GameStop hopes to stop financial slide, looks to sell refurbished iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 06:09
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

Ok, you might not walk into GameStop that often unless you’re a gamer or parent of a gamer.

This might change in the future, as the struggling retailer has announced plans to embrace the iOS as a gaming platform. Per SFGate, the company began a program last fall of buying up used iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches from consumers, then sending them to a “Refurbishment Operations Center” in Texas where the devices are cleaned up and repaired. Once they’re in nice working order, the devices are returned to GameStop stores where they’re sold at a decent markup. The items are also being sold on GameStop’s web site.

Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities thinks that the Apple refurb business could be a gold mine for GameStop. Even if GameStop resells just 5 percent of the 230 million Apple devices estimated to be in the hands of U.S. consumers, it could bring in about US$1 billion in new revenue in the next few years.

Pachter also thinks GameStop could make a killing by selling prepaid phone plans with those used iPhones, “since a lot of their customers are teenagers with money to spend but no credit to get a regular phone plan.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may begin selling next-gen iPhone in late September

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Date: Monday, August 13th, 2012, 12:26
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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The next-gen iPhone, it’s probably coming a lot sooner than you expect.

Per the cool cats at Boy Genius Report, Apple, which is expected to formally introduce its latest iPhone to the world on September 12th, could begin shipping the device to customers and selling the handset in retail stores just a week or two later, according to a new report.

Citing a trusted AT&T source, BGR reported Monday that the “carrier is currently planning to launch Apple’s next-generation iPhone during the third or fourth week of September, with an all-hands-on-deck policy in place for employees that will extend through to the middle of October.”

A second source reportedly added that a large training event for regional AT&T employees has therefore been rescheduled from the first week of October due to a conflict with a “huge announcement.”

A rapid go-to-market strategy that would have customers clutching Apple’s latest handset just days after being announced by the company is impressive but not unprecedented.

After repositioning its iPhone introduction from the summer timeframe to the fall, Apple last year introduced the iPhone 4S on October 4th and began shipping the device to customers and retail stores on October 14th — Just 10 days later.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

Target and Best Buy cut iPhone 4, 4S prices ahead of next-gen iPhone announcement

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Date: Monday, August 13th, 2012, 06:30
Category: iPhone, retail, Software

Following up on last week’s article about Apple’s lowering its iPhone 4 and 4S prices prior to the release of the next-gen iPhone, All Things D has pointed out that Target is now selling the 16GB versions of the AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4S for US$179 with contract, while Best Buy has dropped the price of the 8GB iPhone 4 for both carriers from US$99 to US$49.99.

The reductions come just days after it was reported that Apple retail stores were willing to match iPhone discounts offered by other authorized iPhone resellers.

Sprint was the first iPhone affiliate to provide incentives for consumers to consider purchasing an existing iPhone amid rumors of new models when it cut the price of its 16GB iPhone 4S models to US$149 while waiving activation fees for the handset.

The sales are designed to buoy sales of existing iPhones in the weeks leading up to Apple’s September 12th media event, which is all but certain to deliver the first official details on the sixth-generation iPhone (or so-called iPhone 5) ahead of its launch later that month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to price match retailers’ discounts, offer $49 iPhone 4, $149 price points on iPhone 4S models

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Date: Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 14:23
Category: iPhone, News

You can’t knock a decent deal…

Per MacRumors, Apple has instructed its retail stores to match the iPhone discounts being offered by major retailers including AT&T, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Target, Sprint and Verizon when customers present competitive offers.

Apple’s publicly advertised prices for the iPhone 4 and 4S are US$49.01 higher than a variety of retailers and carriers are currently offering, as the entire retail channel prepares to sell off existing models to make way for the upcoming iPhone 5.

Now, Apple Retail stores are authorized to match prices when customers request the discount and indicate where they saw it.

