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iPhone 3G carriers, Apple vary on Visual Voicemail

As Apple has announced plans to launch the iPhone 3G in 22 countries on July 11, iLounge has contacted these countries’ carriers to find out whether Visual Voicemail will be supported on their calling plans. This feature, which provides random list-style access to voicemail messages, has proved too complex for some carriers to implement, and is missing from some of Apple.com’s iPhone 3G international web pages. Here are answers from the carriers’ representatives, along with how Apple.com describes or omits the feature from its iPhone 3G features pages.

T-Mobile (Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands): “As far as I know, VVM will still be a unique feature for the iPhone.” Apple.com’s web pages for Austria and Germany both show and describe Visual Voicemail, but the Netherlands page neither includes text nor an image of the feature. Competing network Orange has not yet confirmed whether it will offer Visual Voicemail in Austria.

Telefónica (Spain): “Yes, We will offer Visual Voicemail.” Apple.com’s Spain page shows a picture and description of the feature.

Vodafone (Australia, Italy, New Zealand, & Portugal): “Vodafone will not support Visual Voicemail at the time of launch but is planning to roll out the service later this fiscal year.” Apple.com shows nothing for Visual Voicemail in Italy, which will also be serviced by TIM. The Australia, New Zealand, and Portugal pages include a Visual Voicemail photo, but text has been omitted—a sign that support in these countries is tentative. Competing network Orange has not yet confirmed whether it will offer Visual Voicemail in Portugal.

TeliaSonera (Denmark, Finland, Norway, & Sweden): “I have no further information to disclose than was in the press-release issued yesterday.” Apple.com shows no mention of Visual Voicemail for Denmark, Finland and Norway, and only a photo without text for Sweden.

Globe Telecom (Philippines): “We will announce at a later date the functionality and plan details.” Apple.com’s generic “Asia” web page is listed as its reference point for the Phillippines; no mention of Visual Voicemail is made in that text, but a photo is included.

Swisscom (Switzerland): “We currently don’t comment on the supported functions but around 11 July things will be clear.” Apple.com describes and shows Visual Voicemail on its Switzerland page. Competing network Orange has not yet confirmed whether it will offer Visual Voicemail in Switzerland.

SingTel (Singapore): “Sorry but at this point, I’m not able to share any other information.” Apple’s Singapore page neither shows nor describes Visual Voicemail as a feature.

Softbank (Japan): “We are sorry but there is not any information about iPhone at this moment except sale date. When we [are] ready to inform, it will be released on our website.” Apple’s Japanese page shows and describes Visual Voicemail.

Optus (Australia): “Pricing and plans will be revealed a little closer to launch.” Apple’s Australian page includes an image of Visual Voicemail but no description.

Rogers Communications (Canada): “Details on features, price plans and retail availabilty will be made available at a later date. Stay tuned.” Apple’s Canadian web page includes a description and image for Visual Voicemail.

Additionally, Apple’s Mexico (America Movil), Hong Kong (Hutchison), and France (Orange) pages all describe and depict Visual Voicemail.

We will be updating this story as we receive more information.

AT&T: Only one iPhone 3G data plan; speeds ‘much faster’ [updated]

Following reader comments and questions, iLounge contacted AT&T to clarify ambiguous details on iPhone 3G service plans, which will be offered starting on July 11. We asked AT&T to clarify its stance on text messaging, which presently is included in AT&T’s $20 EDGE data plans for first-generation iPhones, but is not listed as an included feature in its $30 3G data service plan for iPhone 3G. Mark Siegel, Executive Director of Media Relations with AT&T Mobility said only that the company would “discuss details of data pricing, including text messaging, closer to launch.” When asked if iPhone 3G users, such as those living outside 3G coverage areas, would be able to sign up for the prior EDGE-only data plan instead, Siegel told iLounge that “[t]here is one price for the data component,” suggesting that the $30 a month data charge will apply to all iPhone 3G users regardless of the available service in their immediate area. When asked about Apple’s claim that performance of the 3G iPhone would be roughly 3 times current EDGE speeds—significantly slower than the 3G network’s capabilities—Siegel also told us that “depending on the situation, the [3G] download speeds can be much faster than mentioned by Apple. I think they were simply being careful in what they said and not overstating a claim.” We will continue to track reader inquiries on these topics and follow up with AT&T leading up to the iPhone 3G launch.

Update: Asked if new AT&T customers will need to go through an in-store signup process, and if existing iPhone customers will need to go through the same process, Siegel responded simply: “Activation is in-store.”

AT&T confirms $30, $45 data plans for iPhone 3G

Replacing its $20 add-on iPhone EDGE network data plan, AT&T today announced that 3G data plans for the iPhone 3G will cost $30 per month for consumers and $45 for business users, in addition to the separate cost of any voice plan. The new pricing raises the minimum two-year cost of an AT&T data service contract from $480 to $720, with the business user plan costing $1,080 over two years, offsetting the apparent price drop of iPhone hardware from $399 to $199. AT&T’s new data service will enable U.S.-based iPhone users to achieve transfer speeds of roughly 2.8 times current EDGE speeds, slower than the faster 3G data speeds offered by other telecom companies; however, the plans will offer “unlimited” 3G data service use. AT&T will remain the exclusive service provider for iPhone hardware in the United States, initially offering its 3G services in 280 major U.S. markets, with a planned increase to 350 by year’s end. Full details are found in an AT&T iPhone 3G press release.

