Fring has released an update to its iOS voice and video communications app adding support for two-way video calling and multitasking on capable iOS 4 devices. Although Fring added one-way video calling to its iPhone application last December, the lack of a front-facing camera on the earlier iPhone models precluded its use for two-way video conferencing. With the addition of the new front-facing camera on the iPhone 4, Fring users can now engage in bi-directional video calls over either Wi-Fi or 3G from the iPhone 4. As a cross-platform client, users of Fring on the iPhone can also conduct video calls with users on Android and Symbian S60 devices. Users of older iPhone models can also now participate in two-way video calls using the built-in camera, however the absence of the front-facing camera on these devices makes face-to-face video calling less practical. The latest version also adds iOS 4 multitasking support, a new social stream for integrating Twitter, Facebook, chats and call updates in a single view, and a smarter address book for managing the buddy list and contacts. Fring is available from the App Store as a free download.
Update: Our preliminary testing indicates that the two-way video calling works fine on older iPhone models as well, although as noted the feature may be less useful here due to the lack of a front-facing camera. Video and audio quality are noticeably lower than FaceTime, even over a Wi-Fi connection. Further, on the iPhone 4 only the front-facing camera appears to be used with no way of switching to the rear-facing camera as in FaceTime. The main advantages over FaceTime are 3G support and compatibility with older iPhone models and Android and Symbian S60 devices.
According to the latest data from comScore, Apple accounted for 24.4% of the U.S. smartphone market for the three months ending in May. RIM was once again the market leader with a 41.7% share of the market; Apple was second, followed by Microsoft with 13.2%, Google’s Android with 13%, and Palm with 4.8%. Apple’s percentage, which is based on smartphone subscribers and is taken as an average from the three month period, is down slightly from the 25.4% share the company held in the three months ending in February 2010, but does not account for any sales of the iPhone 4, while likely including some sales that were delayed or lost as details of the new handset leaked prior to its official unveiling. [via MDN]
The BMW Group, makers of both BMW and Mini automobiles, has announced its support for the new iPod Out feature of iOS 4 for the iPhone and iPod touch. Using iPod Out, BMW’s new interface technology enables the company’s in-car infotainment systems to display and control music playback via the vehicle’s main display—using a Click Wheel iPod-like menu—and interface controls, while leaving room for other crucial information like GPS routing. Other features, such as custom playlists and Genius, will also be available. BMW claims that future vehicles equipped with the technology “will be able to adapt more quickly to the software lifecycles of iPod touch and iPhone,” but failed to specify when the new interface technology might be available, or if it can be rolled out to current models via a software update.
Rogue Amoeba has released an update to Airfoil Speakers Touch adding support for background audio on multitasking capable iOS 4 devices. Airfoil Speakers Touch allows users to stream audio to their iOS device from a Mac or PC on the same Wi-Fi network, effectively allowing the iPhone or iPod touch to act as a set of remote headphones. With the latest update users of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch can now keep Airfoil Speakers Touch playing audio in the background while using other applications. The update also includes updated graphics for the iPhone 4 Retina Display and several other minor improvements. Airfoil Speakers Touch 1.1 is available from the App Store as a free download. Streaming audio from a PC or Mac requires Airfoil for Mac or Airfoil for Windows to be installed on the host computer.
AT&T has released an official statement on recent reports of slow upload speeds observed by some iPhone 4 users. “AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent jointly identified a software defect—triggered under certain conditions - that impacted uplink performance for Laptop Connect and smartphone customers using 3G HSUPA-capable wireless devices in markets with Alcatel-Lucent equipment. This impacts less than two percent of our wireless customer base,” AT&T said in the statement. “While Alcatel-Lucent develops the appropriate software fix, we are providing normal 3G uplink speeds and consistent performance for affected customers with HSUPA-capable devices.”
SoftBank has announced that it registered 229,500 net new subscribers in June, outpacing rival carriers NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. The Wall Street Journal reports that while the company doesn’t break out specific iPhone sales numbers, Apple’s handsets—particularly the iPhone 4, which launched in Japan on June 24—is likely to have made a substantial contribution to that figure. Overall, SoftBank has added roughly three-quarter of a million new subscribers in the last three months. SoftBank is the exclusive service provider for both the iPhone and iPad in Japan.
A lengthy thread on Mac Rumors’ forums dating back to July 4 suggests that AT&T is at best experiencing data difficulties and at worst outright capping uploads speeds of iPhone 4 users. Many users report seeing upload speeds around 100kbps in places where they previously saw speeds of 1.0mbps and higher just a few days earlier. The phenomenon appears to be most common in major metropolitan areas, including, according to the thread, New York City, Denver, Seattle, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Washington D.C., Salt Lake City, Columbus, and Orlando. One iLounge editor living in the Orlando area has yet to see the problem in testing using the free speedtest.net app; Mac Rumors says that a couple of users have spoken with AT&T and were told that the company is experiencing data issues in much of the country, although no timetable was given for when the problem might be fixed.
