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AT&T to expand 3G wireless coverage in 2008

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.

iPhone upgraders forced into new 2-year contracts? [updated]

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.

DoCoMo CFO speaks out about iPhone talks

DoCoMo Chief Financial Officer Masayuki Hirata has said talks with Apple to sell the iPhone in Japan are currently focused on technological issues and profit sharing. “The handset is easy to use and can open new markets, which makes this an interesting proposition,” Hirata said in an interview. “We are in continuous contact with the company, but the specifics are still in the future.” The first challenge of bringing the iPhone to DoCoMo is the difference in cellular technologies. While the iPhone uses older, more widely-used GSM technology, DoCoMo’s network uses W-CDMA technology. “The global GSM market is measured in hundreds of millions of users, compared with 50 million W-CDMA subscribers in Japan,” Hirata said. “It’s unlikely they will launch iPhone in Japan exclusively for DoCoMo.” In addition, Hirata also said that DoCoMo needs time to evaluate Apple’s profit sharing model. Traditionally, Japanese service providers buy handsets directly form the manufacturers and sell them as their own. Previously, rival Japanese carriers KDDI and Softbank have both been said to be in talks with Apple over the iPhone.

Apple premieres two new iPhone ads

Apple has released two new TV commercials for the iPhone focusing on the device’s internet capabilities. The first, “Facebook,” talks about how you can check on your Facebook account from the iPhone, while demonstrating the social networking site’s iPhone and iPod touch interface. The second new advertisement, “Cars,” shows how the iPhone’s internet access can come in useful when dealing with a car salesman. Both are filmed in the style of Apple’s original series of iPhone ads, with the device being used against a black background, while an unseen narrator speaks above the song “Perfect Timing” by Orba Squara. Both ads are available for viewing on Apple.com.

Apple third in Q4 ‘smart mobile’ shipments

According to the latest data from Canalys, Apple was the third-largest manufacturer in the global “converged smart mobile device” market, which encompasses smart phones and wireless handhelds, in the fourth quarter of 2007. The research and analysis group estimates that Apple took a 6.5% share of the global market, trailing only Nokia, which had a 52.9% share, and Research In Motion, which accounted for 11.4% of the market. “When you consider that it launched part way through the year, with limited operator and country coverage, and essentially just one product, Apple has shown very clearly that it can make a difference and has sent a wakeup call to the market leaders,” said Pete Cunningham, Canalys senior analyst. “What it must demonstrate now is that it can build a sustainable business in the converged device space, expanding its coverage and product portfolio. It will also need to ensure that the exclusive relationships that got it so far so quickly do not prove to be a limit on what it can achieve.”

In the US, Canalys estimates that Apple took a 28% share of the converged device market in Q4 2007, behind only RIM’s 41%, and greater than all Windows Mobile device vendors’ shares combined. However, Cunningham believes Apple will need to expand its product line and continue innovating if it wishes to hold, or improve upon, its current position. “Apple’s innovation in its mobile phone user interface has prompted a lot of design activity among competitors. We saw the beginnings of that in 2007, but we will see a lot more in 2008 as other smart phone vendors try to catch up and then get back in front,” Cunningham said. “Experience shows that a vendor with only one smart phone design, no matter how good that design is, will soon struggle. A broad, continually refreshed portfolio is needed to retain and grow share in this dynamic market. This race is a marathon, but you pretty much have to sprint every lap.”

Apple launches 16GB iPhone, 32GB iPod touch [updated]

Apple today announced the release of two new iPhone and iPod touch models, each with double the storage capacity of the previous top-end models. The iPhone now comes in a new 16GB model for $499 (£329 UK), which will be sold alongside the $399 8GB model. Similarly, the iPod touch is now available in a 32GB model for $499 (£329 UK), joining the 16GB model for $399 and the 8GB model for $299. “For some users, there’s never enough memory,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod and iPhone Product Marketing. “Now people can enjoy even more of their music, photos and videos on the most revolutionary mobile phone and best Wi-Fi mobile device in the world.” Both the 16GB iPhone and the 32GB iPod touch are available now.

