Apple has been awarded a United States patent covering the iPhone and its multi-touch interface. Patent no. 7,479,949, titled “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics,” details nearly every aspect of the iPhone’s graphical user interface across its 350+ pages. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is listed prominently among the patent’s inventors; the patent also gives Apple extra leverage in fighting off companies which copy iPhone features, as COO Tim Cook alluded to in last week’s Q1 2009 Conference Call. Given the breadth of the patent, however, it’s unclear how successful Apple will be in protecting specific aspects of the iPhone interface; the patent does not necessarily cover every single element disclosed therein.
During the company’s Q1 2009 Conference Call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and COO Tim Cook made several comments during the call relating to the company’s iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV businesses. According to Oppenheimer, customers love the sleek design and colors of the fourth-generation iPod nano. He also said the feature set and App Store have helped iPod touch establish as gaming, entertainment, and communications platform. According to the latest data from the NPD Group, iPod MP3 player marketshare is over 70% in the U.S., and gained in international markets as well, with marketshare of over 70% in the U.K. and Australia, over 60% in Japan, and over 50% in Canada.
The December quarter was the biggest ever for the iTunes Store, including the highest sales ever for Christmas day and week. Although the company had already reached its goal of selling 10 million iPhones in calendar 2008, Oppenheimer reiterated the fact, with Q1 sales pushing the total up to 13.7 million units. The phone was selling in over 70 countries by the end of the quarter, and recorded iPhone revenue was $1.25 billion for the quarter, compared with just $241 million in Q1 2008. Finally, the executives revealed that Apple TV unit sales were up almost 3x from the year-ago quarter, although the company still considers the product a hobby.
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Working together on behalf of the iPod and iPhone community, iLounge and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) today announced the historic official launch of the iLounge Pavilion, the first unified pavilion area for iPod and iPhone products to be offered at an International Consumer Electronics Show. Debuting at the 2010 CES, this pavilion will for the first time give iPod and iPhone vendors their own dedicated, prominent stage at the world’s largest trade show for consumer technology.
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T-Mobile Austria has reduced its pricing (Translated link) on the 8GB iPhone 3G, a possible hint at changes in store elsewhere for the basic model handset. The 8GB model is now priced at €1 when purchased with the €45/month supreme tariff, compared to €99 before the drop. In addition, the carrier is offering the first month at no fee, and an online ordering bonus of €45. This is the first carrier to offer a discount from its original pricing on the iPhone 3G; it is unclear whether other iPhone carriers plan to drop their prices on the smaller-capacity model as well. Apple bumped the maximum capacity of the original iPhone from 8GB to 16GB in February 2008.
Apple today announced iLife ‘09, the newest edition of its digital media management and creation suite. Introduced in iPhoto ‘09 is the ability to sync slideshows to the iPhone or iPod touch, complete with transitions, many of which are exclusive to the latest version of the program. The program also adds a “Places” feature that automatically imports photo location data from iPhone pictures. In addition, Garageband ‘09 adds a new dedicated section for iPhone ringtones. iLife ‘09 includes iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, iDVD, and Garageband, and will be available late this month for $79.
Electronics retailer Best Buy is now offering refurbished iPhone 3G units in its stores. Like the refurbished iPhones available from AT&T, Best Buy is offering 8GB refurbs for $149, and 16GB units for $249; a two-year service contract is required. “This is focusing on customers’ needs, trying to provide as wide a range of products and networks for our consumers,” said Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy Mobile. Apple has yet to offer refurbished iPhone 3G units directly from its retail or online stores.
A recently published Apple patent application shows that the company has been researching iPhone-friendly gloves. As cold-weather users of the iPhone or iPod touch may already know, the devices’ capacitive touch screens don’t work with most insulated gloves, as they block the electrical response needed to operate the screen. Apple’s patent filing describes a pair of gloves with a second inner layer that would simulate the electrical feedback of human fingers, and matching openings on each fingertip to allow the inner layer to be exposed when in use. 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 AppleInsider]
Following a ruling by the French Competition Council suspending the exclusivity agreement between Apple and France Telecom tying the iPhone to Orange in France, contract-free iPhone 3G units are now available from at least one other source. FNAC is now selling the black 8GB iPhone 3G for €799 (roughly $1,133) and the white 16GB model for €899 (~$1,275). It is unclear whether the handsets are unlocked, or simply sold without a contract but still tied to French carriers, and whether other French carriers plan to offer the handset as well.
