AT&T is considering a limited data access plan for iPhone users which would reduce the minimum monthly cost of an iPhone by $10, according to a new report. Citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans, BusinessWeek reports that the reduced plan could be introduced by the end of the month, and that the increased flexibility in pricing may be part of Apple’s demands for an exclusivity extension. Other options for increasing iPhone sales include reducing the up-front price of the iPhone to $99 or introducing a cheaper and/or pre-paid iPhone model.
Speaking with representatives from Oppenheimer, senior Apple officials discussed possible avenues the company could explore to further the iPhone’s market share, according to a new report. Citing a client report from Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner, AppleInsider reports that Apple executive mentioned providing increased functionality, lowering prices, expanding the products’ geographic availability, and segmenting the market with different models as possible ways to increase market share. “[T]hey are not saying they will necessarily do all of these,” Reiner told AI. “This is basically the menu of options.” Reiner went on to say that the executives also seemed excited by the growth opportunities presented by the Chinese market, but declined to comment further on timing and/or possible carrier partners for the region.
Apple has started selling the iPhone 3G online in the U.S. Previously, the handset was only available from AT&T online—both new and refurbished—and from physical Apple Store, Best Buy, AT&T, and Wal-Mart locations. Before purchase, customers will have to pass an eligibility check, and select a rate plan if necessary. Pricing for the handset remains at $199 for the 8GB model and $299 for 16GB versions; it is unclear whether Apple plans to offer online ordering in other countries as well.
A number of iPhone developers are running out of slots for the addition of Ad-Hoc testing devices, according to one developer’s blog posting. James Thompson, developer of PCalc, states that when he recently ran into problems deleting and adding new testing devices to his list, and contacted Apple about the problem, they replied saying, “Please know that each Standard iPhone Developer Program enrollment has a limit of 100 test devices please be aware that removing a device will not replenish the current amount available.”
He claims that although Apple’s user interface indicates that developers have 100 slots for the Universally Unique Identifiers (UUID) of testing devices, nowhere in the interface does it indicate that these 100 slots are limited in this manner. Thompson also points out that this restriction may become huge problem for many developers, as new iPhone and iPod touch models are released: “I can’t currently add any new testers or change their device entries if they get new ones. And I can only imagine what is going to happen when the new iPhones come along, presumably next month, and lots of people get replacements. If I bought a new iPhone for myself, I couldn’t even add it to my own list of development devices currently.”
New screenshots taken from a debugging menu in the latest iPhone OS 3.0 beta suggest that Apple is planning to add a magnetometer to future iPhone models. The shots, published by the Boy Genius Report, show a toggle switch for logging “Compass” information, along with Location, GPS, Motion, and Accelerometer info. Evidence of a magnetometer was first found in early April, with the term magnetometer specifically referenced inside a configuration file. The inclusion of a magnetometer would allow applications to understand not just where users are, but in which direction they are facing, allowing for features not presently possible on the iPhone platform. Examples could include automatic rotation of Google Street View information based on the orientation of the user, the overlay of information about the business, building, or venue the user is looking at, or the ability to place accurate star map information on the screen that corresponds with the part of the sky the user is facing. [via Mac Rumors]
Despite the fact that it doesn’t offer the iPhone, T-Mobile in the U.S. has pledged to support its customers who are using the devices on their network, according to a new report. The Consumerist reports that due to a recent T-Mobile voicemail system change, iPhone users were unable to check their voicemail, and were being sent blank text messages when they tried to call in to check their messages, or when a new one arrived. One customer who emailed about the issue received a call from T-Mobile’s Executive Customer Service, acknowledging the problem and offering a one-month service credit for his/her troubles. in addition, the representative also stated that “T-Mobile, though they do not offer the iPhone, [a]re committed to supporting users on their network who have them.” The problem was reportedly fixed “within a day or so.”
