Softbank Mobile, Apple’s iPhone carrier in Japan, plans to introduce a new program Friday that will give some iPhone handsets away for free with a new two-year contract.
The 8GB iPhone 3G handset will be offered for free to new subscribers starting a calling plan today, though this may be likely to disappoint those who paid the equivalent of US$235 (22,782 yen). According to CrunchGear, Softbank is also reducing the price of the 16GB version from US$350 to US$118 as part of the new “iPhone for everybody Campaign.”
The wireless carrier has also cut the cost of its cost of its maximum data plan rate from US$62 a month to US$45.60 a month. Voice calls and texts are free among Softbank customers, but if your friend or colleague is an NTT DoCoMo customer, charges can start to accumulate quickly at 20 cents for a 30-second call.
There’s no clear indication as to whether Softbank is cutting prices in response to demand, but Apple COO Tim Cook noted during last month’s earnings conference call that the company considers the price of the iPhone “clearly elastic,” meaning that every time it has dropped the price, demand has increased.
If you’re in or around the Japanese marketplace and have noticed this offer, let us know in the comments or forums.
or optional shortened version… http://bit.ly/BhBBR
In the several years I’ve shopped at Best Buy, I’ve never signed up for their Reward Zone program. And maybe it’s time I did.
According to Macworld, Best Buy is apparently selling both the 8GB and 16GB iPhone 3G for US$100 off their respective retail prices. And unlike similar past deals from AT&T, these are brand new handsets, not refurbished units.
The catch: The deal is only applicable to Best Buy Premier Silver Reward Zone members, the “silver” status arriving if you’ve spent US$2,500 at Best Buy during a calendar year.
The other proviso: Customers need to have been a Reward Zone member by February 21st, so it’s too late to swing out, snag a MacBook Pro, sign up for the Reward Zone program and save that much more off an iPhone 3G. The price is also only good through February 28th, requires an in-store purchase and for the user to sign a two-year contract with AT&T.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this offer at your local Best Buy, let us know in the comments or forums.
Last week saw the release of Xumii for iPhone, a free social networking application for Apple’s heralded smart-phone. Xumii is not new to the mobile community. It can run on many of the mobile phones capable of running Java-based applications. It was only a matter of time before a version came out for Cupertino’s pride and joy.
Xumii professes to be “your mobile, social addressbook” and intends to be the default location for keeping track of your social contacts. By adding your account login for networks (also known as “communities”) such as Facebook, Google, or MySpace, Xumii can list all of your friends and display their current status messages or chat status. Tapping on a contact allows you to see their full status message, online status, an option to invite them to use Xumii, and lastly, a method of sharing media stored on any of your added “communities”. If you select a contact who also has a supported chat account, and is online, the option to initiate a IM chat will also be listed.
Xumii has some other nice features, such as a separate page for recently updated status messages, and a rudimentary listing of top news stories, but it’s greatest strength is probably the media sharing feature. By clicking on the Share tab at the bottom of the screen, Xumii presents you with a list of photo albums from Flickr, Yahoo, or Facebook, to mention a few, which you can browse and then Share with your contacts, even across social networks. So, if you have that friend who is still a MySpace hold-out, you can still share your Facebook pictures with them. Xumii also mentions being able to view YouTube video on their web site, but apparently that feature is not yet available on the iPhone. Perhaps Apple feels this would be duplicate the function of the iPhone’s YouTube app.
I have a few criticisms of the app presently, which are likely due to the fact that it is a 1.0 product. On other mobile devices, you have the option to change the status message on any of your “communities” individually, or choose to post the same message to all your networks simultaneously. Currently with the iPhone app, it is all or nothing. If it had to be one or the other, I would rather have the ability to change individual messages. While I expect this feature to be added, it does keep me from truly considering this a one-stop solution. Since I rarely post across all my networks, I will still have to use the Facebook app or AIM app to do this individually. Also, another minor quibble is that contacts that appear on more than one “community” are listed separately, and in the case of AIM accounts, listed alphabetically by their AIM handle rather than their real name, making searching less convenient then I’d like.
With the addition of some missing features, I think Xumii for iPhone can do a lot to reduce the clutter of individual networking apps and offer a convenient interface. There is a lot of competition out there, but Xumii has a lot of experience in the mobile space to leverage and will hopefully develop a strong, feature-rich solution.
With a new generation of iPhones all but certain this year, a discussion between analysts and Apple’s top brass has also dropped clues that the iPhone’s pricing may not be static this year.
According to AppleInsider, Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research mentions in a research note that a discussion with Apple COO Tim Cook, CFO Petter Oppenheimer and worldwide marketing senior VP Phil Schiller point both to an upgrade to the touchscreen device as well as to the possibility of “different pricing/price points” this year, with Cook “examining iPhone’s business model” for possible changes.
Apple execs Cook and Schiller have dropped teasers regarding 2009 as being “very exciting” year for the company’s handset.
With no concrete details emerging, Sacconaghi was quick to dampen rumors of an iPhone nano or a similar low-budget cellphone. Without naming a source, he gathers from his investigations that the company isn’t presently chasing such a concept.
Any future iPhone, Mr. Sacconaghi said, will probably have at least a web browser and access to the App Store, the latter of which has Cook, Oppenheimer and Schiller particularly “bullish” about the iPhone’s success as it gives Apple an advantage over rival smartphone makers.
