AT&T to throttle data for top five percent of user base

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 14:06
Category: iPhone, News

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There’s a price to pay for using a ton of data on your iPhone plan…

Per Macworld, AT&T announced late on Friday that it will begin throttling data throughput for heavy users of its unlimited smartphone data plans beginning on October 1.

According to the wireless provider, data throttling will affect only those smartphone customers on an unlimited data plan who fall into the top 5 percent of data consumption. Once users are counted among that number, their data speed will be reduced, but their overall capacity won’t be touched—they can still consume as much data as they want, just at a slower speed.

Unfortunately, AT&T isn’t alone in that decision. In February, Verizon Wireless announced it too would throttle the top 5 percent of its smartphone data users. At the time, Verizon was offering unlimited data plans; earlier this month, it switched to a tiered model similar to AT&T.

An AT&T spokesman stated that it isn’t specifying a hard and fast data threshold that will signal the speed reduction—likely because data consumption patterns will shift from month to month. That seems to mean that the top 5 percent of smartphone customers in any given month will likely see their data speeds throttled, despite how much data they actually use. However, in its statement on the matter the carrier says it will provide notices and a grace period before imposing the speed reductions, and the customers will find their data speed returned to normal at the beginning of the subsequent billing period.

AT&T points to specific type of data most likely to trigger high levels of data consumption, such as streaming very large amounts of video and audio and transferring large files over the cellular network. The company suggests instead using Wi-Fi for these purposes, especially since its customers get free access to the company’s network of 26,000 hotspots around the country.

Smartphone customers subscribed to one of AT&T’s tiered data plans—the US$15 per month 200MB plan and US$25 per month 2GB plan—will not be affected by the data throttling. So if speed is the ultimate concern—and you don’t mind paying for additional data capacity on your smartphone plan—AT&T suggests you can always switch to a tiered plan.

This isn’t the first time AT&T has tried to get unlimited data customers to shift to its tiered data plans, which it introduced last summer. Prior to then, unlimited data was the norm for iPhone customers; upon tweaking its plan, AT&T also introduced the much-awaited ability to tether the iPhone’s 3G connection to a laptop—but only for users of its tiered plans.

According to AT&T, the decision to throttle the heaviest data users is part of a plan to combat “a serious wireless spectrum crunch.” Data throttling is only one part of the moves AT&T says it is making, with the company also investing money in building our its wireless network as well as trying to “acquire additional network capacity.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iPhone 5 to launch in ‘early to mid-September’

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 07:58
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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The cool cats at Boy Genius Report are citing that AT&T is beginning preparations for an expected “early to mid-September” launch of the next-generation iPhone, in line with launch rumors and expectations and other reports of Apple beefing up its retail store staffing over a similar timeframe.

BGR has learned that AT&T has begun communicating launch plans internally for Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5 handset, informing employees across the company, and those who work in retail locations, to finish any sort of employee training as soon as possible. AT&T is asking managers to finish training in order to have employees available for the influx of foot traffic expected in September, a proven source has stated.

Apple has been preparing to increase staffing at its retail stores in the United States and United Kingdom, and rumors have suggested that Apple will use its traditional fall iPod media event to introduce the next-generation iPhone this year. That event has typically taken place in early September, although some reports have pushed that date up into late August this year ahead of a September launch for the device. Apple has announced that iOS 5 will debut this “fall”, and that software launch will undoubtedly occur right around the release of the next-generation hardware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts $7.31 billion profit for third quarter

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Date: Tuesday, July 19th, 2011, 13:44
Category: Finance, News

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A combination of record iPhone and iPad sales combined with continued growth of its Mac business pushed Apple to reported sales of US$28.57 billion and net profit of US$7.31 billion for the three-month period ended June 25, 2011.

Per Macworld, the sales and profit figures—both quarterly records—increased last year’s third-quarter performance by 82 percent and 125 percent, respectively. Apple reported earnings of US$7.79 per share, which beat analyst estimates of $5.85. Analysts had also been looking for Apple to reach US$24.92 billion in sales for the quarter—a figure the company topped by nearly US$4 billion.

