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.

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.

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 to add “Wi-Fi Plus Cellular” feature in iOS 6

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Date: Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 11:38
Category: iOS, News, Software

This could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, a new feature that appears to be making its way to iOS 6 this fall aims to automatically detect these hiccups and toggle your iPhone back to cellular data until the Wi-Fi network clears up. This way, some of your most important data and applications will keep on syncing.

Dubbed ‘Wi-Fi Plus Cellular,’ the feature is listed under General->Cellular systems setting pane in the latest beta of iOS 6. If it makes it into the final release of the software, you’ll be able to tell your iPhone to automatically revert back to cellular data to keep your iCloud Documents, iTunes purchases, Passbook and Reading Lists up to date.

In much the same way, it will also attempt to keep your FaceTime video conferences from dropping on an iPhone 4S or greater (the FaceTime toggle does not show up on iPhone 4 or earlier). It’s not yet clear, however, how individual carriers will handle cellular data use for FaceTime, as an earlier finding from within the iOS 6 betas indicated that AT&T may charge for the capability, which is currently limited to WiFi in iOS 5.

Either way, the potential new feature underscores Apple’s drive to equip customers with the best possible user experience where things ‘just work.’ It’s joined by other additions in the latest iOS 6 beta that are similarly designed to keep users connected, including a Bluetooth Sharing feature and an option to be notified when someone subscribed to one of your shared calendars makes an update.

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.

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…

Apple releases iOS 6 beta 2 to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, June 26th, 2012, 06:38
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iTunes, News, Software

It’s not the most amazing update in the world, but it moves things a bit closer to iOS 6′s release date.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday issued its second beta of iOS 6 for developer testing, including a pair of fixes related to touchscreen keyboard performance.

Developers began receiving word that an update was available from “AppleInternal” on Monday afternoon. The “operating system 6.0″ update is a 322-megabyte download for iPhone 4S users.

People familiar with iOS 6 beta 2 said it is identified as build “10A5338d.” When updating to the new software version in the Settings application, the icon with gears is animated and actually moves.

The release notes that accompany the update reportedly indicate that Apple fixed an issue where key clicking sounds could be skipped during fast typing. Apple also indicated it addressed an issue in which the keyboard would be wrongly positioned when switching from landscape to portrait orientation.

Apple also reportedly fixed an issue where the iOS SpringBoard may crash during a phone call if the screen would fade to black when using a speakerphone or headphones. It also addressed a crash that would occur if a new iCloud account was created during initial setup of the iOS device.

The latest iOS 6 beta also adds the podcasts section back into the iTunes application. That was missing from the first beta, and there have been rumors that Apple plans to introduce a standalone podcast application when iOS 6 officially launches this fall.

iOS 6 beta 2 is compatible with the third-generation iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and fourth-generation iPod touch.

Also released on Monday were Xcode 4.5 Developer Preview 2, as well as a second beta of the next software update for the Apple TV set-top box.

iOS 6 was formally announced earlier this month at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Developers were also provided with the first beta after its unveiling, allowing them to test their applications before the formal public launch this fall.

If you’ve gotten a chance to tinker with the new beta, please let us know what you think in the comments.