Apple has sent out notices to select media outlets inviting them to a special “iPhone Software Roadmap” event to be held on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, CA on March 6. The invitation reads: “Please join us to learn about the iPhone software roadmap, including the iPhone SDK and some exciting new enterprise features.” The graphic in the email features a map, with signs labeled “Enterprise,” “SDK” and “Software Update.” It is unclear whether the SDK will be released at the event, and what enterprise announcements the company might have planned, although an Apple job posting from late last year did suggest that the company was working on support for Microsoft Exchange email on the iPhone.
Britannica has launched its Britannica Mobile iPhone Edition online encyclopedia for the iPhone. The web application features “tens of thousands of articles” covering all subjects, accessible through an iPhone- and iPod touch-friendly interface. It also offers full-text searching, thousands of high-resolution thumbnails that expand to full-size images, and page layouts optimized for cell phone bandwidth. “People today want information wherever they go,” said Dan Smith, senior vice president at Encyclopaedia Britannica. “They want to satisfy their curiosity the moment it’s aroused, whether they’re on a train, in a restaurant talking to friends, or watching a sunset on the beach. Now we can get answers to them in ways that weren’t possible before.” Britannica Mobile iPhone Edition can be accessed by visiting i.eb.com from an iPhone or iPod touch.
New carrier bundles found inside iPhone software 1.1.4 suggest that O2 will be the device’s carrier in Ireland, and provide confrmation of support for T-Mobile Austria. Macity, which previously found evidence of Italian carrier TIM in iPhone software 1.1.3, reports that new bundles [Translated Link], named “O2_ie.bundle” and “TMobile_at.bundle” are present in the Carrier Bundles folder of the new software. Earlier this month, T-Mobile chief executive Hamid Akhavan said that the company would begin offering the iPhone in Austria in the first half of 2008, making the discovery of its bundle more of a confirmation than a revelation; we’ve previously heard little about a potential carrier for the device in Ireland. Macity suggests that the appearance of these bundles, coupled with Akhavan’s statement that the iPhone would arrive in Austria in the first half of this year, might mean a similar roll-out schedule for the device in Italy and Ireland.
Apple has released software version 1.1.4 for the iPhone and iPod touch. According to Apple, the update “includes bug fixes and supersedes all previous versions.” It is currently unclear whether any new features have been added with the update; however, with Apple scheduled to release the iPhone and iPod touch software development kit (SDK) this week, it is possible that this update could be a precursor to that release. iPhone and iPod touch software version 1.1.4 is available now through the update feature in iTunes.
According to a new report, Apple’s release of the Software Development Kit for the iPhone and iPod touch will be delayed. Citing an unnamed source, BusinessWeek reports that the SDK, scheduled for release by the end of February, will be delayed anywhere “from one to three weeks.” The report also notes that the situation is “fluid,” and that “a lot of last-minute decisions are close to being made about what precisely will or will not be disclosed” this week. After months of anticipation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs in October announced the company’s intentions to release the SDK, which allows third-party developers to write native applications for the devices, in February.
A new iPhone program, developed by Erica Sadun, offers LoJack-like tracking of the device via Twitter. The installation steps required for the program to function are somewhat advanced, and require a jailbroken iPhone and a Twitter account. Basically, the program uses the iPhone’s Maps program to triangulate its position, and then turns these coordinates into a Google Maps URL, which is then processed by tinyURL, and posted in a Twitter message. The program itself is now available as a free download.
The BBC has announced that its iPlayer service will soon be available on the iPhone and iPod touch. The Guardian reports that the BBC said that iPhone and iPod touch owners would be able to access iPlayer content “within the next few weeks,” which will the first time the service has been available beyond PC and Mac computers. It is unknown whether access will handled via a web application, or if viewing will be made possible through an installable application, which would be available following the release of the iPhone/iPod touch SDK.
In response to recent announcements of similar plans by rival carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint, AT&T has announced that it will offer unlimited mobile calls for a flat rate of $99.99 per month. According to a Reuters report, AT&T said that the plan would be available starting February 22, and that existing customers could switch to the new plan without having to extend their service contract. iPhone users interested in the unlimited plan will still be required to carry an appropriate data package.
