Apple to cover international LTE standards via three hardware variants

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 08:31
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

The iPhone 5 is en route.

And it looks like a nifty feat of engineering.

With the variety of different LTE frequency bands used by various carriers available globally, Apple will be making three versions of iPhone 5, with the potential for additional new models as Apple signs on other carriers according to AppleInsider.



Apple built a single, global model of the iPhone up until the beginning of 2011, when it introduced a CDMA-only iPhone 4 version compatible with Verizon. When it introduced iPhone 4S a year ago, Apple incorporated support for both GSM and CDMA networks, resulting in a “world phone,” albeit still locked by specific carriers.

The new iPhone 5 now comes in three LTE versions, all of which continue to support the global GSM/UMTS services of iPhone 4S (Quad Band 2G GSM/EDGE on 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, and Quad Band 3G UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA on 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) with new support for “4G” DC-HSDPA (which at up to 42Mbps is as fast as most carriers’ 4G LTE service). Only one of the three versions continues to support CDMA.

To cover its launch carriers’ LTE services, Apple has announced these three different models:

A North American GSM A1428 model for use on AT&T and Apple’s Canadian partners Bell/Virgin, Rogers/Fido and Telus/Kodo provides LTE support for bands 4 (AWS) and 17 (700b MHz) but not CDMA.

AWS-flavored LTE is exclusive to North America, where it was originally assigned for use as wireless cable. In both the US and Canada, it has been reassigned for mobile voice and data networks. While Canadian carriers used it for LTE deployments, T-Mobile acquired large portions of the U.S. rights to AWS and used it to build out its non-standard 3G UMTS service.

This is one significantly reason why AT&T wanted to acquire T-Mobile two years ago. After the U.S. government intervened, T-Mobile was left with its AWS 3G service incompatible with previous iPhones. It now plans to build out LTE service, although that won’t happen until next year, leaving it with the interim option of shifting its 2G GSM service to 3G/4G HSDPA in order to woo unlocked iPhone 4/4S/5 users (which it currently has in place in only a few markets).

A second, CDMA model A1429 will support Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA network in the U.S. and KDDI in Japan. In addition to the standard “EVDO rev A” 800 and 1900MHz support on previous CDMA iPhones, iPhone 5 now also supports the slightly faster and more efficient rev B on 2100MHz. Sprint and Verizon once considered upgrading to EVDO rev B before throwing their support behind 4G networks, but Japan’s KDDI does use rev B networks. CDMA carriers in India and Russia also support rev B.

More importantly, the CDMA iPhone 5 supports LTE Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz), 13 (700cMHz, used by Verizon) and 25 (1900MHz, used by Sprint). The first three bands overlap those used by Apple’s other carrier partners in Europe and Asia (but not AT&T/Canada), although the company also notes that “band support does not guarantee support on all LTE networks running on the same bands.”

Finally, a third model for the rest of the world supports GSM carriers that have added support for LTE on Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz).

This includes Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Everything Everywhere in the UK, Optus/Virgin and Telstra in Australia, Softbank in Japan, SK Telecom and KT in Korea, SmarTone in Hong Kong, and M1 and SingTel in Singapore.

There are several other global LTE carriers Apple could support, either with its existing models or new models, that the company hasn’t announced any deals with yet.

In Japan NTT DOCOMO uses Band 1, and a long list of other European carriers are deploying Band 3 LTE. T-Mobile, Cricket and Metro PCS use Band 4 (AWS) in the U.S., so these carriers could all apparently be supported by Apple’s existing models, given a carrier agreement.

Other carriers have deployed LTE Bands that none of Apple’s existing iPhone 5 versions support. A variety of carriers in Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland are all deploying Band 7 (2600 MHz), while others in Germany and Sweden are using Band 20 (800MHz), and a variety of Middle Eastern carriers have started building out Band 38 (2600MHz).

iPhone 5 is believed to use Qualcomm’s fifth generation MDM9615 baseband chip, which supports both FDD and TDD signaling technologies for LTE.

FDD or Frequency-Division Duplex signaling technology is used by CDMA and WCDMA/UMTS for most modern cellular systems, and is the technology most LTE providers will use, including the networks being built out by AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. Qualcomm owns most of the patents supporting CDMA and WCDMA technologies.

TDD or Time-Division Duplex is an alternative flavor of the LTE standard developed by China, and is being deployed in that country under the name TD-LTE. China developed its own TD-SCDMA and now TD-LTE to avoid paying Qualcomm’s patent royalties. By supporting both FDD and TDD technologies, Qualcomm’s chipset can enable a single device to work on a wide variety of 3G or 4G networks.

