299 CAD with the same terms. The 8GB iPhone 3G will be sold for $99 CAD, again with a three-year voice and data plan. As before, the phones will only be offered through Rogers/Fido and its selected partners. In addition, the company plans to reintroduce the $30 monthly 6GB iPhone data plan starting today, but is only offering it for a limited time. The iPhone 3GS will be released in Canada on June 19.

O2 reveals UK iPhone 3GS pricing and launch details

O2 has announced its pricing and plans for the iPhone 3GS in the UK. New or qualifying customers choosing an 18-month contract will be able to purchase a 16GB model for between £87 and £185, depending on the tariff chosen, while the 32GB model will range from £175 to £275. On a 24-month contract, the 16GB model will be free with all except the £35 tariff—it runs £87 with that plan—while the 32GB model will be priced from £97 to £175. For Pay & Go users, the 8GB iPhone 3G will be £343, with the 16GB iPhone 3GS running £440, and the 32GB model costing £538.

The company has also revealed its pricing on tethering plans for the iPhone, which will run £15 on a month-by-month basis for 3GB of data, or £30 a month for 10GB; customers will be able to purchase extra data at the rate of £5 per 1GB. Business customers may sign up for 24-month tethering Bolt On plans, with the 3GB running £10 a month and a 9GB plan costing £20 a month. On a month-to-month basis, these plans will run business customers £13 and £24, respectively. Tethering plans, as well as the iPhone 3GS, will be available from June 19. [via Macworld UK]

Apple updates iPhone 3GS headphone port, headset, SAR info

As just three of what will most likely turn out to be a number of quiet changes to the iPhone 3GS hardware from its iPhone 3G predecessor, Apple has disclosed details of changes to the iPhone 3G’s headphone port, headset, and radiation emissions, which offer mixed news for users of the upcoming 3GS model.

Since 2007, Apple has included the iPhone Stereo Headset with all iPhone and iPhone 3G devices sold worldwide, a pair of earbuds with an integrated microphone and single-button multifunction controller that can accept and reject calls, as well as pausing audio playback and skipping tracks. In 2008, Apple introduced the Earphones with Remote and Mic, adding volume controls to the remote control and changing the microphone to a version that sounded less natural, exhibiting some sibilance but also greater intelligibility. Due to a headphone port hardware change to support the additional remote volume control functionality, the new Earphones worked fully only with late 2008 iPod models, and were sold separately. According to Apple, they are now included in the iPhone 3GS package, replacing the iPhone Stereo Headset, and signaling that the iPhone 3GS has received the updated headphone port found on the latest iPods.

Additionally, just-released test-result documents submitted by Apple to the FCC show differences in the iPhone 3G S’s tested radiation emissions relative to its predecessor. A breakdown of the highest reported SAR values in three different broadcasting bands follows; lower numbers are better, and the FCC’s limit is 1.6 W/kg on any given measure.

Part 22 (824 - 849 MHz): 3G - Head: 0.506 W/kg, Body: 1.03 W/kg. 3G S - Head: 0.57 W/kg, Body: 0.67 W/kg.
Part 24 (1850 - 1910 MHz): 3G - Head: 1.38 W/kg, Body: 0.521 W/kg. 3G S - Head: 1.19 W/kg, Body: 0.33 W/kg
Part 15 (2400 – 2483.5 MHz): 3G - Head: 0.779 W/kg, Body: 0.088 W/kg. 3G S - Head: 0.52 W/kg, Body: 0.06 W/kg.

These numbers appear to indicate that the iPhone 3Gs puts out lower maximum radiation levels when broadcasting in the 1850-1910 and 2400-2483.5 MHz frequency ranges, higher when near the head in 824-849 MHz, and lower near the body in that range, as compared with the iPhone 3G.

Remaining 16GB iPhone 3G units selling for $149

AT&T is offering its remaining stock of 16GB iPhone 3G units for $149 with a two-year agreement, according to the Boy Genius Report. Citing an AT&T insider, the report speculates that since Apple is only offering the 8GB model via its website, 16GB units may be available on a “while supplies last” basis. Apple didn’t mention the 16GB model during today’s Keynote Address, suggesting that these discounted units are not part of its long-term strategy for the iPhone.