Apple posts ‘Hallway’ iPhone 3G TV ad

Apple has posted its new iPhone 3G TV advertisement, named “Hallway.” First shown during today’s WWDC keynote address, the ad features a spy theme, with a mysterious package being moved down a hallway, and opened up to reveal an iPhone 3G. The narration says: “It’s finally here: the first phone to beat the iPhone. It surfs the web and downloads data twice as fast, for half the price. Introducing the new iPhone 3G.” The video is available for viewing now on Apple’s web site.

Apple introduces next-generation iPhone 3G

Apple today introduced the long-awaited second-generation iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 3G. The new phone features a glossy, full-plastic rear casing, which is thinner on the sides than the current version, metal buttons, and a flush headphone jack. As expected, the iPhone 3G retains the 3.5-inch touch screen of the original, and adds support for 3G wireless networking (tri-band HSDPA), as well as assisted GPS. According to Apple, the iPhone 3G offers 300 hours of standby time, 10 hours of 2G talk time, 5 hours of 3G talk time “versus 3-3.5 on competing products,” 5-6 hours of high-speed web browsing, 7 hours of video playback, and 24 hours of audio playback. The new iPhone 3G will be available in 70 countries later this year, beginning with customer availability in 22 countries—Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the US—on July 11. It will sell for $199 for the 8GB model (black only) and $299 for the 16GB model (available in black or white).

“Just one year after launching the iPhone, we’re launching the new iPhone 3G that is twice as fast at half the price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone 3G supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync right out of the box, runs the incredible third party apps created with the iPhone SDK, and will be available in more than 70 countries around the world this year.”

Next iPhone to sell for $199 subsidized?

USA Today is reporting that the next iPhone, expected to be announced later today, will be available for $199 via a subsidy. Citing sources with knowledge of the matter, the report does not provide any further details of the subsidy arrangement, beyond noting that the sources declined to be cited by name or affiliation because neither AT&T nor Apple has authorized anyone to speak publicly about pricing until after this afternoon’s announcement. According to the report, the next-generation iPhone will be in stores “beginning this summer.”

Telefónica’s Movistar to be sole iPhone carrier in Spain

Telefónica’s Movistar unit will be the sole carrier of the iPhone in Spain, according to Spanish press. Thomson Financial reports that the phone may be sold for under 100 euros with a contract of two to three years. The report also states the next-gen iPhone will offer a video camera and GPS, but this is likely unconfirmed speculation rather than fact. Yesterday, Telefónica confirmed that has reached an agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone in Spain “later this year.”

O2 planning iPhone upgrades, pay-as-you-go service

O2 is planning a series of promotions to boost sales of the next iPhone in the United Kingdom, according to Macworld UK. Citing unnamed sources, the report states that the device will cost £100 with an 18-month contract, or £269 contract-free for pay-as-you-go users. The new iPhone may be offered free to customers who sign up for the most expensive tariff, which is currently £75 per month, and may be offered as a free upgrade for existing iPhone customers who are willing to extend their contract by another 18 months.

SoftBank to carry iPhone in Japan

In a major but brief announcement, Japan’s SoftBank Mobile (formerly Vodafone) has disclosed that it will offer the iPhone in Japan. According to a brief press release, the company said it “has signed an agreement with Apple to bring the iPhone to Japan later this year.” According to Reuters, SoftBank spokesman Fumihiro Ito could not provide further details on the deal, such as a release date or whether the company would be the exclusive carrier in Japan. A report placed SoftBank and Apple in a mobile phone partnership as early as May 2006, when a Japanese newspaper reported that the companies were working together to build a cell phone with iPod-like features and high-speed web connectivity. Also of interest is SoftBank’s reference to the name “iPhone,” which due to trademark concerns has remained uncertain as the product’s name in Japan.

Telefónica confirms Spanish iPhone deal

Telefónica has confirmed that it will offer the iPhone in Spain, two days after evidence of the deal appeared on its mobile unit website. The company’s press release (PDF link) states simply, “Telefónica has signed an agreement with Apple to sell iPhone in Spain. The iPhone will be launched later this year.” Earlier this week, a promotional page was discovered on the website of the company’s mobile unit, Movistar. The page originally provided a form to sign up to receive more information on the iPhone when it became available, but the form was quickly removed.

iPhone market share down in Q1

The iPhone saw its share of the U.S. smart phone market drop in the first quarter of 2008, according to an IDC vendor survey. After garnering a 26.7 percent share of the market in the fourth quarter of 2007, the iPhone took only 19.2 percent of the market in Q1 2008. Both BlackBerry maker RIM and Palm saw gains in the first quarter, with RIM going from 35.1 percent in Q4 ‘07 to 44.5 percent in Q1 ‘08, and Palm grabbing 13.4 percent in Q1, up from 7.9 percent in the prior quarter. IDC analyst Ramon Llamas suggests that RIM’s gains may be attributed to growth in the “prosumer” segment, while Palm’s gains came mostly from the strength of its Centro phone.