It’s not clear if Apple is supporting TDD-LTE (or China’s 3G TD-SCDMA) in its existing iPhone 5 versions. This would dictate whether a separate model would be needed to support LTE service in China and India. Apple’s partner Softbank initially built out TDD-LTE in Japan, but has since augmented its coverage with standard FDD-LTE.

However the MDM9615 does appear to be giving Apple support for new DC-HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev-B, making it likely that Apple’s existing iPhone 5 models will eventually make it to a wider selection of carriers. And even in areas with incompatible LTE networks, iPhone 5 will support very fast HSPA+ networks at similar speeds to today’s LTE deployments.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple announces iPhone 5, handset to go on sale September 21st

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Date: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 10:21
Category: iPhone, News

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The Apple online store is being updated right now.

And for good reason.

At long last, Apple on Wednesday unveiled its iPhone 5 handset. Per Macworld, the new device features a taller screen, a new dock connector port, LTE support, and other changes.

The new handset, which is now 7.6mm thin and weighs 112 grams, now incorporates a 4-inch display that offers 326 pixels per inch and 1136 x 640 resolution.

Apps that aren’t updated don’t stretch or scale but will display letterboxed on the iPhone, with black borders surrounding the centered app.

The iPhone 5 offers 44 percent more color saturation than the iPhone 4S, Schiller said, and because the touch sensors are integrated right into the display, it’s 30 percent thinner, with sharper imagery, and less glare in sunlight.

New to the iPhone 5 is LTE, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA support. That’s on top of the GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, and HSPA that the iPhone 4S offered. Apple VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said that with LTE, the iPhone 5 can achieve a “theoretical maximum downlink of up to 100Mbps.”

Schiller explained that the iPhone 5 uses one baseband chip for voice and data and a single radio chip. The new phone also improves upon the iPhone 4S’s dynamic antenna, Schiller said, improving its ability to automatically switch to different networks as appropriate.

LTE partners for the iPhone 5 include Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon in the U.S, and Rogers, Fido, Bell, Telus, and more in Canada. Schiller said there are “plenty” of LTE partners in Asia, Australia, the UK, and Germany, with lots of DC-HSDPA support in Europe as well.

The iPhone 5 also gains better Wi-Fi, with support for 802.11 a/b/g/n. The 802.11n standard is 2.4GHz and dual channel 5GHz, up to 150 Mbps, Schiller said.

The processor in the iPhone 5 is the brand new Apple A6, which is twice as fast at CPU and graphics processing compared to the A5 that drove the iPhone 4S, Schiller said. It’s also 22 percent smaller than its predecessor, freeing up more space inside the iPhone, and making it more energy efficient to boot. Schiller said that everything—launching apps, viewing attachments, loading music—would be twice as fast as before.

Schiller explained that Apple wanted “to match the battery life of the 4S in a thinner and lighter design” for the iPhone 5. The company ended up exceeding that battery life; the iPhone 5 will offer eight hours of 3G talk time and browsing and LTE browsing, ten hours of Wi-Fi browsing, ten hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 225 hours of standby time.

The iPhone 5’s camera sports an eight megapixel sensor, 3264 by 2448 pixel images. It’s backside illuminated, with a hybrid IR filter, five-element lens, and a fast f/2.4 aperture. And the camera is 25 percent smaller than the iPhone 4S’s camera. The camera also includes a dynamic low-light mode, which can sense low light and combine elements for two f-stops greater.

The camera also includes, for the first time on an iPhone, a sapphire lens cover, which Schiller said would protect the lens and make images cleaner and sharper.

The A6 chip includes a new image signal processor, with spatial noise reduction and filtering to improve photographs. And the camera’s now 40 percent faster, too.

Also new in the iPhone 5’s camera arsenal is Panorama. You hold the iPhone vertically and sweep your scene; the app tells you at what speed to move. “Even if you’re not perfectly stable,” or if movement artifacts are introduced, Schiller said, the software can compensate in the final image.

Video performance is improved, too. The iPhone 5 offers 1080p HD video, improved video stabilization, face detection for up to ten faces, and can take photos while you’re recording video. The front-facing camera is now a FaceTime HD 720p HD camera with backside illumination, a significant improvement over the iPhone 4S’s VGA-quality front-facing camera.