SK Telecom is in talks with Apple about offering both the iPhone and service for the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G in South Korea. The Wall Street Journal reports that SK Telecom CEO Jung Man-won recently said that the companies were in talks, but admitted that “some noises about problems with the latest iPhone” were worrisome. “We’ve built a solid reputation for offering good after-service for handsets, and we can’t take any risks,” he added. According to the report, SK Telecom has seen significant competition from rival KT due to the latter’s sale of the iPhone; KT plans to launch the iPhone 4 in July, while no plans have yet been made concerning the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G in South Korea.
Apple has issued a press release this morning responding to the numerous complaints that have been circulating regarding reception issues with the new iPhone 4. In a Letter from Apple Regarding iPhone 4, Apple reiterates previous comments that holding any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars, and acknowledges that this is as true of the iPhone 4 as it was of previous iPhone models and other manufacturers’ phones. The letter goes on to note, however, that “some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band.” Apple admits that this is a “far bigger drop than normal” and concedes that it has led some to believe it to be the result of a faulty antenna design.
Apple reports that on further investigation it was “stunned to find that the formula [used] to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong.” In essence, the company explains that the iPhone 4 sometimes displays four bars even in weak coverage areas where it should only be displaying as few as two bars. Apple notes that users who are seeing a loss of several bars when gripping their iPhone in a certain way are likely in areas with weak signal strength, but don’t realize it due to the calculation error. The letter notes that a user’s “big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.”
In the letter, Apple indicates that it will be releasing a free software update “within a few weeks” that will use AT&T’s more recent formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The result of the update will not change the actual signal strength but will report it more accurately. Apple notes that this error has been present since the original iPhone and will also be corrected in the software update for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS models.
As part of its iPhone 4 review, AnandTech took an in-depth look at the iPhone 4’s antenna and its signal issues, finding that “cupping the bottom left corner and making skin contact between the two antennas does result in a measurable difference in cellular reception,” but adding, “RF is a strange beast.” According to the review, standard signal strength for a UMTS 3G phone can range from -51 dBm—standing underneath or extremely close to the tower—to -113 dBm, the lowest amount of signal the phone can have before disconnecting entirely. Interestingly, AnandTech found that the iPhone 4’s bars map signal differently than one might expect, with more than 40% of the range of possible signal levels—from -99 dBm to -51 dBm—reported as five bars. The four bars indicator begins at roughly -99 to -101 dBm and three bars at -103 dBm, with two bars extending down to -107 dBm, and one bar covering all signals lower than that.
Based on AnandTech’s tests, the iPhone 4 exhibits a maximum signal drop of 24 dBm when held in the left hand and crossing the black strip at the bottom with the palm. When held naturally, but without making contact with the open palm, a drop of nearly 20 dBm was seen; when held naturally inside a case, that number dropped to 7 dBm. For comparison, the iPhone 3GS experienced drops of 14 dBm, 1.9 dBm, and 3.2 dBm, while the Google Nexus One scored losses of 18 dBm, 11 dBm, and 8 dBm, respectively. Despite the drops, the review finds that the iPhone 4’s antenna is actually improved from the iPhone 3GS, with the new handset showing an improved ability to perform calls and receive/send data when at the one bar signal level, and when encased, it was able to find and/or hold on to a signal in spots where the iPhone 3GS failed to find to do either.
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple and AT&T over the iPhone 4’s cellular reception issues. The suit, filed in Maryland District Court, revolves around the “left hand” reception issue, and alleges that Apple and AT&T “knew or reasonably should have known of the iPhone 4’s defective nature prior to placing the iPhone 4 into the stream of commerce.” Claims against the two companies include general negligence, defect in design, manufacture, and assembly, deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud by concealment. The suit seeks compensatory damages and “other remedies.” [via Gizmodo]
According to AdMob’s May 2010 Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link), more than half of all iOS users are outside of North America, compared to 67% of Android users and 58% of iPad users. 43% of iOS devices were in the U.S., followed by 9% that were in the U.K., 6% in France, and 5% in Canada. Notably, both iOS and Android represent much higher usage than share of handsets sold, with iOS representing 40% of mobile app and web usage compared to 15% handset marketshare; Android stood at 26% and 10%, respectively. iPhone’s worldwide share of traffic generated by smartphones stood at 39.9% in May, well above the second-place Motorola Droid with 6.8%, but down significantly from its 47.9% share in May 2009. AdMob’s Mobile Metrics Reports are based on data gleaned from the company’s network of more than 23,000 mobile Web sites and applications around the world.
