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AT&T exec blasts Verizon ahead of iPhone launch

Speaking in a recent interview, AT&T’s head PR executive has taken a shot at the Verizon iPhone prior to its announcement. “The iPhone is built for speed, but that’s not what you get with a CDMA phone,” AT&T’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Larry Solomon told Business Insider. “I’m not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane.” Solomon went on to say that AT&T’s GSM technology is faster than Verizon’s CDMA technology; the same could not be said for Verizon’s new Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, which the company launched late last year. Verizon Wireless is expected to announce the Verizon iPhone at a press event later today.

Apple drops restock fees, iPhone 3GS price

Following in the footsteps of its retail partners, Apple has officially dropped the price on the 8GB iPhone 3GS, while a new report suggests the company its dropping its standard restocking fee. The 8GB iPhone 3GS is now available for $49 directly from Apple with a two-year contract; the move was widely expected, as retailers such as AT&T, Radio Shack, and Best Buy were already offering a similar discount on the device. In addition, 9 to 5 Mac reports that Apple is dropping its standard 10% restocking fee beginning tomorrow. While the report indicates that the 14 day return policy will remain in place, the absence of the restocking fee will allow potential iPhone customers to purchase both the AT&T and Verizon versions of the device and test them during the return window to see which works best for them, then return the unwanted version without penalty.

Verizon to hold 1/11/11 iPhone 4 media event

Confirmed by The Wall Street Journal as Verizon’s official launch gathering for the iPhone 4, an otherwise ambiguous media event was announced today via an ugly, heavily compressed digital invitation sent out by the wireless carrier rather than Apple. The event will take place on January 11, 2011 at 11:00am in New York City, and will most likely feature an on-stage appearance by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, as well as the debut of a modestly redesigned version of the current-generation iPhone 4. Parts leaks have shown a new antenna system that seemingly will be less susceptible to the “death grip” signal issues experienced by AT&T iPhone 4 users, confirming earlier reports that Apple quickly sought to redesign the device’s central frame despite downplaying reports of signal strength problems before and during a July, 2010 “Antennagate” media event.

Rumors of an iPhone with support for one of Verizon’s networks have been gathering steam for literally years, following a reported rebuffing of Apple by the United States’ largest cellular provider prior to the original iPhone’s release. It is unclear whether Apple, which famously guarded the original iPhone and its sequels against carrier badging or pre-installed applications of any sort, will make concessions to the notoriously bloatware- and badge-demanding Verizon akin to the ones that have seen numerous other devices receive the carrier’s red markings and software; similarly unknown is whether Apple will be offering the iPhone as a purely CDMA device, with 4G LTE support like recent Android phones, or as a multi-mode phone with GSM roaming support.

AT&T to cut iPhone 3GS price to $49

AT&T will lower its pricing for the 8GB iPhone 3GS to $49, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The report claims that AT&T will lower the price from $99 to $49 with a two-year contract due to increasing competition in the smartphone space. Also mentioned as a contributing factor is Verizon’s impending launch of the iPhone, which will signal the end of AT&T’s exclusivity in the U.S. The company will join other retailers, such as Walmart and Best Buy, in discounting the iPhone

Verizon iPhone 4 parts appear online?

New images and a video showing what appear to be altered iPhone 4 metal bands have appeared online, leading to speculation that the new parts are for the yet to be announced Verizon iPhone. SmartPhone Medic has posted photos it received from “a very reliable source” that shows many small changes, including four black bands as opposed to three—several of which have been repositioned—as well as a slight repositioning of the volume buttons and ring/silent switch. Curiously, the new part retains the SIM card slot of the current iPhone 4, suggesting that if the band is indeed from a Verizon iPhone, it will offer both CDMA and GSM functionality. GlobalDirectParts posted a video of what appears to be the same side panel, showing off the piece in detail before ending with a shot of what appears to be a fully assembled product, with the promise of more information next week. While it’s possible that the part is from an iPhone 4 clone, it appears to be very similar to the current generation’s side panel, lending credence to the idea that it is meant for an iPhone 4 that has been revised in some way.