Apple has instituted a new policy under which iPhone owners who have accidentally caused water damage to their handsets—an issue not covered under Apple’s warranty—can buy a refurbished replacement unit for $199. ifo Apple Store reports that the new policy allows these users to replace their iPhones without the need to pay AT&T’s upgrade-ineligible pricing or add another two years to their contract. A commenter on the story indicates that the $199 price is good for replacements of both 8GB and 16GB units, and that it applies to the original iPhone as well as the iPhone 3G. The iPhone features four liquid submersion indicators—one in the headset jack, one in the dock connector, and two on the phone’s interior—which enable Genius Bar workers or other Apple technicians to determine whether an iPhone problem could have been caused by water damage.
Apple is the world’s top-ranking smartphone manufacturer when it comes to customer satisfaction, according to the results of J.D. Power’s 2009 Wireless Consumer Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Study. Apple ranked highest among smartphone manufacturers with a score of 791 out of 1000, performing strongly in the categories of ease of operation, operating system, features and physical design. By comparison, it struggled only but very substantially in the battery category, where it rated below average. LG and Samsung follow Apple in the rankings, with scores of 772 and 759, respectively. Interestingly, the study also found that 40 percent of smartphone users report dropping their landlines in favor of their mobile, compared with just 28 percent of traditional handset owners who had done the same. Overall, smartphone users reported sending and receiving an average of 17 emails per day on their devices, and 82 percent said they regularly use their device’s personal information management capabilities — such as address books and to-do lists — to stay better organized.
According to data from the NPD Group’s latest Smartphone Market Update report, the BlackBerry Curve unseated the iPhone 3G as the top-selling smartphone in the U.S. in Q1 2009. The iPhone 3G came in second, followed by the BlackBerry Storm, BlackBerry Pearl, and the T-Mobile G1. NPD attributes the jump in BlackBerry sales to Verizon Wireless’ “buy-one-get-one” promotion. BlackBerry maker RIM’s consumer smartphone market share increased 15 percent to nearly 50 percent of the smartphone market in Q1 2009 versus the prior quarter, while both Apple and Palm saw their share decline by about 10 percent. Overall, smartphones made up 23 percent of all U.S. handset sales in the quarter, compared to 17 percent in Q1 2008.
“Verizon Wireless’s aggressive marketing of the BlackBerry Storm and its buy-one-get-one BlackBerry promotion to its large customer base contributed to RIM capturing three of the top five positions,” said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at The NPD Group. “The more familiar, and less expensive, Curve benefited from these giveaways and was able to leapfrog the iPhone, due to its broader availability on the four major U.S. national carriers.”
Knockoff models of popular cellphones such as the iPhone are selling well in China, suggesting Apple may have a more difficult time penetrating the market than expected. The New York Times reports that knockoff, known as shanzhai, phones account for more than 20 percent of sales in China, while the government has done little to stop the proliferation of the fakes. Part of the problem, the report suggests, is the lower price of the knockoffs, made possible by technological advancements that make the fakes very cheap to produce, and by the manufacturers’ evasion of taxes, regulatory fees, and safety checks. “We’re being severely hurt by shanzhai phones,” says Chen Zhao, a sales director at Konka, a Chinese cellphone maker. “Legal cellphone makers should pay 17 percent of their revenue as value-added tax, but shanzhai makers, of course, won’t pay it.” China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently warned consumers about the hazards of shanzhai phones, saying “their radiation usually exceeds the limit.”
Fake iPhones—like the Meizu M8—are particularly popular, partially due to the fact that the phone isn’t officially available in China, except in Hong Kong, pushing the street price of imports out of reach for many. “I saw iPhone pictures on the Web; it’s so cool. But it costs over $500 — too expensive,” said Yang Guibin, 30, an office worker from Chongqing. “So I decided to buy a shanzhai iPhone. I bought it in a digital market here; it looked exactly like the iPhone.” Interestingly, even the manufacturers admit their business is less than reputable. “We are a kind of illegal producer,” said Zhang Feiyang, whose company, Yuanyang, makes an iPhone clone. “In Shenzhen there are many small mills, hidden. Basically, we can make any type of cellphone.” Apple has been linked to both China Mobile and China Unicom as potential partners for an iPhone launch in China, however, no official announcement has been made by either company.
