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.”
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
If 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!
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.
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.”
Apple has reached a settlement with Canadian telecom provider Comwave which gives Apple the legal right to use the trademark “iPhone” in Canada. The settlement was reached late Wednesday evening, prior to the iPhone 3G’s Friday launch. According to the terms of the settlement, Apple will receive sole rights to the iPhone name in Canada, while Comwave has agreed to phase out its use of the name — which it has used since 2004 to promote its VoIP phone service — by November 9. Further terms of the agreement, including financial details, were not disclosed. “I’m happy to report that we have settled our dispute,” said Comwave president and founder Yuval Barzakay. “Both parties worked hard and diligently to make sure the deal was closed prior to the launch.” Apple previously settled a trademark dispute with Cisco over the use of the iPhone trademark in the U.S., which left both companies free to use the moniker on their products.
Following our report on the yellow tint apparent in many iPhone 3G screens, Apple has confirmed that the screen has a warmer look by design. Apple’s senior director of iPhone product marketing, Bob Borchers, said, “We moved the white point in order to make [the display feel] more natural,” noting that customers would likely appreciate a warmer color temperature, particularly when viewing photos. Ars Technica, however, reports that an updated version of the iPhone 3G firmware — labeled version 5A347 as opposed to the 5A345 version that ships on the devices — changes the color calibration to be less yellow. The 5A347 firmware is not available though the “Check for Update” feature in iTunes, but can be installed by clicking on the “Restore” button.
Update: John Gruber of Daring Fireball reports that a source on Apple’s iPhone engineering team confirmed that there were no changes regarding display color temperature between 5A345 and 5A347, questioning the accuracy of Ars Technica’s earlier report.
iPhone and iPod touch users have downloaded more than 10 million applications from the App Store since its launch late last week, Apple has announced. The store, which launched with over 500 applications, now offers more than 800 apps, with more than 200 offered for free and more than 90 percent priced at less than $10. “The App Store is a grand slam, with a staggering 10 million applications downloaded in just three days,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Developers have created some extraordinary applications, and the App Store can wirelessly deliver them to every iPhone and iPod touch user instantly.”
Apple has announced that it sold its one millionth iPhone 3G on Sunday, just three days after its launch on July 11. The phone is currently available in 21 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the US, and will go on sale in France on July 17. “iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It took 74 days to sell the first one million original iPhones, so the new iPhone 3G is clearly off to a great start around the world.”
During our continued testing of two iPhone 3Gs, we discovered last night that one of our units has a troubled headphone port; unlike our original iPhone and another iPhone 3G, unplugging the included Stereo Headset from the port mid-telephone call results 50% or more of the time in a disconnected call. Since many of you have units already, we’d like to ask in advance of our review: is this happening to your iPhone 3G? Please post in the comments below; we’d like to know how isolated this is. Thanks!
Though Apple claimed that the iPhone 3G’s screen was the same as the original’s, users are discovering that their devices’ screens exhibit a noticeable yellow tint when compared to the screens of the original iPhones. iLounge’s extended Live iPhone 3G Comparison Test, however, shows a subtle difference by comparison with the blue-tinted original iPhone and the differently colored iPod touch, noting that each screen possesses a slightly different white balance, with the gray-white iPod touch having the most neutral coloration. Additional user reports suggest that the yellow tint may be bothering some users, and it is currently unknown how much tint is in different units’ screens, or whether Apple will replace especially affected units.
As long-time iLounge readers know, we devote considerable time and energy to testing new iPod and iPhone products, running hard-core battery, audio, video, and other tests prior to publishing our reviews. Since Apple handed out advance free units to its favorite reviewers, hoping to get the most favorable iPhone 3G reviews out in advance of the product’s release, we have decided to publish our production model iPhone 3G’s test results as we go through the process, starting immediately so that buyers can get as much accurate information about the new device before making a purchase.
You can find our test results, updated continuously, by clicking on the article’s headline above. We will also respond to reader questions as convenient throughout the process. Our Gallery of iPhone 3G unpacking and comparison photos is also available.