Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), Bharti Airtel, Globe Telecom, and SingTel subsidiary Optus have announced they have reached deals with Apple to offer the iPhone in their respective markets later in 2008. SingTel will offer the phone in Singapore, Bharti Airtel in India, Globe Telecom in the Philippines, and Optus in Australia. The announcement of Bharti in India and Optus in Australia also makes these the second and third confirmed non-exclusive iPhone country carriers, behind Telecom Italia Mobile in Italy, as Vodafone will offer the handset in all three markets later this year. StarHub, Singapore’s second-largest telecom firm behind SingTel, said it expects all three mobile operators in the area — SingTel, StarHub and MobileOne — to be offering the phone by the end of the year.
Citing a source within Swisscom, a new report (Translated link) from French-language Le Martin Online indicates the company has reached an agreement with Apple to offer the iPhone in Switzerland later this summer. With over five million subscribers, Swisscom is the country’s largest mobile carrier; a prior report indicated there are already over 34,000 active iPhones operating in Switzerland.
Following the brief appearance of “Free AT&T Wi-Fi for iPhone” pages at some AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots, the US iPhone carrier has officially listed Wi-Fi access as being included with iPhone rate plans. The company’s iPhone web site now states “Plans start at $59.99 and include Visual Voicemail, Unlimited Data (email and web), 200 SMS text messages and access to AT&T’s more than 17,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, including Starbucks* all for use in the U.S. *Wi-Fi available at U.S. company operated Starbucks locations equipped with a hotspot.” An AT&T representative had previously declined to comment on the appearance of the free Wi-Fi pages, but it now appears an official announcement on the service is imminent. [via Mac Rumors]
Update: Following the publication of this news, AT&T removed all mention of the Wi-Fi service from the iPhone site.
América Móvil, the largest mobile network operator in Latin America with more than 150 million subscribers, has said it will sell the iPhone across the region later this year, according to a Reuters report. Subsidiaries of Móvil include Telcel in Mexico, Claro in Brazil, Chile, and other nations, Comcel Colombia in Columbia, and Porta in Ecuador. This news follows a string of international iPhone announcements, which have Vodafone offering the handset in ten different countries and TIM offering the phone alongside Vodafone in Italy, marking the first non-exclusive iPhone country carrier. [via Fortune]
France Telecom, the parent company of French iPhone carrier Orange, is in talks with Apple to sell the handset in other countries. France Telecom CFO Gervais Pellissier said the company is negotiations regarding “more than just two countries” when asked whether the company was hoping to secure iPhone deals for Spain and Poland. “It’s in discussion…we’ll see what the results are,” he said. Pellissier also said France Telecom was pleased with the success of its deal with Apple thus far, and that he expects the 3G iPhone to boost sales in France, where the company has exclusive rights for another two and a half years.
Apple plans to begin selling the upcoming 3G iPhone in some European countries by or before August, according to a New York Times report. Citing a person close to the situation, the article starts with an August target date for the release, then states that Apple wants to start selling the 3G version of the iPhone in Europe before August, when many Europeans take their summer holidays. The use of both “by” and “before” in the article makes it unclear whether Apple plans to have the 3G iPhone on the market in Europe by the beginning of August, or plans to launch the handset earlier. An Apple spokesperson contacted for the report confirmed the now-official iPhone sales arrangements with Vodafone and TIM in Italy, but declined to comment on whether Vodafone had received exclusivity in other countries, leaving the door open for more multi-carrier arrangements. Earlier today, Vodafone announced that it would offer the iPhone in ten countries by the end of 2008.
As previously noted, Italian cellular provider Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) has confirmed in a press release that it will offer the iPhone in Italy later this year—a significant announcement given that TIM will become the first non-exclusive iPhone country carrier, as Vodafone will also offer the iPhone in Italy by the end of the year. The press release reads simply, “Telecom Italia announced today it has signed a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to Italy later this year.” Reports suggesting TIM as the iPhone’s carrier in Italy date back to the release of iPhone Software Version 1.1.2, in which a file named “TIM_Italy.plist” appeared. It was followed by a similarly-named carrier bundle which appeared in software 1.1.3. The Apple, TIM, and Vodafone deals may pave the way for more multi-carrier deals in other foreign markets.
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.”