The iPhone 5 includes three separate microphones, Schiller said: One on the front, one on the back, and one on the bottom. They improve noise cancellation and voice recognition.

The speaker gets improved, too. It now includes five magnets in its transducer, with better frequency response and better sound—while being 20 percent smaller than the speaker in the iPhone 4S. The earpiece is now noise-canceling, too, Schiller said.

With some carriers, the iPhone 5 will support wideband audio. In a typical cell phone call, the frequency of data in your voice is compressed around the midrange, Schiler said. But that doesn’t sounded entirely natural. Wideband audio fills up more of the frequency spectrum to make your voice sound more normal. Schiller said 20 carriers will support the technology at launch, and didn’t mention any U.S. carriers that would.

If you wondered as to whether Apple would adopt a new connector type to replace the Dock connector, the answer is “yes”. The iPhone 5 abandons the familiar 30-pin dock connector port, which first appeared with the original iPod in 2003. In its place is a smaller port, which Apple calls Lightning.

The 8-signal Lightning connector is all-digital, with an adaptive interface and improved durability. It’s reversible (meaning you can orient it either way, like a MagSafe adapter), and it’s 80 percent smaller than the connector it replaces.

Schiller announced that Apple would offer a 30-pin-to-Lightning connector, but didn’t mention pricing.

The iPhone 5 will come in an all black model, and a white model with a bright silver aluminum finish.

The iPhone 5 will be available September 21 in the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with pre-orders starting on September 14. It will retail for US$199 for 16GB, US$299 for 32GB, and US$399 for 64GB—the same pricing as the iPhone 4S that preceded it. The iPhone 4S drops to US$99; and the iPhone 4 is now the free, entry-level iPhone. All those prices require two-year commitments.

The iPhone 5 will be available in 20 more countries a week later, and in 100 countries over 240 carrier partners by year’s end.

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.

Apple launches third-generation iPad in China

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Date: Friday, July 20th, 2012, 05:00
Category: iPad, News

Mental note: Head to China and pick up a third-generation iPad.

Per Reuters, Apple launched its Retina display-sporting iPad in China on Friday to orderly lines, a scene contrasting the company’s most recent product launches in the country which were marred with unruly crowds and scalpers.

A pre-sale reservation system instituted by Chinese Apple Stores appeared to be effective as the third-generation iPad launch went off without a hitch, perhaps uncharacteristically so for such a substantial release.

The scene came as a surprise to Apple customers, as many have become used to long lines and overnight waits to purchase the new products. Scalpers were also an issue as demand sometimes drastically outweighed supply. Apple in January was forced to halt sales of the popular iPhone 4S on launch day as a large group of customers became unruly upon hearing that the handset was sold out.

“I’m very surprised that there is no line,” said Sun Xufei, an IT worker who was first in line at the Shanghai Lujiazui Apple Store. “I thought there was going be a long line so I came over a bit earlier to pick it up.” The line Xufei was standing in was reportedly only about 20 people deep.

Apple adopted a pre-order system in which customers are prompted to reserve an iPad through the Apple online store between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. after which they are assigned a time to pick up their device the next day. This allows the company to somewhat control the flow of foot traffic in and around the six official brick-and-mortar Apple Stores on the Chinese mainland. Hong Kong also has one Apple Store to serve the region’s over seven million residents which accompanies a network of authorized resellers dotted throughout the country.

The Wi-Fi-only third generation iPad first gained Chinese regulatory approval in March and was followed by the 3G wireless version in May.

If you’re over in China and just snagged a third-gen iPad, please let us know how your line experience went over in the comments.

Verizon to begin shared data plans starting June 28th

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Date: Wednesday, June 13th, 2012, 07:41
Category: iPhone, News

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Maybe shared data plans will come into vogue this year.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier Verizon has announced that it will be initiating shared data plans later this month, making it the first of the “big-three” U.S. telecoms to offer such a program.

The company announced the new “Share Everything” option on Tuesday, which includes unlimited talk, text and tiered shared data plans for both smartphones and tablets as well as data-only plans, is slated to start on June 28.

Up to ten devices can share data under the new plan with varying pricing for device type. For example, line access for a smartphone like Apple’s iPhone is US$40 per month while a tablet adds on US$10. Mobile hotspots are also included in the Share Anything plan and can be added for an additional US$20 per month.

