In an unusual public dispute over the current Japanese popularity of the iPhone 3G, Tokyo-based freelance writer and self-described “most famous advocate of iPhone in Japan” Nobuyuki Hayashi has taken Wired to task for republishing his eight-month old quote on the topic—originally rendered before the launch of the device—as evidence of Japan’s supposed “hate” for the iPhone. Hayashi, who has written about Apple products for a number of Japanese and international publications, used the situation as a springboard to disagree with Wired’s article, and share a wide variety of interesting observations about the iPhone 3G’s successes and problems in Japan, including:
• Initial skepticism from certain newspapers, including the Sankei Shimbun, has evolved into more positive coverage with the growth of the App Store.
• While projected Japanese sales of the iPhone 3G are in the 300,000 - 400,000 range, lower than apparently inaccurate sales targets that were circulated last year, poor overall Japanese cell phone sales in 2008 would place the iPhone’s Japanese sales at or above Apple’s targeted global 1% level for the year.
• Apple responses to Japanese complaints about the device have been addressed by the company, including the addition of Emoji icons and the sale of a battery-aided TV tuner, with pricing issues addressed this week in a campaign that has seen lines forming to purchase iPhones.
• One remaining issue, the iPhone 3G’s inability to serve as a digital credit card for making purchases, has not been addressed by Apple, though some iPhone users have developed workarounds known throughout the Japanese community.
• Softbank, Apple’s sole service partner for the iPhone in Japan, has recently won awards for its TV advertisements, but has done comparatively little to promote the iPhone due to Apple approvals required for marketing purposes. Consequently, the majority of Japanese consumers remain unfamiliar with the device, though they warm quickly to it when they’re given the opportunity to actually use one.
• Softbank lags modestly behind competitors NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in network coverage and frequency options, and has struggled with domestic media perceptions about its viability, reasons that Apple might need to expand its partnerships in the country.
Rather than constraining his artwork to the 3.5” size of his iPhone’s screen, photographer and artist Russ Croop has created extremely large sketches using the iPhone and iPod touch application NetSketch. His first large-scale work, a drawing of his living room, is the equivalent of 85.6 inches x 70.1 inches at 72 ppi, and proved so large that Croop had to enlist the help of NetSketch creator Ben Gotow to get it out of the application, following repeated crashes when trying to save it from within the app. “I felt like the guy who built a boat in his basement and couldn’t get it out because it was so big,” Croop said. Cult of Mac reports that Croop went on to create other large-scale drawings, and is even interested in getting his work into galleries. When asked what the installation would be like, Croop said, “I envision big flat screen TVs replaying the paintings (videos of them as they’re made) and iPhones attached to walls or kiosks where people could try out drawing on them.” All of Croop’s iPhone art is available for viewing on his website.
Telefónica Europe, parent company of UK iPhone carrier O2, has announced that more than one million iPhones have been sold in the country since the device’s launch on November 9, 2007. Revealing its 2008 year-end results, Telefónica also described the handset as a “best selling device,” while adding that its UK business added 499,000 fixed and mobile customers in Q4. As the announcement is focused on 2008 data, it is unclear when the one million unit mark was actually crossed. Apple sold 13.7 million iPhones in 2008.
SoftBank Mobile has announced (Translated Link) its new “iPhone for everybody” campaign, in which it is offering new customers a free 8GB iPhone 3G with a two year contract. The free handset is available with three different plans, including standard, premium, and student, which range in price from 490 Yen (roughly $5) to 1,960 Yen (~$20) a month. The carrier is also dropping the price on its standard monthly data plan from 5985 Yen (~$61) to 4410 Yen (~$45). In addition, it is offering customers who choose the 16GB model a payment plan of 480 Yen (~$4.93) a month over the course of the 24 month contract, for a total of 11,520 Yen (~$118). The promotion is scheduled to run from Friday, February 27 through May 31. [via AppleInsider]
Best Buy is currently running a promotion in which members of its Rewards Zone program are able to purchase an iPhone 3G at a discount of up to $100. The offer is limited to customers who were members of the program as of February 21. Regular members are eligible for a $50 discount, bringing the prices for the 8GB and 16GB models to $149 and $249, respectively, while Premier Silver members—those who spent $2,500 or more at the retailer in the last calendar year—receive a $100 discount. The offer is good through February 28.