Apart form the already “free with contract” iPhone 3GS, this makes the 8GB iPhone 4 just US$49.99 rather than US$99, and drops the iPhone 4S price range from US$199, US$299 and US$399 for the 16, 32 and 64GB models to US$149, US$249 and US$349.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple adds four additional cities to iOS 6 3D mapping app

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Date: Tuesday, August 7th, 2012, 09:19
Category: iPhone, News, Software

The new Maps app for iOS 6: it’s becoming nifty.

Per AppleInsider, Apple expanded the capabilities of Maps in iOS 6 with Monday’s release of the beta number four, adding a U.S., Canadian and European cities to those with “flyover” 3D data.

In preparation of rolling out its newest mobile operating system, Apple has updated its Maps app to include so-called “flyover” data for a number of major cities worldwide, including Philadelphia, Manchester and Toronto.

It should be noted that Apple has yet to include New York as one of the 3D-capable cities, possibly over terrorism concerns.

Apple announced at WWDC 2012 that it would be ditching Google Maps for its own proprietary mapping service borne out of a 2011 acquisition of Swedish 3D mapping company C3 Technologies, a spin-off from Saab’s AB defense arm. A recent side-by-side comparison between 3D maps created in iOS 6 and the new function in Google Maps gave a slight edge to Apple’s solution in terms of resolution and rendering speed.

The new iOS 6 Maps app will feature TomTom-powered turn-by-turn navigation with integrated Siri support, Yelp recommendations and vector-based mapping for fast 2D rendering.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Sprint reduces iPhone 4S price to $149, rumors of next-gen iPhone release, Apple special event fly

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Date: Tuesday, August 7th, 2012, 06:55
Category: iPhone, News

You’ve got to love competition, price cuts and the promise of a next-gen iPhone on the horizon.

Per All Things D, U.S. wireless carrier Sprint has cut the price of Apple’s current iPhone 4S to US$149 and is waiving activation fees for the handset ahead of a rumored Apple special event that may see the launch of a next-generation iPhone.

The new $149 price tag showed up on Sprint’s website over the weekend and represents a US$50 savings not including the US$36 activation fee waiver.

The new pricing comes ahead of a rumored special event Apple is said to be planning for Sept. 12, where many expect the company to launch the sixth-generation iPhone and possibly a smaller 7-inch iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6 beta 4, removes YouTube app in newest developer version

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Date: Tuesday, August 7th, 2012, 06:30
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

Apple on Monday afternoon released the 4th beta of iOS 6 to developers and in the process appears to have nixed the inclusion of the once-standard YouTube app in what appears to be an escalation of tensions between the company and rival Google.

Per AppleInsider, upon installing the release, sources familiar with the software confirm that the Apple-developed YouTube app is no longer part of the distribution — potentially a sign of increased tensions between the two companies which are facing off against each other in both the mobile and connected television segments.

Google owns YouTube.

Update: in a statement issued yesterday, Apple offered the following:

“Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.”

At the release of the original iPhone in 2007, Apple partnered with Google to develop a native, bundled YouTube app for the iPhone that would allow users to access Google’s vast library of user-created videos.

Without work on Google’s side to make those videos available using the open H.264 codec, its YouTube videos would not have worked with the iPhone because Google’s player and distribution formats were tied to Adobe Flash, a software platform that wasn’t functional on smartphones and wouldn’t be made available by Adobe in a partially-usable form until 2010, and then only on brand new hardware powerful enough to run it.

Because of the proprietary nature of Flash, Apple would have been severely constrained in any of its efforts to create an in-house compatibility layer to support it. It would also have required significant resources and introduced new limitations on Apple’s iOS.

Rather than taking on the nearly impossible task of supporting Flash on 2007-era mobile devices, Apple decided to instead provide alternative workarounds that minimized the feature loss of not having Flash available.

Because the primary valuable uses of Flash revolved around simple web site animations and video playback, Apple focused on providing rich support for advanced HTML techniques and began promoting Flash-free, direct H.264 video playback, two features that became prominent capabilities of HTML 5.

