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iPhone component supplier faces worker strike

Disgruntled employees at a plant belonging to Taiwan-based Wintek, a leading supplier of touchscreen panels for a number of devices, including the iPhone, have gone on strike, disputing working conditions and pay. According to China Daily, more than 2,000 workers gathered at the Suzhou, China plant on Friday, smashing vehicles and factory facilities while protesting harsh working conditions, spurred on by a rumor that the company was not going to pay out an expected year-end bonus from 2009. The workers claim that at least four people have died from long-term exposure to hexane, a toxic chemical workers had been asked to during the cleaning of touchscreen panels. “The truth has been hidden from public view. There are people dying from long-term exposure to the toxicant used in the factory but no one is paying attention to that. There needs to be further investigation,” a worker named Zhu told China Daily. Local authorities claim that there have been no deaths reported, and 47 people who showed signs of hexane exposure had received proper treatment; the company says it will be distributing the bonuses over the coming month. It is unclear what, if any, affect the strike might have on iPhone supplies.

AT&T lowers prices on unlimited iPhone plans

AT&T has lowered the cost of its unlimited voice + data iPhone plans. The price of the individual unlimited voice and data plan for iPhone users has been lowered from $130 per month to $100, while unlimited Family Talk plans that include two iPhones have been lowered to $180. Unlimited texting remains a $20 for individuals or $30 for Family Talk plans. Current customers can change to the new, lower-priced plans without incurring a penalty or contract extension; the price drop comes on the heels of similar price drops from Verizon Wireless on its unlimited plans.

Developer claim hints at imminent iPhone OS 4.0 unveiling (Updated)

A new claim by an anonymous iPhone developer suggests that Apple plans to publicly unveil the next version of the iPhone OS in the very near future. iLounge has received an email from a well-known app developer, claiming that “we’ve submitted an updated app for the new iPhone OS 4.0 software.” A separate report from earlier this month claimed that Apple would be announcing a beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and an accompanying SDK at a special event, rumored to be held on January 27. The beta SDK was said to include a tablet simulator, and make it easier for developers to adapt applications to different screen resolutions, opening the door for higher and/or lower resolution displays on future iPhones and iPods. Apple has in the past partnered with select developers to create applications on new iPhone OS releases prior to their public unveilings to be used as demos for new features of the operating systems.

Update: Though the email in question unambiguously stated that the company had developed an app “for the new iPhone OS 4.0 software,” iLounge contacted the developer for clarification and learned that the reference was a mistake: the app is now “version 4.0” released for iPhone OS 3.1, the developer has offered “sincere apologies.”

Vodafone UK ships 50,000 iPhones on launch day

Vodafone UK shipped 50,000 iPhones to pre-registered customers on the first day of sales, according to a new report. Macworld UK reports that Vodafone UK chief executive Guy Laurence citied “exceptional demand” for phone, enough so that some customers are reporting delays in receiving their iPhones. The official Vodafone Twitter feed claimed on Thursday that “all pre-orders should be delivered today/tomorrow unless your area is affected by severe weather.” Vodafone UK joins O2 and Orange UK as the third major carrier to offer the iPhone in the region.

Apple, RIM sued by Kodak over photo technology

Eastman Kodak has filed a lawsuit against Apple—as well as BlackBerry-maker RIM—which claims that the iPhone infringes on Kodak patents related to digital cameras. Specifically, Kodak claims that the iPhone and some BlackBerry models infringe on a patent covering technology for previewing photos. Kodak is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to bar Apple and RIM from shipping infringing products, and is seeking unspecified damages in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. Apple was sued by a separate company over the camera technology in the iPhone in December of last year; both Kodak and Apple were named in a suit by BetaNet later the same month.

iPhone bests rivals in touchscreen stress test

Consulting house MOTO Development Group has performed an analysis of smartphone touchscreen sensitivity, putting the iPhone up against three Android-powered rivals: the HTC Droid Eris, the Motorola Droid, and the newly released Google Nexus One. The test used a drawing app to attempt to draw straight lines in a diamond pattern across each screen using both light and medium finger pressure. As the report notes, “on inferior touchscreens, it’s basically impossible to draw straight lines. Instead, the lines look jagged or zig-zag, no matter how slowly you go, because the sensor size is too big, the touch-sampling rate is too low, and/or the algorithms that convert gestures into images are too non-linear to faithfully represent user inputs.” The iPhone was the winner of the overall performance test, creating fairly straight lines compared to its competitors, but lagged behind the other offerings in edge performance, with noticeable curving of the lines as they reached the edges of the screen.

