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Apple, AT&T look into iPhone 3G connection issues

Numerous reports indicate that Apple and AT&T are investigating a rash of iPhone 3G connection problems affecting some handsets. A San Francisco Chronicle article tells the story of one iPhone user, who claims to have had ongoing connection problems with the 3G. “I was driving down Folsom Street in San Francisco, and I got a dropped call 10 times. I get dropped calls just standing in one place,” said Stephen Yarbrough, a 34-year-old accountant. “I’m extremely annoyed, but I’m hopeful a software update will fix it.” Later in the piece, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said that while customer concerns were being looked into, it is difficult to know if they are widespread or related to individual circumstances. “How a device performs in individual situations depends on circumstances like where you are in the 3G coverage, how close you are to a cell site. Things like terrain and buildings all come into play,” Siegel said. “I’m not denying that people are having a less than satisfactory experience, but overall, the phone is doing great.”

CNet staffer Tom Krazit points to an Apple discussion thread on the topic, noting that iPhone 3G users are having trouble connecting, and staying connected, to 3G networks, with the phone switching between 3G and EDGE networks even when sitting still. In addition, Krazit notes that international iPhone 3G users are reporting similar problems, suggesting the issue lies with the handset as opposed to the network. Finally, Nomura analyst Richard Windsor has said in a note to clients that the problem may stem from an immature chipset from Infineon. “We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain Infineon is the 3G supplier,” Windsor wrote, adding that because the problems are likely to be embedded in the low-level software and the chipset, a firmware upgrade is unlikely to fix the problem. Are you experiencing connection problems with your iPhone 3G? Let us know in the comments below. [via MDN]

Google launches Google Translate for iPhone and iPod touch

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Google has launched a new version of its online Google Translate tool optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch. According to the Google Mobile Blog, the web app is “optimized for speed, supports all of the existing Google Translate language pairs, and uses a client-side data-store on your iPhone to hang on to your past translations so you always have them at hand, even if you can’t use the local data network.” Google Translate for iPhone and iPod touch can be accessed now by visiting translate.google.com on the mobile Safari browser.

America Movil bringing iPhone 3G to 10 countries Aug. 22

Latin American cellular operator America Movil has announced that it will launch the iPhone 3G in ten additional countries on August 22. Having already launched the device in Mexico, Movil plans to begin selling the phone in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay on the 22 as part of a wider 20-country roll out. Reuters reports that rival telecom Telefonica S.A. is also preparing to launch sales of the iPhone 3G throughout Latin America later this month, and also states that America Movil’s Brazilian unit Claro is expected to begin sales of the device “in the coming months.”

International iPhone 3G roll-out: Romania, India, Philippines [Updated x2]

The iPhone 3G will be introduced in Romania, India, and the Philippines on August 22, the countries’ carriers have announced. Orange has announced that it will begin offering the phone in Romania on the 22, with pre-orders beginning on August 7. Bharti Airtel will begin offering the phone in India on August 22, possibly before Vodafone will start its sales in the same region. Finally, Globe Telecom has announced that it will offer the iPhone 3G in the Philippines from August 22, with reservations being offered immediately. Out of the three carriers, only Globe Telecom has announced pricing details thus far. It will offer the 8GB iPhone 3G for free and the 16GB model for as little as P5,500 (~$126) with a two-year commitment on its most expensive (P4999; ~$114) monthly plan, pricing for the handset is tiered based on the plan the user chooses. It will also offer the iPhone for prepaid customers at a cost of P41,889 (~$957) for the 8GB model and P48,899 (~$1,117) for the 16GB model. Full handset and service pricing can be found on Globe’s website.

Update: Telia Sonera has announced that it will offer the iPhone 3G in Estonia starting on August 22 through its EMT brand. Pricing details have yet to be announced. [via setteB.IT]

Update x2: O2 in the Czech Republic, Orange and Era (Translated link) in Poland, and T-Mobile in Hungary have all announced that they will offer the iPhone 3G in their respective countries beginning on August 22.

Colorware now offering mail-in iPhone 3G coloring

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Colorware is now offering its mail-in custom coloring services for the iPhone 3G. Available with either solid or metallic paint for a total of 35 color options, each selection comes with a high-gloss, scratch resistant finish formulated to protect against minor scuffs from normal usage. Coloring for the back only costs $150, while the frame ($20), home button ($20), SIM card tray ($10), and earbuds ($10) can all be colored as well, for an extra charge. Colorware’s Mail-in Custom Coloring service for the iPhone 3G is available now, with devices shipping back in approximately two weeks.

