Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile-phone company, has announced that it’s signed an agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone in 10 of its markets starting later in 2008. Vodafone will offer the phone in Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, India, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa, and Turkey. In a separate announcement, Telecom Italia also said it will sell the iPhone in Italy by the end of the year, making it the first country to be officially announced with no carrier exclusivity agreement in place, a change from Apple’s past iPhone business model. “This is definitely a sign Apple is capitulating,” Will Draper, an analyst at Execution, said. “The initial model was that Apple would give the iPhone to a network on an exclusive basis, but in Europe, where you have the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson selling sophisticated 3G devices, the iPhone simply isn’t seen as such a premium product.” The ten countries named in the announcement represent a total population of more than 1.4 billion people.
The latest beta version of iPhone Software Version 2.0 includes a new handwriting recognition interface for the Chinese language. According to reports, build 5A258f of the 2.0 software adds several new Chinese input methods to the international keyboard settings menu, including handwriting recognition. “Unfortunately, handwriting recognition is only available in Chinese (Traditional and Simplified) and doesn’t support English,” said Kenneth, the iPhone user who discovered the new input options. Screenshots of the new interface (Translated link) show it functioning in both portrait and landscape modes, allowing the user to draw a symbol on the screen with his/her finger. The user then selects the correct character from a column of possible character matches that appears to the right of the input area. Apple has previously said it plans to release iPhone Software 2.0 in late June.
T-Mobile has said it will soon be offering the 3G iPhone, according to Austrian newspaper Der Standard. T-Mobile reportedly made the announcement at a press conference in Vienna, saying that the phone would soon be available and adding that Austria will be a test market for the new handset, making it one of the first countries to receive the new phone. Pricing for the 3G iPhone is said to be more “flexible” than current offerings. Although no other reports of the press conference have yet been discovered online, fscklog.com did receive a reply on the matter from T-Mobile Austria, which said (translated): “Yes, we plan to bring the iPhone with UMTS-support to market, but can’t and are not allowed to say when yet.” Apple launched the iPhone in Austria in March.
The Associated Press and more than 100 of its member newspapers have launched the Mobile News Network, a new web-based news portal for the iPhone, iPod touch, and other mobile devices. The portal offers local news from participating member newspapers and national and international news from AP, as well as sports and entertainment coverage, all organized by ZIP code. Announced in April, the service now has 107 newspapers participating, up from 18 at the time of the announcement. Member papers include The Miami Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We are excited to offer the first comprehensive mobile news web app and to have been selected by Apple as a Staff Pick. With a new generation of mobile devices on the market, like the iPhone, the time is right for AP to introduce a product that brings together our members’ local news brands with AP’s unrivaled coverage of international and national events,” said Jane Seagrave, AP’s senior vice president of global product development. To access the Mobile News Network, simply visit apnews.com from an iPhone or iPod touch.
Apple has begun sending out acceptance letters to some international developers informing them of their acceptance into the iPhone Developer Program. According to a TUAW report, UK-based developers must pay a £59 fee to join the program, while U.S.-based developers are charged $99. The fees in other parts of the world are still unknown. The for-pay iPhone Development Program gives developers access to beta builds of iPhone software, the ability to test code directly on an iPhone or iPod touch, includes the generation of a digital certificate that will identify the company when its applications are published, and the ability to sell your applications through the App Store.
French-language iPhone blog iPhon.fr has published two photos (Translated link) that purport to show an upcoming version of the iPhone. Concurring with information some overseas developers have been circulating, the photos depict a nearly all-black device, with what appears to be a 3.5-inch screen and home button on the front, and an Apple logo and iPhone markings on the back. The device’s rear appears to be plastic, with a smaller, thinner metallic front bezel, different, more Blackbery-like curves, and other details differentiating the new model from the current-generation iPhone. Additional new features remain unclear from the images, and as always, their authenticity should be viewed as questionable until Apple makes an official announcement.
Update: A reader points out that the device’s curves are identical to the LG Vu, strongly suggesting that the images are Photoshopped fakes.
AT&T has begun offering free Wi-Fi to iPhone-using customers at some of its Wi-Fi hotspot locations, according to several reports. When a participating AT&T Wi-Fi network is accessed by an iPhone user, a specially-formatted page appears offering “Free AT&T Wi-Fi for iPhone.” iPhone users must enter their mobile phone number to gain access, likely indicating that users must also be AT&T customers in order to log on. In its recent announcement of the Wi-Fi partnership with Starbucks, AT&T said it would “soon extend the benefits of Wi-Fi at Starbucks to its wireless customers,” but has yet to make any further announcement concerning Wi-Fi access for iPhone users. It is currently unclear whether this service is being offered at all AT&T hotspots, or just specific locations. A full list of AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots can be found on the company’s site.