Update: Our friends at iFun.de report that the 32GB iPod touch is available in Germany for 459€, while the 16GB iPhone will sell for about 499€.

iPhone browser market share on the rise

According to the latest browser market share data from Net Applications, the iPhone gained market share in both December ‘07 and January ‘08. The iPhone had a .12% share of the market in December, compared to a .09% share in November. Its share of the market rose to .17% during the final two days of December, and data shows it had a .13% share of the browser market in January. The iPod touch has also seen its share of the market rise, from .01% in November to .02% in December, and claiming .04% of the market in January. Together, the iPhone and iPod touch accounted for a .17% share of the browser market in January. In addition, Net Applications also investigated the proliferation of the iPhone outside countries where it has seen an official release, and found it to have a presence “in almost every country on Earth.” Net Applications’ data comes from the browsers of “site visitors to its on-demand network of live stats customers,” and is compiled from “approximately 160 million visitors per month.”

O2 offers ‘bolt ons’ for iPhone plans

O2 is now offering “Bolt Ons” for its iPhone customers. The extras, all of which are priced at £7.50 per month and are meant to supplement existing coverage, include unlimited O2-to-O2 calls, unlimited anytime texts, unlimited weekend calls, unlimited fixed line calls, and an extra 200 anytime minutes. A note on the O2 site says “All our unlimited Bolt Ons are subject to an excessive usage policy.” In addition, the company is also offering “Discount Country” plans for £3 a month, which allow for lower call and text rates to the selected area. Discounts are available for the USA and Canada (9p/min), Australia or New Zealand (14p/min), South Africa, Turkey, India, Pakistan or Bangladesh (28p/min), and China (43p/min). Finally, the company is offering the My Europe Extra add-on, which allows customers to “receive calls for free and make calls to the UK and other included European countries for 25p/min” when traveling in Europe or Spain. My Europe Extra runs £10 per month, while the same coverage in Spain, which is listed separately, runs £5 per month.

‘Rough Cut’ of iPhone development book now available

A pre-release, “Rough Cuts” version of iPhone Open Application Development by Johnathan A. Zdziarski is now available from O’Reilly Media. Zdziarski is the developer of the first fully-functional application using the open iPhone toolkit, and most recently was responsible for explaining the situation regarding release of the iPhone 1.1.3 jailbreak update. According to O’Reilly’s web site, the book “explains in clear language how to create applications using Objective-C and the iPhone API, which in some ways resembles Apple’s desktop API and in some ways strikes new ground. After covering installation of the toolkits and some background about the operating system and Objective-C, the book offers detailed recipes and working examples for everyone’s favorite iPhone features. Graphics and audio programming, the CoreImage and CoreSurfaces interfaces for games programming, interfacing with iTunes, and the use of sensors are all covered.” Users who purchase the online Rough Cuts version can send suggestions, bug fixes, and comments directly to the author and editors, helping to shape the final release. The Rough Cuts version of the book is available from O’Reilly for $20 for an online-only copy. A pre-order of the print book runs $26, or users can purchase a bundle that offers both early online access and a final print copy for $44.

Evidence of Italian carrier found in iPhone 1.1.3 firmware

A carrier bundle found inside the iPhone’s 1.1.3 software package suggests that TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) will be the device’s exclusive carrier in Italy. Macity reports (translated link) that bundles for AT&T in the U.S., Orange in France, O2 in the UK, and T-Mobile in Germany are all present in the software package, alongside a file named “TIM_Italy.bundle,” the only bundle associated with a yet-unannounced network partner. Previously, a file named “TIM_Italy.plist” appeared in iPhone firmware version 1.1.2, offering further evidence that Apple intends for the telecom to be the handset’s carrier in Italy. According to the report, sources which Macity considers reliable had previously said that TIM has already completed negotiations with Apple to carry the iPhone, and that company is working towards a pre-summer launch of the device.

iPhone Visual Voicemail developer up for award

Comverse, the company behind Visual Voicemail for iPhone, has announced that the feature has been selected as a finalist for the 2008 GSMA Global Mobile Award in the Best Mobile Messaging Service category. According to Comverse, which bills itself as “the world’s leader in visual voicemail,” the feature was chosen based on its “innovativeness, interoperability between devices and between networks, ability to generate new revenue opportunities for the operator, user experience and take-up of the product.” “We are honored to be among the finalists for this coveted industry award,” said Comverse Chief Marketing Officer John Bunyan. “I extend heartfelt congratulations to the Comverse teams for an outstanding product that has attracted international recognition.” The winner will be announced on Tuesday, February 12th at the GSMA Global Mobile Awards Gala Dinner held in The National Palace in Barcelona, during the Mobile World Congress.

