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.
China Unicom plans to charge 2,500 yuan, or roughly $366, for the 8GB iPhone 3G when it launches the device in China, according to a new report. Chinese-language cnBeta reports (Translated Link) that the company will be offering that price with a two-year contract agreement, at a minimum monthly rate of 186 yuan, or roughly $27. Based on numbers reported in an earlier article, this would place the iPhone 3G below the cost of most high-end phones on the Chinese market, but above the cost of non-smartphones; the monthly charge would be roughly four to five times current average monthly service fees. The report also suggests that pricing could possibly be adjusted before the official announcement, and does not offer any specifics on whether 16GB or 32GB models will be offered. According to a Reuters report, an official announcement regarding the Apple and China Unicom deal could come as soon as tomorrow.
According to survey data released by mobile advertising firm AdMob alongside its July Mobile Metrics Report, iPod touch users download twice as many free applications as iPhone and Android users. The survey focused on comparing the application usage behavior of users of all three devices. Most often, users said they discover new apps by browsing on the App Store or Android Market and through direct searches, and over 90% of these users said they do so directly from their device, and not through the computer. While average Android and iPhone users download between 9-10 new apps every month, iPod touch users download 18, and spend an average of half an hour more—two hours versus one and a half—using apps each day.
In addition, more than twice as many iPhone and iPod touch users indicated they purchase at least one paid app per month compared to users of Android, although the average amount spent per month among users who do purchase apps is similar across platforms, with iPhone and iPod touch users spending $9.49 and $9.79, respectively, and Android users spending $8.63. Finally, based on percentage of users purchasing apps, average monthly spending, and installed base, the report states that the market for paid App Store applications is roughly 40 times that of Android Market, at $198 million to $5 million, respectively. Of note is the fact that the data is based on a survey of over 1,000 iPhone, iPod touch, and Android users, which may be too small to generalize to the broader user populations of these devices.
In a lengthy article discussing Apple’s negotiations with China Unicom to offer the iPhone in China, the Wall Street Journal revealed some new data on the iPhone’s sales and potential for success overseas. According to data from research firm IDC, iPhone sales numbers depend heavily on the U.S. market, which accounts for 49% of worldwide sales, compared to 25% for Western Europe, and just 7% for the Asia Pacific region, which includes Australia, Hong Kong, and India. Analysts believe that entering the Chinese market, which boasts over 685 million mobile subscribers compared to just 270 million in the U.S., could be key for future iPhone sales growth, although sales will likely depend considerably on the subsidy China Unicom provides. Xiang Ligang, CEO of the Chinese telecom news publication cctime.com, estimates 100 million Chinese mobile users switch phones every year, with 20 million of those purchasing high-end mobile phones, representing a large potential market for Apple. Though the average purchase price of a cell phone is roughly $160 in China, high-end phones typically cost roughly $440. Subsidies can be a serious problem, as average monthly service revenues are less than 1/10 of the $60 per month received by AT&T.
Earlier this month China Unicom denied a report from which claimed that it had signed an agreement with Apple to purchase 5 million iPhones to sell in China, saying, “[t]alks between us and Apple have been going on for some time, but no agreement has been reached yet. There are all kinds of possibilities. There is no particular timetable for the talks.”
The number of French iPhone owners reporting incidents of cracked or “exploding” screens has risen to at least eight, new reports suggest. According to the BBC News, eight individual customers have been identified in France, with similar problems being reported in both Holland and Sweden. Meanwhile, our friends at iGeneration have pointed us towards this map (Translated Link), which shows nine total reports of exploding or cracking iPhones within France.
The posting notes that the testimonies given by the individual customers are not identical, with some experiencing the problem during use, others having the phone’s screen crack while idle, and some getting hit by debris, while others did not. A member of iGeneration’s forums has posted a theory suggesting battery heat-induced warping of the iPhone frame, but no official reason has been given by Apple, which is waiting for the damaged units to arrive for further testing. “We are waiting to receive the iPhones from the customers,” said Alan Hely, head of European Communications for Apple. “Until we have the full details, we don’t have anything further to add.”