AT&T has lowered its prices on refurbished iPhone 3G units for a limited time, bringing the initial price of the iPhone below $100 for the first time. The company is selling 8GB models for $99, while 16GB models see a similar discount to $199. AT&T’s site states that the lower prices will be available through December 31, after which they will return to $150 and $250, respectively. According to AT&T, all refurbished iPhone 3Gs carry a warranty of 90 days or more, and may have “minor scratches.”
As expected, Wal-Mart began selling iPhone 3Gs yesterday. The retailer is now offering the handset in roughly 2,500 stores, at prices of $197 for the 8GB model and $297 for 16GB versions. Wal-Mart is the second independent retailer and fourth overall to sell the iPhone 3G, following Best Buy, AT&T, and Apple.
According to the results of the latest ChangeWave smartphone survey, the iPhone’s market share jumped 6 points between September and December to 23%. RIM’s Blackberry phones continue to lead the market, although their market share dropped one point to 41%. For the first time since January’s survey, a higher percentage of respondents planning to purchase a smartphone in the next 90 days said they would buy a Blackberry instead of an iPhone, with 39% stating they planned to buy a RIM device compared to 30% who plan to purchase Apple’s smartphone. Interestingly, the survey also found initial consumer satisfaction ratings for Blackberry’s touchscreen-based iPhone rival Storm to be well below those of the original iPhone, or even the average for all Blackberry users. 33% of respondents said they were “very satisfied” with the Storm, compared to 77% for owners of the original iPhone, and 52% for all Blackberry users. ChangeWave’s survey was conducted on December 9-15 and included roughly 3,800 cell phone owners.
The French Competition Council has provisionally suspended the exclusivity agreement between Apple and France Telecom tying the iPhone to mobile operator Orange. The Council, whose decision should take effect from Thursday at the latest, called the network’s five-year exclusivity deal with Apple “clearly excessive” and said it risked “serious and immediate damage to competition on the mobile market and to consumers.” The ruling would allow customers to buy the iPhone from rival operators SFR and Bouygues Telecom in time for the holidays. France Telecom has said it intends to appeal the decision, which it says “places France in a radically different position” than Britain, Germany and Spain, where Apple has also signed exclusivity deals.
AT&T has begun offering refurbished iPhone 3G units through its online store. The company is charging $150 for the 8GB model, while both the black and white 16GB models sell for $250. As with normal, non-refurbished units, these refurbs require a two-year contract. The move follows last week’s quiet launch of online sales for new iPhone 3G units from AT&T’s website. Apple has yet to offer the iPhone 3G, either new or refurbished, through its online store in the U.S.
Speaking at a recent Apple Developer Connection iPhone Tech Talk, John Geleynse, Director of Technology Evangelism for the company, has suggested that the iPhone is now a game console-quality platform. Speaking on behalf of Apple, Geleynse referred to the iPhone as a “gaming console,” adding that “it’s not a phone, it’s a console experience.” Geleynse’s comments come on the heels of Apple efforts to position the iPhone and iPod touch as gaming devices in recent months, beginning with the release of the company’s television ad for the second-generation iPod touch and continuing with select Apple retail store previews of upcoming Electronic Arts games. Apple Vice President of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing Greg Joswiak suggested in an interview that, “as we look at it, to us it really seems this is the future of gameplay. Whereas a lot of these devices [Nintendo DS and Sony PSP] are more in the past. And a big part of that is not just the device itself, which is easier to carry, and has the touch display and accelerometer which is great for gameplay, but it’s the electronic distribution of the apps as well.”
AT&T has quietly begun selling the iPhone 3G through its website. The move to offer the handset online is the first time it’s been available online in the United States, although it is sold online in other regions such as Hong Kong and Italy where the handset is available unlocked. Like with online sales of the first-generation iPhone, iPhone 3G units purchased online will need to go through an in-home activation process before use. The online ordering process includes credit and number portability checks for new customers, similar to pre-purchase screening tools launched by Apple and AT&T earlier this year. In addition, customers can choose to speak with an AT&T representative via online chat. AT&T shows eight days remaining for customers to order in time to receive their iPhone 3Gs by Christmas, and is offering free overnight shipping with each order. Apple has yet to begin offering the iPhone 3G online through its own store.
