AT&T is rushing to reinforce its MMS messaging infrastructure ahead of the planned September 25 iPhone MMS launch, according to DSLReports. Citing people involved with the launch, the article states that AT&T is “very” nervous about the launch after seeing “record traffic” from the small group of test iPhone users for whom MMS is already active. The company reportedly had a fairly significant outage yesterday that has resulted in the beefing up of their MMSC messaging servers; estimates from those working on the project suggest traffic on AT&T’s network may spike as much as 40% on Friday as newly MMS-capable iPhone users test the feature out. According to the report, the company plans to activate iPhone users in waves, with the first group receiving a mass SMS message at around 10 a.m. Eastern Time, and continuing throughout the day, assuming all goes well.
Update: AT&T has posted a message on its Facebook page, stating that the MMS rollout will begin “late morning” Pacific Time on Friday. The full message reads, “[w]e know you’ve been eager for this service so we wanted to offer a quick update on the launch plans for MMS on Friday, Sept. 25. Late morning, Pacific Time, on Friday, the new carrier settings update enabling MMS should be live and ready to download through iTunes. We’ll provide the steps and all of the details you need right here at that time.”
China Unicom is internally targeting October 15 as its launch date for the iPhone in China, according to a China Business Times report (Translated Link). Pricing for the handset will reportedly be 1,999 yuan (roughly $293) for the 8GB model and 2,999 yuan (~$439) for the 16GB model; both prices would require a two-year contract with a minimum monthly fee of 186 yuan (~$27). The 8GB price is slightly lower than the 2,500 yuan speculated in an earlier report, but the two-year contact and 186 yuan are the same as previously reported. When announcing its three-year deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in China, Unicom did not give an exact launch date, saying only that it planned to launch the handset in the fourth quarter. [via Unwired View]
South Korea’s telecommunications regulatory body has given approval for the iPhone to be sold in the country, paving the way for Apple to compete in the traditionally domestically-dominated handset market. The Korea Communications Commission approved the device at a meeting yesterday, according to the Associated Press, but Apple spokesman Steve Park said that nothing was decided or planned on the iPhone’s release in South Korea, despite obvious interest from local carriers. Korean telecom KT Corp. has been in discussions with Apple since 2007, according to past reports; Yeom Woo-Jong, a spokesman for the company, said, “we will try to release the iPhone as soon as possible,” while adding that negotiations were ongoing. Citing unnamed KT officials, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the company plans to start selling iPhones in South Korea next month. A spokeswoman for rival carrier SK Telecom said it was also in discussions with Apple, and has “plans to respond” should the iPhone launch on a competitor’s network.
Apple has begun its roll out of iPhone Activation Zones in its retail stores. The new areas, which require a slight reconfiguration of the store and are now mentioned on Apple’s iPhone purchasing page, are places where customers can quickly pick up and activate a new iPhone after completing the pre-authorization process online, offering dedicated computers for activation, and new signage indicating the area’s function. French site TechShower has posted photos (Translated Link) of the new Activation Zone in Apple’s San Francisco store; it appears that most stores will feature the area near the front of the store. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple has begun to air three new iPhone 3GS television ads. All three ads continue Apple’s recent end of highlighting different apps on an iPhone set against a white background, but while most recent spots focused on three apps each, these ads show six apps each, albeit more briefly. “Dine” focuses on TripCase, New York Subway 09, Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List, Zagat To Go ‘09, Quickoffice Mobile Office Suite, and Gap StyleMixer, while “Nature” highlights iXpenseIt, DailyFinance, Guitar Toolkit, Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook, iBird Explorer Plus, and Pizza Hut. Finally, “Pass” shows off Fandango, G-Park, VocabWiz College Vocabulary, 365 Crosswords, Classics, and ABC Animals. Each ad ends with the message that “there are 75,000 apps for just about anything, only on the iPhone,” while a quick succession of other apps are shown. All three ads are available for viewing now from Apple’s iPhone Ad Gallery.
Following a multitude of complaints from iPhone owners reporting severe battery drain after upgrading to iPhone OS 3.1, Apple has begun to contact select users asking for their help in tracking down and diagnosing the problem. These users are being contacted by AppleCare with a list of 11 questions focusing on the user’s current configuration, including push services, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi use, and installed applications. The email also contains a small attachment which installs a profile on the iPhone that enables battery life logging, enabling Apple to collect data about their devices’ battery usage the next time they sync to iTunes, in hopes of isolating, and fixing, the issue.