After initially supporting YouTube playback on the iPhone, Apple TV and later the iPad by converting its huge library to enable raw H.264 video downloads, Google began an attack on the H.264 standard because it incorporated licensed technologies that put it at odds with free software advocates in the open source community, particularly Mozilla.

Google acquired its own proprietary codec (renaming it WebM) and made the specification “open” in the sense of requiring no licensing fees to use it. However, the MPEG Licensing Authority, the standards body behind H.264, insisted that Google’s new specification infringed upon the technical patent portfolio already developed by the global community for H.264.

Concerns around the legal legitimacy and infringement risks of Google’s own WebM codec, as well as the codec’s serious technical shortcomings (including a lack of mobile hardware acceleration support) has caused it to fail to gain any serious traction in the market since, even despite Google’s removal of H.264 playback support from its Chrome web browser.

Over the last five years, Apple’s support for HTML 5 and H.264 video has made both open standards (one freely licensed, the other requiring licensing from the MPEG LA) the new foundations of web development. This is particularly the case in the global market for mobile devices, about half of which are now produced by Apple.

Adobe has canceled Flash development on mobile devices, and its middleware platform is now becoming increasingly irrelevant on the web as HTML 5 takes over more and more features formerly served by Flash. After YouTube’s switch to serving H.264, other prominent video distributors followed suit, to the point where most of the world’s web videos do not require Flash to work, an unbelievable scenario back in 2007.

At this point, iOS doesn’t need a special app to access YouTube videos, and as Apple indicated in its comment to the media, Google has terminated its license to access YouTube videos natively, rather than via Google’s website.

While Apple no longer needs to direct attention to YouTube videos in a special iOS app, the removal of its YouTube app sends a strong message when combined with other, related efforts Apple has made to exclude Google from its once intimate position on Apple’s iOS platform.

New “Share Sheets” Apple introduced for iOS 6 and this summer’s OS X Mountain Lion specifically support Google’s YouTube competitor site Vimeo, but not YouTube.

Apple has also added support for Yahoo’s Flickr photo site but not Google’s Picassa, and has added or announced new social link features for Twitter and Facebook, but conspicuously not Google’s own competing services Buzz and Google+.

One of the most significant features of iOS 6 is Apple’s new Maps, which erases its former support for Google’s mapping services and establishes Apple’s own in-house services in their place.

Apple’s new Maps app for iOS 6 (below) similarly avoids any support for Google’s Places, instead partnering with Yelp, and makes no effort to incorporate Google’s Latitude location sharing, having introduced Apple’s own device location and Find My Friends services tied to iCloud.

Apple’s removal or lack of support for Google’s services (particularly given the support of its competitor’s) is apparently an intentional distancing effort Apple has initiated as a response to Google’s increasingly intense competitive efforts, which include Google’s Android software platform, legal efforts to challenge Apple’s infringement complaints with offensive use of standards essential patents through Google’s new Motorola subsidiary, and most recently, efforts to take on the iPad and Apple TV with Google-branded hardware devices.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve gotten your mitts on the new iOS 6 beta, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

AT&T to begin offering shared data plans starting August 23

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Date: Monday, August 6th, 2012, 09:17
Category: iPhone, News

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Competition’s a good thing.

Wireless carrier AT&T said Monday that it will join rival Verizon Wireless later this month in offering shared data plans to its subscribers, allowing them to spread their monthly data plans across multiple devices for an additional fee.

Per AppleInsider, the previously announced plans, dubbed “Mobile Share,” include unlimited text, talk and a pre-set data plan for a single device at a fixed price. Additional devices can then be added to share the data plan for between US$10 and US$30, depending on the type of device.

For instance, a 4GB iPhone data plan (US$40) with Unlimited Talk & Text (US$70) and an additional iPad (US$10) will run US$120 per month, while a 10GB iPhone data plan ($30) with Unlimited Talk & Text (US$70) (US$120) and an additional MacBook Pro (US$20) will fetch US$210 per month.

AT&T says that subscribers can adopt the new plan without modifying their contract but says subscribers must tie the plan to an active smartphone subscription, meaning the shared data plans won’t be available for purchase without voice and text.

