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NPD: iPhone 3G lures customers, boosts Apple’s smartphone share

According to a new report from The NPD Group, 30 percent of U.S. customers who purchased an iPhone 3G from its launch on July 11 through August switched mobile carriers to do so. By comparison, only 23 percent of consumers, on average, switched carriers between June and August. Of the iPhone customers that switched to AT&T, 47 percent switched from Verizon Wireless, 24 percent switched from T-Mobile, and 19 percent switched from Sprint. In addition, the report states that prior to the launch of the iPhone 3G (January through May 2008), iPhone sales accounted for 11 percent of the consumer market for smartphones, while after the launch of the iPhone 3G, Apple commanded 17 percent of the market. From June through August, the iPhone 3G was also the top-selling smartphone based on units sales to consumers, followed by the BlackBerry Curve, BlackBerry Pearl, and Palm Centro.

“The launch of the lower-priced iPhone 3G was a boon to overall consumer smartphone sales,” according to Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for The NPD Group. “While the original iPhone also helped win customers for AT&T, the faster network speeds of the iPhone 3G has proven more appealing to customers that already had access to a 3G network.”

iPhone Software 2.2 features emoji, Google Street View, more

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Developers have found a number of features hidden in iPhone Software 2.2, which is currently in beta and was recently updated and seeded to developers. Although the release notes list only “compatibility testing” as the only change, according to Mac Rumors, developers have found some new features hidden in iPhone’s framework files. A number of hidden Japanese emoji icons were found, which if implemented will answer one of the most common complaints about the iPhone from Japanese users, support for Street View in the Google Maps application, and a new toggle in the iPhone’s keyboard settings to turn Auto-Correction on and off. Apple has yet to announce a firm release date for iPhone Software 2.2.

Apple drops part of iPhone developer NDA

Apple has announced that it will drop the portion of its non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for released iPhone software. A statement posted to the company’s iPhone developer website reads, “We put the NDA in place because the iPhone OS includes many Apple inventions and innovations that we would like to protect, so that others don’t steal our work. It has happened before. While we have filed for hundreds of patents on iPhone technology, the NDA added yet another level of protection. We put it in place as one more way to help protect the iPhone from being ripped off by others.”

It continues, “However, the NDA has created too much of a burden on developers, authors and others interested in helping further the iPhone’s success, so we are dropping it for released software. Developers will receive a new agreement without an NDA covering released software within a week or so. Please note that unreleased software and features will remain under NDA until they are released.” It is unclear exactly what Apple means by “unreleased software and features,” however, the NDA may continue to cover only pre-release Apple software, seeded to developers but not yet released to the public, while all features and nuances of publicly-available software would not be covered. Alternately, the NDA may continue to cover unreleased third-party software, which would create further issues for developers.

AT&T bringing iPhone 3G to Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Oct. 17

AT&T has announced that it will begin selling the iPhone 3G in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on October 17. Pricing will be the same as in the U.S. mainland, with the 8GB model available for $199 and 16GB $299 for new and upgrade-eligible customers; customers not eligible for the upgrade can purchase the 8GB for $399 or the 16GB model for $499. As before, each model will require a new two-year contract. “iPhone will arrive for AT&T customers in Puerto Rico on October 17,” said Jose Juan Davila, vice president and general manager of AT&T’s wireless operations in Puerto Rico. “AT&T is committed to offering the most innovative products and services to our customers, and we are pleased to be part of this great milestone in our market.” [via Mac User Boricua]

iPhone 3G to launch in Russia on October 3

Russian carriers Vimpelcom, MegaFon, and MTS will begin selling the iPhone 3G in Russia on October 3. Available without a contract, the 8GB iPhone 3G will sell for 22,999 rubles (roughly $919), while the 16GB version will sell for 26,999 rubles (~$1,079). In addition to the carriers, electronics retailers Tekhnosila, Eldorado, and M.Video will also be selling the device, according to a Reuters report. “All retailers will begin sales of iPhone in Russia at the same time, during the night between October 2 and October 3. Our company will be also selling them,” said Nadezhda Senyuk, a PR director with Tekhnosila. Rival chain Eldorado estimated that sales of the iPhone in Russia will reach 150,000 before the end of 2008.