AT&T: iPhone 3GS Plan: $30/month, tethering + MMS absent

In conjunction with Apple, AT&T today announced details of its rate plans for the iPhone 3GS, which will continue to offer “unlimited data” access but without any promises of support for tethering or multi-media messaging (MMS). The iPhone 3GS rate plan will cost $30 per month, with speed performance varying by area—an Apple press release notes that higher-speed 7.2Mb/s HSDPA will be offered “where available” without adding additional information. Tethering, a feature that enables the iPhone 3GS to work as a modem for a Mac or PC, is supported by the iPhone OS 3.0 but has been given no date of availability by AT&T, while MMS support will be coming in “late Summer,” with no clear details on pricing. AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone 3GS in the United States, as it has been for the original iPhone and iPhone 3G; users have complained about slow data speeds, dropped calls, activation computer issues, and other aspects of the AT&T experience during and after both prior launches.

AT&T: 3G Upgraders pay $200 more for iPhone 3GS

AT&T has announced that the upgrade prices for iPhone 3GS will be $399 (16GB) or $499 (32GB) for customers who are still under contract after purchasing the prior-generation iPhone 3G, a $200 premium over the “standard” iPhone 3GS prices of $199 and $299. Using a pricing configurator found on Apple’s BuyiPhone.Apple.com web site, users can find out their individual upgrade prices based on the remaining length of their AT&T contracts, which may be higher or lower depending on the date of their prior upgrades. Users must commit to a new two-year contract; an $18 Activation fee and a $18 Early Upgrade fee are also assessed.

Updated: Some readers have reported upgrade price quotes of $599 (16GB) or $699 (32GB), which may be based on the length of their status as AT&T customers, and their more recent purchase of iPhone 3G hardware.

iPhone OS 3.0: June 17, with Find My iPhone, video downloads

In addition to the previously disclosed features of iPhone OS 3.0, Apple today announced that the software—officially launching June 17 worldwide—will now include two new features that were previously rumored: Find My iPhone and direct-to-device video downloads. Find My iPhone relies upon a subscription to Apple’s MobileMe service to let users automatically create sound and text alerts on their lost devices, helping them to either find the devices themselves or inform their finders as to their presence and return details. Users can send out noises that are audible even if the iPhone’s ringer switch has been turned off; they can also completely wipe the iPhone from afar, and use the integrated GPS functionality to locate the device’s current position on a map.

iPhone OS 3.0 also adds video downloads, a feature that enables the iPhone to wirelessly download movies, TV shows, and other video content without being connected to a computer. The feature also adds audiobook download support to the iPhone’s integrated iTunes Store for the first time, and permits direct-from-device video rentals as well.

iPhone 3G 8GB price drops to $99

In an effort to increase the affordability of the iPhone family, Apple has announced that the black 8GB iPhone 3G has dropped in price to $99, following the introduction of the more powerful iPhone 3GS model today. It is unknown whether any changes have been made to the $99 iPhone 3G model as it has fallen in price; Apple occasionally makes undisclosed tweaks to its devices or their pack-ins coincident with price drops. We will update this story with additional details as they become available.

Apple: iPhone 3GS on June 19, 16GB $199, 32GB $299

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Apple today officially announced the iPhone 3GS, the sequel to the iPhone 3G, with a June 19 initial release date. The added “S” stands for “speed,” a reference to the device’s faster processing and potential data transfer speeds. Available in four models—16GB white or black ($199 each), and 32GB white or black ($299 each)—the iPhone 3GS preserves much of the look and feel of the iPhone 3G, adding the following new features.

* A 3.0 Megapixel still camera with VGA video recording capabilities, autofocus, 10cm macro distance mode, auto white-balance, and tap-to-focus features. This camera promises to take more detailed, sharper still pictures than before, with improved low-light performance, as well as enabling users to create and edit videos directly from their iPhones for instant sharing over email, MobileMe, YouTube, or MMS.

* HSDPA 7.2Mb/s transfer speeds. Apple notes that this feature will only be “where available from AT&T later this year,” which is to say not everywhere in the United States, and questionable elsewhere outside the United States.

* OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration.

* Voice control, allowing users to dial out by saying the person’s name or speaking the numbers. The feature also works for audio playback, letting users play music by artist, album or playlist, activate the Genius feature by saying “play more songs like this,” play, pause, activate shuffle, skip tracks, and ask “What’s playing right now?”

* Digital compass with an accompanying Compass application and Maps integration, so it automatically orients any map to the direction you are facing.

* VoiceOver voice prompting and accessibility features, including Universal Zoom, and Mono Audio so that left and right channel audio can be blended into both earphones.

* Improved battery life, with 9 hours of Wi-Fi internet browsing, 10 hours of video, 30 hours of audio playback, and 12 hours of 2G talk time, compared to 6, 7, 24, 10, and 5 hours, respectively, on the iPhone 3G. 3G talk time remains 5 hours.

* Nike+ support, following the same included app and $19 Sensor accessory model as the iPod touch 2G.