O2 to offer iPhone business tariffs in 2008

Following last week’s announcement of iPhone business plans by AT&T, UK iPhone carrier O2 has said that it plans to offer the iPhone to business users sometime later this year. Speaking in an interview with UK gadget web site Pocket-lint, an O2 spokesperson said that although the iPhone is aimed at consumers, the company “wants to offer it as a service for business users looking to use the smartphone in their office.” Previously, the company had directed business users interested in the iPhone toward individual plans, stating, “The iPhone is currently only available on consumer eighteen-month contracts and not yet on business tariffs and contracts. Business customers can still buy an iPhone but they will need to take out a new 18-month consumer contract on an iPhone tariff.”

Developers ready for iPhone, iPod touch SDK

Anticipation is growing for developers awaiting Apple’s software development kit for the iPhone and iPod touch, a new report suggests. The SDK, promised to be released sometime in February by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, will allow third-party developers to develop native applications for the touch screen devices. In the meantime, many developers are left wondering how Apple will handle the implementation, installation, and distribution of the applications. “We definitely want the SDK,” says Christopher Allen, who runs online developer community iPhoneWebDev. “But the real questions are, ‘How is it going to integrate with iTunes? Are we going to be able to get paid? If so, how much?’ “

Some developers believe that Apple might choose to take control of what applications make it on to its devices, and also secure itself a percentage of application revenue, by distributing third-party applications through iTunes. Cabel Sasser, co-founder of the independent Mac software firm Panic, believes this distribution method will help developers. Calling iTunes “the holy grail of distribution,” Sasser says, “It could open us up to an entirely new market and really change our business. Not everyone can locate, download and install software from the Internet.” However, this distribution model might also pose problems for developers who choose to offer their software for free. “Our philosophy is not to charge users,” says Jonathan Zweig of Jirbo, whose web-based games for the iPhone and iPod touch are amongst the most popular iPhone applications listed on Apple’s web site. “If people can’t get it free from us, they will get it from someone else.” Despite these differences of opinion, most developers agree that the iPhone represents a great new opportunity for their industry. “[The iPhone] opens up an unbelievable amount of opportunity for new ideas and game-changing software,” says Sasser. “We’re chomping at the virtual bit … just counting down the days.”

O2 improves voice, SMS limits on iPhone contracts

O2, the iPhone’s carrier in the UK, has announced improved tariffs for iPhone users, offering more voice minutes and text messages. iPhone users on the most affordable (£35) plan will see their minutes jump from 200 to 600 a month, and their SMS limit go from 200 to 500 messages a month. Users signed up for the £45 plan will now get the same allowances as the old £55 plan: 1200 minutes (up from 600) and 500 text messages. Finally, iPhone users who were previously signed up for the £55 tariff may either drop down to the £45 plan, cutting their monthly bill by £10, or move to a £75 a month plan, which offers 3000 minutes and 500 SMS messages. The move is part of a broader improvement in O2’s offering for all mobile customers. The new tariffs will be available from February 1; O2 says that existing iPhone customers will be automatically transferred to the new plans by mid-March at the latest. [via Macworld UK]

PumpOne launches exercise video site for iPhone, iPod touch

PumpOne, producers of personal training programs for the iPod, has launched Pump10, a new exercise video site designed specifically for use on the iPhone or iPod touch. Pump10 offers users weekly 10-minute video workouts, fitness tips, and personal training advice. “We designed Pump10 workouts to help iPhone users get in shape, 10 minutes at a time,” said PumpOne exercise physiologist Declan Condron. “The iPhone’s fantastic portability and access to rich internet content anywhere and anytime means there are no excuses for not getting into better shape in the new year.” Pump10 is a free service and is accessible by visiting Pump10.com from any iPhone or iPod touch.

iPhone 1.1.3 update causing SMS troubles?

According to a number of reports, the latest update of the iPhone’s software, version 1.1.3, is causing SMS text messaging problems for some users. A discussion thread on Apple’s support site, “SMS conversations 1.1.3,” now contains close to 200 replies discussing the problem of SMS messages being received and displayed in an incorrect order. Apple has posted a document which acknowledges the problem, but does not list it as a bug. Titled “iPhone: SMS messages may be displayed in the wrong order when sending or receiving text messages,” the document suggests that the problem is caused by the iPhone “not displaying the same date and time setting as the carrier network time.” Apple suggests that setting the iPhone up to receive the network time will alleviate the problem, but also warns that if problems continue, “the issue may be occurring because messages are being sent in quick succession (more common if the messages consist of only a few short words).” [via InformationWeek]

Deutsche Telekom reports 70,000 iPhones sold

Deutsche Telekom, the German parent company of T-Mobile, said over the weekend that it had signed up 70,000 iPhone customers since the device’s launch in Germany on November 9, 2007. “The iPhone is by far the most sold multimedia device in T-Mobile’s portfolio,” said Philipp Humm, head of T-Mobile Germany, in an interview published on T-Mobile’s in-house Internet web site. Earlier this month, the iPhone’s French carrier, Orange, said that it sold more than 70,000 iPhones in the first month of availability; Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during his keynote address on Jan. 15 that the company has sold more than four million iPhones worldwide.