Unlocked iPhone 3G on sale in Hong Kong, China to get stripped down version?

Apple has unexpectedly begun selling unlocked iPhone 3G units in Hong Kong, amidst reports that mainland China may end up receiving a functionally handicapped model. Apple’s online store for Hong Kong is now offering both the 8GB and 16GB models of the handset unlocked, priced at HK$ 5,400 (~$695) and HK$ 6,200 (~$798), respectively. A description on the product page reads: “iPhone 3G purchased at the Apple Online Store can be activated with any wireless carrier. Simply insert the SIM from your current phone into iPhone 3G and connect to iTunes 8 to complete activation.” It is believed that this is the first instance of Apple offering the iPhone 3G directly from its online store.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post is reporting that Hon Hai, the manufacturer of the iPhone, is waiting for verification from mainland China to ship versions of the iPhone 3G that lack both W-CDMA (3G) connectivity and Wi-Fi. According to the report, China Mobile (long reported to be Apple’s carrier of choice for the Chinese market) is expected to build out its 3G network using the TD-SCDMA format, which is incompatible with current iPhone 3G models. The report goes on to state that iPhone units offered by China Mobile would have the W-CDMA stripped out so they could not be unlocked and used on competitor China Telecom, which is expected to use W-CDMA technology for its 3G services.

Turkcell bringing iPhone 3G to Turkey Sept. 26

Turkcell has announced that it will begin sales of the iPhone 3G in Turkey tomorrow, September 26. The handset will be priced on a tiered scale, from 0-279 YTL (roughly $0-$227) for the 8GB model or 195-479 YTL (~$158-$389) for the 16GB model with a choice of one three packages, each of which include unlimited data, and range in price from 75 YTL (~$61) to 145 YTL (~$118). Alternately, the 8GB iPhone 3G will also be available without a contract for €129 (~$190) a month, for five months.

TeliaSonera to launch iPhone in Latvia, Lithuania on Sept. 26

TeliaSonera has announced that it will be launching the iPhone 3G in Latvia and Lithuania through its subsidiaries LMT and Omnitel on September 26. “This represents another strategic step for us in the development of the mobile broadband market and further strengthens our position in the Nordic and Baltic region,” said Kenneth Karlberg, president, Business Area Mobility Service, TeliaSonera. “Following the successful launch of iPhone 3G in the Nordic countries and in Estonia, we are happy to offer iPhone 3G to our customers in Latvia and Lithuania.” TeilaSonera currently offers the iPhone 3G in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

Apple launches web-based iPhone 3G pre-purchase tool

Following the iPhone 3G’s discontinuation of the original iPhone’s iTunes-based service signup and activation, Apple has launched a new online tool that lets customers planning to purchase an iPhone 3G review their eligibility and pricing, select an AT&T rate plan, and inform their local Apple Store of when they would like to come in to purchase the device. As all of these steps were previously handled for iPhone 3G customers while in-store or through an in-line, on-site screening process, the tool is likely designed to help reduce the amount of time it takes customers to purchase and activate their phones. It will also likely help avoid confusion when/if there is an AT&T-related issue, giving the user a chance to sort whatever issues may arise with AT&T prior to coming in to the store.

The service appears to be available only for U.S.-based customers at this time.

Another iPhone 3G lawsuit filed against Apple, AT&T

Yet another lawsuit has been filed against Apple and AT&T over the iPhone 3G, alleging “deceptive, improper or unlawful conduct in [Apple and AT&T’s] design, marketing, manufacturing, distribution, and sale” of the iPhone 3G. The Class Action complaint, filed in New York Eastern District Court by Jai Sen, cites numerous issues relating to Apple’s latest handset, including hairline cracks in the housing, 3G power demands and AT&T’s struggle to respond to the resulting demands on its infrastructure, and misleading advertising. This suit is at least the fourth such complaint filed against Apple and/or AT&T over problems with the iPhone 3G; the suit is seeking restitution, damages, and disclosures and/or disclaimers to be added to packaging and advertisements for the iPhone 3G.