A group of Russian leaders were recently seen passing around an iPhone at a business conference, the latest indicator of Russian interest in the phone, according to a new report. Citing a journalist attending the conference, the Washington Post reports that Dmitry Kozak, the Russian minister of regional development, was seen showing the device to Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president-elect, and Alexander Tkachev, the local governor. According to Eldar Murtazin, head of analysis for Mobile Research Group in Moscow, there are approximately 500,000 iPhone users in Russia—a number that seems overly optimistic, as it would dwarf Apple’s sanctioned sales in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and German. Murtazin claims that iPhone sales in the country are third-highest in the world, after the U.S. and China, adding, “Russian people love anything that is forbidden.” The report goes on to state the iPhone has become commonplace at the Kremlin and in Russia’s parliament, and is now widely available at electronics stores and through Internet sales across the former Soviet Union.
AT&T plans to subsidize as much as $200 of the price of the 3G iPhone, according to a Fortune report. Citing a person “familiar with the strategy,” the report states that the subsidy would bring the price of the base-model 3G iPhone to $199 for customers who sign two-year contracts, a price that would help AT&T lure more customers away from rival carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Subsidized iPhones will reportedly be available only through AT&T and not at Apple Stores, and may feature more robust locking techniques in hopes of preventing customers from using the cheaper phones with other services or carriers. The report goes on to say that Apple will cease shipments of the current-generation iPhone roughly two weeks before the 3G iPhone’s likely June 27 debut, and that the new model will be 2.5mm thinner than the original, and will sport true GPS capabilities, as well.
AT&T has announced its new Text Accessibility Plan (TAP) for iPhone, designed to give customers with disabilities access to all the iPhone’s non-voice communication abilities without having to pay for voice service. The plan will include unlimited text messaging, web browsing and e-mail for $40 a month, and is available to new and current iPhone users with qualifying disabilities through AT&T’s National Center for Customers with Disabilities. “Our Text Accessibility Plan allows customers who are deaf or have hearing or speech disabilities to literally tap out their communications on the go,” said Carlton Hill, vice president of Product Management, Voice Products and Affiliate Marketing for AT&T’s wireless unit. “Now with TAP for iPhone, users can tap, flick and pinch the innovative Multi-Touch touch screen for a completely new world of functionality.” For more information about AT&T’s NCCD or other offerings for customers with disabilities, visit the company’s disability resources web page; Apple also offers a page explaining the accessibility features of the iPhone.
Following yesterday’s report that Hon Hai has been instructed by Apple to begin preparing material supplies for the 3G iPhone, the Taiwan Economic News has printed a story containing supposed specifications of the new handset. According to the report, the new iPhone will weigh between 3.9 and 4.2 oz., compared with the current model’s weight of 5.6 oz. A new plastic casing is said to help with the weight reduction, along with a new, smaller LCD screen measuring 2.8 inches, down from the current iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen. As a screen size reduction of this sort would likely impact use of the touchscreen for keyboard-style input, it is possible that these reports refer to a separate, smaller “iPhone mini” or “iPhone nano” model, rather than a complete successor to the original iPhone. [via AppleInsider]
After more than a year of rumors, Rogers Wireless has confirmed that it will offer the iPhone in Canada, and will launch the handset later this year. Ted Rogers, President and CEO of Rogers Communications, said in an official statement: “We’re thrilled to announce that we have a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to Canada later this year. We can’t tell you any more about it right now, but stay tuned.” Rogers Wireless is the largest Canadian wireless communications service provider.
Update: Toronto’s CityNews has posted a video of Rogers’ announcement, as well as some interviews and commentary .
Following an inspection of code found in the latest build of the iPhone 2.0 beta firmware, Apple appears to be working on a new mobile iTunes management application, possibly called “Remote,” for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the code and information allegedly provided by a developer to TUAW, the application would allow the devices to connect wirelessly to, and play videos, podcasts, and music from local iTunes libraries. Screenshots taken of the program and its internal code (Translated Link) show that the program may have been developed under the name “MobileRemote,” matching the internal names of other iPhone and iPod touch applications, such as “MobileMail,” “MobileSafari,” and “MobileAddressBook.”