“We are extremely pleased with the momentum of our business,” chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer told analysts during a conference call to discuss the earnings report on Tuesday. Oppenheimer noted that during its 2011 fiscal year, Apple has recorded US$35 billion in year-over-year revenue growth and US$9.5 billion in year-over-year earnings growth—increases of 78 percent and 99 percent, respectively.

Apple says it sold 20.34 million iPhones during the just-completed quarter, a 142 percent increase from the phones it sold during the same period last year. That’s also the most phones Apple has ever sold during a quarter, topping the 18.65 million mark set just three months ago.

The iPhone racked up strong sales despite Apple skipping its customary summer introduction of a new model, after releasing the iPhone 4 in the summer of 2010 and the iPhone 3GS the summer before that. The last new iPhone released by Apple was a CDMA version of the smartphone compatible with Verizon’s wireless network; that model came out in February. The long-awaited white version of the iPhone also shipped in April.

Apple sold 9.25 million iPads during the third quarter, the first full quarter of sales for the iPad 2, which arrived in March. Apple says its iPad sales topped last year’s figures by 183 percent. It also set a new record for quarterly iPad sales, besting the previous mark of 7.3 million during the 2010 holiday shopping season.

Mac sales rose 14 percent from last year, with Apple selling 3.95 million computers. That’s a record for the third quarter, Oppenheimer said. Growth of Mac sales also outpaced market-research firm IDC’s forecasted PC market growth by more than four times, Apple pointed out.

The quarter saw Apple introduce new iMacs with quad-core processors, improved graphics, and Thunderbolt connectivity. All told, Apple sold 1.15 million desktops, accounting for about 30 percent of the Macs sold during the quater. The company sold 2.79 million portable Macs during the quarter, with the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air driving those sales, according to Oppenheimer.

iPod sales continued to decline from the heights of previous years. Apple says it sold 7.54 million iPods, a 20 percent drop from last year, though Oppenheimer said that was above the company’s expectations. The iPod touch accounts for about half of all iPods sold, according to Apple’s figures.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon to kill unlimited data calling plans on Thursday, offers alternatives

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Date: Wednesday, July 6th, 2011, 04:59
Category: iPhone, News

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It was nifty while it lasted.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier Verizon, will not allow customers, including those who buy an iPhone, to be able to purchase the carrier’s unlimited data plan.

This Thursday, July 7, is when Verizon will begin offering its “usage-based” billing for mobile customers, spokeswoman Debra Lewis said. The change will not affect current smartphone customers of Verizon.

In addition, current smartphone customers who are upgrade-eligible will be allowed to move to another smartphone and retain their plan. But new customers or current customers who do not have a smartphone plan will only be able to buy a “usage-based” plan, Lewis told AppleInsider on Tuesday.

“We have lots of different ways for customers who may not be accustomed to this kind of stuff to check their usage in terms of data alerts, online tools, data calculators, things like that to help people decide what is the right plan for them,” she said.

New smartphone customers will be able to choose from four different capped monthly data plans: US$10 for 75MB, US$30 for 2GB, US$50 for 5GB, and US$80 for 10GB. Users who go over their monthly allotment will be charged US$10 per gigabyte, or US$10 per 75MB on the entry-level plan.

Users will also be able to add the “Mobile Hotspot” tethering feature to an iPhone or other compatible smartphone for US$20 per month. That plan will also net them an additional 2GB of data.

Tuesday’s news confirms an earlier leak that Verizon would switch to a usage-based model starting on July 7. Current smartphone customers can buy an unlimited plan from Verizon for US$29.99 per month.