The carrier is introducing a number of new data tiers to its existing one-line offerings, and shared data users can now select one of six levels ranging from US$50 per month for 1GB of bandwidth to US$100 per month for 10GB. Data overage is still in place and looks to be US$15 per gigabyte across the board but users can opt to up their data plans in 2GB intervals before reaching their limit.

As an example, Verizon offers a US$180 access plan that includes two smartphones at US$40 each, one feature phone at US$30 and 4GB worth of shared data which carries a cost of US$70 per month.

Data-only customers have four tiers to work with starting at US$30 per month for 4GB and topping out at US$60 per month for 10GB. Mobile hotspots and tablets with mobile hotspot functionality are included in this pricing model.

The new Share Anything plan is a step in the direction of what many believe is the future of wireless in the U.S. In an early June report, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said that his company was also working on rolling out a shared data plan, though that plan has been in the works for over a year.

Verizon was recently the target of a media blitz when CFO Fran Shammo said “when [customers] migrate off 3G they will have to go to data share,” which caused a fracas because many thought the company would forcibly move unlimited data users to more profitable tiered pricing. The issue was quickly clarified in a Verizon statement that said only customers who choose to take carrier subsidies when upgrading to another smartphone will be forced out of out of their unlimited plans. In either case, it is clear that the telecom is pushing for tiered pricing, a trend that has become increasingly popular as wireless providers acknowledge the profitability of soaring data use.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Cricket Wireless to offer contract-free iPhone 4S, will sell units for $500

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Date: Thursday, May 31st, 2012, 10:57
Category: iPhone, News

It’s not the highest end wireless carrier in the world, but if it carries contract-free iPhones, who’s to criticize?

Per AppleInsider, on June 22, Cricket Wireless will become America’s first fully prepaid wireless carrier to offer Apple’s iPhone, with an “unlimited” US$55-per-month plan.

Cricket Wireless is a prepaid subsidiary of Leap Wireless, which offers “unlimited” data plans under a “fair usage policy” of 2.3 gigabytes per month. The small carrier with 6.2 million customers announced on Thursday that it will become the first prepaid carrier in the U.S. to offer the iPhone to its customers.

On June 22, Cricket will sell the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S contract-free for US$500, in addition to the 8-gigabyte iPhone 4 for US$400. Both will be compatible with the carrier’s “unlimited” US$55-per-month talk, text and data plan.

Customers will be able to buy both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 in Cricket company-owned stores and select dealers in nearly 60 markets. The iPhone will also be available for sale on the company’s official website, and over the phone at 800-853-7682.

Cricket offers wireless voice and mobile data services over 4G LTE and 3G CDMA wireless networks. Its parent company, Leap, is the owner of the seventh largest wireless telecommunications network in the U.S. with coverage in all 50 states.

Cricket is the latest regional wireless carrier to receive the iPhone, as Apple has been aggressively expanding the presence of its smartphone to smaller carriers in the U.S. Earlier this month, Apple added Kentucky’s Bluegrass Cellular, California’s Golden State Cellular, and Kansas’ Nex-Tech Wireless to its list of official carrier partners.

In April a total of five carriers began selling the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4: Alaska Communications, Appalachian Wireless, Cellcom, GCI and nTelos. And last October, the iPhone also launched on C Spire Wireless, a regional U.S. carrier with about 900,000 customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China regulatory officials approve sale of 3G third-generation iPad

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Date: Wednesday, May 30th, 2012, 12:26
Category: iPad, News

Give it time and the regulators will eventually say yes…

Per MarketWatch, regulators in China have approved the 3G version of Apple’s third-generation iPad for sale in that market, signaling that the new iPad could soon become available in another major market.

The approval of the new iPad model compatible with the China Unicom 3G network was noted on Wednesday, China’s Telecommunication Equipment Certification Center giving Apple the OK to begin selling its latest iPad with model number “A1430.”

The arrival of the new iPad in China is an important event for Apple, as the nation of over a billion people has become the second-largest market in the world for the company, behind the U.S. The new iPad is already available for sale in most developed countries around the world.

Wednesday’s report suggested the slow release in China could be a result of an ongoing trademark dispute between Apple and Proview, a company that is the original owner of the “iPAD” name in China. Lawsuits from Proview’s Shenzehen-based operation have accused Apple of acting “with oppression, fraud and/or malice” when it used a U.K.-based proxy company named IP Application Development, Ltd., to buy the rights to the “iPAD” name.

Regulatory approval for the Wi-Fi-only version of the new iPad was granted by the proper authorities in late March. However, that device has yet to go on sale in China.

