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Verizon follows trend, announces Edge smartphone upgrade program

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, July 18th, 2013, 07:46
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re a Verizon aficionado, this isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Per AppleInsider, in response to similar offerings from rivals AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon on Thursday unveiled its new Edge smartphone upgrade program, offering subscribers the ability to upgrade to a new handset after six months.

Verizon Edge is pitched as a “flexible equipment payment plan,” allowing customers to spread the retail price of a new phone over a 24-month period. If users pay 50 percent of the retail cost of their smartphone, they can upgrade to a new phone in as soon as six months.

The new program is available for any smartphone that Verizon offers, including Apple’s iPhone lineup. Customers choose the phone they want along with a month-to-month service plan.

The full retail price of the handset is then divided over two years. Customers pay the first month of that plan at the time of purchase.

When a customer upgrades to a new phone after six months, the 24-month payment period starts over again. Verizon Edge, which launches for Share Everything customers on August 25, does not include any service contracts, finance charges or upgrade fees.

The announcement comes only a few days after Verizon’s main rival, AT&T, announced its own similar plan, dubbed Next. With AT&T Next, customers can upgrade their smartphone or tablet every 12 months with no down payment and no activation or upgrade fees.

Starting July 26, AT&T will allow customers to spread the cost of a new smartphone or tablet over a 20-month period as part of their monthly wireless bill. Subscribers will have the option to trade in their device and upgrade to a new model after one year.

Both AT&T and Verizon followed in the steps of T-Mobile, which unveiled its own program called Jump last week. That service allows customers to upgrade their smartphone as often as two times per year at an added cost of US$10 per month.

T-Mobile Jump allows customers to pay the same subsidized price for a new smartphone as a new customer. Subscribers are required to wait at least six months after enrollment, after which they will be able to trade in their phone and upgrade to a new model twice a year.

Verizon’s announcement on Thursday leaves out only Sprint as the only carrier among the “big four” wireless providers in the U.S. that does not offer an early upgrade subscription program.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Top three Russian wireless providers drop iPhone over subsidies, other costs

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, July 17th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re headed to Russia and need to pick up an iPhone, your options may have become a bit more limited, comrade.

According to Fortune, three major Russian wireless providers have stopped carrying Apple’s iPhone, with the largest telecom, MTS, dropping the handset due to the high subsidy costs associated with being an Apple partner carrier.

As reported last week, Russia’s largest provider by subscribership, MTS, announced that it would be dropping the iPhone from its lineup, saying subsidies and marketing costs were to blame.

“Apple wants operators to pay them huge money, subsidizing iPhones and their promotion in Russia,” said MTS CEO Andrei Dubovskov. “Now it’s not beneficial for us. It’s good we stopped selling the iPhone as these sales would’ve brought us a negative margin.”

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt speculates three factors played a part in the “big three’s” decision to ditch Apple’s handset. First, Russian carriers are limited by the federal agency Rospechat, which does not allow subsidies on the same level as seen in the U.S. For example, MTS is not able to offer an iPhone 5 for US$199.

Duties and taxes are also higher than normal for Europe, with an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5 selling for roughly US$925 on on the just-opened Russian Online Apple Store, or US$276 more than an identical U.S. variant. Apple says US$140 goes to Russian VAT, while the remaining US$129 is for foreign exchange rates, import duties, and channel mark-up.

Finally, Apple’s contract requirements, specifically those pertaining to marketing, are said to be extremely stringent. Because the contract terms are unknown, it is impossible to tell whether Russian carriers are subject to any special clauses.

The future of the iPhone in Russia is unclear, though estimates from IDC suggest that demand for the handset was already on the decline, dropping to 8.3 percent in the second quarter of 2013, down from 9 percent in 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T announces Jump device upgrade/payment plan for smartphone/tablet early adopters

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:44
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re in the habit of snagging the new stuff as it comes out, this might come in handy.

Per Mac|Life, wireless carrier AT&T announced Tuesday a new initiative called AT&T Next, which allows consumers to buy a new smartphone or tablet each and every year with no downpayment, no activation fee, no upgrade fee and no financing fees.

The move is seen as a response to T-Mobile’s recent attacks against the traditional subsidy business model, AT&T Next allows customers to buy a new device and agree to pay monthly installments. After 12 payments, the device can be traded in for a new one, or the customer can own it outright after making 20 payments.

While rival T-Mobile US offers a plan that allows up to two upgrades per year, their Jump! offer requires a US$10 per month payment just for the privilege of doing so. By comparison, AT&T Next requires no additional payments, and drops the usual US$36 activation and upgrade fees, which may be incentive enough for customers to stick with the carrier.

Beginning nationwide on July 26, AT&T Next will be available for both new AT&T customers as well as existing customers currently eligible for an upgrade.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy begins offering trade-ins for older iPads, deal to run Friday and Saturday

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 12th, 2013, 06:50
Category: iPad, iPad mini, News, retail

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Hey, a deal’s a deal and this is why a competitive marketplace is a good thing.

