As expected, Wal-Mart began selling iPhone 3Gs yesterday. The retailer is now offering the handset in roughly 2,500 stores, at prices of $197 for the 8GB model and $297 for 16GB versions. Wal-Mart is the second independent retailer and fourth overall to sell the iPhone 3G, following Best Buy, AT&T, and Apple.
According to the results of the latest ChangeWave smartphone survey, the iPhone’s market share jumped 6 points between September and December to 23%. RIM’s Blackberry phones continue to lead the market, although their market share dropped one point to 41%. For the first time since January’s survey, a higher percentage of respondents planning to purchase a smartphone in the next 90 days said they would buy a Blackberry instead of an iPhone, with 39% stating they planned to buy a RIM device compared to 30% who plan to purchase Apple’s smartphone. Interestingly, the survey also found initial consumer satisfaction ratings for Blackberry’s touchscreen-based iPhone rival Storm to be well below those of the original iPhone, or even the average for all Blackberry users. 33% of respondents said they were “very satisfied” with the Storm, compared to 77% for owners of the original iPhone, and 52% for all Blackberry users. ChangeWave’s survey was conducted on December 9-15 and included roughly 3,800 cell phone owners.
The French Competition Council has provisionally suspended the exclusivity agreement between Apple and France Telecom tying the iPhone to mobile operator Orange. The Council, whose decision should take effect from Thursday at the latest, called the network’s five-year exclusivity deal with Apple “clearly excessive” and said it risked “serious and immediate damage to competition on the mobile market and to consumers.” The ruling would allow customers to buy the iPhone from rival operators SFR and Bouygues Telecom in time for the holidays. France Telecom has said it intends to appeal the decision, which it says “places France in a radically different position” than Britain, Germany and Spain, where Apple has also signed exclusivity deals.
AT&T has begun offering refurbished iPhone 3G units through its online store. The company is charging $150 for the 8GB model, while both the black and white 16GB models sell for $250. As with normal, non-refurbished units, these refurbs require a two-year contract. The move follows last week’s quiet launch of online sales for new iPhone 3G units from AT&T’s website. Apple has yet to offer the iPhone 3G, either new or refurbished, through its online store in the U.S.
Speaking at a recent Apple Developer Connection iPhone Tech Talk, John Geleynse, Director of Technology Evangelism for the company, has suggested that the iPhone is now a game console-quality platform. Speaking on behalf of Apple, Geleynse referred to the iPhone as a “gaming console,” adding that “it’s not a phone, it’s a console experience.” Geleynse’s comments come on the heels of Apple efforts to position the iPhone and iPod touch as gaming devices in recent months, beginning with the release of the company’s television ad for the second-generation iPod touch and continuing with select Apple retail store previews of upcoming Electronic Arts games. Apple Vice President of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing Greg Joswiak suggested in an interview that, “as we look at it, to us it really seems this is the future of gameplay. Whereas a lot of these devices [Nintendo DS and Sony PSP] are more in the past. And a big part of that is not just the device itself, which is easier to carry, and has the touch display and accelerometer which is great for gameplay, but it’s the electronic distribution of the apps as well.”
AT&T has quietly begun selling the iPhone 3G through its website. The move to offer the handset online is the first time it’s been available online in the United States, although it is sold online in other regions such as Hong Kong and Italy where the handset is available unlocked. Like with online sales of the first-generation iPhone, iPhone 3G units purchased online will need to go through an in-home activation process before use. The online ordering process includes credit and number portability checks for new customers, similar to pre-purchase screening tools launched by Apple and AT&T earlier this year. In addition, customers can choose to speak with an AT&T representative via online chat. AT&T shows eight days remaining for customers to order in time to receive their iPhone 3Gs by Christmas, and is offering free overnight shipping with each order. Apple has yet to begin offering the iPhone 3G online through its own store.
Following a report stating that Wal-Mart would begin offering the iPhone 3G on December 28, multiple new reports have confirmed the development, while a separate report indicates that the handset will start at $197. Both Bloomberg and the San Jose Mercury News have been able to confirm with multiple Wal-Mart stores that they will soon offer the iPhone. “It’s going to be very soon,” said Mark Blome, store manager of a Wal-Mart in Fremont, CA. “Originally they were going to release it before Christmas, but they can’t get them that fast to us.” Meanwhile, Mac Rumors has received an image from a Wal-Mart training materials and advertising computer, showing a flyer for the iPhone 3G with a price of $197. Neither Apple nor Wal-Mart has yet to make an official announcement on the matter.