The iPhone 3GS will roll out in the US/Canada/France/Germany/Italy/Spain/Switzerland/UK on June 19, then a week later with six more countries. Rollouts will continue thereafter into a number of other countries over the Summer. Prices listed above are based upon qualified new customers and upgrades, and will be higher in the case for users who aren’t qualified—for instance, AT&T will offer users who aren’t eligible for the cheaper pricing the iPhone 3GS for $399 for 16GB models and $499 for 32GB units.

iLounge’s Keynote Play-by-Play, 100 pictures posted here

The iPhone 3G S has been announced, and we have all the details and pictures for you. See our Flickr collection of 100 images here, and the transcript by clicking on the title of this story!

[Editor’s Note: We’ve heavily pruned the gallery since this article was initially posted, reducing the total number of images to better spotlight the good ones.]

 

iLounge’s WWDC 2009 Photostream Now Available

Photos direct from the WWDC 2009 Keynote are now appearing on iLounge’s Flickr photostream, and will continue to appear during the keynote. Initial banners spotted on site reference the Grand Central multi-core processor technology found in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and the new APIs found in iPhone OS 3.0. We’ll have plenty more to say and show you over the course of the next few hours!

Apple patents point to in-call media sharing, multi-touch Click Wheels

A pair of new Apple patent filings suggest the company is working on both a method for sharing media files like video, photos, and music while on a call, and a multi-touch control scheme for Click Wheel iPods. Titled “Methods and systems for mixing media with communications,” the first patent describes a scenario in which the user is discussing a piece of media during a phone call, and then hits an “Add Media” button within the Phone application to attach and send the item to the iPhone user on the other end of the call. The filing also makes several references to interactive video conferences, suggesting the feature may be planned for a future iPhone model, as video conferencing is not possible with currently-available versions of the iPhone.

The second filing, titled “Multi-dimensional Scroll Wheel,” describes a Click Wheel-like control apparatus that includes circuitry allowing it to “detect input gestures that traverse the center of the scroll wheel and to detect multi-touch input.” It goes on to suggest possible gestures to be used with the improved controls, such as side-to-side swipes for moving images or album covers across the screen, or a rotating two-finger gesture for zooming in and out of images, depending on the direction of the rotation, as well as the more familiar iPhone pinch-and-zoom gesture. As with all Apple patents, these filings do not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]

16, 32GB ‘V3’ iPhones found in Carphone Warehouse systems

Listings for both black and white versions of 16GB and 32GB “V3,” or third-generation, iPhones have appeared in the inventory system of UK-based iPhone retailer Carphone Warehouse. AppleInsider reports that the new listings appeared just hours ago, mixed in with listings for both iPhone 3G and original iPhone models. Many expected Apple to double the maximum capacity of the iPhone 3G to 32GB earlier this year, as it had done with the prior version when it announced the 16GB model in February of 2008; the iPod touch is currently the only iPhone OS device available in 32GB capacities. Apple is widely expected to introduce new iPhone models this coming Monday during its WWDC 2009 Keynote Address, which we will provide live coverage of beginning at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Nike+, VoiceOver coming to iPhone 3.0?

Several text strings found in iTunes 8.2 suggest that the iPhone may be receiving the third-generation iPod shuffle’s and fourth-generation iPod nano’s spoken word navigation features as an optional control method, as well as Nike + support. AppleInsider reports that the strings, found inside the iTunes application bundle, include a variety of alerts for Nike + iPhone integration—such as “Do you want to automatically send your workout info to nikeplus.com when you sync your iPhone?”—as well as a single string stating “VoiceOver changes the gestures used to control iPhone. Are you sure you want to continue?,” an addition to VoiceOver strings that the report says have been in the iTunes codebase since version 8.1. A handful of other strings seem to suggest the addition of radio tagging capabilities, although it is unclear whether these would be related to built-in radio functionality, a radio-tagging application, or some other external accessory. The strings appear to be similar to ones used by current docking iPod models for iTunes Tagging of HD Radio broadcasts picked up by external accessories.

App recommendation system coming in iPhone OS 3.0?

Apple’s upcoming iPhone OS 3.0 update contains software features that, if enabled, would allow users to recommend apps to other users, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the technology, BusinessWeek reports that the software may allow users to “share,” or recommend, software with other users, and may be expanded to allow users to invite others to games even when the recipient does not own the game in question. “Now you can sell copies of your app to two players instead of one,” said former Apple engineer Dave Howell, who now runs file-sharing app developer Avatron Software. Richard Doherty, director at consulting firm Envisioneering Group, suggests that the feature may eventually offer users a commission when others purchase software based on their recommendations. Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock declined the opportunity to discuss possible features with BW, saying, “[w]e’ve made no announcements at this time.”

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