iPhone chip maker intros new graphics core

Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR series of graphics cores found in the iPhone and iPod touch, has introduced the PowerVR SGX545, a new embedded graphics IP core that could possibly make its way into future iPhone and iPod touch models. The new core offers the ability to drive HD screens at high frame rates, and supports a wide range of graphics programming APIs, including OpenGL ES 2.x, OpenGL 3.x, and OpenCL 1.x—a standard that allows developers to tap into the power of the graphics core to handle more common computing tasks. According to Imagination, the core has already been proven in “a test chip from Imagination and licensed by a lead partner.” The iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch also use PowerVR SGX graphics cores; in addition, Apple owns a portion of Imagination and more than doubled its stake in the company last year, from 3.6 percent to 9.5 percent.

iPhone dominates holiday sales on Orange France

The iPhone accounted for more than three-quarters of all cell phone sales made by Orange over the holiday season, according to a new report. Speaking in an interview with French-language Les Echos (Translated Link), Didier Lombard, CEO of Orange parent company France Telecom, said that the iPhone accounted for 77% of phones sold in a bundle, and called the momentum behind the iPhone “a phenomenon.” Although the machine-based Google translation of the article is far from perfect, Lombard does appear to be wary of the “monopoly” the iPhone has on sales, pointing out that the company has started its own “Orange Shop Application.” [via MDN]

AT&T announces completed 3G network upgrade

Exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier AT&T has announced completion of a software upgrade across its 3G cell sites nationwide in preparation for faster speeds. The software upgrade included deployment of High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, the same used by the iPhone 3GS, to offer download speeds of up to 7.2 megabits per second, provided the cell site has the required backhaul connection. AT&T claims that the deployment of enhanced backhaul connections for the cell sites will occur over the course of 2010 and 2011, adding capacity and boosting speeds.

Tablet event moved to 27th, iPhone OS 4.0 beta to be shown?

A pair of new reports suggest that Apple plans to hold a special media event on January 27, not Jan. 26 as had been rumored, at which it will likely introduce a possible beta version of iPhone OS 4.0 and an accompanying SDK. Citing multiple sources close to Apple, AllThingsD reports that the company is planning to hold a media event on Wednesday, January 27 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, at which it will announce a major new product, most likely the long-rumored tablet. French-language Mac4Ever adds (Translated Link) that in addition to the tablet, Apple will also announce a beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and its SDK at the event. According to the report, the SDK will include a tablet simulator, and will make it easier for developers to adapt apps to different screen resolutions, opening the door for a higher resolution display on the fourth-generation iPhone. [via Engadget]

Strong iPhone sales continue in France

The iPhone has seen continued strong sales in France since the device spread from Orange to competing carriers Bouygues Telecom and SFR in April. According to a Le Figaro report (Translated Link), Apple is expected to see 2009 sales between 1.8 and 2 million iPhones in France, representing around 8.5% of the 23.5 million phones sold in the country this year, and 20% in terms of market value. “Sales are significantly higher than that of Christmas 2008, since all operators offering the iPhone,” said Matthew Cortesse, director of telecoms research firm GfK. Among smartphone sales, Apple is expected to have sold more than half, with total smartphones sales expected to come in at around 3.5 million units.

SmarTone launching iPhone 3G, 3GS in Hong Kong

SmarTone/Vodafone is preparing to launch the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in Hong Kong. The carrier will become Hong Kong’s second to offer the iPhone directly, but has little information about its plans and pricing online, offering only a simple form to sign up for future updates. Competing carrier 3 has sold the iPhone 3GS since July, and offers pricing between HK $4,880 (roughly $630) for a 32GB iPhone 3GS on the cheapest plan—which offers 100MB of data and 400 basic minutes for HK $138 (~$18)—to free for a 16GB model with the most expensive, HK $398 (~$51) monthly tariff. The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS were also previously available unlocked directly from Apple online.

iPhone 3G arrives in box for 8GB 3GS

A German iPhone user has reported receiving a refurbished iPhone 3G in a box labeled for an 8GB iPhone 3GS. “David,” a moderator on the apfeltalk forums, has posted a photo (Translated Link) of the box’s serial number/IMEI label, which clearly says “iPhone 3GS v2.2, 8GB;” iPhone 3G S also appears on the box’s contents label. David reports that the phone inside is indeed an iPhone 3G, running software 3.0.1, despite the box’s markings. Evidence of an 8GB iPhone 3GS model appeared as early as this August in a supposed internal Rogers Wireless memo and on the carrier’s website; it is expected that this new low-end model would replace the current 8GB iPhone 3G in Apple’s lineup.