A number of iPhone users are reporting problems having their still-warrantied iPhones worked on at Apple Store Genius Bars after their devices’ external moisture sensors are falsely tripped. Techgeist reports that one of their iPhone units exhibited this issue, and after contacting Apple, discovered that the company’s protocol when responding to a customer with a unit that has had its external sensors triggered is to say the warranty is now void and turn the customer away. In addition, the standard protocol is not to open the iPhone in question to look for actual signs of water damage, or to check the internal moisture detectors—neither of which had been triggered on Techgeist’s device. The article goes on to suggest that the only way around this policy is to contact Apple directly and speak with someone high up in the company, who can then instruct Apple’s in-store technicians to open up the phone to check for damage. [via The Consumerist]
Despite the fact that South Korean carrier KT has already announced intentions to offer the iPhone in the country, the handset has yet to gain regulatory approval, being held up this week over location-based service regulations. The Korea Times reports that the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) is debating whether Apple will need a separate license as a location-based information operator in Korea, due to a local law mandating that companies providing location-based information to their customers must acquire a separate license. In addition, the Korean government has thus far asked companies to base their operations for location services on local servers, although no such stipulation exists in the written law.
“Some of the KCC commissioners think that Apple should gain approval as a location-based information provider, while others claim that that would be too excessive,’” said a KCC official. “There are no clear-cut standards on the type of location-based services that the operator would be required to provide on a local server. However, the type of information gathered by the iPhone isn’t likely to be ruled critical enough to mandate Apple to install a local server, although we need more time to reach the conclusion.” According to the article, the ongoing discussions at the KCC have prevented Apple and KT form moving forward with negotiations, including the volume of units KT plans to release and the subsidy provided to customers.
Anecdotal reports from across the U.S. indicate that AT&T has begun to roll out MMS messaging for iPhone users ahead of its announced September 25 launch date. A forum thread on Howard Forums contains reports from users as widespread as Southern California and Rhode Island saying that their MMS service suddenly started working, often times after upgrading to iPhone OS 3.1, which also includes an updated carrier file, version 5.0. At this point, it is unclear what criteria—if any—AT&T is using to select which customers will receive the service early, of it it plans to continue activating MMS for iPhone users in the days leading up to the official launch. [via Consumerist]
A number of iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod touch users are reporting problems syncing with Exchange 2007 after upgrading to iPhone OS 3.1. Users on an Apple Discussion thread claim that after installing the update, they receive the message “Policy Requirement - The account [account name] requires encryption which is not supported on this iPod/iPhone.” The problem appears to stem from the pre-3GS models’ lack of hardware encryption; OS 3.1 now enforces the ‘require encryption’ flag, which leaves iPhone 3GS users as the only ones that can successfully sync with an Exchange server that requires such protection. Users on Exchange 2003 or on Exchange 2007 servers that do not require encryption do not seem to be having the problem; it is unknown whether this issue is something Apple can fix through software, as the iPhone 3GS is the only current model known to offer hardware-based encryption. [via TUAW]
Update: A number of iPhone and iPod touch users are complaining of other issues after updating to 3.1/3.1.1, including severe battery drain, podcasts appearing out of order, and random shutdowns, the latter of which can only be remedied by a hard reset. [via MacNN]
AT&T has launched a new feature called A-List with Rollover, which will give certain customers unlimited mobile calling to and from five “VIP” domestic numbers of their choice at no additional cost. Similar to T-Mobile’s MyFaves and Verizon’s Friends and Family, AT&T customers with individual Nation plans of $59.99 or higher can use A-List to call up to five domestic phone numbers—including landlines and mobile numbers on competing carriers—without using any minutes in their plan, while families with FamilyTalk plans of $89.99 or more can select up to ten numbers to call without using minutes. The feature is scheduled to launch on September 20, and eligible customers will be able to manage their A-List online at att.com/alist.
Apple today released iPhone OS 3.1, adding Bluetooth Voice Control, and a new feature called Genius for Apps. Utilizing the Genius technology the company debuted in iTunes 8, iPhone OS 3.1 and iTunes 9 will be able to make recommendations based on the apps the user already owns through the Genius for Apps feature, which gets its own listing in the App Store. In addition, iPhone OS 3.1 adds the ability to buy and directly download pre-made ringtones. The new offering will launch with 30,000 ringtones from all four major labels, priced at $1.29 each. Finally, iPhone OS 3.1 adds the ability for iPhone 3GS users to access the Voice Control feature using a Bluetooth headset, the ability to redeem iTunes Gift cards, code, and certificates in the App Store, display iTunes account credits in the App and iTunes Stores, remotely lock an iPhone or iPod touch with a passcode via MobileMe, and a warning when visiting potentially fraudulent websites in Safari. The 3.1 update is free for all iPhone owners, while iPhone OS 3.1.1 is free for all iPod touch owners running OS 3.0, and both available now via the Update feature in iTunes.
During today’s Rock and Roll media event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed that the company has now sold 30 million iPhones in just over two years. The App Store now offers 75,000 apps, and has seen 1.8 billion apps downloaded—a figure that does not include updates, Jobs disclosed for the first time. iTunes is now in 23 different countries, and is the #1 music retailer in the world, with sales of over 8.5 billion songs. Overall, the iTunes Store has 100,000,000 accounts with credit cards, making it one of the largest stores on the web.