A hidden dialog box in Apple’s recently released iPhoto ‘09 software suggests the company may be planning to use the iPhone 3G’s GPS to assist users in geotagging their non-iPhone photos. TidBITS reports that an unused dialog box contains text “Activate the location application on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Once selected, any available location information will be transferred to your iPhoto library and associated with the photos in the selected event(s).” Elsewhere, a separate string states, “Select an iPhone or iPod Touch from your list of named devices. Once selected, the appropriate information will be transferred to your iPhoto library and associated with the photos in the selected event(s).”
While further specifics are currently unknown, it appears that users would need to run a program on their iPhone or iPod touch that would log location data as they traveled, then sync with iPhoto ‘09 to geotag photos taken with any camera that does not support geotagging natively. The report suggests that the data might also be used to create more accurate maps, showing the route taken between shots. It is unclear how the feature would work with the original iPhone or iPod touch units, which lack GPS support, whether the application would be allowed to run in the background, and what the drain on battery life may be; the presence of a reference to iPod touch is especially unusual as the device’s Wi-Fi functionality is its only tool for vaguely estimating locations. As with any unannounced feature, Apple may also choose not to implement the idea. [via Infinite Loop]
The Telenor Group has announced that it will soon offer the iPhone in Scandinavia. In a brief message, the company said it has “signed an agreement with Apple to bring iPhone 3G to Sweden, Denmark and Norway in the coming months.” Pricing, plans, and release date have yet to be determined.
During a keynote at the 2009 Mobile World Congress this week, Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra demonstrated offline Gmail for the iPhone and Android phones. The updated web application features an improved interface label support, and offline access, which is made possible through HTML5 standards, including App Cache and database support. The app seems to be quite responsive, thanks to the database being kept locally. A video of the demonstration is available in high quality on YouTube; continue reading to view a smaller embedded version. [via Engadget]
An iPhone 3G owner has recorded a video of his handset using his camcorder’s “night vision” setting, which provides a unique look at the phone. The night vision mode showed stress cracks around the edges of the phone and the camera that are invisible to the naked eye, while providing a direct view of the iPhone’s hidden front sensors, and portions of the inside of the case. The video is available in HD on Vimeo, or continue reading for a smaller embedded version. [via Cult of Mac]
AT&T is once again offering refurbished iPhone 3G units for $99. As the company did for a brief time in late December, 8GB models are available for $99, while 16GB refurbs are selling for $199. The prices on refurbished iPhone 3G units have generally been $149 for the 8GB and $249 for 16GB units. As with new iPhone 3Gs, the refurbished units require a two-year contract, and AT&T notes that all refurbished iPhones carry a warranty of 90 days or more and may have “minor scratches.”
Nevada gambling regulators have warned the state’s casinos about a card-counting application that runs on the iPhone and iPod touch. Card counting enables Blackjack players to track the high and low cards played, so that bets can be adjusted when odds are in their favor. While the trick is not illegal, it is heavily frowned upon by casinos, and the use of devices to help count cards is a felony in some jurisdictions. The Nevada regulators originally learned of the app from California regulators, who had been informed by employees of an Indian casino. No specific application is mentioned in the original report, however, there are at least two card counting apps—Card Counter ($3) and A Blackjack Card Counter ($4)—currently available from the App Store.
Piscel Technologies, a mobile software developer, has filed suit against Apple claiming that the graphics rendering technology used in the iPhone and iPod touch infringes on Piscel’s patents. The complaint claims that Apple’s methods for accelerating movements such as panning and zooming effectively copy Piscel’s own acceleration technologies. Piscel currently supplies software to other mobile manufacturers such as Sharp, Motorola, and Palm, although it is unclear whether these relationships involve the specific rendering technologies referenced in the suit. Piscel is seeking full damages according to the number of iPhone OS devices already sold, in addition to punitive damages equaling triple the original damages amount.
Google has made changes to its Google Docs site to allow spreadsheet editing from mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch. The changes allow users to view, edit, sort, and filter spreadsheets, and are available in all 38 languages supported in Google Docs spreadsheets. It is unclear when or if the company plans to add mobile editing to the other supported document formats. To access the new features, simply visit m.google.com/docs from your iPhone or iPod touch.
