AT&T customer wins in 3G throttling case, could open floodgates for similar lawsuits against carrier

Posted by:
Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:18
Category: 3G Wireless, iPhone, Legal, News

attlogo

Sometimes you CAN fight the giant and win.

Per the Associated Press, in a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone’s download speed due to high usage was awarded US$850 on claims that the telecom’s throttling measures are unfair to consumers.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unfairly reduces unlimited data plan users’ bandwidth speeds.

The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T’s smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.

The nation’s second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T’s tiered options.

As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple’s handset and smartphones running Google’s Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of “heavy users.”

An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.

In Spaccarelli’s case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T’s network costs US$30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run US$20, US$30 and US$50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.

According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.

In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.

The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for US$85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.

In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.

AT&T’s attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won’t know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.

So, let the floodgates open. If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to replace 30-pin iPhone, iPod, iPad connector with smaller alternative

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 24th, 2012, 07:10
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor

It’s a rumor, but it involves replacing the classic 30-pin connector you know, love and are readily familiar with on your iPod, iPhone, and iPad with something new, so proceed to panic.

Also, begin hoarding food, as this means the apocalypse is well nigh.

An unsubstantiated rumor claims that Apple is looking to replace the venerable 30-pin iPhone, iPad and iPod dock connector with a smaller, space-saving successor that will possibly make a debut in the company’s next generation iPhone.

According to the iMore blog, unnamed sources have stated that the iPhone maker found a way to make the connector smaller in 2010 to help accommodate for the iPhone 4’s larger battery.

Another factor is the connector’s role in data transfer. With the advent of iCloud, AirPlay and the energy-sipping Bluetooth 4.0, a future iPhone may only need a cable for charging purposes.

It is unclear what would become of the huge ecosystem of existing “Made for iDevice” products, which is a lucrative business for both Apple and third-party companies, as it would be made obsolete by a redesigned connector.

Details remain scarce at this time, but check back and we’ll get information up as soon as it becomes available.

China Telecom announces iPhone 4S launch date of March 9th

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 08:02
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re overseas and have been waiting for the iPhone 4S, it’s almost here.

After months of ads, China Telecom has announced that it will begin sales of the newest iPhone on March 9, 2012. The company will begin taking reservations for the iPhone 4S on March 2 in anticipation of the rollout a week later according to MacStories.

China Telecom is the second largest carrier in China, and uses a CDMA network as opposed to the GSM network run by market leader China Unicom (which has been selling the iPhone 4S since January). The iPhone 4S is the first iPhone that can run on both networks without requiring separate models.

As part of China Telecom’s rollout, the carrier will be offering the 16 GB iPhone 4S for free with a 2 year contract. According to a tweet from Asymco analyst Horace Dediu, China Unicom currently has 37 million 3G customers, with China Telecom adding another 33 million 3G users. That’s a huge potential iPhone 4S market for Apple, and one that the company is eager to tap.

During last week’s Goldman Sachs technology conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook made repeated references to the vast Chinese market and how the company is making that market a key target for its growth strategy in the future.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple begins to disable ports for non-authorized devices accessing Siri servers

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 15th, 2012, 06:12
Category: Hack, iPhone, News

As much as you may like the idea of running Siri on a non-iPhone-4S device, Apple seems to feel differently.

Per Redmond Pie, Apple has added a new barrier to the software needed to run Siri, a move that shows the Cupertino, Calif., company is actively tracking the growing number of iDevice users who have managed to port the voice-recognizing assistant to non-supported hardware.

In an attempt to halt the unauthorized use of its digital assistant on devices not intended to run the software, Apple covertly instituted a “SetActivationToken” property list file which effectively disables any attempts to communicate with Siri’s servers.

To get the voice-recognition software to work on other iOS devices, the so-called jailbreak community came up with a basic program called Spire which installs the required on-device files to communicate with the Siri servers. Spire’s developers, the prolific hacker “chpwn” and Ryan Petrich, allege that the program is a completely legal port.

The software has caveats, however, as it is only available to jailbroken devices, requires a proxy Siri server and an iPhone 4S certificate.

Despite the troublesome task of installing and troubleshooting the workaround, the demand from users who don’t have an iPhone 4S yet want a taste of Siri has been enough to warrant a response from Apple.

Since Siri was announced in October 2011 as the standout feature of Apple’s iPhone 4S, users of other iOS devices like the iPhone 4 and 3GS have questioned the company’s decision to keep the software locked to the newest generation handset.