In addition, Apple revealed that it has now sold 220 million iPods to date, including 20 million iPod touch units and 100 million iPod nano units. Based on the latest data, the iPod accounts for 73.8% of the US MP3 market, followed by “other,” Sandisk, and Microsoft, which accounts for 1.1%. Overall, the company said that 50% of iPods sold are bought by new to iPod customers, and that the iPod touch is the company’s fastest growing model.
In a press release touting its latest home theater receivers, Harman Kardon has made mention of yet-unannounced high-definition video output features for the iPod and iPhone. Both the Harman Kardon AVR 3600 and AVR 2600 are compatible with the company’s The Bridge III Universal Dock for the iPod and iPhone, which, according to the release, allows the receivers to “play back HD videos from iPod or iPhone products.” While it was previously discovered that the iPhone 3GS is capable of playing back HD content on the device itself using a third-party application, this is the first mention of HD output for the iPod and iPhone, suggesting Apple may be planning to announce such a feature at its media event later today.
Following earlier claims that AT&T would enable U.S. iPhone 3G and 3GS users to have access to multimedia messaging (MMS) by late summer 2009, the company today announced that MMS support will launch on September 25, 2009, several days after the official end of summer. “We know that iPhone users will embrace MMS,” AT&T said in a statement today. “The unique capabilities and high usage of the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities required us to work on our network MMS architecture to carry the expected record volumes of MMS traffic and ensure an excellent experience from Day One.” AT&T’s failure to support MMS immediately upon the release of iPhone 3.0 software drew jeers from attendees at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, as well as U.S.-based users, some of whom have sued AT&T and Apple over the continued unavailability of the feature. The companies still have not announced the date at which tethering—another iPhone 3.0 feature, enabling an iPhone to serve as a computer’s modem—will be supported by AT&T.
Editor’s Note: The original article incorrectly stated that summer ended earlier; the error has been corrected.
Apple is planning to launch sales of pre-made ringtones, possibly as early as next week, according to a new report. Citing unnamed music industry executives, Cnet reports that the new ringtones are meant as a convenience, as iPhone users can already create their own ringtones through iTunes. The report also states that the new offerings will be announced at next week’s Apple event, if managers can get the files ready in time. iLounge will be reporting live from Apple’s event, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on September 9.
As part of a larger New York Times article discussing the problems some iPhone users are having with AT&T’s network, AT&T CTO John Donovan said the company has had a hard time keeping up with data demand. “It’s been a challenging year for us,” said Donovan. “Overnight we’re seeing a radical shift in how people are using their phones,” he said. “There’s just no parallel for the demand.” The report states that the company has delayed its rollout of MMS multimedia messaging for the iPhone, and has postponed computer-to-iPhone tethering as well, although it’s unclear whether the delays will last past the end of summer, as previously announced for MMS. Finally, AT&T states that the majority of the roughly $18 billion it will spend this year on its networks will go towards upgrades and expansions to help meet the demands placed on the 3G network.
A Pittsburgh-area man who was robbed over the weekend used MobileMe’s Find My iPhone feature to help police track down the robbers and his stolen goods. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the man was robbed by two other men of his iPhone, wallet, and PIN numbers for his credit cards early Sunday morning; the man later used Find My iPhone to track the robbers to a nearby Wal-Mart where police said the suspects purchased goods using a stolen card. Police officers eventually caught up with the suspects at a gas station, recovering a black pellet gun, stolen IDs, credit cards, and cash. The men will be charged with access device fraud, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, possessing instruments of crime, and robbery. [via TUAW]
French consumer affairs minister Herve Novelli met (Translated Link) with Michel Coulomb, commercial director of Apple France, earlier today to discuss the proliferation of “exploding” iPhone reports in the country. Following the meeting, Novelli corroborated a statement from Apple claiming that none of the affected phones tested thus far exhibited battery problems, and instead show that the cracked screens were related to external pressure exerted on the devices. When asked about potential responsibility for the issues, Novelli said it was “too early to blame anyone,” and said the two agreed to stay in contact, with Apple informing Novelli about the results of the other tests. At least eight separate reports of iPhone screens cracking or “exploding” have been reported in France over the last two weeks, with similar problems being reported in Holland and Sweden. It is currently unclear what exactly is causing the issues.
China Unicom has announced that it has signed a three-year deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in China. The agreement will see the carrier purchase the phones in bulk, eschewing the traditional revenue sharing model Apple has favored with other carriers. As previously reported, the phones will be sold with their Wi-Fi disabled in order to conform with Chinese regulations. Unicom said it plans to offer two versions of 3G-capable iPhones beginning in the fourth quarter, but did not offer specifics on exactly which models it would carry. The announcement comes a month before Unicom is set to roll out its new 3G network; the service will be launched in 285 cities on September 28, with plans to expand to 335 cities by the end of 2009.
Update: iPhone in China notes that the iPhone is now listed on Apple’s website for mainland China, with a form asking visitors to register their name and email to receive more details about the launch when they become available.