Navigon and Audi provide free CES 2011 Navigation app

Navigon, developer of the MobileNavigator series of turn-by-turn navigation apps for iOS devices has released a free navigation application for the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 in partnership with Audi. Based on MobileNavigator, Audi Las Vegas Navigator is designed to help CES visitors navigate around the Las Vegas area and includes maps for the state of Nevada and all of the core features of MobileNavigator. Users can take advantage of voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, lane guidance and point of interest information for hotels, restaurants and attractions around Las Vegas. Connected services such as google Local Search, Weather Live and location sharing via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail are also included, as well as a pedestrian mode for walking directions. Audi Las Vegas Navigator is available as a free download from the App Store for a limited time.

Nielsen: Apple retains smartphone OS lead in U.S.

According to November 2010 data from The Nielsen Company, Apple has retained its lead in the U.S. smartphone market despite the significant gains made by Android OS. The data, as published by GigaOM, shows Apple’s iOS leading the U.S. smartphone market with a 28.6 percent share, up slightly from 27.9 percent in October. RIM’s BlackBerry OS fell from 27.4 percent in October to 26.1 percent in November, while Android OS jumped to 25.8 percent in November, up from 22.7 percent in October and 15 percent in June. Notably, these numbers represent overall market and not just new purchases; Android OS is leading among recent acquirers with a 40.8 percent share, compared to iOS with 26.9 percent and RIM with 19.2 percent. The report suggests that the numbers show an inability on RIM’s part to connect with new users, while Android’s growth could put it on track to pass iOS within the next few months; the report also notes that the release of an iPhone on Verizon should boost iPhone sales and could therefore alter the near-term market share trajectories of both iOS and Android. [via MDN]

 

2011 brings iPhone alarm failures, fix offered

Reader reports have confirmed a 2011-related alarm clock bug affecting iPhones running iOS 4.2.1—and possibly other iOS devices—in which one-time alarms fail to go off after having been set, a problem noticed first by New Zealand and Australian users as their clocks rolled over to the New Year, followed soon thereafter by Twitter postings and discussions of the alarm failures. Until Apple fixes the bug, a suggested workaround is to set every alarm to be recurring rather than one-time, then disable the alarm once it has sounded. [via Engadget]

Skype 3.0 adds video calling

Skype Software has released an update to its popular voice-over-IP telephony app for the iPhone and iPod touch adding much-anticipated support for Skype-to-Skype video calls. Skype 3.0 now allows Skype users to make two-way video calls between other video-capable Skype apps over either Wi-Fi or 3G. iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and fourth-generation iPod touch users can place bi-directional video calls to other compatible iOS devices or Skype desktop users on Mac OS X or Windows. Users of the iPad and older iPod touch devices are able to receive one-way video calls from video-capable Skype clients but cannot send video due to the lack of a camera on these devices. Video calls are supported in both portrait and landscape orientations and requires a device using iOS 4.0 or later. Skype video is not supported on the iPhone 3G. Skype 3.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.

SoPhone 4 clone steals iPhone 4’s body, entire UI

Chinese company Shenzhen SUFF Industry has introduced the SoPhone 4, a new GSM-based handset that aims to be nearly identical to the iPhone 4 in every possible way, blatantly copying the external design of Apple’s fourth-generation handset and iOS 4 UI. Sporting an external body identical in dimensions and button locations to the iPhone 4—even capable of fitting perfectly in existing iPhone 4 cases—the SoPhone features a 480x320 capacitive touch screen, Wi-Fi, 4GB of memory, dual cameras, Bluetooth, FM radio, and a user-replaceable battery, as well as “infrared remote sensor support,” an “electric torch,” and a “gravity inducer.” Notably, though the phone’s UI is sluggish, it’s incredibly similar to iOS 4, with folders, multi-tasking, and volume/silent overlays; the individual apps use similar and in some cases identical icons, but noticeably lack the polish of Apple’s applications, and in some case appear downright crude. The shameless copying extends to the phone’s branding, as it carries the same rear markings as a real iPhone 4 unit, and even displays an Apple logo upon startup. A pair of YouTube videos showing off the phone’s UI and external case demonstrate the cloning; we advise caution as some material shown during the UI demonstration is NSFW.