Apple has released the fourth beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 to developers, along with an updated version of the iPhone software development kit (SDK), and a pre-release version of iTunes 8.2, which is required to activate iPhone OS 3.0. It is currently unclear what changes might have been made to the SDK, OS, or iTunes with this release; however, legal language referring to Blu-Ray data from Gracenote has been spotted in iTunes, suggesting Apple is working on Blu-ray playback/support for the media jukebox. The updated SDK weighs in at 2.13GB, and is listed as build 9M2734, while the iPhone OS 3.0 beta 4 is listed as build 7A300g.
Developers can download iPhone OS 3.0 Beta 4, iTunes 8.2 pre-release, and the accompanying updated SDK from Apple’s iPhone Dev Center.
Apple is working on two new iPhone-like devices which may be offered by Verizon Wireless, according to a new report. Citing two people “familiar with the matter,” BusinessWeek reports that one of the devices is a smaller, less expensive calling device described by one of the sources as an “iPhone lite,” while the other device is a touchscreen media pad that would allow users to listen to music, watch high definition video, view photos, and make calls via a Wi-Fi connection. According to the report, one of the devices may be introduced as early as this summer. Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam recently confirmed talks with Apple, telling BusinessWeek that “In the last six months, I have talked to Steve Jobs;” however, it is unclear whether Apple’s current exclusivity contract with AT&T would block the introduction of a new iPhone model on a competing carrier, and whether the information was leaked to provide leverage for ongoing future exclusivity negotiations between Apple and AT&T. USA Today recently reported that Verizon and Apple were discussing the development of a CDMA-based iPhone for introduction next year.
Apple’s iPhone is spurring demand for location-based services, according to Ted Morgan, founder and CEO of Skyhook Wireless. “Thanks to the popularity of iPhone, we are seeing more and more apps using geo-data,” Morgan said in an interview with GigaOM. “The iPhone has unleashed location-based creativity.” Skyhook provides the technology for the Wi-Fi location positioning feature of the iPhone OS, and also offers its services to other mobile device manufacturers and mobile app developers. According to GigaOM, the number of location-aware mobile apps has grown in the past year from a few dozen to 2,000, with five times as many location-aware apps expected by next year.
Verizon and Apple are formally discussing the possibility of introducing a Verizon-compatible iPhone next year, according to a new report. Citing “people familiar with the situation,” USA Today reports that the two companies entered into “high-level” discussions months ago while Steve Jobs was still overseeing day-to-day business at Apple. While the article states that the phone would be built to run on Verizon’s current CDMA wireless network, Verizon plans to begin commercial use of its next-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G network in 2010, suggesting that the negotiations may instead be targeting this more advanced network platform. AT&T is expected to launch a commercial LTE network in mid-2011, leaving Verizon a brief window of 4G exclusivity in which it could take advantage of a 4G iPhone. In addition, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg recently commented that Apple would be more likely to offer the iPhone to Verizon once it had transitioned to a LTE network. USA Today claims that AT&T has exclusive U.S. iPhone distribution rights into 2010—though it is said to be seeking an extension through 2011—and would likely continue to offer the iPhone even if Verizon were to offer it as well.
Announcing its first quarter fiscal results, U.S. iPhone carrier AT&T has revealed that it activated more than 1.6 million iPhone 3G units during the period. Of the 1.6 million iPhone 3G activations, over 40 percent were customers who were new to AT&T; the Q1 activation total compares with 1.9 million iPhone 3Gs activated by AT&T during the previous holiday shopping quarter—impressive given the typical post-holiday sales downtick—and brings the total number of U.S. iPhone 3G activations to over 5.9 million. Overall AT&T saw a net gain of 1.2 million total wireless subscribers in Q1, to reach 78.2 million total, and also saw the fifth consecutive quarter with a year-over-year increase in average revenue per subscriber, up 2.1 percent versus the year-earlier quarter to $59.21.
