Apple has announced that it will be keeping all 164 of its retail stores open until midnight tomorrow, June 29, for the launch of the iPhone, and providing online availability information from its retail store’s web site. Beginning Saturday, and continuing through the summer, Apple Stores in the US will open daily at 9:00 a.m. for iPhone sales, and eager iPhone customers will be able to check their local stores’ iPhone availability beginning at 9:00 p.m. the night before. iPhones will also be available for online purchase from Apple’s web site starting at 6PM on the 29th, with free shipping.
Purchases of the iPhone will be limited to two per person, on a first come, first served basis, unlike the one per person limits imposed at AT&T stores. Support for the new handset will be provided at the each Apple Store’s Genius Bar, and personal training will be offered through Apple’s new One on One program. Beginning Saturday morning, free, in-depth workshops on how to get the most out of iPhone will be offered throughout the day at all stores.
“Apple retail stores were created for this moment—to let customers touch and experience a revolutionary new product,” said Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail. “With our legendary Genius Bar support, free workshops and our One to One personal training, we’re here to help customers get the most from their new iPhone.”
The retail box for the iPhone has made an appearance online in a video review of the handset from USA Today‘s Ed Baig. The box, which is black in color, features a picture of the iPhone on the front, and “iPhone” in metallic print on the side, along with Apple’s standard 4GB or 8GB box denotation. The top features an Apple logo, while the backside is filled with small print, bar codes, and an AT&T logo. As we reported earlier today, the box contains the iPhone, Dock, USB Power Adapter, a Stereo Headset (earphones with microphone), Dock Connector to USB Cable, cleaning cloth, and documentation. Keep reading for screen captures of the box taken from the video.
Apple has posted a new iPhone Questions and Answers page, which confirms several iPhone security features, as well as displays a photo of a new variant of the iPhone Dock, which charges both the Apple Bluetooth Headset as well as the iPhone and will reportedly be included with the headset. The iPhone will allow users to protect their iPhone with a four digit password, which is then required whenever iPhone is turned on or wakes from sleep, as well as offer support for virtual private networking (VPN). Finally, the page gives specifics on Windows compatibility, stating “iPhone works with Windows 2000 (SP4), Windows XP Home or Professional (SP2), and Windows Vista.”
In an update to its technical specifications page for the iPhone, Apple today confirmed that the iPhone will come packaged with a Dock and USB Power Adapter, similar to now long since discontinued $499 and $599 iPods, as well as a Stereo Headset (earphones with microphone), Dock Connector to USB Cable, cleaning cloth, and documentation. iTunes 7.3 will be required for the device, and available as a separate download from the Apple web site.
Apple has also disclosed that iPhone will support video playback at rates identical to the iPod’s, with a maximum of 640x480 pixels in MPEG-4 or H.264-formats. This disclosure puts to rest speculation that iPhone might be capable of playing Apple TV-formatted videos, or at least true DVD-quality videos, upon release. As with the fifth-generation iPod, however, these specifications may be improved in a future software update.
In a newly added iPhone frequently asked questions (FAQ) page of its site, AT&T today published a number of contract terms important to prospective iPhone buyers. Notably, the FAQ discloses both a 10% open box restock fee for returned iPhones and a limited 14-day return policy, shorter than the 30-day return policies often offered for mobile phones. There is no restocking fee for unopened iPhones. AT&T also notes that iPhone ships with a SIM card pre-installed in its removable tray, and that the phone “must be activated before it can be used” regardless of whether you already have an AT&T SIM card.
Most interesting is the fact that iPhone is not covered by AT&T’s optional wireless phone insurance program, which offers replacements for damaged or defective AT&T phones during the life of your service agreement. “iPhone is ineligible for the Wireless Phone Insurance program offered to AT&T customers,” says the FAQ. “iPhone is covered by the Apple Warranty. If you have Wireless Phone Insurance from AT&T, it will be removed from your line of service.” Additional questions for current AT&T customers are also answered in the FAQ.