Users having email problems with iPhone Software 2.1?

A number of iPhone users are experiencing problems with email fetching following the installation of iPhone Software 2.1. According to a lengthy thread on Apple’s discussion boards, some users find that Mail will only check their email manually, regardless of whether the account is set up to automatically receive mail via push or fetch, and regardless of whether they are using an original iPhone or iPhone 3G. At least one user in the thread claims to have received a phone call from a product specialist confirming that Apple is aware of the problem and is handling it as a “major” issue, although it remains unclear when affected users may expect a fix.

iPhone Developer University Program launches in U.S.

Apple has launched its new iPhone Developer University Program, a free program designed for higher education institutions wanting to introduce curriculum for developing iPhone OS applications. According to Apple’s website, the program will allow instructors and professors to create a development team of up to 200 students, and will provide a wealth of development resources, tools for testing and debugging, and the ability to share applications within a development team. In addition, institutions will have the ability to submit applications for distribution in the App Store. The program is currently available to accredited, higher education institutions in the U.S. It is unclear what adjustments or exceptions Apple may be planning to add to the iPhone developer Non-Disclosure Agreement, which currently forbids developers from discussing iPhone OS development.

Apple recalls all iPhone 3G adapters sold in 14 countries

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Due to a defect identified in the “Ultracompact” USB Power Adapters included with all iPhone 3G units sold in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Mexico, and six Latin American countries, and sold separately in these and four others, Apple has launched an exchange program in which customers can return their adapters for a new, redesigned version. The program’s site states: “under certain conditions the new ultracompact Apple USB power adapter’s metal prongs can break off and remain in a power outlet, creating a risk of electric shock. We have received reports of detached blades involving a very small percentage of the adapters sold, but no injuries have been reported…. Users with ultracompact power adapters should immediately stop using them until they exchange them for a new, redesigned ultracompact adapter.” The page also states that if the user’s adapter has a single green dot near the prongs, they already have the redesigned adapter and will not need a replacement. According to the program page, replacement adapters will be available starting October 10, and the company will offer replacements via the web, or through its retail stores.

iPhone OS 2.1 requires Sync to add Genius feature

While Genius playlist creation is listed as a new feature in the release notes of the iPhone 2.1 Software Update, iLounge has confirmed that the feature will not appear unless the user performs a sync following installation of the 2.1 software. First seen on the new iPod touch, the Genius playlist creation button is supposed to sit below the audio scrub bar on the Now Playing screen beside buttons for toggling shuffle and looped playback on and off. Normally, the bar and buttons can be accessed by tapping the screen while a song is playing.

If the iPhone is not synchronized after applying the 2.1 software update, the Genius button never materializes, leaving a sizable gap between the shuffle and repeat buttons. The feature is also missing from the top of the Playlists menu, where it would normally appear. Synchronizing the iPhone with the Sync button in iTunes fixes this issue, bringing the button and menu choices back.

Apple releases iPhone 2.1 Software Update

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As promised during the Let’s Rock event, Apple today released its iPhone 2.1 Software Update, the latest update to the software for iPhone and iPhone 3G. According to Apple, the new software features a variety of improvements, including a decrease in call set-up failures and call drops, significantly improved battery life for most users, dramatically reduced time to backup in iTunes, improved email reliability, notably when fetching email from POP and Exchange accounts, faster installation of 3rd party applications, fixes for bugs causing hangs and crashes if the user has lots of 3rd party applicaitons, improved performance in text messaging, faster loading and searching of contacts, improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display, repeat alert up to two additional times for incoming text messages, option to wipe data after ten failed passcode attempts, and Genius playlist creation. The iPhone 2.1 Software Update weighs in at 237.8MB for the iPhone 3G and 231MB for the original iPhone and is available now through the Update feature in iTunes.

Korean iPhone debut delayed?

