With the announcement of both Orange and Vodafone securing rights to offer the iPhone in the U.K. in the coming months, a number of O2 customers may be looking to take advantage of a two-week window in which they can return their devices and wait for possible better tariff rates and contract terms on competing carriers. The Telegraph reports that as many as 30,000 O2 iPhone customers may be eligible for returns, and the company says it is not planning to offer unhappy users a better deal in order to keep their business. The article suggests that the competition between carriers will knock around £5 (roughly $8) off the average monthly iPhone tariff, resulting in a savings of about £100 (~$160) over the course of a two-year contract. “There will be a price war,” said Steven Hartley, analyst at technology research house Ovum. “Research shows that in every country where there is more than one operator selling it, it is cheaper. It could be very disruptive, but it depends how Orange play it. If they get really aggressive O2 will have to respond and a full-on price war could start.” Orange has yet to disclose its contract terms for the iPhone, but has said they will be less expensive than O2’s plans.
An Apple Genius Bar employee has told a New York City-area iPhone user that most iPhone users in the region experience an average of 30% dropped calls. In an email to iLounge, reader Manoj says that after experiencing a high volume of dropped and missed calls, along with voicemail delays, he repeatedly contacted AT&T, who ran him through a series of standard troubleshooting procedures before telling him to have the phone examined by Apple. After speaking with Apple tech support over the phone and trying several other troubleshooting steps, Manoj took his iPhone into an Apple retail store, where a Genius Bar technician tested the phone and found nothing wrong. Since notifying Apple of the issue, the company had been keeping track of his dropped calls, and found that his phone experienced dropped calls around 22% of the time. The technician told Manoj that this was “better call coverage” than other iPhone users in the region, who experience “30% dropped calls” on average.
As noted in an iLounge article from February 2008, New York City has one of the highest concentrations of iPhone users we’ve seen in a major metropolitan area, and service in the area has been a subject of frequent complaints from users. A lawsuit filed against Apple and AT&T in New York’s Easter District Court in September 2008 named AT&T’s struggle to respond to demands on its 3G infrastructure resulting from the iPhone 3G launch among its complaints against the two companies.
Vodafone has announced that it will offer the iPhone in the UK beginning in early 2010, and has launched a “coming soon” page for the device. Vodafone will be the third carrier in the country to offer the phone, behind O2, which has offered the phone since November 9, 2007, and Orange, which announced yesterday that it would begin selling the phone later this year. In addition, Reuters reports that Vodafone will also offer the phone in Ireland, bringing the number of countries in which it offers the iPhone up to 13. Pricing and tariffs have yet to be announced.
A new proposal from the European Commission would see lower default volume limits placed on portable music players and smartphones such as the iPod and iPhone. The proposal is based on a study by the EU’s Scientific Committee published in October 2008, which found that listening that headphones at volumes of more than 89 decibels with regularity could have detrimental effects on hearing. BBC News reports that the Commission is recommending a limit of 80 decibels, at which volume the study recommended exposure be limited to 40 hours a week. The proposals could take some time before becoming standard practice and would be voluntary among manufacturers; users would also be able to override the limit at their own risk.
“It is easy to push up the sound levels on your mp3 player to damagingly loud levels, especially on busy streets or public transport,” said EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. “The evidence is that particularly young people - who are listening to music at high volumes sometimes for hours each week - have no idea they can be putting their hearing at risk. It can take years for the hearing damage to show, and then it is simply too late. These standards make small technical changes to players so that by default, normal use is safe. If consumers chose to override the default settings they can, but there will be clear warnings so they know the risks they are taking.”
China Unicom has announced its pricing and tariffs for the iPhone in China. The company has said the phone will be priced at 5,000 yuan (roughly $732), but it is unclear which model this price refers to, as the official press release (Translated Link) states the phone will be available in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB versions. The company will offer subsidies of 893 yuan to 4,253 yuan (~$130-$622) based on the service plan selected; plans will range from 126 yuan to 886 yuan (~$18-$130) per month. Finally, the exact official launch date of the phone also remains unclear, as the press release references “a limited number of people” that may start using it on October 1, with a public release coming “late next month.” [via Fortune]
Orange UK has reached an agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS later this year. Offering the UK’s “largest 3G network,” Orange will sell the iPhone through all the company’s direct channels, including Orange shops, the Orange website and Orange telesales channels, as well as selected high street partners. In addition, Orange has launched a pre-registration site for interested customers at Orange.co.uk/iPhone. Owned by France Telecom, Orange now offers the iPhone in 28 countries and territories globally; pricing, tariff, and availability information has yet to be announced.
AT&T has announced that it has dropped prices on its stock of refurbished iPhone 3G units. 8GB iPhone 3G units are now available for $49, while 16GB models—available in black or white—are priced at $99. According to a post on AT&T’s Facebook page, the units are available in stores while supplies last; as with new iPhone 3Gs, the refurbished units require a two-year contract, and AT&T notes that all refurbished iPhones carry a warranty of 90 days or more and may have “minor scratches.”
AT&T and Apple have begun to roll out MMS service to U.S. iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS users. The service requires a carrier settings update—listed in the Settings application as AT&T 5.5—which is available through the Update feature in iTunes. AT&T originally promised to have the service available by late summer, but later changed that date to today; it rolled out the feature to a small test group early last week, and is reportedly nervous about today’s launch based on the traffic demands seen from the test users. For more information, see our Sixteen things you should know about iPhone MMS & Tethering article; Apple’s instructions for setting up MMS can be found here.
The United States Financial Accounting Standards Board has approved an accounting rule change that will allow Apple to abandon its practice of subscription accounting for the iPhone. Currently, Apple defers its iPhone revenue over two years to allow for free software updates to be delivered over the life of the cellular contract, and does the same for Apple TV; the new rule would allow the company to recognize more, if not all, of that revenue up front. Apple, along with several other tech companies, had lobbied the FASB in favor of the rule change as more devices become dependent on software for their core functionality, such as the iPod touch, which up until now has seen each major update come at a cost due to the different methods used to account for its revenue. Most companies are expected to adopt the rule beginning in 2011; it is unclear whether Apple plans on making the switch at the start of its 2011 fiscal year, which begins on September 27.
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.