Vodafone appears to be a leading candidate to become the iPhone’s carrier in Europe, according to a recent Credit Suisse research note. The investment bank believes that the carrier would represent a good bet for Apple because of its presence in most European markets, reports ZDNet Asia. Mike Grant, consultant at research firm Analysys, agrees — but only if the European iPhone contains 3G technology. “If Apple waits until [the iPhone’s] a 3G phone, then yes, I would say Vodafone is absolutely the frontrunner. It would be a perfect match,” said Grant. Vodafone’s main competition for the phone is Deutsche Telekom, according to Credit Suisse, who expects around six million European iPhone units to be sold in the first three years.
Apple has posted a new iPhone video, “iPhone keyboard,” that offers tips on learning how to properly use the touchscreen-based input device. During the video, Apple makes several suggestions on how to learn and adapt to the virtual keyboard. When you first begin typing on iPhone, Apple recommends that users employ only one index finger, be deliberate with their finger taps, and pay particular attention to the confirmation pop-ups. The video also shows how to handle different situations, such as moving the cursor in a text entry area. Apple claims “in less than a week, users will likely find themselves typing faster on the iPhone than on any other small keyboard.”
Apple may be in talks with Microsoft to license its Exchange ActiveSync protocol in order to make the iPhone compatible with Exchange Server, reports Mary Jo Foley for ZDNet. The lack of compatibility with Exchange Server has been a major issue for IT departments, and has been widely reported in so-called iPhone backlash articles. Foley claims that her sources say that Apple will soon announce that it has licensed the protocol, although details on when it would be implemented on the iPhone are not given. Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff says the deal would make sense, stating, “Apple and Microsoft would sign a deal to incorporate ActiveSync into the iPhone, just as Nokia, Motorola, and PalmOne are doing. So this wouldn’t be anything new from Microsoft’s perspective, just a deal with a new telephone handset maker — Apple.”
In additional reviews published today, Newsweek’s Steven Levy and USA Today’s Edward C. Baig praised Apple’s iPhone as a lust-worthy, fun, and impressive new device. Levy described the device as “the rare convergence device where things actually converge,” praising everything from its packaging to its easy setup, “stunning 3.5-inch display,” and Internet features. He notes that you can “merge up to five conversations into a conference,” and cites the web browsing experience as iPhone’s best feature. However, Levy cited the unit’s EDGE speed, 200-message SMS limitation, and e-mail glitches as problems, and suggested that it wasn’t a replacement iPod for many types of users. “In the future—when the iPhone has more applications and offers more performance, with a lower price—buyers will find even more value. So smart consumers may well wait for that day. But meanwhile they can only look with envy” as others are enjoying the phone.
Baig rated the iPhone 3.5 out of 4, praising the widescreen iPod and Cover Flow features, the simplicity of the phone and visual voicemail, and the “fun” of using the keyboard and interface once you get used to them. He knocked the data speeds on EDGE, the limited storage capacity, and pricing, as well as some of the device’s limitations, such as its inability to use iTunes music as ringtones and its lack of a replaceable battery. Baig also noted that music playback once locked up in an endless loop, requiring a restart, and noted his displeasure that old earphones he used couldn’t work with iPhone, and that stereo Bluetooth wireless audio is not supported.
Near-simultaneously released with Walt Mossberg’s review, The New York Times has published a review by David Pogue of Apple’s iPhone, offering a mix of strong praise for the phone’s multimedia features and interface, and blistering criticism for its AT&T-provided data services and keyboard.
Pogue’s review describes the phone’s size and software as sleek and beautiful, noting that its screen “doesn’t scratch easily” and didn’t have a mark on the body after two weeks of unprotected use. However, he noted that the screen’s glass gets “smudgy,” and noted slightly-lower-than-Apple battery run times of 5 hours of video, 23 hours of audio. Video quality was described as “spectacular” on the 3.5” “very-high-resolution screen.” Pogue loved the web browser, e-mail, and iPod features, but said that call quality was “only average,” depending on the strength of AT&T’s signal, and requiring too many steps to initiate from a locked phone situation. For these reasons and others, he said that “the iPhone is amazing,” but “no, it’s not perfect.”