Apple releases iPhone Software 2.0.1

Apple today released iPhone Software 2.0.1, the first update to the iPhone and iPod touch software since the release of the iPhone 3G and the arrival of the App Store. According to Apple, the update contains simply “Bug fixes.” The download is 249.2MB in size for the iPhone, or 246.7MB for the iPod touch, and is available now for the iPhone, the iPhone 3G, and iPod touch units running software version 2.0 through the update feature in iTunes.

Latest iPhone 3G problem: dusty screens

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Following reports last week of cracking iPhone 3G plastic shells, additional reports have surfaced this week that some iPhone 3G screens are susceptible to dust and dirt intrusion, creating dots that are stuck underneath the glass of the phone’s face. According to several readers posting in an iLounge forum thread, the problem may be linked to a loose seal around the screen, which allows for gaps between the screen and bezel, letting small particles slide inside the device. One iLounge editor has confirmed that the dust intrusion problem exists on his phone, as shown in the photo here. As it is possible that the problem could worsen over time, and could lead to more significant problems/damage, we recommend returning any affected units to Apple for replacement.

AT&T, O2 iPhone exclusivity end dates in sight?

Never formally disclosed by any of the companies, the length and nature of Apple’s iPhone exclusivity deals with AT&T in the U.S. and O2 in the United Kingdom have been called into further question by two recent reports. In an article for USA Today, Leslie Cauley reports that in exchange for a recent agreement to pay Apple a subsidy for every iPhone 3G it sells, AT&T received a one-year extension on its exclusive iPhone distribution deal with Apple, pushing the agreement into 2010. However, Cauley previously claimed in a May 2007 article that “AT&T has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for five years,” suggesting that the contract would run through 2012, and that an extension would bind Apple to AT&T through 2013. AT&T and Apple have not spoken publicly on the length of the agreement, but the more recent report appears to reflect a more accurate understanding of the deal terms.

In a separate article, United Kingdom-based newspaper The Guardian reports that while Apple’s agreement with O2 was believed to run through 2012, a window for renegotiation after two years may leave Apple with the ability to partner with a second carrier, possibly as soon as Christmas 2009. The report suggests Orange as a possible carrier, as it already offers the iPhone in France, and was said to have been very close to becoming the phone’s carrier in the U.K. before being dropped in favor of O2 “at the last minute.” Orange UK boss Tom Alexander said, “I would love the iPhone, especially with our big emphasis on [mobile] data [services], it would be great to have.”

iPhone 3G owners report cracks in plastic casing

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A number of iPhone 3G owners are reporting the appearance of hairline cracks in the plastic finish of the phone. According to threads on Mac Rumors forums and Apple’s Discussion Boards, the cracks appear to be manifesting mostly in the white 16GB version of the phone; however, Engadget notes this may be due to the fact that the cracks are easier to see in the white model than the black. Importantly, iPhone owners experiencing the issue report that the cracks appear without the device being dropped, sat on, or misused in any way. It is unclear what might be causing the problem, or how widespread the issue is. Is your iPhone 3G developing small cracks in the plastic? Let us know in the comments below.

Apple changes iPhone 3G line policies, opens stores at 8 am

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In an effort to manage extended wait times and customer uncertainties as to their eligibility to purchase iPhone 3G hardware, Apple has made significant changes to its retail store line policies, and has started to open its retail stores at 8:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday. An iLounge editor visiting a Florida-based Apple Retail Store this morning found that employees are now pre-screening iPhone 3G customers to help smooth the purchasing process, and giving pre-screened customers cards which entitle them to a particular model of iPhone 3G, for pickup immediately or as late as 6:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. on Sunday) that day.

Apple’s website states that the company is “adding staff to help you get up and running as quickly as possible;” it is unclear how long Apple plans on opening the stores early.

Apple seeds iPhone OS 2.1 to devs, adds GPS, audio features

Apple has begun seeding a beta version of iPhone Software 2.1 to select developers, alongside an updated version of the iPhone SDK. Gear Live reports that the new software includes new Location Services features such as direction and speed tracking; it also appears to add a number of new functions for audio conversion and handling, as well as rudimentary support for push notifications for third-party applications.