Apple has not officially responded outside of saying that the hardware on the 4S makes Siri possible, though previous anecdotal reports have claimed that the exclusivity may stem from a modified proximity sensor or integrated noise reduction tech from EarSmart.

The feature has been seen as a driving force for sales of the newest iPhone, and Apple may be pushing users to upgrade rather than rely on an untested, unauthorized piece of software.

The jailbreak community is already claiming that a simple “solution” to the “SetActivationToken” addition is to simply delete the entirety of a certain .plist information bundle, however the technique hasn’t been fully vetted.

This latest attempt to free an iOS feature from Apple’s “walled garden” is but one of a myriad jailbreak attempts by users who want interface with their devices in ways frowned upon by the company.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple cautions against “Beta test iPhone 5” scam, tells users to be wary of unsolicited offer

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 07:42
Category: iPhone, News

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Per the Apple discussion boards and iPodNN, a recent scam spam has spread from email and forums to Twitter, Facebook and now text messaging. Users have reported seeing unsolicited texts and social-network posts claiming that “Apple” is seeking 1,000 testers for text messaging on the iPhone 5. The links go to the websites celltestnkeep.com or cellphonetesters.com and ask for email or a text message “code” to sign up.

The notoriously secretive Apple would not, of course, openly solicit for public testers of a forthcoming product (it rarely even acknowledges a forthcoming product at all), nor use a third-party company to do so. Users who “sign up” will be asked for additional information. The “promotion” is a scam operation that sells the data collected to spammers and other criminal organizations. The text messages have appeared for users of other phone platforms as well as iOS users.

Scams promoting free “iPhone 5” units were popular on social-networking and forum sites up until the announcement of the iPhone 4S. Speculation that Apple may introduce a new model sometime later this year has apparently reached a sufficient level of mainstream consciousness that spammers are seeking to attract gullible consumers who want to get the jump on the next version of Apple’s most popular product.

The call to “test text messaging” is particularly ironic since iOS 5 introduced a new iOS service called iMessage that bypasses normal SMS traffic, circumventing a source of carrier income. Apple mobile devices that register their phone numbers or email addresses in iOS 5 can send and receive SMS-like text, image or video messages to and from other iOS devices or groups at no charge. The system works over Wi-Fi or 3G (and in the latter case does use 3G data).

AT&T is advising users to contact Apple when they receive such a text message. The company cannot block users from receiving the unsolicited text message, though Canada has recently introduced anti-spam laws that require mandatory opt-in before unsolicited electronic messages can be sent.

In other news, if you’ve already fallen for the iPhone 5 tester scam, I’ve got a great bridge to sell you just a few blocks away…

LTE-ready micro-SIM cards arrive in AT&T stores, help lay groundwork for LTE-capable iPads

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 10th, 2012, 06:07
Category: iPad, iPhone, News

attlogo

You’ve been wanting an iPad with LTE access for a while now and your patience is about to pay off.

Per a recent sighting at an AT&T store by Phone Arena, the store’s sales staff seemed to be looking to get rid of older cards and replace them with the new versions fully capable of talking to the 4G network. An included memo didn’t specifically attach the cards to any one device.

The cards are almost certainly being brought in time for the Nokia Lumia 900, which like its smaller Lumia 800 sibling should use micro-SIM cards to get online. Other LTE phones in the near term are so far expected to use full-size SIM cards.

Even so, this helps lay the groundwork for future devices that are increasingly likely to include LTE iPads and iPhones. Apple was the primary impetus behind the existence of the micro-SIM card format, and it has shown increasing signs that it’s preparing for LTE through testing and carriers that anticipate Apple deals once the iPhone gets LTE. Code exploration has strongly suggested an LTE iPad was getting close.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T begins data throttling on “Unlimited” data plans at 2GB mark

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 2012, 08:55
Category: iPhone, News

attlogo

Sometimes it’s as if the wireless carriers WANT you to be disgruntled with them.

Per iLounge, AT&T has begun to throttle—or downgrade the data speeds of—customers on unlimited data plans that go over 2GB in data usage for the month.

As AT&T customer John Cozen wrote on his blog, “I received a message during my last billing cycle, warning I was in the top 5% of my region and would experience reduced data speeds next time I reach that level of data use. I immediately checked my data usage on the AT&T iOS app. 2.1 GB. Less than I expected considering AT&T offers a 3GB plan for US$30 a month. The same amount I’ve paid for the unlimited data plan since signing up with them many years ago. AT&T no longer offers an unlimited data plan, anyone still on it has been grandfathered in.”