Per Electronista, just a few days after Target began offering gift cards of up to US$50 for buying various iOS devices, competitor Best Buy has begun offering a trade-in program where buyers can trade their older iPads (iPad 2 and third-generation models) for up to US$200 in gift cards that can be used for anything the retailer offers, including the latest iPad and iPad mini.
The trade-in offer is only good for two days — Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13 — but the resulting gift cards can be used at the company’s online site or in-store. The company said that particularly pristine trade-ins may receive even more than US$200.

To qualify, customers must visit a brick-and-mortar Best Buy or Best Buy Mobile store that is accepting trade-ins. If put towards the current fourth-generation iPad, the US$200 minimum gift card would lower the price of a 16GB Wi-Fi model to US$300. If applied towards a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad mini, traders would pay only US$129 (plus applicable taxes). For some models in exceptionally good condition, the retailer says it will over more than the US$200 minimum card as a reward for trading in.

The company says it will recycle the iPads it receives in trade. While the program is a good way to upgrade an older iPad to the latest models, potential buyers are reminded that Apple is expected to produce new versions of the iconic tablets sometime in the fall.

Both the older iPads and the current fourth-generation ones will be able to run iOS 7 when it comes out later this year, leaving behind only the original 2010 iPad. However, only the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch will have access to all the new features in iOS 7. The current iPad and iPad mini cannot access the Camera app’s panorama or live filter features, the third-gen iPad doesn’t get AirDrop, and the iPad 2 will lack both AirDrop and all the camera changes.

If you’ve taken Best Buy up on this deal and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple launches Back to School promotion, throws in $50 and $100 iTunes gift cards

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013, 07:49
Category: iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, retail

Never look a back to school promotion in the mouth.

Per the Mac Observer, Apple kicked off its annual Back to School deals on Tuesday for educational buyers and includes iTunes Store, App Store and iBookstore gift cards worth up to US$100 with new Mac, iPhone and iPad purchases. The special deals are available now and run through September 6, 2013.


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The offer reads as follows:
“Buy a Mac for college and get a $100 gift card to spend on apps and more — and also save with education pricing. Or buy an iPad or iPhone and get a $50 card.
Qualifying products include Macs other than the Mac mini, plus the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, and the iPad 2, fourth generation iPad, and iPad mini.”

Not a bad thing and where a US$50 or US$100 iTunes gift card are concerned, it’s hard to go wrong there.

Apple sets up web site, offers refunds and credits for claimants in iTunes Store class action lawsuit

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Date: Monday, June 24th, 2013, 06:42
Category: Legal, News, retail, Software

It’s hard to argue with the results of a class action lawsuit.

Still, it might be a refund coming your way thanks to your children purchasing items via the iTunes Store.

Per AppleInsider, Apple appears to have finalized the details of its settlement agreement for a class action suit over in-app purchases on iPhones and iPads, with the Cupertino company offering millions of dollars in refunds and iTunes credits.

A home page for the settlement program went live recently, laying out the options available for claimants in the class action suit over Apple’s in-app purchase policies. That suit, filed in 2011, alleged that Apple’s structure for processing in-app purchases was insufficient to stop minors from charging tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars to their parents’ accounts without permission.

Under the settlement agreement, Apple will provide a single US$5 iTunes Store credit to claimants in the suit or a credit “equal to the total amount of Game Currency that a minor charged to your iTunes account without your knowledge or permission within a single forty-five day period.” For claimants that no longer have an active iTunes account, a cash refund is available, as is the case for those whose claims exceed US$30 in total.

All United States residents are eligible for an award from the settlement, provided that, prior to May 2, 2013, they paid for an in-app purchase in a qualified app. The purchase must have been charged to their iTunes account by a minor without their knowledge or permission. The deadline to submit a claim is January 13, 2014, and the deadline to object to or opt out of the settlement is August 30, 2013.

In-app purchases stepped into the spotlight over the last few years as developers looked for a way to further monetize their apps. As the option became more popular, complaints arose that it was too easy for children to rack up sizable charges on their parents’ accounts.

Apple already had some protections in place to stop minors from abusing in-app purchases, but the company was forced by the attention from several cases to modify its iTunes Store listings in order to warn users which apps featured additional paid content. The company has since stepped up its educational efforts in order to bring parents up to speed on what they can do to head off unwanted expenditures.

If you feel you meet the criteria for a claim, head over to the web site and let us know how your experience panned out in the comments.

Pegatron CEO: “Low-cost” iPhone may not be as cheap as expected

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2013, 06:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

The long-rumored low cost iPhone may not be as affordable as you’d like it to be.

Per the China Times and Mac Otakara, speaking at his company’s shareholders meeting on Thursday, Pegatron CEO T.H. Tung said Apple’s much rumored low cost iPhone won’t be a budget offering, seemingly confirming speculation that the handset will be sold as a higher-end middle tier device.

Tung disagreed with rumors that called Apple’s lower-end offering “cheap,” saying the “price is still high.”

The executive said products currently on the market can carry a number of names, but “cheap” is not one that should be associated with Apple’s less expensive iPhone. He went on to say that, compared to feature phones, smartphones are increasingly offering more value for the price.