Verizon’s transition comes more than a year after AT&T implemented its own tiered data plans, which retails for US$25 per month for 2GB, or US$15 a month for 200MB. AT&T customers and iPhone users also have the option of a tethering plan that offers 4GB total for US$45 per month. AT&T charges an overage of US$10 per gigabyte.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to begin offering Asurion Mobile insurance plan for iPhone users on July 17th

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Date: Tuesday, July 5th, 2011, 08:49
Category: iPhone, News

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If you’ve got something that’s important to you, then no one can ever say you were a fool to insure it.

Per Engadget, iPhone owners will be able to sign up for an Asurion Mobile Insurance plan for US$5 per month starting July 17th. The insurance plan can be added to the handset within 30 days of purchase and may include a deductible.

The documentation on AT&T’s website has not been updated to include the iPhone, although similar handsets have a US$125 replacement charge. This is a welcome change in plans for new iPhone owners as the previous insurance offering retailed for US$12 per month and included a substantial US$199 deductible.

If you’ve found a killer insurance outfit for your electronics, let us know in the comments.

Apple begins selling unlocked GSM iPhone 4 units in online store

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Date: Tuesday, June 14th, 2011, 06:24
Category: iPhone, News

Apple updated its online store on Tuesday to begin offering unlocked models of the iPhone 4, starting at $649.

Both the white and black versions of Apple’s bestselling smartphone are available, with the 16GB and 32GB versions selling for $649 and $749, respectively, in the U.S. Apple online store. The device is not eligible for international shipping.

Currently, the black versions of the unlocked iPhone 4 are estimated to ship within 1-3 business days, while white versions are listed as shipping within 3-5 days.

“The unlocked iPhone 4 requires an active micro-SIM card that you obtain from a supported GSM wireless carrier,” Apple notes on the product description page.

As with unlocked iPhones sold internationally, the device will work on all Apple-supported GSM networks around the world. Apple also takes care to note that an iPad 3G micro-SIM card will not work in the unlocked iPhone 4.

In the U.S., customers with unlocked GSM iPhones can choose from AT&T and T-Mobile, though data transmission on the T-Mobile network will occur over the slower EDGE protocol because the carrier’s 3G network is incompatible with the iPhone.

Over the weekend, reports emerged that Apple would begin sales of the unlocked iPhone 4 in the U.S., though the device went on sale a day earlier than sources had suggested. On Monday, various outlets noted that unlocked iPhones had been shipped to Apple Stores with a price tag of $649 and $749.

If you’ve been hankering for an unlocked iPhone, Apple seems to have come through.

Per AppleInsider, the company has posted an unlocked GSM iPhone 4 (available in both black and white) on its online store.

The release of an unlocked iPhone 4 comes as a blow to AT&T, which held an exclusive on the iPhone in the U.S. for more than three years, up until the release of the iPhone 4 on the Verizon network in February.

The handset is available for US$649 and “requires an active micro-SIM card that you obtain from a supported GSM wireless carrier,” Apple notes on the product description page.

As with unlocked iPhones sold internationally, the device will work on all Apple-supported GSM networks around the world. Apple also takes care to note that an iPad 3G micro-SIM card will not work in the unlocked iPhone 4.

In the U.S., customers with unlocked GSM iPhones can choose from AT&T and T-Mobile, though data transmission on the T-Mobile network will occur over the slower EDGE protocol because the carrier’s 3G network is incompatible with the iPhone.

Over the weekend, reports emerged that Apple would begin sales of the unlocked iPhone 4 in the U.S., though the device went on sale a day earlier than sources had suggested. On Monday, various outlets noted that unlocked iPhones had been shipped to Apple Stores with a price tag of $649 and $749.

If you’ve snagged an unlocked iPhone, please let us know how it works for you in the comments.

AT&T to argue need for T-Mobile resources, spectrum, in merger deal

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Date: Friday, June 10th, 2011, 06:13
Category: iPhone, News, wireless

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You may not think too highly of wireless carrier AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA, but apparently it’s necessary for the company to move forward.

This was the statement from company officials on Thursday, who said the deal would allow AT&T to significantly improve its mobile network capacity and give better service to its customers.