A purported copy of Apple’s internal iPhone 4 antenna troubleshooting procedures has been leaked and posted online. Claiming to received the document from an unnamed Apple source, Boy Genius Report states that the list represents the exact procedures AppleCare representatives must follow when dealing with customers experiencing reception problems with their iPhone 4 units. The reps are told to tell iPhone 4 customers to “avoid covering the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band,” and note that “the use of a case or Bumper that is made out of rubber or plastic may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly covering these areas.” The representatives are told not to perform warranty service, only escalate if the issue exists when the phone isn’t being held in a hand, and not to offer free bumper cases to angry customers.
Verizon Wireless will start selling the iPhone early next year, according to a new report. Citing two people familiar with the plans, Bloomberg reports that Verizon will launch the phone in January, ending AT&T’s reign as the exclusive carrier for the device in the U.S. and expanding Apple’s potential customer base to include those who aren’t willing to join AT&T. “The fact is, Apple is going to dramatically increase the number of devices it sells in the U.S. when exclusivity at AT&T ends,” said UBS AG analyst John Hodulik. “It’s hard to ignore the quality issues that AT&T has faced.”
Online video service Hulu today announced Hulu Plus, a new $10 per month, ad-supported subscription service that offers users the ability to watch Hulu content on a wide variety of devices. Notably, the new Hulu Plus service will allow subscribers to watch any TV show from a sizable catalog, streamed in 720p, on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, third-generation iPod touch, and iPad via the new Hulu Plus app. Writing about the announcement on the company blog, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said, “I’ve been watching Hulu on my iPad for several weeks now, and I’ve watched more TV through the iPad than any other device.” The Hulu Plus service will also offer users access to more current full-length episodes and seasons than the standard service. Hulu Plus is currently in a private, invitation only phase, and will be opened up to all customers “as soon as [it’s] ready.”
In an email exchange with an iPhone 4 customer seen and verified by iLounge, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has denied that the iPhone 4 has any actual reception problems. The iLounge reader in question, who has requested to remain anonymous, wrote Jobs after experiencing reception issues when holding the device in his left hand, saying, “Steve, I love the phone. But no one, [not] even your Apple Store has answers for my phone with the left side reception and the proximity sensor acting up.” Jobs issued a one-line response, saying, “The iPhone 4’s reception is better than the iPhone 3GS.” Our reader replied, “Yes it has better reception, is there going to be a fix for the [l]eft side antennae and [t]he Proximity Sensor problem or do you recommend taking it back for replacement?” Jobs once again replied in one sentence, again stating that “There is actually no problem with the real reception.” Jobs then issued a third, final response, saying, “Actually, the iPhone 4 is great. Sorry you’re having troubles.” Apple previously issued a statement regarding the reception issues, telling users to avoid gripping the iPhone 4 in the lower left corner if they experience severe attenuation.
AT&T has started selling the iPhone 4 both online and at its retail stores, leading to another round of lengthy lines for the popular new handset. Mac Rumors reports that some lines are more than one hundred customers long, and a search of Twitter shows a large number of people in lines across the country. AT&T was originally expected to offer the iPhone 4 on launch day, announcing only two days prior that it was pushing its walk-in sales launch back to June 29 due to limited supply. AT&T is offering the iPhone 4 on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A number of iPhone 4 owners are experiencing a couple of new bugs unrelated to the ongoing reception issues. Over three hundred replies have been logged on one Apple discussion board thread dealing with a proximity sensor issue in which the iPhone 4 prematurely activates the screen, leading to inadvertent button presses and even accidental hang-ups. Another lengthy thread deals with a problem where the Camera app crashes immediately after opening. In both cases, it is unclear whether a software update will be able to fix the issue, or whether a hardware replacement will be necessary for those affected. [via AppleInsider | Mercury News]
Apple has posted its new television ad for the iPhone 4 online. Based heavily on a video shown during the company’s keynote address at WWDC, the minute-long spot focuses solely on the iPhone 4’s FaceTime video calling feature, and shows a number of different people using FaceTime in different ways to communicate. As it was during the keynote, the video is accompanied by the song “When You’re Smiling” by Louis Armstrong. Apple’s new iPhone 4 television ad can be viewed on the company’s website. [via Daring Fireball]
The component costs of the new 16GB iPhone 4 are roughly $188, according to research firm iSuppli. Based on their own teardown, iSuppli estimates that the iPhone 4’s high-resolution 3.5-inch “Retina display” is its most expensive component, costing an estimated $28.50. According to BusinessWeek, iSuppli estimates that the phone’s A4 processor costs $10.75, the gyroscope chip $2.60, and the accelerometer $0.65. “Over the years, the iPhone has generally tended to hover in the $170-to -$180 cost range because Apple seems to be trying to hit some kind of budget,” Kevin Keller, who helped conduct the iSuppli teardown, told BusinessWeek in an interview. Notably, iSuppli’s estimate does not include costs such as labor, shipping, advertising, research and development, or patent licensing.