“Data consumption by all smartphone customers, including the top 5 percent of smartphone data customers, varies by month and by market,” said Emily Edmonds, Director, AT&T Corporate Communications. “As of August 2011, the average data use across the country by the top 5 percent of AT&T smartphone customers was 2 GB per month.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this change on your end, please let us know in the comments.

iPhone 4S returns to Chinese Apple Store web site, units can be expected by March 2nd

Posted by:
Date: Monday, February 6th, 2012, 06:18
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re over in the far east and hankering for an iPhone 4S, you’ll be able to snag one online without getting into a fistfght in line.

Per China Daily, the handset has returned to the company’s Chinese online store following a brief stoppage of sales due to overwhelming demand that led to scalpers and violence, though wait times for orders can range from overnight to weeks.

The report confirms that the iPhone 4S can now be purchased through the online Apple Store in mainland China, bringing an end to the nearly month-long moratorium on sales that was instituted almost immediately following the smartphone’s Chinese launch.

Apple’s Chinese online store has been taking orders since Wednesday, though customers may not be receiving the actual device for some time as current estimates are quoting a ship date of “February.”

“If you pay today, you might get the items tomorrow, and no later than March 2,” said an Apple sales representative.

In re-opening online orders, Apple has instituted strict sales policies that dissuade scalpers from using bots to gobble up online inventory to be sold on the grey market at inflated prices.

A lottery system was recently introduced in Hong Kong, where lower taxes and limited supply led to a flood of scalpers who repeatedly clashed with customers and each other for a chance to buy the device. The price for a 16 GB iPhone 4S in Hong Kong is HK$5,088 (US$660), more than US$100 cheaper than the 4,988 yuan (US$790) mainland China customers pay for the same handset.

iPhone buyers in Hong Kong must place their online order with a valid government-issued ID between 9am and 12pm, and those who are randomly selected will receive an email by 9pm with instructions on picking up the device at a specific time the following day. Customers not selected are forced to repeat the procedure on a different day.

Apple’s new rules limit purchases to two devices per person and it remains to be seen whether the newly instituted rules will reduce the number of units sold through unofficial channels, however some stores are seeing a change.

“Since we began accepting online orders yesterday, not as many people have been hawking iPhones nearby as before,” said an employee at the Apple Store in Xidan, Beijing.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve been involved in the Chinese purchase process for an iPhone 4S, please let us know in the comments.

Apple cites misdirected iMessages as result of incorrect configuration, not iOS 5 bug

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 3rd, 2012, 05:01
Category: iPhone, News, Software

If iOS 5’s iMessages app is giving you fits, Tim Cook is here to tell you why. Per The Loop, reports of iOS 5 iMessages being sent to the wrong recipient are the result of a misconfigured phone, not an issue with the operating system or Apple’s cloud services, the company indicated.

The report notes that a situation where messages from an Apple Store employee were being directed to another user’s iPhone were the result of the employee failing to follow directions while troubleshooting the customer’s device.

The employee installed his personal SIM card in the customer’s phone, linking the device to his Apple ID account in a way that resulted in his subsequent iMessages, including photos, being relayed to the customer’s device.

The report cited Apple representative Natalie Harrison as saying, “this was an extremely rare situation that occurred when a retail employee did not follow the correct service procedure and used their personal SIM to help a customer who did not have a working SIM. This resulted in a temporary situation that has since been resolved by the employee.”

Apple noted that to prevent such a situation, users should “toggle iMessage on and off” in the Settings app of any iOS 5 device configured to their Apple ID before it is given away or sold.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone jailbreaking could be ruled as “fair use” in U.S., government invites public comments until February 10th (updated)

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 1st, 2012, 05:30
Category: iPhone, News

You can’t argue with effective lobbying.

Per Macworld UK, the United States government, at the request of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has announced an inquiry that could lead to a blanket exemption to the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) for activities that all under the Fair Use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. As such, public comments have been invited until February 10th.

This announcement, and subsequent change in DCMA enforcement policy, has wide-ranging implications for consumers of electronic devices and media. As it applies to the on-going battle between Apple and iPhone hackers, the new rules stipulate that Apple may not actively prevent attempts to “Jailbreak” the iPhone to allow extra functionality with either hardware or software measures.

Beyond the iPhone, the new DCMA exemptions allow academics to legally break DVD copy-protection to use films clips in the classroom, users to remove software and hardware security measures that are no longer supported by the publisher or manufacturer, and legalizes the investigation and correction of software flaws by third-parties.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.