Following a report stating that Wal-Mart would begin offering the iPhone 3G on December 28, multiple new reports have confirmed the development, while a separate report indicates that the handset will start at $197. Both Bloomberg and the San Jose Mercury News have been able to confirm with multiple Wal-Mart stores that they will soon offer the iPhone. “It’s going to be very soon,” said Mark Blome, store manager of a Wal-Mart in Fremont, CA. “Originally they were going to release it before Christmas, but they can’t get them that fast to us.” Meanwhile, Mac Rumors has received an image from a Wal-Mart training materials and advertising computer, showing a flyer for the iPhone 3G with a price of $197. Neither Apple nor Wal-Mart has yet to make an official announcement on the matter.
Apple’s new Earphones and In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic are only partially compatible with the iPhone and iPhone 3G, according to a recently-posted Apple support document. The Knowledge Base article titled “Compatibility of wired headset models with iPod and iPhone models” explains that while the remote, microphone, and volume control features of the new headphones are compatible with the 120GB iPod classic, iPod nano 4G, and iPod touch 2G, the volume controls will not work with iPhone or iPhone 3G — only the playback remote and microphone. As previously revealed on the headphones’ product page, earlier iPod models will be compatible with audio only. Both the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic and In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic are available for order now from the Apple Store online, and are listed as shipping in 3-4 weeks and 7-10 days, respectively.
Apple has released iPhone Configuration Utility 1.1 for Mac OS X and Windows. The utility allows enterprise users to create configuration profiles which can then be used to setup multiple iPhones. Configuration profiles contain “device security policies, VPN configuration information, Wi-Fi settings, APN settings, Exchange account settings, mail settings, and certificates” that allow the devices to work with enterprise systems. iPhone Configuration Utility 1.1 for Mac and Windows is available now as a free download from Apple’s website. [via Mac Rumors]
A number of iPhone users on Apple’s discussion boards are reporting problems with 3G network speeds and battery life issues following the installation of Software 2.2. Interestingly, while the battery life issues seem to be widespread in terms of geographic area, the majority of users complaining of slow 3G speeds are concentrated in the Orange Country area of Southern California, suggesting the problem may stem from an issue with that area’s network. For users experiencing the 3G slowdown, reports indicate that while they see full or close to full 3G coverage, and calls work fine, data connections are apparently extremely slow, being described by one user as “slower than EDGE.”
Meanwhile, a separate group of users complaining of greatly reduced battery life are reporting standby times of less than 10 hours, but not all users appear to be experiencing the problem. In addition, a user claiming to be an iPhone developer has responded in a separate 2.2 battery life thread, claiming that the problem may be related to an issue with Safari, in which the iPhone fails to properly close its network connection upon exit, causing the device to physically heat up, and also leading to reduced battery life. In this instance, both the developer and other users claim that quitting Safari by holding down the home button has successfully restored their battery life.
Despite the fact that all of Apple’s iPhone OS devices use similar ARM processors, the second-generation iPod touch has been revealed as the fastest model thanks to a boost in speed from 412MHz to 532MHz. Thomas Fessler, CEO of Handheld Games Corp, has said that the performance of its TouchSports Tennis game is noticeably different across models, with the second-generation iPod touch being the fastest “by far.” Speaking with Touch Arcade, Fessler said, “Our first step to increase fps performance was to introduce hardware dependent levels of detail. Where we can easily display two 1500 polygon tennis players with 32 bones each on the iPod touch 2G and maintain fast and fluid game play, the original iPod touch just chokes, and in some instances so do the iPhones. To speed up the touch, we reduced the players to 800 polygons in farther away moments of gameplay, and are now using 1000 polygon models for close ups, bringing the original iPod touch game play performance level close to that of the iPhone 3G.” As Apple has not disclosed differences between the hardware in its pocket devices, it remains to be seen whether performance variations such as this will remain tappable by developers after future software updates.