Unlike Verizon, however, the carrier says it plans to continue offering its existing mobile plans to customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Photos of purported next-gen iPhone surface, show fully assembled state

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Date: Monday, July 30th, 2012, 06:40
Category: iPhone, Pictures, Rumor

It had to happen sometime.

Per the web blog of Japanese repair company iLab Factory, pictures of an alleged fully-assembled next-generation iPhone hit the web on Sunday, offering what could be the most detailed look at Apple’s upcoming device yet.

The photos depict what is supposedly a complete next-generation iPhone built from leaked parts sourced from China.

The purported unit pieces together previously-seen components including the smaller 19-pin dock connector first rumored in June and 4-inch display and a relocated headphone jack. The site notes that the home button’s finish has been modified and feels to be improved. A report in April found a supposedly leaked home button had been slightly redesigned internally to accomodate changes made to the screen and case.



While all of the external parts are in place, most of the handset’s innards are missing with only power and sensor flex cables and accompanying home button circuitry installed. This lack of integral electronics, such as cameras, logic board and battery, hint the supposedly-leaked parts may have come from an upstream supplier rather than an assembly plant.

Pictures of the unit’s casing show the two-tone aluminum design first seen in early June, though noticeably absent is the nano-SIM card tray purportedly leaked in May.

The unit’s front seems to sit tightly with the uni-body casing which, unlike the current generation iPhone 4S, features a slightly beveled edge. Side shots show the expected volume rocker button assembly and hold switch as well as a sleeker profile compared to existing iPhones.

Making a reappearance is the small hole located beween the camera assembly and the unit’s LED flash, a feature which was rumored to be removed in final production models.

As mentioned above, much of the internals are absent, however what is in place yields some insight into how Apple plans to utilize the cramped space. The site notes three screw anchors on the back plate will likely hold the display in place while four screw anchors located on the unit’s right wall and six on the left will most likely secure integral components as the device can no longer be opened by removing case-back. Also new are four screw holes at the top of the case near the power button though their use remains a mystery.

Overall, the site points out the alleged device boasts a high-quality milled aluminum feel consistent with all Apple products and makes special note of the unit’s thinness.

Apple is rumored to announce a follow-up to the iPhone 4S sometime this fall with one analyst estimating an early-September launch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy now offering iPhone 4 for $50 with 2-year contract

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Date: Friday, July 27th, 2012, 07:46
Category: iPhone, News

You can’t argue with a cheap price.

Per AppleInsider, Best Buy is now selling Apple’s 8-gigabyte iPhone 4 for US$49.99 with a new two-year contract.

The new price is half that of the regular US$99 price for the iPhone 4 with a new service contract. Reseller Best Buy is offering the US$49.99 upgrade price on both the GSM iPhone 4 model, compatible with AT&T, as well as the CDMA variants, available for both Verizon and Sprint.

Best Buy’s website does not identify the new price as a temporary sale. The new price is the same that Best Buy charges for a refurbished iPhone 4, and the discount is available in both black and white models.

The price cut comes only days after Apple announced it sold 26 million iPhones in the June quarter, representing 28 percent growth over the same period a year prior. Investors viewed that number as disappointing, and AAPL stock took a hit as a result.

Apple executives said during their quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday that they believe the growth slowdown, particularly with respect to iPhone sales, was at least somewhat attributable to rumors of new products. The company is widely expected to launch its next-generation iPhone with a slightly larger 4-inch display later this year.

The iPhone 4 was first released in mid-2010 and marked the debut of the high-resolution Retina display, as well as the forward-facing FaceTime camera. It is currently Apple’s mid-range handset, resting between the newest model, the iPhone 4S, and the low-end iPhone 3GS, available for free with a two-year contract. Verizon and Sprint do not offer the iPhone 3GS, which means the iPhone 4 is Apple’s entry-level handset with those two carriers.

So, yeah…an iPhone 4 for 50 clams. Not the worst thing that’s ever happened…