The debut of the iPhone in Korea could be delayed into 2009 or later, according to a Korea Times report. KTF, Korea’s second-largest wireless carrier, has been negotiating with Apple to sell the iPhone 3G, but has hit a snag with regulators. “For now, there is no agreement of any kind between KTF and Apple over the release of iPhones,” said a KTF official. “Even after a deal is inked, the network interoperability tests will take about two or three months and there is also the process of enabling KTF’s existing mobile-phone applications to work on iPhones. It would be virtually impossible to release the handsets earlier than early next year.”

The country’s Wireless Platform for Interoperability (WIPI) software standard must be adopted by any handsets designed to access mobile data services, and has caused many handset makers to steer clear of the Korean market, which accounts for roughly 20 million handset purchases a year. The Korean Communications Commission has been under pressure from consumers and carriers alike to drop the WIPI standard, a move which would open the market to more foreign handset makers (Korea’s Samsung and LG currently account for nearly 90 percent of the Korean market). Despite the pressure, the WIPI issue is not scheduled for discussion at the KCC’s executive meetings this month. A KCC official said, “The scrapping of the WIPI requirements is too big of a decision to make a quick judgment. It will definitely take more than one meeting.”

Vimpelcom to sell iPhone unsubsidized

Vimpelcom, one of three Russian carriers to recently announce agreements with Apple to sell the iPhone, will not subsidize the device when it goes on sales this year. “We are in principle considering no subsidies for the time being as Russian law does not allow locking mobile phones,” Vimpelcom CEO Alexander Izosimov said in an interview. Izosimov added that the company is eager to begin sales of the iPhone. “The earlier we start working with it, the better we will be prepared. It is not technologies that will change, but the business model,” Izosimov said. “Our research shows that when the iPhone falls into the hands of a customer, the use of data services increases by four to five times.”

Apple, AT&T sued again over iPhone 3G problems

Apple and carrier partner AT&T have been sued on the ground that they have knowingly oversold the iPhone 3G, resulting in reduced network performance in places where many iPhone 3Gs are in use at once. The complaint, filed in a San Diego court by iPhone customer William Gillis, relies primarily on various Internet reports from the last two months, which state that initial (pre-software 2.0.2) iPhone 3G network power demands, combined with the “high volume” of iPhone 3G sales, have resulted in reduced 3G speeds and in some cases inability to use the 3G network. The complaint also states that Apple provides no warning of possible issues on the product’s packaging. A disclaimer “points out to them to ask questions, to further investigate, or [for companies] to simply disclose complete and accurate information about the product,” the lawsuit reads. “This is especially true in the case of the speed and performance of an expensive [device]; an important feature in any electronics device purchase.” Gillis is seeking class action status for the suit so that any affected AT&T subscriber in California could receive compensation. The suit calls for both Apple and AT&T to pay restitution as well as punitive damages.

Belkin says ‘JoyPod’ iPhone gaming controller a hoax

An image appearing on a number of websites this weekend, supposedly showing a new Belkin game controller for the iPhone called the “JoyPod,” is in fact a hoax, iLounge has learned. Following publication of the image, iLounge contacted Belkin to confirm the product’s validity, and was told that “[t]he ‘JoyPod’ is not a Belkin product, but simply a false rumor,” and that the company has “no plans to release such a product.” As previously noted by iLounge, the iPhone OS does not allow third-party applications to access the iPhone or iPod touch’s Dock Connector port for wired accessories such as joypads or keyboards, though this could change in the future should Apple update the OS to permit further accessory support.

O2 Pay & Go iPhone 3G coming Sept. 16

O2 in the United Kingdom has announced that it will begin offering the iPhone 3G to Pay & Go pre-pay customers on September 16. The 8GB iPhone 3G for Pay & Go will be available for £350 (~$625) and the 16GB model for £400 ($715), both of which will include one full year of unlimited data and Wi-Fi throughout the UK. At the end of the 12 months users can continue to receive unlimited browsing and Wi-Fi for £10 (~$18) per month. Unfortunately, Pay & Go customers will not be able to use the iPhone’s Visual Voicemail feature or call merging. In June, O2 revealed its expected pricing for Pay & Go iPhone 3G units, and had both models selling for between £40 and £50 less, but with only 6 months of included data and Wi-Fi.

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