China Unicom hits 300,000 iPhones sold

After selling only 5,000 iPhones in the handset’s first five days on sale, China Unicom has revealed (Translated Link) that it has now sold more than 300,000 iPhones in mainland China. A China Unicom GM told the press December 27 that the company would hit the 300,000 sales mark either later that day or on the 28. The announcement comes just 20 days after the company announced it had reached the 100,000 unit plateau; by comparison, it took the company 40 days to reach that milestone, suggesting that sales are beginning to accelerate. China Unicom launched the iPhone in mainland China on October 30. [via iPhonAsia]

AT&T cuts off online iPhone sales in NYC (updated)

AT&T has abruptly ceased online iPhone sales to customers in the New York City area without explanation. The Consumerist reports that a NYC-based reader alerted them to the issue after receiving a message from the AT&T site that the iPhone was unavailable. Later checks found that no zip code in New York City, or in the suburbs of Westchester County or northern New Jersey, would allow for an online iPhone purchase, either. The site contacted AT&T Customer Service via online chat to ask about the issue, and was told that “the phone is not offered to you because New York is not ready for the iPhone. You don’t have enough towers to handle the phone.” In a written statement, AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook was not as forthcoming, saying only that the company “periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels.” The iPhone remains available through AT&T and Apple Retail stores throughout the city.

Update: AT&T is resuming online iPhone sales in NYC, according to the AP.

Rogers extends free tethering offer through May

Rogers Wireless and Fido have extended their free tethering offer through May 3, 2010. In an email sent out by Rogers, the companies explain that the promotion, which was launched this summer, was set to expire on December 31, and provides tethering at no extra charge to customers with a data plan or data add on of 1 GB or more, including the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. In addition, the email states that “customers who are currently eligible to use tethering can continue to do so at no extra charge until the promotion’s end date.” Any data used while tethering counts towards the customer’s monthly limit.

Nielsen: Apple iPhone 3G top U.S. cell of 2009

According to new data released by Nielsen, the iPhone 3G was the most popular cell phone in the U.S. in 2009. Using data procured from January to October, iPhone 3G users represented four percent of all subscribers, followed closely by the RIM BlackBerry 8300 Series of phones, with 3.7 percent of the market. The Motorola RAZR came in third, with 2.3 percent of the market; only one other phone, the LG enV2, counted for more than two percent. Apple was also among the top ten brands accessed over mobile devices from January to September, coming in tenth; Yahoo!, Google, MSN, AOL, and the Weather Channel make up the top five.

iPod touch users lag on iPhone OS 3.0 adoption

According to new data from online advertising firm Chitika, nearly half of all iPod touch users have yet to upgrade to iPhone OS 3.0, suggesting Apple is having a hard time convincing users that the upgrade is worth the money. A sampling of traffic from Chitika’s advertising network shows that while 95% of iPhone owners, who received the upgrade for free, are running iPhone OS 3.0, while only 55% of iPod touch owners have the newer software installed. As Chitika researcher Daniel Ruby points out, this number becomes even more surprising when one considers that the majority of iPod touch units sold in the last six months came with OS 3.0 pre-installed. Released in July as a $10 upgrade for iPod touch owners, the update offers features such as stereo Bluetooth, Copy & Paste, Spotlight search, In-App Purchases, and Push Notifications, and saw its price cut to $5 in September; Apple is still selling some refurbished iPod touch models with the older software installed.

Vodafone UK to begin iPhone sales Jan. 14

Vodafone in the U.K. has announced that it will begin selling the iPhone on January 14, 2010. According to the BBC News, tariffs will be available from £30 (roughly $48) for 24 months, while the phones will run from £59 (~$95) for an 8GB iPhone 3G to £239 (~$385) for a 32GB iPhone 3GS. Both business and personal contracts will be subject to a 1GB per month “fair use” data limit, and also include unlimited Wi-Fi use. Tethering will also be offered as an option, starting at £5 (~$8) for 500MB of bandwidth. Vodafone has been working for over a year to prepare its network for the iPhone launch, according to Guy Laurence, CEO of Vodafone U.K.

AdMob: iPhone OS sees strong international growth in ‘09

AdMob has released its November Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link), showing strong international growth for the iPhone and iPod touch in 2009. 50 percent of the mobile advertising firm’s November requests came from iPhone and iPod touch users, compared to 39 percent in January. Among Apple’s top 10 markets, Japan saw the biggest increase, with user growth topping 300 percent from January to November, followed by France, Australia, China, Germany, and Italy. Overall, the iPhone accounted for 71% of all unique Apple users. Interestingly, 36 percent of iPhone traffic in the U.S. was over Wi-Fi, considerably higher than other Wi-Fi capable devices; by comparison, less than 10 percent of traffic from major Android devices came over Wi-Fi. 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.

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