Critics of the deal, including competitor Sprint Nextel, are incorrect in asserting that AT&T is sitting on mobile spectrum, said Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs in a Macworld article. The proposed US$39 billion deal, announced in March, is a “very clean and quick way to deal with some of the spectrum issues that are facing this country and this company in particular,” he said during a press briefing.

The deal is necessary because AT&T is facing a spectrum shortage as mobile broadband use continues to skyrocket, the company has argued. While critics have suggested AT&T is hoarding spectrum, the company is using its 700MHz spectrum, acquired in 2008 auctions, and its AWS (advanced wireless services) spectrum to roll out 4G LTE (long-term evolution) service, Quinn said.

Sprint has questioned why AT&T, with the largest spectrum holdings of any U.S. carrier, needs T-Mobile. “AT&T has repeatedly reassured investors that it has the spectrum and network capacity it needs to meet the growing demand for data services,” Sprint said in a May 31 filing at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. “If AT&T has capacity constraints, they are the result of its failure to upgrade and invest in its network. AT&T has lagged significantly in network investment.”

Dozens of groups have voiced opposition to the merger between the second-largest mobile carrier in the U.S. and the fourth-largest. The merger would reduce competition in the mobile market and likely drive up prices, said critics including Public Knowledge, the Rural Telecommunications Group and the NoChokePoints Coalition, a coalition of telecom customers, consumer groups and small carriers concerned with mobile backhaul rates.

The merged company would be “contrary to the express policies of Congress and the Commission to rely on competition rather than regulation to protect consumers and spur deployment of new services,” Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition wrote in a May 31 filing to the FCC.

The combined company would be the largest mobile provider in the U.S. and would be able to assert control over mobile handsets, applications, equipment and protocol development, Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition said in their filing.

But AT&T, in a response filing to be sent to the FCC on Friday, will argue the merger will be good for mobile customers. By combining networks, AT&T will be able to increase its mobile capacity by 60% in New York City in the short term, and by more than 80% in the long term, Quinn said.

Los Angeles and San Diego would both see short-term spectrum gains of more than 45%, Quinn said.

The merger would give AT&T more spectrum and cell tower coverage, giving customers better mobile data service, he said. AT&T has tried other ways to improve capacity, including distributed antenna systems and Wi-Fi hotspots, Quinn said.

“We are not stupid,” he said. “We’ve been in the wireless business for a long time. We’ve tried all of these as short-term methods … to fix and provide for more capacity. While they give you some short-term benefit, they’re not long-term benefits to address the kind of bandwidth demands that we’re seeing.”

AT&T, in its FCC filing, will also note support for the merger from dozens of groups, including 15 state governors, 10 labor unions, nine venture capital firms and several tech firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle and Yahoo, Quinn said.

Many groups supporting the merger see the potential for AT&T to bring mobile broadband to more corners of the nation, he said. AT&T has said it plans to cover 97% of the U.S. population with 4G service if the merger is approved by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice. Right now, the company plans to cover 80% of the population with 4G service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T CEO drops hints at smaller SIM card format

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Date: Monday, June 6th, 2011, 05:50
Category: iPhone, News

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Prior to all the Worldwide Developers Conference hubbub, AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega said in an interview this week with All Things D that a smaller SIM card is a “no-brainer” and his company is looking into it, but declined to make the direct connection to Apple that the France Telecom CEO made last week.

When asked by All Things D’s Ina Fried whether AT&T is interested in the smaller SIM card that Apple and France Telecom have reportedly agreed upon, de la Vega acknowledged that the carrier is “working with the industry” to look at the possibility of smaller SIM cards. “I think that probably will happen,” he said.

In late May, France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard said in an interview that Apple and wireless carriers had reached a compromise to use a smaller SIM card format instead of an embedded SIM chip that Apple had expressed interest in. According to Richard, the next iPhone will be “smaller and thinner,” partially due to a reduction in the SIM card footprint.

Per another executive at Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom, Apple in May submitted a new requirement for a smaller SIM form factor to a European standards institute. The iPhone 4 and iPad currently utilize a micro-SIM solution.