The statements appear to confirm previous reports that Pegatron is handling at least a portion of the as-yet-unannounced iPhone’s manufacture. A report in May claimed Pegatron is reportedly preparing to hire some 40,000 workers sometime in the second half of 2013, adding fuel to the low-cost iPhone fire.

Analysts and media sources are divided as to which of Apple partners will be responsible for the majority of production, with some claiming Foxconn is to pull most of the burden.

KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in March said the two companies will nearly split manufacturing duties for the low-cost version, while Pegatron would take on a bigger share of continued iPhone 4 and 4S production.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rogers Wireless, Telus, to offer iPad, iPad mini sales, Wind to offer nano-SIMs for iPhone 5 handset

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 17th, 2013, 06:05
Category: iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, News, retail

There shall be additional iPad offerings in the great white north.

Per Engadget, Canadian wireless carriers Rogers and Telus will start selling cellular LTE versions of Apple’s iPad and iPad mini in the near future, while Wind Mobile has already started sales of nano-SIM cards to bring unlocked models of the iPhone 5 to its network.

Both Rogers and Telus made the announcement on Friday in posts to their respective websites, saying that customers will be able to buy the iPad and iPad mini from carrier stores in the “coming weeks.”

The rival companies both have webpages dedicated to the iPad, with information and images mirroring Apple’s own site. Particular plan specifics were not released, but each carrier said it would continue offering no-contract data plans.

As for Wind Mobile, the wireless provider is now selling iPhone 5-compatible nano-SIM cards for US$25, allowing owners of unlocked devices to switch over to the company’s network. Wind is not an official Apple wireless partner, making the move similar to what T-Mobile did in the U.S. when the iPhone 5 first launched in 2012.

The smaller carrier’s network tops out at HSPA+ and does not support LTE, meaning iPhone 5 users will have to decide whether the carrier’s lower priced plans are worth the trade.

If you’re up around Canada and have any feedback to offer on this, please let us know in the comments.

Apple revises store policies, now offers iPhone 5 display repairs for $149

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Date: Tuesday, June 4th, 2013, 06:29
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

You’ll soon be able to have your iPhone 5 screen replaced at assorted Apple Store locations for US$149, with or without AppleCare+.

Per MacRumors, changes to Apple’s repair policies first surfaced last month, where a town hall session revealed that Apple would begin in-house repairs of displays in June in an effort to save approximately US$1 billion per year.

The site heard from a tipster this morning that the new repair policy had been implemented and the changes have since been confirmed in a forum post from iPhone repair site Quick iFix. The repairs are available for cracked displays as well as screens that experience multitouch issues.

Quick iFix notes that Apple’s US$149 repair cost is competitive, causing the site to change its own repair costs. Quick iFix charged US$174.99 for a display replacement in early May, but began offering repairs for US$139.99 a few days later.

Apple’s new display repairs are in line with AppleCare+ pricing, which costs US$99 up front and then US$49 for each replacement. The repair service is a more affordable alternative for iPhone users who opted not to purchase AppleCare+, as iPhone replacement previously retailed for US$229.

Apple is expected to roll out additional in-house repair options in July, offering repairs of the iPhone’s camera, sleep/wake buttons, and logic boards. Additional changes to AppleCare are also reportedly in the works, with Apple rumored to be switching to a subscription based plan tied to customers rather than individual devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

United States Treasury Department clears way for iPhones to be sold in Iran

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 3rd, 2013, 07:34
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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At long last, the iPhone is finally coming to Iran.

Per the cool cats over at The Mac Observer, the United States Treasury Department has lifted some sanctions on selling communication devices mobile phones in Iran, which means Apple can finally begin selling its popular iPhone in the country. The decision will make it easier for people in Iran to legitimately buy iPhones, iPads, and other electronics, and is a move on the part of the U.S. to help push for political freedom in the country.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that Iranians deserve access to information and to communicate with each other without fear of government retribution.

The agency released the following statement:

“To help facilitate the free flow of information in Iran and with Iranians, The U.S. Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the U.S. Department of State, is issuing a General License today authorizing the exportation to Iran of certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications. This license allows U.S. persons to provide the Iranian people with safer, more sophisticated personal communications equipment to communicate with each other and with the outside world. This General License aims to empower the Iranian people as their government intensifies its efforts to stifle their access to information.”

While the policy change is good news for some people in Iran, it isn’t good news for everyone in the country. The U.S. isn’t allowing companies to export products to Iran’s government, or to people or organizations on its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list.

The policy change will hopefully help curb incidents where companies in the U.S. refuse to sell products to people they think are Iranian nationals. Apple came under fire in 2012 when the National Iranian American Council accused the company of racial profiling over retail store employees refusing to sell iPhones to customers that spoke Farsi or appeared to be of Iranian descent.

The incidents didn’t appeared to be widespread, but did underscore the confusion that comes with government-imposed sales sanctions.

The U.S. reversal on the Iranian sanctions comes a few weeks ahead of elections in the country. Apple may not be able to ramp up sales in Iran quickly enough to get iPhones and iPads into people’s hands, but the door is now open for the company to move forward into a new market.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.