In addition to complaints about the keyboard, which is “not the iPhone’s strong suit,” and the AT&T network, which was described as poor in both rankings and real-world testing, Pogue decried the lack of a memory card slot, chat program, voice dialing, third-party applications, Java, Flash, video capture, MMS, or a user-replaceable battery. He said that the EDGE network is “excruciatingly slow,” with multi-minute load times for common pages such as Amazon.com and Yahoo. “You almost ache for a dial-up modem.” It also noted “a couple of tiny bugs and one freeze,” but said that software updates, and “a future iPhone model” that “will be able to exploit AT&T’s newer, much faster data network,” will remedy some of these issues.
In his review of the iPhone, Wall Street Journal writer Walt Mossberg, along with Katherine Boehret, gave the device a glowing review, claiming that it was a “beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer.” “Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer,” Mossberg said. “Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well.” Mossberg, who had previously expressed concern over the device’s virtual keyboard, found it to quite usable. “The iPhone’s most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism… It isn’t for the average person who just wants a cheap, small phone for calling and texting. But, despite its network limitations, the iPhone is a whole new experience and a pleasure to use.”
As one of a couple of noteworthy inconsistencies in Apple’s iPhone Activation & Sync video, a screen showing activation of the AT&T iPhone Plan offers a $79.99 alternative with 900 weekday minutes, unlimited data services, and 1500 SMS Text Messages—different from today’s announced plan, shown in another part of the video, which offers only 200 SMS Text Messages at the base $79.99 price, with a $10 charge to upgrade to 1500 SMS messages. The 1500 SMS screen appears at 02:55 in the video.
Readers have also pointed out that one cropped screen displays 74.40GB of usable storage capacity for iPhone, versus the 7.24GB initially shown as available. This error is most certainly based upon the storage capacity of an 80GB iPod, and does not reflect a current iPhone model.
Apple has updated its retail store page to indicate that its stores will be closing at 2:00 p.m. on June 29 to prepare for the iPhone launch. The page sports a graphic stating “The wait is almost over. iPhone. Coming Friday, June 29 at 6:00 p.m.” Underneath the graphic is the following message: “Apple retail stores will be closed on June 29 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. to get ready for the premiere of iPhone. We’ll open the doors again at 6:00 p.m., when you can be one of the first to see, try, and buy the iPhone. Be sure to arrive early — iPhone is available on a first-come, first-served basis.”
In addition to their publicized disclosure of iPhone plan prices for individual customers, AT&T and Apple have also released pricing details for family phone users and existing AT&T customers. Family plans start at $80 and all have unlimited night and weekend minutes, 200 SMS Text Messages, and the same unlimited data features as individual plans. The $80 plan includes 700 minutes, while $100 (1400 minutes), $120 (2100 minutes), $160 (3000 minutes), $210 (4000 minutes), and $310 (6000 minutes) plans offer correspondingly more time.
The company also added that existing voice plan customers can add an iPhone data service plan for an additional $20 per month with 200 SMS Text Messages. Paying $10 more ($30 total) will increase the SMS number to 1500, or $20 more ($40 total) will increase the SMS number to unlimited.
Apple has posted a new iPhone video entitled “Activation & Sync,” covering the steps users will take to setup and sync the device. The video contains a few new details on the iPhone and how it will work with iTunes. During account activation, the video shows a spot for an AT&T “Pre-approved credit check code” which implies that those who need to make other arrangements (such as a co-signatory) will probably be given a number by AT&T that bypasses the normal credit check process based on an authorization already stored in AT&T’s system. It also appears that there will be 7.23GB of free space on a new 8GB iPhone. Absent from the iPhone’s iTunes Summary tab are options for “Enable Disk Use” and Manual Mode, but it does include options for “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” and “Only sync checked items.”