AT&T pushing direct fulfillment orders ahead of store restocking

In an update to its website’s iPhone 3G press area, AT&T has revealed that it is currently using all its iPhone 3G supply to complete direct fulfillment orders, and will begin restocking its stores as soon as possible. “As we receive new inventory from Apple, we are shipping it out immediately to fill customers’ orders. We hope to begin re-stocking our stores as soon as we can, but first priority goes to those customers who purchased through direct fulfillment,” the company said. The page also states that as of July 23, “direct fulfillment customers are receiving their iPhone 3G, on average, 13 or 14 days following purchase.”

iPhone 3G unit-to-unit screen differences revealed

Confirming earlier reports of significant screen quality variations between both iPhones and iPhone 3Gs, as well as different iPhone 3G units, iLounge Editor Jesse Hollington has released a new series of photographs showing differences between an original iPhone and two separate iPhone 3Gs, one an 8GB model, the other a 16GB model. All three devices are running the latest version of OS X iPhone, 2.0 (5A347), and have been set on the same maximum brightness level.

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In the photographs, which have the original iPhone on top, the 8GB iPhone 3G model is shown to have a noticeably darker screen than the 16GB unit, as well as a considerably more shallow viewing angle. “Using a standard 360° measurement,” Hollington found, “where 0° is viewing in standard portrait mode, the most noticeable ‘negative black’ effects actually occur from about 110° through 270°, give or take.” The same effect “also seems to exist on the new 16GB,” continued Hollington, “although not nearly as pronounced, and almost only visible at the 135° point.” Consequently, the 8GB unit is more difficult to see on off-center angles, which can impact the performance of video, game, and photo features.

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Adding to the confusion, Hollington explains that while “the 16GB seems to have a greater range of brightness on both ends of the screen, getting a bit darker than the 8GB when turned all the way down,” it also seems too bright at its maximum: “it made my standard wallpaper look washed out when I first set it up.” For this reason, it is unclear at this point whether the screen differences represent a defect in one unit, both units, or merely a substantial variation in screen performance deemed acceptable by Apple’s factories. It should also be noted that although the 16GB model shown here appears better overall, as its brightness can be toned down to an acceptable level, it is likely that different 8GB and 16GB units use different screens, making it impossible for a buyer to know without testing a given unit whether its screen is good, bad, or somewhere in-between.

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Reports last year of post-release changes to iPhone and iPod touch screens spread across Apple’s and iLounge’s discussion forums, with some users watching serial number updates on a week-by-week basis, hoping that Apple assembly line changes would result in improved screen quality. While some users reported eventually getting devices with “good” screens that did not invert their blacks at certain viewing angles, others did not, and Apple never fully explained the problem.

Apple posts three new iPhone 3G TV ads

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Apple has posted three new television ads for the iPhone 3G. All three of the new ads highlight different features of the iPhone 3G, displaying the phone in front of a plain white background. “Everyone” focuses on the phone’s Safari, Mail, and Maps applications, while touting the device’s “twice as fast” speeds and lower initial pricing. “Unslow” attempts to answer the question “So what exactly is 3G?” by again touting “twice as fast” speeds, while showing the advantages of the speed improvements in various iPhone applications. Finally, “Work Friendly” focuses on the new push Enterprise support found in iPhone Software 2.0, with examples of email, contacts, and calendar information arriving on-the-fly to a user’s phone. All three ads are now available for viewing on Apple’s website.

AT&T: iPhone 3G launch sales ‘nearly double’ original

In a release announcing its second fiscal quarter financial results, exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier AT&T revealed that launch period sales of the iPhone 3G were “nearly double” that of the original iPhone, while pointing to the device as an example of advanced communications. “In the first 12 days following launch, sales of the iPhone 3G were nearly double levels achieved in AT&T’s 2007 iPhone launch,” the company said. Speaking about the communications industry’s shift towards advanced mobile services encompassing voice, data, and video, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said, “The Apple iPhone 3G is a dramatic example of this transformation. In the days following our exclusive U.S. launch of this new device, powered by the nation’s fastest 3G wireless network, customer response has been everything we had anticipated and more. This strengthens our wireless business, and it reinforces our positive view of the opportunities ahead for AT&T and the industry.”

AT&T page lists free Wi-Fi for iPhone users (again) [updated]

A new page found on AT&T’s website suggests the company may finally be ready to begin offering free Wi-Fi access to iPhone users at its hotspots nationwide. AT&T’s Wi-Fi Access page now states, “we are proud to offer iPhone customers free access to the nation’s largest Wi-Fi hotspot network with more than 17,000 hotspots, including Starbucks.” The company’s iPhone 3G service plan page has yet to be updated with a mention of the service. In April, free Wi-Fi access was briefly offered to iPhone users at a select number of AT&T hotspots, but the service was quickly removed, with no announcement from the company. In May, the company added text to its iPhone web site stating that free Wi-Fi access was now part of all iPhone service plans, only to remove it shortly thereafter. AT&T has yet to make an official announcement regarding the service.

