iPhone Software 2.1 beta 4 has been released to select iPhone developers, surprisingly stripped of the push notification service support seen in earlier beta releases of 2.1. According to Apple, the feature — designed to let applications such as instant messaging services continue to provide updates even when not active — has been pulled “for further development.” Apple has previously said the feature would be ready by September; it is unclear whether its removal is indicative of a delay.
Apple is planning on issuing a fix for current iPhone 3G reception problems through a software update rather than a physical recall, according to a BusinessWeek report. Citing two anonymous but “well-placed” sources, the article claims the problems are being caused by glitches related to a communications chip made by Infineon, corroborating an earlier statement from Nomura analyst Richard Windsor. One BusinessWeek source suggests that the glitches are solely caused by the Infineon chip, which the article notes is fairly new and is yet untested in high volumes. Another source claims those problems may be also be linked to overly-agressive 3G bandwidth demands, saying that Apple programmed the Infineon chip to demand a more powerful 3G signal than the iPhone really requires, causing the phone to decide that there is insufficient power available, and switch to the slower (EDGE) network. According to the report, the problem appears to be increased in areas where there are more active 3G devices than AT&T and Apple had planned for. Neither Apple nor Infineon has yet made a statement regarding reception issues with the iPhone 3G.
Both T-Mobile in the Netherlands and Vodafone in Australia have suggested that connection and reception problems with the iPhone 3G were caused by the device, and not by their networks. In a posting (Translated link) on its company blog, T-Mobile Netherlands blamed Apple for the problems, saying, “The 3G coverage of T-Mobile is as good as the competition, there can therefore not lie. We suspect that it is a hardware / software specific issue of the iPhone itself.” CNet reports that “there can therefore not lie” should actually be translated as “so that should not be the issue.” A separate story from the Sydney Morning Herald cites an unnamed telecom source as saying that Apple provided carriers with the iPhone 3G the day before the device hit the market, leaving no time for proper testing. Jessica Forrest, a spokeswoman for Vodafone Australia, added that the iPhone 3G issues were device-specific and had nothing to do with the carriers’ networks. “We are aware of the issues on the iPhone 3G and we’re working with Apple to provide a solution,” she said.
Best Buy will become the first independent retailer of the iPhone in the U.S. when it begins selling the iPhone 3G across 970 full-size stores and 16 Best Buy Mobile locations on September 7, reports the Associated Press. “We had a lot of work to do, obviously, to get in a position where Apple and AT&T would feel good about Best Buy Mobile carrying it, and that’s what we’ve done in the last 18 months,” said Shawn Score, president of Best Buy Mobile. Best Buy also offers the iPod and some Mac computers in its stores, a relationship that Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris pointed to as the reason Best Buy would be able to sell the iPhone. Last week Best Buy announced that it had completed a two-year conversion of its stores to include upgraded cell phone departments, which will be branded Best Buy Mobile and will now be able to handle handset activations. Best Buy Mobile is a joint venture with Carphone Warehouse, which offers the iPhone in the United Kingdom.
Update: Best Buy has issued an official press release confirming that it will begin sales of the iPhone at its U.S. stores on September 7.
“The iPhone has changed the way people think about their mobile phones, and we are delighted to help more customers get their hands on this revolutionary product,” said Brian J. Dunn, president and chief operating officer, Best Buy. “Our Best Buy Mobile employees have the training and expertise to deliver the best experience possible for our customers - from the initial purchase through the life of their iPhones.”
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 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.
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.”
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.