Apple’s new Earphones and In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic are only partially compatible with the iPhone and iPhone 3G, according to a recently-posted Apple support document. The Knowledge Base article titled “Compatibility of wired headset models with iPod and iPhone models” explains that while the remote, microphone, and volume control features of the new headphones are compatible with the 120GB iPod classic, iPod nano 4G, and iPod touch 2G, the volume controls will not work with iPhone or iPhone 3G — only the playback remote and microphone. As previously revealed on the headphones’ product page, earlier iPod models will be compatible with audio only. Both the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic and In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic are available for order now from the Apple Store online, and are listed as shipping in 3-4 weeks and 7-10 days, respectively.
Apple has released iPhone Configuration Utility 1.1 for Mac OS X and Windows. The utility allows enterprise users to create configuration profiles which can then be used to setup multiple iPhones. Configuration profiles contain “device security policies, VPN configuration information, Wi-Fi settings, APN settings, Exchange account settings, mail settings, and certificates” that allow the devices to work with enterprise systems. iPhone Configuration Utility 1.1 for Mac and Windows is available now as a free download from Apple’s website. [via Mac Rumors]
A number of iPhone users on Apple’s discussion boards are reporting problems with 3G network speeds and battery life issues following the installation of Software 2.2. Interestingly, while the battery life issues seem to be widespread in terms of geographic area, the majority of users complaining of slow 3G speeds are concentrated in the Orange Country area of Southern California, suggesting the problem may stem from an issue with that area’s network. For users experiencing the 3G slowdown, reports indicate that while they see full or close to full 3G coverage, and calls work fine, data connections are apparently extremely slow, being described by one user as “slower than EDGE.”
Meanwhile, a separate group of users complaining of greatly reduced battery life are reporting standby times of less than 10 hours, but not all users appear to be experiencing the problem. In addition, a user claiming to be an iPhone developer has responded in a separate 2.2 battery life thread, claiming that the problem may be related to an issue with Safari, in which the iPhone fails to properly close its network connection upon exit, causing the device to physically heat up, and also leading to reduced battery life. In this instance, both the developer and other users claim that quitting Safari by holding down the home button has successfully restored their battery life.
Despite the fact that all of Apple’s iPhone OS devices use similar ARM processors, the second-generation iPod touch has been revealed as the fastest model thanks to a boost in speed from 412MHz to 532MHz. Thomas Fessler, CEO of Handheld Games Corp, has said that the performance of its TouchSports Tennis game is noticeably different across models, with the second-generation iPod touch being the fastest “by far.” Speaking with Touch Arcade, Fessler said, “Our first step to increase fps performance was to introduce hardware dependent levels of detail. Where we can easily display two 1500 polygon tennis players with 32 bones each on the iPod touch 2G and maintain fast and fluid game play, the original iPod touch just chokes, and in some instances so do the iPhones. To speed up the touch, we reduced the players to 800 polygons in farther away moments of gameplay, and are now using 1000 polygon models for close ups, bringing the original iPod touch game play performance level close to that of the iPhone 3G.” As Apple has not disclosed differences between the hardware in its pocket devices, it remains to be seen whether performance variations such as this will remain tappable by developers after future software updates.
According to the results of a survey contained in Compete’s latest Smartphone Intelligence report, iPhone users are far more likely to have downloaded and installed third-party applications than users of other smartphones. The survey, conducted during October and November and consisting of 940 respondents, found that 34% of smartphone users have not added an application to their devices, compared to just 7% of iPhone users. In addition, 72% of iPhone users said they had installed five or more applications, compared to only 23% of other smartphone users; more than a third of iPhone users (34%) said they had installed more than 15 applications.
Coinciding with the release of iPhone Software 2.2 for the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod touch, Apple has released an updated version of its iPhone Software Development Kit for the new software. Listed as build 9M2621, the updated SDK weighs in at 1.56GB and requires Mac OS X 10.5.5. iPhone SDK for iPhone OS 2.2 is available now as a free download for registered developers from the iPhone Dev Center.
Early this morning, following the release of iTunes 8.0.2, Apple released iPhone Software 2.2 as a free download for iPhone and iPhone 3G users. Here is a partial list of new features contained in the update, according to Apple.
