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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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]
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Myxer, a site offering free, advertising-supported mobile content, has added the ability to download iPhone-formatted ringtones to its service. To access the ringtones, users can visit myxer.com, browse the available content, and use the “Download for iPhone” link to download any tone to their PC or Mac desktop. The iPhone ringtones are already in the required .m4r format, so they can be added straight to iTunes following the download, and can then be synced to the iPhone. “The iPhone is part of today’s new mobile economy and like Myxer, it’s helping to change the landscape of today’s mobile environment,” said Myk Willis, CEO, Myxer. “We’re delighted to invite iPhone users to expand their mobile content choices through open access to Myxer’s catalog and broad array of mobile content delivery services.”
The Rural Cellular Association plans to file a petition with the FCC calling for an investigation into exclusivity deals used by large wireless providers to secure rights to carry certain cellular phones. According to the Wall Street Journal, the group represents about 80 small and rural wireless companies, most with fewer than 500,000 customers. Using the iPhone as an example, the complaint states that most Vermont residents, as well as those in rural areas of 15 other states, can’t use Apple’s handset because AT&T offers only roaming coverage in those areas, and other carriers which do offer service can’t sell the iPhone. CITA spokesperson Joseph Farren argues that “When you look at the number of handsets available in the U.S. compared to Europe we’re far ahead,” adding that since consumers have so many choices, there is no need for an FCC ban on exclusive deals. [via CNET]
Speaking at the Reuters Technology, Media, and Telecoms Summit in Paris, T-Mobile Chief Executive Hamid Akhavan said that he expects the iPhone to remain exclusive to T-Mobile in Germany. “We have a very good relationship with Apple…at least in Germany it is exclusive, and we expect it to remain as such,” Akhavan said, adding, “If and when there is a 3G iPhone we expect to have it exclusively in Germany as well.” T-Mobile has been the device’s carrier in both Germany and Austria, however, last week Orange announced an agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone in Austria alongside T-Mobile, raising questions about the company’s exclusivity arrangements.
Telefónica’s Movistar has reportedly reached an agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone in Spain. According to a report by technology blog Sevenclick, Telefónica executive José Santos Esteras confirmed at the Professional Communications Congress that the company has an exclusive contract to offer the iPhone in Spain. Daniel Pujol of Orange added that the exclusivity is limited to three or six months. Telefónica Europe CEO Matthew Key recently stated the Telefónica Group would make a joint announcement with Apple in the “coming weeks.” [via AppleInsider]
Orange, the iPhone’s carrier in France, today announced a new agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone in a host of other countries across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Specific countries include Austria, where T-Mobile Germany already offers the handset, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the company’s African markets. According to the announcement, Orange will begin offering the iPhone in these countries “later this year.”
Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann has said the company’s T-Mobile Germany has so far sold more than 100,000 iPhones in the country. The company last reported sales of 70,000 iPhones at the end of January, meaning around 30,000 units have been sold from February on. Hamid Akhavan, Deutsche Telekom’s board member at T-Mobile, had previously told Dow Jones Newswires that sales figures for the iPhone were “in line” with expectations, and that the recent price drop had spurred sales. In April, T-Mobile Germany began offering 8GB iPhones at reduced prices when purchased with a 24-month contract, bringing the price of the handset down to as little as €99.
Speaking at an Intel event in Munich, Intel Germany CEO Hannes Schwaderer has said that Apple will unveil two different iPhone devices (Translated link) at its Worldwide Developer Conference, according to ZDNet.de. One model is said to have a larger form factor, a 720x480 screen, and an Intel Atom chip as its main processor, while the other is reportedly similar in size to the current iPhone, but with 3G capabilities. Schwaderer said that the Atom-powered version of the iPhone would be larger not due to the chip’s size, but due to its use of the higher-resolution screen. Apple CEO Steve Jobs will make his keynote address to kick-off WWDC at 10:00 a.m. on June 9. [via Mac Rumors]
Update: Intel has issued a disclaimer (Translated link) regarding Schwaderer’s remarks, saying the CEO made “only general remarks about possible mobile Internet DEVICE (MIDs) and did not speculate upon future iPhone models,” adding that the iPhone was only mentioned as an example of such a device. Intel press spokesman Mike Cato told ZDNet.de, “Intel knows nothing about future products of other manufacturers and can therefore about it also nothing say.”
CEO of O2 parent Telefónica Europe Matthew Key has said the 3G iPhone will be announced in “the coming weeks.” Speaking after the announcement of O2’s first quarter results, Key was asked when the 3G iPhone would be available. He said: “That’s more of a question for Apple ... but over the coming weeks we will do a joint announcement with Apple as Telefónica Group.” O2 has already sold out of the current 8GB model iPhone, and has a “multi-year” exclusivity deal to offer the iPhone in both the UK and Ireland.