Movistar confirmed as iPhone carrier in Spain

A hidden page on the company’s website has confirmed that Telefónica’s Movistar will offer the iPhone in Spain. The page, which has since been removed, was discovered (Translated link) on Movistar’s site at the URL iphone.movistar.es, and displayed the number of users thus far signed up to receive more information on the iPhone when it becomes available. Telefónica exec José Santos Esteras previously said the company had negotiated an exclusive contract to offer the iPhone in Spain, with the exclusivity to be limited to three or six months.

Exhaustive Apple iPhone patent application appears

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has posted an extremely detailed Apple patent application pertaining to the iPhone. With Apple CEO Steve Jobs listed prominently among the patent’s inventors, the 371-page document details nearly every aspect of the iPhone’s graphical user interface, and mentions a variety of applications and features that have yet to appear in any iPhone model or software. Included in those are GPS functionality and applications for video conferencing, instant messaging, blogging, and a digital video camera app. While it is possible that some or all of the currently unused features could appear in a future model of the iPhone or in a software update, their appearance in the patent filing serves only as an example of Apple’s research in those areas.

Hutchison Telecom to carry iPhone in Hong Kong, Macau

Hutchison Telecommunications has announced that it has signed an agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone in Hong Kong and Macau later this year. Further details were not given. Hutchison operates 3G networks in both Hong Kong and Macau under the 3 brand, and had 2.5 million total customers and about 1.15 million 3G customers in Hong Kong as of the end of March.

Mac OS X 10.5.3 adds iPhone-to-Google Contacts sync

The latest version of Mac OS X, version 10.5.3, adds the ability for iPhone users to sync their Address Book with Google Contacts. According to the Official Google Mac Blog, a new Address Book preference option appears after the installation of 10.5.3, allowing a user to enter his or her Google account name and password, after which the contacts will automatically update every time the iPhone is synchronized. It is presently unclear why the feature has been added, however, Apple included Yahoo! Address Book compatibility when it opted to include Yahoo!‘s mail service with the iPhone last year. [via Infinite Loop]

KPN in talks to carry iPhone in Netherlands

Dutch telecom operator KPN has confirmed that it is in talks with Apple over the rights to sell the iPhone in the Netherlands. “KPN was approached by Apple about selling the iPhone on the Dutch market and, of course, the company is interested,” said a KPN spokesperson. The company declined to comment on how long the two companies have been in talks. Interestingly, KPN CEO Ad Scheepbouwer previously called the iPhone “a pretty useless phone,” only to later admit that the company would be “more than happy” to sell the device.

TeliaSonera to offer iPhone in Nordic, Baltic markets

TeliaSonera has announced that it has signed an agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone in Nordic and Baltic markets. According to the company, it will offer the phone in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia “later this year.” As in other recent iPhone carrier announcements, no further release details or model specifications were provided. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is expected to make an announcement regarding future iPhone roll outs during his WWDC keynote address on June 9.

Hudson Soft offers free iPhone, iPod touch portal

Having previously released the game Bomberman for iPod nano, classic, and 5G owners, Japanese video game developer Hudson Soft has opened a free iPhone and iPod touch gaming site featuring a handful of simple games and downloadable movies. Titled “Do the Hudson!!,” the site features 15 different games, including poker, blackjack, and a variety of memory- and math-based challenges. Several of the games feature Hudson’s best-known characters Bomberman and Bonk. Based in Japan, the site is accessible from any iPhone or iPod touch worldwide at touch.hudson.co.jp.

iPhone to remain exclusive to Orange in France

France Telecom CFO Gervais Pellissier has confirmed its Orange unit will keep exclusivity over the next iPhone in France, according to a Reuters report. “It will remain an exclusive contract in France,” Pellissier told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms summit in Paris. He declined to comment on when the next iPhone might be launched, or if any of Apple’s first-generation exclusivity deals would be re-negotiated for the launch of the new handset. Earlier in the week, T-Mobile Chief Executive Hamid Akhavan confirmed that the iPhone would remain a T-Mobile exclusive in Germany. Orange has announced plans to offer the iPhone across countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa later this year.

Geotagging groundwork found in iPhone 2.0 beta

The latest beta of iPhone Software 2.0 released to a enterprise partners suggests Apple is working on adding geotagging support to the iPhone’s Camera application. Geotagging adds location-specific metadata such as city and state or latitude and longitude coordinates to media files so they can later be processed, sorted, and referenced by location. AppleInsider reports that people familiar with the release, labeled build 5A292g, say location-aware applications such as Maps and Camera now ask for user permission to identify their current position. In addition, a new toggle found in the iPhone’s General Settings menu appears to allow users to enable/disable Location Services on a system-wide basis. Despite the appearance of these new location services, it appears that location metadata is not yet being embedded in new photos taken with the iPhone’s camera; the specific details of what metadata is included may yield clues as to whether the geotagging is based on currently vague iPhone location detection, more precise GPS functionality, or either, depending on the iPhone model.

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