According to China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in China, roughly 400,000 unlocked iPhones were operating on its cellular network by the end of 2007. Previously, it had been rumored that China Mobile would be the iPhone’s carrier in the country, but a January report suggested that Apple and the carrier had broken off negotiations; Apple dismissed the “negotiations” as a single, limited meeting. Compared against Apple’s sales figures, In-Stat reports, the 400,000 iPhones represent one out of every 10 iPhones shipped globally by the company. The report goes on to state that an estimated 20% of handsets sold in China during 2007 cost more than 4,000 RMB (around $533), indicating that there are as many as 28 million potential iPhone customers in the country.
An update posted to Tiny Code, a web site that has previously aided developers and users of unauthorized Jailbroken applications for the iPod touch and iPhone, suggests that Apple is reaching out to unofficial third-party developers in preparation for the upcoming official iPhone/iPod touch SDK. The posting reads: “We can’t say much, but we are working with Apple and with their SDK for the next firmware release and SDK applications and we shouldn’t be missed for long. We will no longer update our Installer.app repo for legality reasons and you should see us soon on iTunes.” A separate update on the site’s sidebar says that the group is “now targeting fw [firmware] 1.1.4 Alpha 2,” implying that a firmware upgrade may accompany the SDK release. [via Mac Rumors]
Updated: Tiny Code Developer Kelly has come forward to say that the previous post was a lie, and that Tiny Code was never in contact with Apple. In a forum posting, Kelly said, “It’s finally time I just come out and say it; I lied. Tiny-Code never had any relations with Apple, Inc. or any other division of Apple. Never had the new firmware or any pre-SDK pack. Certainly never signed any NDA.”
The grey market for unlocked iPhones is flourishing, according to a BusinessWeek report. The report, which suggests that between 800,000 and million iPhones are unlocked, says that the bulk of the unlocking seems to be occurring in countries where the phone has yet to be introduced. This in some ways lessens the financial impact felt by the Apple and its carrier partners — partners which stand to lose hundreds of dollars in monthly fees per device due to unlocking, but have up to this point done little to interfere with the market for unlocked iPhones. Some foreign carriers have even contacted unlocking sources such as PDA Cable, owned by Nathan Walberg, in order to offer the iPhone while bypassing Apple’s revenue sharing model. “I don’t know if [these carriers] can legally encourage unlocking, but they’re not going to discourage it,” says Walberg. “This market will go on forever, because I don’t think there’s a way for Apple to stop us.”
Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin has called for consolidation of mobile operating systems, and a renewed focus on user experience. “The first imperative for us is world-class user experience,” Sarin said. “The easier the interface, the more you use it and the more you get onto the Internet.” Sarin explained that mobile operating systems are crucial components of that experience, but that there are currently too many on the market — as many as 30 or 40, he estimated. “We have to reduce that number. There’s no way that developers of cool applications can develop for that many operating systems. If we had three, four, five, that would be better,” he said. Sarin went on to praise the iPhone for its user experience, saying, “Apple has raised the bar with the iPhone, and we all now know how important user interfaces are. We as an industry will have to raise our game to provide the kind of user interface that our customers are now becoming accustomed to.” Vodafone was at one time rumored to be the front-runner among possible carriers for the iPhone in the UK; it was later announced that the iPhone would be offered by rival carrier O2.
Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile unit will begin selling the iPhone in Austria in the first half of 2008, according to T-Mobile chief executive Hamid Akhavan. T-Mobile already offers the iPhone in Germany. Last November, Austrian T-Mobile chief Robert Chvatal said that the company would offer the iPhone sometime this year. Akhavan also said that T-Mobile would launch the first Google Android phone in the fourth quarter.
Apple has released its new “The Great Thing” iPhone TV commercial, which like the ads released earlier this week, focuses on the device’s internet capabilities. In the 30-second spot, the narrator asks, “What’s so great about having the internet in your pocket?” The ad then shows the user viewing a trail map for a winter resort, a Zagat restaurant listing, and using the jetBlue airways website, while the narrator explains, “Well, then you can see the trail map while you’re on the mountain… find a good place to eat in town when you’re hungry… and change your flight when you’re just not ready to go home. That’s what’s so great.” The ad is currently available for viewing on Apple.com.