The “Info” tab in iTunes includes settings for Address Book, Calendar, Mail Accounts, and Bookmark settings. The Address Book settings include Yahoo as a sync option, while the Calendar section has an option “Put new events created on this phone into…” which suggests that the iPhone may not directly support multiple calendars. The Sync Mail Accounts option lets you sync account settings, not necessarily account data, while the Sync Safari Bookmarks will sync your bookmarks from Safari on a Mac, or Safari or IE on Windows. Little is different in the Music, Photos, Podcasts, and Videos tabs compared to syncing an iPod, but notably absent are tabs for “Games” and “Ringtones,” which may suggest that ringtones cannot currently be replaced.
In a small footnote to its announcement of rate plans on the Apple.com web site, Apple today disclosed that a “Minimum new 2-year wireless service plan and activation fee” are “required to activate iPhone features, including iPod;” the first time that the company has suggested that iPhone’s iPod functionality may be limited for those who are not subscribers to AT&T’s services. It is unclear whether iPhone will continue to work as an iPod, or as an Internet data device, once someone ceases to be an AT&T customer.
AT&T and Apple have revealed six service plans for the iPhone. All three plans include unlimited data, Visual Voicemail, 200 SMS text messages, rollover minutes, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling. The first plan, priced a $60 a month, includes 450 anytime minutes and 5000 night and weekend minutes. The second, which runs $80 a month, includes 900 anytime minutes and unlimited night and weekend minutes. The third plan offers 1350 anytime minutes and unlimited night and weekend minutes, at a price of $100 a month. Plans four, five, and six offer 2000, 4000, or 6000 minutes for $119.99, $169.99, or $219.99, with unlimited night and weekend minutes. All plans are based on a new two-year service agreement with AT&T, and include a one-time activation fee of $36. Family plans are also available.
“We want to make choosing a service plan simple and easy, so every plan includes unlimited data with direct Internet access, along with Visual Voicemail and a host of other goodies,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think these three plans give customers the flexibility to experience all of iPhone’s revolutionary features at affordable and competitive prices.” Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO, AT&T said, “AT&T has invested more than 16 billion dollars in its wireless network between 2005 and 2007, and iPhone customers will enjoy the best voice and data network in the nation.”
Apple and AT&T have announced that iPhone users will be able to activate their handsets using iTunes, instead of traditional in-store activation. iTunes will guide users through steps to choose a service plan, authorize their credit and activate their iPhone. Once activation is complete, users can then use iTunes to sync their contact information, calendars, email accounts, web browser bookmarks, music, photos, podcasts, TV shows and movies to the iPhone just like an iPod. “Users will be able to activate their new iPhone in the comfort and privacy of their own home or office, without having to wait in a store while their phone is activated,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “There are tens of millions of people in the US who already know how to sync their iPods with iTunes, and syncing their new iPhone with iTunes works the same way.” Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO, AT&T, added, “iPhone’s innovative activation and sync is just one example of how this is going to be a real industry game-changer.”
The iPhone may provide as much as $200 million in extra revenue for Apple on launch day, according to TheStreet.com. Using estimates of 200 units per store and an average selling price of $550 — it is still unknown whether there will be equal amounts of 4GB and 8GB available — along with the hard number of 1,962 stores carrying the device, a sell-out of 392,000 units would generate $216 million in revenue for Apple on June 29, not including online sales. Apple has previously announced that it will adopt a subscription-style revenue accounting system for the device.
Another executive of a major cellular phone manufacturer has voiced a vote of support for the iPhone. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Brian Stech, director of global marketing for Motorola’s phone division, said, “Really, the iPhone benefits the entire industry.” Stech believes that the iPhone will drive sales and customer awareness in the smartphone segment. Some analysts, however, believe that it will be later, more affordably-priced iPhone models that have the biggest effect. “When the iPhone Nano comes out at $120, everyone is in big trouble,” said John Jackson, a Yankee Group analyst. The report also claims that the iPhone will allow direct, over-the-air downloads of iTunes-purchased media to the device, although neither Apple nor AT&T have made such an announcement.