More evidence pointing to the possibility of a voice control feature in iPhone OS 3.0 has been found in the latest beta version of the software. Citing anonymous sources, Ars Technica reports that a number of references to classes and methods related to the code name “Jibbler” have been discovered in the software, which appear to suggest support for both voice synthesis and voice recognition. References to Jibbler, which appears to be an enhancement to the iPhone’s home page SpringBoard application, include VSSpeechSynthesizer, VSRecognitionSession, SBVoiceControlDisableHandlerActions, SBSensitiveJibblerEnabled, and SBVoiceControlSoundCompletion. Ars adds that SB refers to SpringBoard, and VS likely refers to voice services; the report also suggests that the feature may be activated by the in-line button on the headset, and could be used for voice-controlled dialing, along with iPod nano 4G and iPod shuffle 3G-style audio feedback. Prior screenshots of the upcoming OS update showed a Voice Control menu option in the Settings app.
AT&T has cut its price on refurbished 16GB iPhone 3G units, dropping the price by $50 to $150, or a savings of $150 off a new unit. In February, AT&T lowered its pricing on refurbished iPhone 3Gs to $99 (from $149) for 8GB models and $199 (from $249) for 16GB units; the pricing on 8GB models remains unchanged from this prior drop. 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.” [via Dealmac]
Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch are becoming the electronic handheld devices of choice for U.S. military overseas, according to a new report. Newsweek reports that the iPod touch, and to a lesser extent the iPhone, are gaining popularity thanks to their relatively low cost compared to custom-designed mil-spec devices, their ruggedness when sheathed in protective cases, and their versatility. Since both devices can run a myriad of different apps, many government agencies are funding development of new software. The Pentagon is funding the technology behind an app that would allow a soldier to take a picture of a street sign and quickly receive intelligence on the local area, while the U.S. Marine Corps is funding an application that would allow soldiers to upload photos of detained suspects to a centralized, biometric database, which could then be used to match faces and make it easier to track suspects once they’ve been released. Other software includes an app that would display aerial video from drones, a bomb-disposal robot remote control app, the ballistics calculator BulletFlight, currently in use by snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Vcommunicator, a spoken and written translator. An iPod “may be all that [soldiers] need,” says Lt. Col. Jim Ross, director of the Army’s intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors operations in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The Pentagon has not disclosed how many Apple devices are currently deployed.
Speaking in an interview with Total Telecom, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg made several comments regarding the iPhone in relation to his company’s network. According to the article, Seidenberg said Apple never really considered making a CDMA version of the iPhone, because it didn’t have as wide a distribution opportunity, adding that he thought Apple would be more likely to bring the iPhone to Verizon in the U.S. once both it and AT&T had transitioned to Long Term Evolution (LTE), also known as 4G, networks. Seidenberg also used the interview as an opportunity to lash out at rival Sprint Nextel, which plans to offer the iPhone rival Palm Pre, and has been offering $50 and $100 unlimited service plans under its Boost mobile and Sprint brands. “I don’t know what Sprint thinks it is,” Seidenberg said, claiming that it would eventually “self-destruct” as the need for capital investment in the network increases.
A new Apple patent application suggests the company is working on ways to make the iPhone OS interface more usable during activities. Titled “Variable Device Graphical User Interface,” the patent describes a method of sensing when the device is in motion, such as during a workout or other physical activity, and adjusting the graphical interface accordingly. Interface adjustments could potentially include enlarging user interface elements, such as items in a contact list, or icons on the home screen. Interestingly, illustrations included with the patent also depict what appears to be a forward-facing camera module at the top near the ear speaker—labeled 180—with the iPhone’s ambient light sensor moved to the bottom of its face to make room for the camera. Nothing in the patent text directly references a forward-facing camera, only one that could be “located on the back surface of the mobile device.” A forward-facing camera would potentially allow future iPhone models to offer video chat functionality, possibly through an iPhone-specific version of Apple’s iChat AV software. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via Mac Rumors]