Results of the latest ChangeWave consumer cell phone survey suggest that “record numbers” of consumers are abandoning their basic cell phones for more advanced, feature-rich models. The January survey of 4,182 consumers showed Apple and Research In Motion to be the major beneficiaries of this shift, with the iPhone the top choice among respondents planning to purchase a new cell phone in the next six months. 17% of those respondents listed the iPhone as their top choice, while BlackBerry phones from RIM were the top choice of 15% of the group. In addition, the iPhone continues to lead in customer satisfaction, with 72% of respondents who use the iPhone reporting they are “very satisfied” with the device. Phones from RIM finished second in this category as well, with 55% of BlackBerry owners reporting high satisfaction.
French internet provider Iliad has announced that subscribers to its Free brand using jailbroken iPhones (and iPod touch units with a VoIP microphone attached) can make unlimited calls to French fixed, land-line numbers. Free is offering complete instructions for the calling process, which involves installing Siphon, a SIP-VoIP application developed by Touchmods, on its website. As Free was the first company to donate an iPhone to the Touchmods team, the application is currently locked to Free’s service; however, the Touchmods team has said that the SIP-VoIP application will be available in an open version at a later date.
FolioLink, an online portfolio service for photographers, artists and creative design professionals, has announced a new version of its service that automatically optimizes clients’ online portfolios for the iPhone and iPod touch interface. According to the company, all FolioLink Flash templates automatically morph into a compatible version for iPhone and iPod touch users, allowing visitors using the devices to navigate using taps, drags, and pinches. Commercial and artistic photographer Matt Hoyle said, “FolioLink is a great service for professional photographers and with the latest service update I now have the advantage of reaching people who access my site on an iPhone. As a professional photographer, my images are my livelihood, and FolioLink has made organizing, presenting and updating my images easy and widely accessible.” FolioLink accounts start at $239/yr.
AT&T has announced plans for a major expansion of its 3G wireless broadband coverage in 2008. The plans include expanding service to more than 80 unspecified new cities, as well as an enhancement in upload speeds provided by an upgrade to High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) technology. The planned expansion is expected to deliver 3G services to nearly 350 leading U.S. markets by the end of 2008, including all of the top 100 U.S. cities. A list of cities currently supporting 3G can be found here; the 3G initiative will include the roll out of more than 1,500 additional cell sites nationwide. “Fast wireless broadband is the foundation for a whole range of new and emerging applications that our customers are adopting, including everything from social networking to sending live video and large business files,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO for AT&T’s wireless unit. “With these aggressive initiatives, we’re expanding the scope and the speed of our 3G capabilities, connecting people with their world and enabling more customers to do more with their wireless devices, wherever they may be.” Although not directly mentioned in the announcement, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has previously said that a 3G-capable iPhone model will be released this year.
A number of iPhone users upgrading from older 4GB or 8GB units to the new 16GB model have been presented with conflicting information regarding whether or not their AT&T contracts are being extended, and whether they should attempt to use their prior iPhone SIM cards in the new model. A discussion thread on Apple’s support site outlines the problems, with an Apple employee admitting to not having a concrete answer. “Use the SIM from your current iPhone,” said Apple employee Nathan C., before editing his post to say “My apologies these steps may not work. You may need to activate it with the new SIM choosing the option to ‘replace’ an existing phone on your account.” Another user claims that an AT&T sales agent said that the original 2-year plan would end as soon as he activated the new iPhone, and that a new 2-year contract would be initiated. iLounge has contacted AT&T for clarification on the issue, and will be updating this story once we receive a response.
Update: Mark Siegel, Executive Director of Media and Analyst Relations with AT&T, told iLounge in an email, “If you upgrade from an 8 to a 16 GB iPhone, you sign a new contract. However, we automatically backdate it to the starting point of your contract on the 8 GB phone.” He added that the company “will make every effort to ensure that our reps provide customers with the correct information,” and clarified that customers should activate the SIM card that comes with the new model.