UK cellular retailer Carphone Warehouse has sent out an email indicating that it is out of 8GB iPhones, and does not expect to be restocked. The email, sent to publishers running a promotion for the recent price cut on the 8GB model, says: “Thanks to the most phenomenal response to the promotion, The Carphone Warehouse is now out of stock on the Apple iPhone. Please can you remove all reference to the iPhone promotion in your copy. We apologize for the short notice but would like to thank everyone who participated in the campaign. Carphone do not expect to receive any additional stock at this time.” An earlier report indicated that the price cut had boosted sales, with O2 locations in Newcastle, Birmingham, and London reporting sell-outs of the 8GB model, and one Carphone Warehouse employee indicating that sales had “doubled” since the promotion began. [via Fortune]
Update: According to an internal O2 memo received by Engadget, the 8GB iPhone has been moved to end-of-life status by the UK iPhone carrier. “Due to the highly successful sales of the Apple 8GB I-Phone [sic], supply chain have today run out of stock & will not be replenishing stock of this product as it has now gone to end of life,” the memo states.
UK iPhone carrier O2’s move to temporarily lower the 8GB iPhone’s price by £100 has boosted sales, according to a Mobile Today report. O2 stores in Newcastle, Birmingham, and London said they sold out of the 8GB model on the day the price cuts; the stores are expecting more iPhones to be delivered this weekend. An employee at Carphone Warehouse’s flagship Oxford Street store said sales had doubled, from 30 to 60 iPhones per day, while another Warehouse employee added: “We usually sell one or two a day, but yesterday we sold about 20 – it was like launch day again.” The price reduction, which was announced last week, applies to all 8GB iPhones purchased with an O2 iPhone tariff, and will run through June 1.
Italian carrier Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) is set to launch the 3G iPhone in June, according to a new report. La Repubblica, a well-respected Italian daily, claims (Translated Link) the Italian selling price of the 3G iPhone may be substantially higher due to the lack of a revenue sharing agreement, and that TIM would begin carrying the phone several months before competitors in lieu of long-term exclusivity. It is unclear whether a change of this sort in carrier strategy by Apple would be a result of apparently slower than expected iPhone sales in Europe that have led to recent price-cuts on the phone in the UK and Germany. Evidence of a potential iPhone deal with TIM has notably been found in the device’s firmware, dating back to version 1.1.2, however, the iPhone still has not officially launched in Italy. [via Engadget]
European iPhone carriers are facing “significant losses” on unsold first-generation iPhone stocks as they attempt to clear shelves for the arrival of the 3G model, according to The Times Online, which reports that both O2 in the UK and T-Mobile in Germany overestimated the number of iPhone units that would sell in Europe. Kathryn Huberty, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, said losses on the early model would be “significant” due to recent price cuts announced by both companies, despite the promise of monthly revenue from new iPhone customers. The article suggests the cuts are part of a move to empty inventories ahead of the 3G iPhone launch, which expected later this year. An O2 spokeswoman, however, said the price cut was “not a reactive move but part of a well thought out strategy of maximizing the success of the iPhone in the UK.” As we reported earlier, Orange, the iPhone’s carrier in France, is said to be in talks with Apple over similar price cuts for the iPhone; neither O2 Ireland or T-Mobile Austria yet appear to be involved in the proposed cuts.
Apple and Orange are in talks to lower the price of the iPhone in France, according to a report from French business daily Les Echos. Citing a source close to Orange, the article says that Apple is encouraging Orange to adopt the subsidized pricing model, currently being used by O2 in the UK and T-Mobile Germany to sell iPhones with mobile contracts, in order to boost sales. Orange is said to be seeking a revision in its revenue-sharing agreement with Apple in return for subsidizing the phone; however, the company told Les Echos there was “no question of changing the business model of the iPhone,” adding that “everything is going well.” According to the report, sales of the iPhone in France have reached 100,000 units since its launch on November 29, 2007.
Apple has expanded its list of iPhone-related sessions for its Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held June 9-13 in the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Technical sessions and labs scheduled for the event now include “Audio Development for iPhone,” “iPhone Game Development Lab,” and “How Do I Do That? Tips and Tricks for iPhone Application Development.” Apple has also posted details of two Apple Design Awards for iPhone developers — the iPhone Developer Showcase award “highlights innovative and compelling new iPhone applications built using the Beta iPhone SDK,” while the Best iPhone Web Application award “highlights web applications designed specifically for Safari on iPhone, which offers iPhone users innovative, compelling, valuable, and highly desirable capabilities.” Both awards will be presented during the June event.
AOL has officially launched the beta version of AOL Mobile Search created specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch. Previewed at the CITA event earlier this month, the iPhone/iPod touch version of Mobile Search was built especially for the devices’ multi-touch interface using AJAX technology. According to the company, it “delivers comprehensive and relevant search results by bringing together content from across the Web and the mobile Web, as well as from Moviefone, MapQuest, AOL CityGuide and other AOL services.” Users can now access AOL Mobile Search for iPhone by visiting search.aol.com from any iPhone or iPod touch.