Widespread iPhone, iPod touch 1.1.3 update problems

Since last week’s release of new 1.1.3 software for the iPhone and iPod touch, a number of users, including iLounge editors, have experienced serious problems when trying to update the devices. In some cases, the update appears to have been completed successfully, but renders the devices inoperable, leaving them stuck in recovery mode. When an attempt is made to restore the devices, one of several dialog boxes (pictured below) pops up and says the device can not be restored due to an unknown error.

image

In addition to user-submitted complaints and questions, many reports of similar problems and errors have appeared on Apple Support’s discussion boards. Some users have been able to recover the iPods or iPhones after deleting and re-installing iTunes or past software update files, but other users have tried these methods without success, finding no alternative but to return the non-functioning units to Apple. Many of the messages are more frantic than this one, left by SinclairZX81: “My iPhone is now permanently stuck in ‘recovery mode.’ Restore fails with unknown error (9). Help.”

It is worth noting that our editors have experienced problems updating both iPod touch and iPhone hardware that has never been jailbroken or otherwise altered; one iPhone that failed to update on its first attempt succeeded on a subsequent attempt, but an iPod touch has remained incapable of being restored despite multiple attempts on different computers. Apple has yet to respond to iLounge’s request for comment on the issue.

iPhone version 1.1.3 jailbreak update released [updated]

A software-based jailbreak update for iPhone software version 1.1.3 has been released. Jailbreaking an iPhone makes it possible for unathorized, third-party applications to be installed on the iPhone. This new jailbreak requires that the user have a previously-jailbroken iPhone running software version 1.1.1 or 1.1.2 with Installer.app installed and a Windows computer. According to reports, unlocked phones appear to remain unlocked following the jailbreak/update; however, this new jailbreak method will not unlock an iPhone — it will only update a previously jailbroken unit to version 1.1.3.

Update: Following the initial release of the iPhone 1.1.3 jailbreak software, the group responsible for most of the software’s development claimed that the software had been released against its wishes, and ejected the member responsible for the early release. iPhone Dev Team member Jonathan Zdziarski has posted an update on the situation, explaining that the initial release by former member Nate True “included both files belonging to Apple and patches which contain copyrighted information by Apple, making his personal release illegal and unethical.” The iPhone Dev Team has since released its official 1.1.3 jailbreak, which functions on both the iPhone and iPod touch, and is performed on the device itself. In addition, another jailbreak application, iJailBreak, has been released in both a computer-based form (iJailBreak), and in a device-centered form (iJailBreakMobile) which allows users of jailbroken iPhone and iPod touch units running firmware 1.1.1 or 1.1.2 to update their devices using Installer.app.

Analysis: One-third of iPhones sold to unlock

Based upon figures released by Apple and its iPhone partner companies, then analyzed by iLounge, up to 35% of iPhones sold to date may have been purchased with the intent to unlock. According to Apple, slightly over 3.7 million of the handsets were sold in 2007, while its primary service partner AT&T today announced that it ended the year with “just at or slightly under 2 million iPhone customers.” Additionally, though the phone’s European carriers O2, Orange, and T-Mobile have not released official iPhone sales figures, estimates place their unit sales at or below the low end of their targets, suggesting that cumulative European sales now total 300,000-400,000, for a liberal estimate of 2.4 million.

Even if all of these customers kept their iPhones locked to these carriers, this number would leave around 1.3 million iPhones unaccounted for—approximately 35% of total iPhone sales in 2007. Although it is possible that a large number of customers who received the devices over the holidays might not have activated them by the end of the year, the number would not likely push the overall percentage below 33%, or one-third of all iPhones sold during the year. In addition, not all iPhones sold in Europe were sold locked, as both Orange in France and T-Mobile in Germany offered unlocked versions of the phone, albeit at much higher prices than their locked counterparts. It is presently unknown as to how many of the officially unlocked phones were sold.

To date, Apple has been unable to supply a concrete metric on how many handsets were being sold with intent to unlock. However, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, speaking during the company’s Q1 Financial Results Conference Call, said that the company believed the number to be “significant.”

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