AT&T to require Mobile Share plan to use FaceTime under 3G, 4G connections

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Date: Monday, August 20th, 2012, 07:55
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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You’ll be able to do FaceTime over 3G and 4G connections, you’ll just need the right kind of account to do so.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier AT&T on Friday announced it will be limiting FaceTime over 3G and 4G networkds to iPhone who sign up for the carrier’s upcoming Mobile Share plans, which are slated to launch later this month.

While the wireless carrier will be providing FaceTime for free over its network, the catch is that subscribers will have to add sign up for the new Mobile Share data plans announced earlier in August.

Oddly, AT&T said iPhone owners can still use FaceTime for free on Wi-Fi networks, though that particular feature is not under the control of wireless providers.

From the statement:
“AT&T will offer FaceTime over Cellular as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans, which were created to meet customers’ growing data needs at a great value. With Mobile Share, the more data you use, the more you save. FaceTime will continue to be available over Wi-Fi for all our customers.”

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in July said it was “too early” to talk about FaceTime over the company’s network. The statement was made in response to a error message discovered in Apple’s iOS 6 beta, prompting speculation the service would be fee-based.

In a subsequent report, Sprint noted it would be offering the feature for free when the next-gen iOS 6 launches this fall.

Speculation that FaceTime would be offered over cellular networks first began when a warning message in iOS 5.1.1 regarding 3G network data settings appeared to hint at the unannounced service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Unicom may break away from contract sales of iPhone, cites high overhead costs

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Date: Friday, August 17th, 2012, 06:20
Category: iPhone, News

Sometimes contracts don’t work as well as you’d like them to.

Per DigiTimes, China’s Unicom wireless carrier is struggling to benefit from its investment in contract sales of Apple’s latest iPhone models and is reportedly considering a move that would do away with traditional pricing discounts on the handset for customers willing to sign two-year service agreements.

As the only WCDMA carrier in China, China Unicom signed a two-year agreement with Apple back in September of 2010 to offer its iPhone subscribers the handsets at reduced pricing if they agree to 24-month service contracts.

But high overhead costs for the devices themselves, coupled with a need for continued investment in infrastructure to support surging growth and data consumption by iPhone users, has China Unicom mulling a move to end contract bundles of the phone come next month.

Company representatives have stated that China Unicom “has not substantially profited from sales of iPhone 4” and therefore may not re-sign its agreement with Apple to continue sales of the iPhone 4S or a new version of the phone widely expected to make its debut in September.

Though no further details were reported, it appears that the carrier would continue to carry the iPhone but only market it to customers who are willing to pay full retail price for the device.

Although most iPhone carriers offer Apple’s latest device to customers at prices between US$199 and US$399 USD, they actually purchase the phones from Apple at much higher costs, then turn around and subsidize the handsets for customers, banking on recouping the overhead costs and making profits through two-year, high-margin service agreements.

For its part, China Unicom has been amongst the most aggressive with its subsidies, and earlier this year began offering the 16GB iPhone 4S at no cost to customers who sign up for multi-year service contracts for as little as US$45 USD per month.

With more than 125 million subscribers, China Unicom is China’s second-largest cell phone service provider. It’s also the tenth-largest worldwide. But its 3G business has reportedly been a money-losing operation, with high smartphone subsidies — like those required for the iPhone — accounting for 45% of its overhead.

As of January, the average selling price of an iPhone — or the price charged by Apple to carriers — was roughly US$660.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple’s talks with Korean wireless carriers suggest LTE support for next-gen iPhone

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Date: Wednesday, August 15th, 2012, 07:15
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You’ve been waiting for the iPhone to support the Long Term Evolution (LTE)/4G protocol for a while.

It looks like you might get your wish.

Per Korea Times, SK Telecom and KT, two official Korean iPhone wireless carriers, have both been in talks to offer LTE connectivity on Apple’s next handed, officials from both companies reportedly told the Korea Times under the veil of anonymity.

Although industry trends and the inclusion of LTE in this year’s iPad models both point to an LTE-capable iPhone next month, supporting the technology isn’t as clean cut as supporting existing 3G networks, which all operate within a 2.1-gigahertz frequency.

“KT is in negotiation with Apple to persuade the latter to support KT’s 1.8-gigahertz frequency in Korea for the upcoming iPhone,’’ said one senior KT executive, who asked not to be identified. Meanwhile, SK Telecom is also reportedly pushing for the same treatment for its 800-megahertz frequency LTE network. It sent this week an official to Apple’s Cupertino-based headquarters in hopes of hammering out a deal.

The number of LTE subscribers in Korea reached 8.4 million by the end of July, with 4 million of them choosing SK’s network and another 1.4 hinged to KT’s. The two iPhone providers, along with rival carrier LG Uplus, have been heavily promoting LTE devices on their network to much success.

The carriers fear, however, that sales of the new iPhone will suffer in much the same way that sales of Apple’s new iPad have lagged behind in the region because Apple has thus far refused to support the local carriers’ frequencies in the LTE-equipped versions of the tablet.

“KT is eager to narrow the market gap with SK Telecom and even LG Uplus in the fight for LTE-enabled devices,” said another KT source. “If the talks with Apple produce visible results, then we will rise as the top LTE service provider in Korea.”

Apple had balked at the inclusion of LTE connectivity in previous generations of the iPhone because because the first wave of LTE chipset were a bit too large and power-hungry for the company’s liking. Since then, more advanced designs from chipmakers like Qualcomm have mitigated those concerns.

In the US, Verizon LTE network uses a 700-megahertz frequency, while AT&T operates both 700-megahertz and 2.1-gigahertz LTE networks.

For its part, Sprint’s utilization a 800-megahertz frequency for LTE saw it left out of Apple’s LTE iPad plans earlier this year but subsequent reports claim the carrier has already forged a deal with Apple to make sure the omission doesn’t carry over to the launch of the so-called iPhone 5 next month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Sprint offers $100 gift card with purchase of iPhone 4S, Apple offers $100 store credit in return

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 14:27
Category: iPhone, News, retail

Let the incentives roll.

Per Business Insider, wireless carrier Sprint is now giving a $100 pre-paid gift card to new iPhone 4S buyers and Apple will be matching the deal by offering an Apple Store credit for the same amount.

The new incentive, the second in as many weeks from Sprint, comes ahead of an expected Sept. 12 launch of the next-generation iPhone and has prompted> Apple to make good on its promise to match iPhone pricing from major resellers, Business Insider has learned.

Sprint last week slashed the price of Apple’s iPhone 4S to US$149 not including a US$36 activation fee waiver, a move followed by other sellers including Target and Best Buy. Apple subsequently instructed its stores to match the discount prices being offered by the major retailers, limited to US$49 for the iPhone 4 and US$149 for the iPhone 4S.

With the new US$100 American Express pre-paid card, US$149 discount, activation fee waiver and free shipping, Sprint has effectively whittled down the cost of buying an iPhone 4S to US$50. There are stipulations, however, as the added gift card bonus is online only and lasts until Aug. 26. It is unclear if Apple will continue to offer the store credits after Sprint’s sale ends.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.