Update: Following the publication of this news, AT&T removed the page from its website. A screenshot of the original text appears below.

iPhone 3G supply snapshot: 61% of Apple Stores sold out

A week after its troubled launch, the iPhone 3G remains a hard-to-find item in the U.S., with nearly all of AT&T’s company-owned stores sold out. According to checks made earlier this morning by iLounge, Apple’s online iPhone 3G availability page shows approximately 61% of the company’s 187 retail stores sold out of iPhone 3G. 57 stores (30%) show availability of at least one iPhone 3G model, while only 15 stores (8%) report stock of all three models. Out of the 57 stores with at least one model in stock, 22 were located in New York and California, with 7 out of the 15 stores showing availability of all three models coming from those two states. This gives NY and CA a disproportionately high percentage (40%) of stores with stock remaining. While Apple is understood to be making shipments to its stores on an almost daily basis, it remains to be seen when iPhone 3G availability will again be widespread.

Additionally, AT&T stores contacted by iLounge have reported extremely limited availability of iPhone hardware, with one store claiming that a grievance has been filed against Apple for restricting shipments. The store noted that it had received a total of only 20 iPhones to offer to more than 100 lined-up customers, with only 5 of each 16GB model to sell. Meanwhile, the store noted that Apple Stores have been stocked with hundreds if not thousands of units.

iLounge launches redesigned iLounge Mobile for iPhone, iPod touch

imageiLounge is pleased to announce the re-launch of our iLounge Mobile portal, optimized for efficient access to iLounge’s broad spectrum of content from any iPhone or iPod touch, now with a fresh new look and exciting new features.

iLounge Mobile offers full access to iLounge’s News, Reviews, First Looks, Articles, and Backstage entries, Web App and Company directories, and also offers iPhone-formatted versions of our award-winning Library of free iPod and iTunes books.

Out shopping for a product? You can now search our database of thousands of accessory reviews, or sort them by rating to see best-in-class products, all right from your iPhone or iPod touch.

imageIf you need to contact a company for more information about a product, simply browse our comprehensive industry directory to find the company you need, then tap on the number to place a call using your iPhone.

These are just a couple of highlights from our new iLounge Mobile portal, which can be accessed now at ilounge.com/mobile.

For easiest access, be sure to add iLounge Mobile to your home screen! Enjoy!

iSuppli estimates materials cost of $174 for iPhone 3G [updated]

Market research firm iSuppli’s Teardown Analysis Service has taken apart the iPhone 3G and has issued a preliminary estimate of $174.33 for the cost of materials and manufacturing of the 8GB iPhone 3G, compared to its estimate of $227 for the original 8GB iPhone. iSuppli found several chips from Infineon AG in the phone, including the HSDPA/WCDMA/EDGE baseband chip, an RF transceiver and a GPS solution, along with a Samsung ARM processor, Toshiba flash memory, three power amplifier modules from TriQuint Semiconductor, a Marvell Wi-Fi chip, a Bluetooth solution from Cambridge Silicon Radio, and more. The company notes that in addition to the its estimated bill of materials and manufacturing cost, Apple is also spending an estimated $50 on intellectual property royalties for each iPhone 3G shipped. [via BusinessWeek]

Update: Semiconductor Insights has provided iLounge with an image of the new Wolfson Micro audio codec chip found in the new iPhone 3G. During our testing of the new iPhone, which you can find details of in our comprehensive review, we found the audio from this new chip, labeled WM618OC, to sound extremely similar to the Cirrus Logic part used in the iPod classic.

Apple backtracks on iPhone GPS, waits on cut + paste

Speaking in an interview with PC Magazine, Apple vice president of Worldwide iPod and iPhone Product Marketing Greg Joswiak made several comments regarding the iPhone 3G and iPhone software. Following up on a The New York Times report that Apple had disclosed that “the iPhone’s G.P.S. antenna is much too small to emulate the turn-by-turn navigation of a G.P.S. unit for a vehicle,” Joswiak deemed the disclosure incorrect. “Complicated issues” are to blame for currently preventing driving navigation apps, he said, but “it will evolve. I think our developers will amaze us,” Joswiak added. When asked about the lack of cut and paste in the latest iPhone software, he said that Apple has a priority list of features, and they included as many of those as they could in the new software and in iPhone 3G. Finally, Joswiak remarked that some office suite applications may face issues due to each application having its own file space, adding that “There’s no cross-application file structure.”

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