A second iPhone has exploded in France, according to a new report. AFP states that a French security guard was injured Monday afternoon when his iPhone’s glass screen exploded while he was typing a text message, sending shards of glass into his eye. “I want an explanation about this damned telephone,” said Yassine Bouhadi, a 26-year-old supermarket watchman, who bought his iPhone three months ago. Bouhadi said he was “very angry” over the incident, and plans to see a doctor as well as file suit for damages. France’s official DGCCRF consumer watchdog agency said that an investigation into the exploding iPhones has been launched, adding, “We have been alerted to the problem and we are looking into it closely.” Less than two weeks ago a French teen was also hit in the eye by debris from an exploding iPhone, an incident which followed a report of an English girl’s iPod touch exploding; no one was injured in the latter incident.
Apple recently began running a new television ad for the iPhone 3GS. Entitled “Avid,” the commercial focuses on three applications—Golfshot: Golf GPS, MLB.com At Bat 2009, and TouchSports Tennis ‘09—for the avid golf golfer, baseball fan, and tennis player. Like most recent iPhone commercials, the ad features the apps running on an iPhone in front of a white background. The new advertisement is now available for view on Apple’s online iPhone ad gallery.
Apple has posted a comprehensive document discussing its answers to the FCC’s inquiry into why it supposedly rejected an official Google Voice application for the iPhone. Entitled “Apple Answers the FCC’s Questions,” the post touches on several broad App Store issues, including standards for considering and approving iPhone applications, the approval process itself, other applications that have been rejected, and AT&T’s role in the approval of iPhone applications, as well as specifics about the Google Voice rejection. Apple denies that it has rejected the applicaiton outright, saying that it “continues to study it,” while making comparisons to the functionality it provides and the iPhone’s built-in Phone and Messaging apps, and notes that “Google is of course free to provide Google Voice on the iPhone as a web application through Apple’s Safari browser, just as they do for desktop PCs, or to provide its ‘Google-branded’ user experience on other phones, including Android-based phones, and let consumers make their choices.”
The company also states that it is acting alone and had not consulted AT&T about the Google Voice application, and that only Apple’s agreement to block VoIP apps over AT&T’s network, AT&T’s Terms of Service, and occassional concerns from AT&T about network efficiency and potential network congestion associated with certain applications have affected its app review policy, noting that it “alone makes the final decisions to approve or not approve iPhone applications.” It goes on to list representative applications that have been rejected as originally submitted, and says that “[t]here are more than 40 full-time trained reviewers, and at least two different reviewers study each application so that the review process is applied uniformly.” Apple also says it has “established an App Store executive review board that determines procedures and sets policy for the review process, as well as reviews applications that are escalated to the board because they raise new or complex issues. The review board meets weekly and is comprised of senior management with responsibilities for the App Store.”
In its response to a letter from the Federal Communications Commission questioning why Apple rejected an official Google Voice application for the iPhone, an AT&T executive claims the company had no say in Apple’s decision. “Let me state unequivocally, AT&T had no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store,” said Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs. “AT&T was not asked about the matter by Apple at any time, nor did it offer any view one way or the other.” Responses to the FCC letters, which were sent to Apple, AT&T, and Google, were due today.
A new TV advertisement for the Palm Pre running on Canadian carrier Bell appears to have been modeled on Apple’s long-running series of app-focused iPhone commercials. Like the Apple ads, the new Pre spot shows the device against a white backdrop, while an unseen person holds and demonstrates different features of the device and a modern pop song plays in the background. Continue reading to watch an embedded version of the ad. [via Engadget]
A forum post to Chinese-language site weiphone.com (Translated Link) indicates that the iPhone 3GS is capable of playing back both 720p and 1080p video encoded in H.264 through the built-in video player, suggesting that Apple is currently placing arbitrary limits on the device, either to preserve battery life or keep its functionality more consistent with that of prior iPhone OS devices. Using the free document storage and viewing application FileAid, forum member fridtear was able to circumvent Apple’s video restrictions, smoothly playing back files up to 30 Mbps in 1920x1080 resolution via the iPhone 3GS’ built-in video player. While the effects on the device’s temperature and battery of playing back such large video files is unclear, these tests do appear to indicate that Apple would be able to open up the 3GS and any similarly-appointed future iPhone OS devices to playback of HD video files purchased from the iTunes Store, and potentially allow the devices to output HD-quality video via the Component AV Cable for iPod and iPhone.