EU Micro-USB charging standard allows iPhone adapter

Two European standards bodies have released the final specs for a new universal cell phone charging standard based on Micro-USB. In a European Commission press release, the CEN-CENELEC and ETSI announced that the “harmonised standards needed for the manufacture of data-enabled mobile phones compatible with a new common charger” are now available. “I am very happy that the European Standardisation Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry,” said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. “Now it is time for industry to show its commitment to sell mobile phones for the new charger. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation.”

In June, Apple, along with Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, and Texas Instruments, signed an agreement aimed at standardizing all data-enabled cell phone chargers beginning in 2011; although Micro-USB has been chosen as the standard connector, the agreement allows Apple to bundle some form of Dock Connector to Micro-USB charging adapter with the iPhone in the EU, instead of adding a separate Micro-USB port to the device or abandoning the Dock Connector in favor of the new standard. Given the continued popularity of full-sized USB ports and Apple’s use of the same cables for non-mobile phone products including the iPod and iPad, this adapter most likely will take the form of a USB to Micro-USB adapter for current cables, rather than a redesigned Dock Connector to Micro-USB cable. [via Mac Rumors]

Verizon iPhone to debut post-CES, pre-Valentines Day

Apple plans to announce a Verizon-compatible iPhone sometime before Valentine’s Day 2011, according to a new report. Citing “a person familiar with Apple’s plans who is not authorized to discuss them publicly,” Businessweek reports that neither Apple nor Verizon will be announcing the phone at next week’s 2011 CES in Las Vegas; it says the former is “likely” host a special press event to announce the device. The report notes that analysts estimate between one and six million AT&T customers will switch to Verizon once the latter is able to offer the iPhone, a move that on the large end could cost AT&T as much as $6 billion in lost annual revenue. Notably, the report also claims that by easing the cost of upgrading to the iPhone 4, AT&T got 15 of its 23 million iPhone subscribers to sign new two-year contracts, while hiking its early contract termination fees from $175 to $325.

Radio Shack again offering $50 discount on iPhone 4, 3GS

Starting today, Radio Shack is once again offering a $50 discount on new 16GB iPhone 4 and 8GB iPhone 3GS units, bringing their prices down to $149 and $49, respectively. According to a BGR report, the deal is good for “new and eligible upgrade customers while supplies last.” The retailer is also offering boosted trade-in credit for iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS units. “Qualifying iPhone 3G and 3G S handsets will have a guaranteed trade-in credit of $75 and $125, respectively,” reads an email received by BGR. To qualify, the iPhone must “power on, cannot be PIN locked and must be in fully functional, working condition without any broken components.” Again, this offer does not have a set end date; readers are encouraged to call their local store to check on availability.

China Unicom lowers price on iPhone 3GS

China Unicom has lowered its price on the iPhone 3GS amid shortages of the iPhone 4 in China. People’s Daily reports that Unicom is now selling 8GB 3GS units for 3,999 yuan, or roughly $600, a 1,000 yuan (~$150) discount over the previous price. Notably, these prices are for no-contract units—customers who sign a two-year contract will receive a refund of as much as 3,792 yuan. The iPhone 4 is not available from Unicom without a contract. [via M.I.C. Gadget]

AT&T drops prices on iPhone 4 refurbs

AT&T has lowered its pricing on refurbished iPhone 4 units. Previously priced at $149 for 16GB units and $249 for 32GB models, the U.S. iPhone carrier is now offering both at $50 discounts, or $99 and $199, respectively. In addition, AT&T is offering “cosmetic blemish” units, with 16GB models going for $79 and 32GB models selling for $179. Similar discounts are being offered on 8GB iPhone 3GS units, with standard refurbished models selling for $29 and cosmetic blemish units selling for $19. All prices require minimum data service starting at $15 a month, as well as a new two-year contract and activation. [via BGR]

Alcatel-Lucent company sues Apple, others over video patents

Multimedia Patent Trust (MPT), a subsidiary of telecom firm Alcatel-Lucent, has filed suit against Apple, Canon, LG, and TiVo, claiming patent infringement. Paid Content reports that MPT is claiming the companies violate four of its patents relating to digital video compression technologies, including MPEG-2 and two different varieties of MPEG-4. The company is seeking royalty payments on all “video-capable” Apple products, including iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Macs. As the report notes, the MPEG-LA was set up to collect royalties on all relevant digital video patents, but that doesn’t stop companies such as Alcatel-Lucent from suing for royalties years after negotiations are completed.