In comments filed with the U.S. Copyright Office related to a proposed new exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which would explicitly allow jailbreaking of iPhones, Apple has argued that jailbreaking constitutes copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, and is therefore illegal. The company claims that jailbroken iPhones depend on modified versions of Apple’s copyrighted bootloader and operating system software, and that these more open versions compromise safety, security, and reliability, along with making it easier for users who wish to pirate software. In the days following the iPhone’s release, Apple actively combatted jailbreaking through changes to the device’s software; it had appeared to give these measures less attention since the launch of iPhone OS 2.0 and the App Store, which provides a legal way to add applications to the devices. [via BoingBoing]
New photos supposedly showing the back casing of the next-generation iPhone have been posted online. Mac Rumors claims that the images originate from China, showing a matte-black 16GB iPhone back casing, carrying the previously unused model number A1303. Apart from the matte black surface and what appears to be a white Apple logo, the backing is quite similar to that of the iPhone 3G in both the location of the holes and interior layout. Previous pre-announcement leaks of iPhone casings have been surprisingly accurate, however, it remains unclear whether this will actually be the rear shell of a next-generation device.
Following a report from earlier this week indicating that Apple and China Mobile had broken off talks over the iPhone due to a disagreement over control of the App Store, a new report states that rival carrier China Unicom is now in talks to bring the handset to mainland China. “Yes, we are in talks with Apple Inc.,” a Unicom manager told China Business News. China Unicom plans to rollout a new WCDMA network on May 17, but it is unclear whether a deal between the two companies could be completed in time. “China Unicom has held several rounds of negotiations with Apple Inc.,” said an anonymous source within the company, “but there are still many obstacles ahead.” According to the report, the companies have yet to come to an agreement on what apps may come pre-installed on the device, and are also facing difficulties due to regulatory issues and disagreement on policy restrictions and business model differences. [via MDN]
Google today launched a beta version of its Google Sync service for the iPhone and iPod touch. Google Sync is a two-way push synchronization service that works with Gmail contacts and Google Calendars, allowing users to update information from either their iPhone or iPod touch, using the built-in Calendar and Contacts applications, or from any traditional computer, using the web browser. The new Sync service uses the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol, and Google warns that enabling the Sync service will automatically delete any existing contacts and calendar information from the device. For more information on Google Sync or to set up the service on a device, visit m.google.com/sync.
The latest round of negotiations between Apple and China Mobile have broken down due to a disagreement over control of the App Store, a new report indicates. Interfax TMT China, citing a source at the China Mobile Research Institute, states that China Mobile president Wang Jianzhou outlined the turbulent negotiations on a recent visit to the Institute. The negotiations are said to have gone through three distinct rounds, spanning 18 months and involving both Apple CEO Steve Jobs and COO Tim Cook. Jianzhou reportedly claimed that initial negotiations broke down due to Apple’s insistence on revenue sharing, while the second round of talks failed after Apple offered to sell iPhones to the carrier for $600 and required that China Mobile subsidize iPhone service bundles.
The third, and reportedly final, round of negotiations is said to ended over Apple’s insistence that it, rather than China Mobile, sell applications for the device directly to customers via the App Store. Jianzhou saw the offer as possibly detrimental to China Mobile’s dominance of the country’s mobile Internet industry. “Wang said China Mobile should operate the application store itself in order to maintain its advantage,” the Institute source said, noting that Chinese customers have preferred to make purchases through deposits in their mobile phone accounts rather than through the credit cards required by the App Store. Apple currently sells an unlocked model of the iPhone 3G in Hong Kong, directly from its own website.
Orange Austria has now matched (Translated Link) T-Mobile’s lowered pricing on the 8GB iPhone 3G. Like T-Mobile, Orange is now offering the 8GB model for just €1 when purchased with a €35/month tariff and €14 a month “iPhone Pack,” which includes 3GB of data and 100 SMS texts. T-Mobile first dropped its pricing on the smaller-capacity model last month; curiously, both promotions are slated to end on February 14. It is unclear whether the price drops are a result of slower than expected demand, or indicative of an upcoming change to the iPhone 3G lineup. Apple bumped the maximum capacity of the original iPhone from 8GB to 16GB in February 2008.
Google has launched a mobile version of its Google Book Search service. The new iPhone- and iPod touch-friendly interface gives users access to over 1.5 million public domain books directly from their device. The books have been optimized to be read on a small screen, and are available for free. To access Google Book Search mobile, simply visit books.google.com/m from your iPhone or iPod touch.