One detail which remained static was Cook and Schiller’s continued insistence that the iPhone wouldn’t come with a hardware keyboard. The duo seemed to inflect that a fixed set of keys made it harder to implement different keyboards, especially where different languages were concerned and would also make it harder for third-party developers hoping to use their own custom control schemes. Using the touchscreen as the primary input improves Apple’s bottom line by letting it ship what’s essentially the same phone across many different regions, the executives say.
Were a price shakeup to occur, it wouldn’t be out of character for Apple. Each year of the iPhone’s existence has had at least one major price shakeup: the iPhone’s maximum price fell from US$599 to US$399 in 2007, while the iPhone 3G in 2008 not only reduced this top price to US$299 but switched the behind-the-scenes profit model from revenue sharing with carriers to a heavy device subsidy.
While Sacconaghi doesn’t make many predictions in his report, he repeats frequent expectations of an iPhone in summer and also believes Apple may update the iMac in March.
If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know in the comments or forums.
Adobe’s Flash Lite multimedia player, while still lacking iPhone compatibility, may reach one billion mobile phones by the end of March according to market researcher Strategy Analytics. In a recent report, the company said that Adobe could reach its desired target mark one year ahead of schedule given its recent support for HD video as well as Nokia’s agreements to install Flash Lite on its phones. Another factor mentioned by the company is the absence of real competition for Adobe’s Flash Lite player. Representatives from the firm went on to predict that another 1.5 billion smartphones could carry the software within two years according to ComputerWorld.
On the competition end, Microsoft is currently developing a Silverlight for Mobile Player for release on Nokia’s Symbian S60 devices and its own Windows Mobile Phones. Representatives from the company expressed opinions that the plugin won’t make a significant impact on Flash Lite’s current increases.
To help continue with its progress, Adobe will be demonstrating a Flash Player 10 for smartphones at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. Along with the Flash 10 beta, Adobe will also be releasing the beta of a new Flash Lite distributable player based on Flash Lite 3.1.
Even with the increase in phones using Flash Lite, Adobe is still thought distant from getting an equivalent application onto the iPhone. Analysts with Strategy Analytics claimed that Adobe is working diligently to get Flash onto the iPhone and is looking to have it ready to go much later this year.
Independent analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates claims that performance and business are the chief obstacles to Flash on the iPhone. In order to get high performance, Flash must run in the lower layers of the OS, which Apple restricts as part of its iPhone SDK guidelines. Gold stated that Apple will want to push its own technology, such as QuickTime, rather than depend on a third party’s development, despite Apple’s long history with Adobe.
As always, let us know what you think of the situation in the comments or forums.
Back in January, Microsoft announced that the company would be bringing POP3 access to its Hotmail services in select countries, a change which would prove helpful to a number of iPhone owners. Unfortunately, the service had yet to become available in the United States.
According to iPhone Alley, Microsoft seems to have implemented this feature in the United States as well as other countries since the announcement. Per notice received today, POP3 support is currently active and working on the iPhone.
In order to get Hotmail POP3 up and running on your iPhone, you’ll have to manually set everything up. To do this, use pop3.live.com (port 995) for incoming mail and smtp.live.com (port 25) for outgoing. Your account will be your full Hotmail/Live address.
If you’ve tried this on your iPhone or iPod touch and can offer any feedback, please let us know in the comments or forums.
For anyone who ever wanted to use their iPhone as an AOL Instant Messenger device, the guys over at twenty08 have announced the release of MobileChat, their first AIM client for the handset.
According to MacSlash, the program can be installed via NullRiver‘s AppTapp Installer and worked with from there. The program’s source code is also available for download, review and tinkering with on your end.
MobileChat is currently still a beta and a few minor glitches have been reported to date. Users can also take a look at ApolloIM, another open source iPhone AIM client.
If you’ve tried either of these programs or have feedback of any sort, let us know in the comments or forums.
Either ultra-confident in their legal team or just confident altogether, iPhoneSIMfree.com has announced that it will begin offering unlocks of Apple’s iPhone starting September 5th.
According to MacNN, the company won’t sell directly to iPhone owners and will only interact with iPhone resellers. Interested parties can expect to pay US$36 per phone for the first 50 licenses and US$25 per phone for 5,000 or more licenses. The service will have resellers and end users intall a .app file on the iPhone which will connect to iPhoneSIMfree’s back offices to enter information. This application can then be launched via the iPhone’s Wi-Fi feature, thereby completing the unlock.
iPhoneSIMSfree has demonstrated the unlock to CNN, which interviewed software consultant Brett Schulte. The unlock demonstration is said to have only taken about two minutes and allowed Schulte to swap an AT&T SIM card with a T-Mobile card.
Apple has declined to comment.
To date, iPhoneSIMfree has stated that they cannot guarantee that the unlock will remain through future firmware updates released by Apple. The unlock is current through version 1.0.2 of the iPhone firmware, but future updates may circumvent the unlock and return the handset to running exclusively on the AT&T wireless network.
If you have any thoughts or feedback on this, let us know in the comments or forums.
In other news, Ambrosia Software released version 1.0.0 of iToner, its custom ringtone transfer utility for the iPhone.
With iToner, users can drag MP3 or AAC format files onto the iToner application window, click the “Sync” button and port the ringtones to the iPhone. Ambrosia has stated that the ringtones will continue to function even in the face of iPhone firmware updates.
iTones retails for US$15 and is available as a 2.7 megabyte download.
The application is programmed as a Universal Binary and can run at native speeds on both PowerPC and Intel-based hardware. iToner requires Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later to run.
If you’ve tried the program and have either positive or negative feedback, let us know in the comments or forums.