Outside of mainland China, Hong Kong was one of ten places the new iPad went on sale when it launched on March 16. It joined the U.S, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the U.K, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Last year, the iPad 2 saw a much quicker debut in China, launching there on May 6, 2011. The launch of the iPad 2 drew large crowds, as well as scalpers who offered to resell the device for a markup of 200 yuan, or US$30 U.S.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iOS messaging hints at prospect of FaceTime over 3G connections

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Date: Friday, May 18th, 2012, 12:04
Category: iOS, News, Software

Because FaceTime should be on just about every type of connection, no matter what the throughput.

Per Romanian website iDevice, warnings contained in the latest version of iOS suggest that Apple plans to bring support for 3G wireless data connections to its FaceTime video chat feature.

When a FaceTime call is active over Wi-Fi on an iPhone running iOS 5.1.1, and a user turns off the “Enable 3G” option in the Settings application, the operating system presents users with a warning message: “Disabling 3G may end FaceTime. Are you sure you want to disable 3G?”

Despite the warning, FaceTime video calls will continue over Wi-Fi uninterrupted, even after 3G has been turned off or on, which has suggested to some that Apple is planning to bring 3G support to FaceTime.

Tests have confirmed that the warning message does, in fact, display when the iPhone’s 3G is disabled during a FaceTime call. In addition, iOS also displays another message when a user attempts to turn 3G back on: “Enabling 3G will end your phone call. Are you sure you want to enable 3G?” Neither enabling or disabling 3G interrupted any FaceTime calls.

Apple first introduced FaceTime video chat in 2010 with the launch of the iPhone 4. Since then, it has been brought to the Mac, and the addition of forward-facing cameras to the iPod touch and iPad have also allowed FaceTime with those iOS-based devices.

Since its launch, FaceTime has only been available to use over Wi-Fi. Users who attempt to connect a FaceTime call over 3G are met with an error message telling them the service is not available.

When he introduced FaceTime in 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs explained that the video chat feature was not available over wireless cellular networks at the request of mobile carriers. Jobs said that Apple needed to “work a little bit with the cellular providers” in hopes of offering FaceTime over 3G.

If Apple does enable FaceTime over 3G, it’s possible that some carriers could opt to block or restrict the functionality on their own networks. For example, though tethering was enabled on the iPhone with iOS 3.0, U.S. carrier AT&T blocked the feature until a year later, with the release of iOS 4.0.

If you’ve seen the warning on your end, please let us know and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

Next-gen iPhone to incorporate larger display, part of Steve Jobs’ final effort

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Date: Friday, May 18th, 2012, 05:29
Category: iPhone, Rumor

This whole thing about the next-gen iPhone containing a larger screen? It might be what Steve Jobs would have wanted.

According to Bloomberg, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs “worked closely on” the upcoming iPhone before he died. According to sources familiar with Apple’s plans, the Cupertino, Calif., company has ordered from suppliers screens that are “bigger than the 3.5-inch size” that the iPhone has sported since its debut in 2007.

“Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had worked closely on the redesigned phone before his death in October,” the report noted one person as saying. Another source said that Jobs had played a “key role in developing” Apple’s next-generation iPhone.

If Apple were to perform a major redesign of the iPhone, it would be the device’s first since the iPhone 4 arrived in mid-2010. The previous design, that of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, was also kept for two years before the current form factor was introduced.

With three mainstream media outlets reporting similar claims in the same week, the likelihood that Apple will expand the screen on its best-selling handset appears high. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal said that LG Display, Sharp and the newly-created Japan Display are readying production lines for 4-inch displays bound for Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone. Reuters then noted that production of the new screens could begin as soon as next month, ahead of full production of the next-generation iPhone in August.

Pundits have suggested that Apple’s interest in a larger-screen iPhone comes in response to pressure from ever-increasing screen sizes of competing Android handsets. For instance, Samsung’s Galaxy S II, the most popular Android phone according to one recent study, has a 4.8-inch screen. The Galaxy Note, also by Samsung, is a hybrid smartphone and tablet with its 5.3-inch display.

Apple is widely expected to bring a new iPhone to market this fall, roughly one year after the iPhone 4S went on sale. Sources have disagreed, however, on whether the device’s launch will come in September or October.

Multiple reports have also suggested that the 2012 iPhone could make the jump to 4G LTE. Apple is expected to make use of new LTE chipsets from Qualcomm with improvements to power consumption over the previous generation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.