Fewer call connection failures and mid-call drops.
Improved Visual Voicemail sound quality.
Google Street View has been added to maps.
Public transit information and walking directions.
Dropped pins display addresses.
Current location can be shared via e-mail.
E-mail fetching problems have been resolved.
Wide HTML e-mail formatting has been improved.
Auto-correcting keyboard can be turned on or off.
Safari is more stable and performs better.
Podcasts can be downloaded from iTunes app, both on cellular (!) and Wi-Fi.
Pressing Home button from any Home screen returns you to the first Home screen.
Other features are included, as well. Version 2.2 is available by selecting your iPhone or iPhone 3G from the Devices list in iTunes version 8.0.2, and hitting the Check for Update/Update button.
Following a report from MacWorld Sweden (Translated Link) claiming that iPhone carrier Telia would soon offer a Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) application for its iPhone customers, mobile services company Mobispine has announced that it is developing a native MMS application for the iPhone. According to a posting on the company’s blog, Mobispine will sell a specially-branded version of its MMS application to operators, who in turn will make it available to users via the App Store. It is currently unclear whether Mobispine will be able to receive approval from Apple for the MMS application.
Wal-Mart will begin offering the iPhone 3G at select Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations on December 28, according to a supposed internal company memo posted online. The Boy Genius Report, which previously suggested the retailer would begin offering Apple’s handset on November 15, has posted the alleged leak, which states: “We are pleased to announce that Wal-Mart has reached agreement with Apple to offer iPhone 3G in Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart-managed Sam’s Club* Connection Centers nationwide beginning December 28, 2008. AT&T will support Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club with the activation process for iPhone 3G.”
Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan’s largest mobile and fixed line operator, has reportedly signed an agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone 3G beginning next month. The Chinese-language Economic Daily cited unidentified sources in its report, without listing pricing or sales targets. According to Taiwan News, cell phone specialists say that if the handset is sold unlocked, then official sales could help lower the price of the iPhone handsets sold on Internet auction sales by a least NT$3,000 (~$91).
Demiforce, developer of Trism and the upcoming Trismology games for the iPhone and iPod touch, has announced a free, open social backend for iPhone and iPod touch games called Onyx Online. Onyx will allow developers to insert code into their games to integrate into the service, which will offer online scoring, leaderboards, achievements, downloadable level packs, and more. In addition, all Onyx users will be able to login to customized forums, allowing them to see what games other Onyx users are playing, and offering increased exposure for Onyx-enabled games. Onyx Online is expected to launch before the end of the year; developers interested in adding Onyx functionality to their titles should visit onyx.demiforce.com.
True Move, Thailand’s third-largest mobile operator, has reached a deal with Apple to offer the iPhone 3G in the country. “True Move has signed an agreement with Apple to bring the iPhone 3G to Thailand in the coming months,” the company said in a statement without providing further pricing or release details. According to Reuters, Thailand is currently in the testing stage for 3G networks, meaning that the iPhone 3G would likely operate on EDGE networks when it’s first released. In addition to True Move, Apple remains in talks with Thailand’s largest mobile operator, Advanced Info Service, over the iPhone 3G. Somchai Lertsuttiwong, AIS’ executive vice president for marketing, said, “Apple is talking with every operator, including us and DTAC. When will we sell iPhone? It depends on when we can reach a deal with Apple on terms and conditions.”
Speaking in a brief interview as part of a larger article on the iPhone and iPod touch’s role in the industry, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that the devices may become viable options in the mobile gaming market. “I think the iPhone and iPod touch may emerge as really viable devices in the mobile games market this holiday season,” said Jobs, noting that around a quarter of the 200 million App Store downloads thus far have been games. “Games sold via the App Store are the most profitable in terms of any of the formats we work on,” added Simon Jeffery, the U.S. president of Sega. Interestingly, Nintendo indicated that it already saw Apple as a competitor prior to its move into the mobile gaming space. “Whether you chose to play on your DS or listen to music on your iPod, we’re already in the same competitive space for time,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo’s U.S. division. Meanwhile, John Carmack, founder of Id Software, said that although he doesn’t see the iPhone and iPod touch as direct competitors to Sony and Nintendo’s handhelds, Id is developing at least two iPhone games. “I don’t expect them to displace DSs and PSPs,” he said. “I think they will be a fairly robust market all by themselves.”