Camera+ returns to App Store with version 2.0

Popular iPhone camera app Camera+ has returned to the App Store with the release of version 2.0. Camera+ was previously removed from the App Store without any explanation following the discovery hidden hardware shutter control feature that violated Apple’s SDK guidelines for iOS developers. While it was expected at the time that the app would return shortly thereafter with the hidden feature removed, the app remained conspicuously absent from the App Store for several months with no further explanation from the developer or Apple.

Camera+ has now returned in version 2.0, introducing a number of significant new features including sliders for adjusting effect amounts, support for exporting geolocation information and other metadata when saving photos to the Camera Roll and viewing extended photo info including maps with location information. Version 2.0 also provides a more intuitive, redesigned user interface and removes the “SLR” screen for simplicity. Photos can now be rotated and flipped within the app and most of the existing effects have been improved in addition to dozens of new effects and borders which have been added. Additional analog-themed effects can also be purchased for $1 from within the application. A complete list of new features and examples of the new effects can be found on Taptaptap’s Blog. Camera+ 2.0 is a free update for users of the previous version and is currently available from the App Store for a limited-time sale price of $1 for new users.

MobileNavigator adds iPad support, Zagat Guide

Navigon has released an update to its turn-by-turn GPS navigation apps adding native iPad support, optional Zagat guide integration and a new Active Lane Assistant feature. MobileNavigator 1.7 is now a universal app supporting the iPhone and iPad 3G natively, the first major GPS navigation app to provide universal support in a single app. iPod touch and iPad Wi-Fi users can also use MobileNavigator with an external GPS accessory. Users can also now take advantage of additional travel and restaurant guides through Zagat via an in-app purchase, providing ratings, reviews and directions to restaurants, hotels and other attractions from the Zagat Guide, integrated directly into the POI database.

The update also introduces a new optional Active Lane Assistant feature that provides a live lane animation in the lower-right corner of the map view, displaying the current lane configuration and indicating which lane the driver should follow. Additional new features include e-mail sharing of favourites between multiple iOS devices and a new MyReport feature that allows users to report road changes such as names, new speed limits and one-way streets directly from within the app such as names. Navigon MobileNavigator is available from the App Store in several versions for different geographic areas: MobileNavigator North America is currently available for $45, with U.S. and Canada versions available separately for $35 each. Region-specific U.S. versions are $25 and MobileNavigator Europe is $75. Prices for other areas around the world range from $40 to $65. Zagat content is available via in-app purchase for $6; Active Lane Assistant and Zagat content are not available in all areas.

Apple releases iPhone Configuration Utility 3.2

Apple has released version 3.2 of its iPhone Configuration Utility for Mac and Windows, the latest version of its iPhone configuration management utility for enterprise users. The utility allows enterprise users to create configuration profiles which can then be used to setup multiple iPhones. It is currently unknown what, if any, changes are included in the update. iPhone Configuration Utility 3.2 for Mac OS X requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later; the Windows version requires Windows 7, Vista SP1, or XP SP3, along with .NET 3.5 SP1. Both are available now as free downloads. [via AppleInsider]

Apple airs holiday iPhone 4 commercial

Apple has begun airing a holiday-themed iPhone 4 commercial. Entitled “Under The Covers” and set to “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole, the ad—shot in the style of Apple’s original FaceTime iPhone 4 spots—shows a mother and son on a FaceTime call with Santa. As the mother leaves the room, the young boy covers up with his bedsheet and continues talking to “Santa,” who is revealed to actually be the son’s father, calling from the family’s garage. Apple’s new iPhone 4 commercial is available for viewing now on the company’s website.

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