Like Richard, de la Vega expressed a preference for a smaller SIM card over an embedded SIM. “We think that making the card smaller and shrinking the size is a no-brainer and we should be able to make that happen,” he said, in response to a question about the possibility of an e-SIM.

During the interview, de la Vega expressed disappointment at Windows Phone sales. “We actually like [Windows Phone 7] very, very much,” he said. “It hasn’t sold as well as Microsoft or us would want it to.”

Despite the lackluster sales, the AT&T CEO remained optimistic about Microsoft’s prospects. “I think for the first thing out of the chute it is pretty good,” he said. “I think they just need to make it better… Giving customers more application choices, having a bigger app store with more functionality on the phone–I think that is all that it needs.”

For de la Vega, the iPhone and Google’s Android have been “positive surprises,” while sales of Research in Motion’s devices have dropped off. “Android and Apple are really the hot products right now,” he added, noting that customers have been “choosing other products rather than traditional BlackBerries.”

The executive also challenged tablet makers to continue to raise standards in order to compete with Apple’s iPad. According to de la Vega, all the manufacturers who make smartphones are also offering AT&T tablets. “The question is which ones of those are good enough to stand up to the iPad. That’s a very high bar,” he said.

Speaking at the D9 conference earlier this week, de la Vega confirmed that AT&T is working on a shared data plan that would allow users to pool minutes and data plans between devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

WHO study finds AT&T iPhone 4 emits “medium” amount of radiation

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:25
Category: iPhone, News

I’m not sure if this is comforting or otherwise.

In the wake of the World Health Organization’s report on cell phones and radiation, the Environmental Working Group has released a database of cell phone models with the highest and lowest rates of radiofrequency energy according to a CNN report. Per the report, Apple’s iPhone 4 (the AT&T version; the Verizon model wasn’t tested) falls in the middle range of emissions, which are measured using a Specific Absorption Rate of energy by the body written as “watts per kilogram.”

Cell phones sold in the U.S. cannot exceed a measure of 1.6 watts per kilogram of radiofrequency energy, but there is no study that shows an increased risk — or any risk — in using phones that emit higher or lower amounts. The WHO announcement, which was a change from their previous, more neutral position, comprised a review of hundreds of other peer-review studies — a compilation of known data — and concluded that cell phone radiation is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Often omitted from reports of the meta-study is that its principle recommendation was that the issue needed further study.

The database of phone radiation showed that Motorola had the model emitting the most energy per kilogram of energy, AT&T’s Bravo at 1.59 W/kg — just under the legal limit. The phone with the least amount of exposure was AT&T’s LG Quantum at 0.35 W/kg. Apple’s iPhone 4 tested at 1.17 W/kg, which ranks it about average. Samsung had a number of phones that were among the 10 lowest, while Motorola had the most phones in the top 10 highest, along with the Palm Pixi, the Blackberry Bold and the HTC Magic also ranking very high in energy absorbed by the body.

Cell phones, by their nature, emit and receive small amounts of microwave energy at all times while they are on — communicating with cell towers, updating GPS coordinates and of course being used for communication. Studies have been unsuccessful at establishing a clear link between cell phones and specific medical issues, even when the unit is held next to the head for prolonged periods. Radiation is naturally present in the atmosphere and from other sources, but how much the human body can absorb on a low-but-constant level without ill effects remains unclear.

Stay tuned for more on this as we get it.

Rumor: Apple to release fifth-generation iPhone with 8MP camera, SIM-free design between July and August

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 12:20
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Per Japanese web site Macotakara, Apple is rumored to be releasing a fifth-generation iPhone with an 8-megapixel camera and a SIM-less design that will not be a major departure from the current iPhone 4 design.

Citing an anonymous source, the web site reported Monday that the next iPhone will have the same form factor as the iPhone 4, and will use an ARM Cortex-A9 processor. The report said it is “not confirmed” whether the new processor will have a single CPU or is dual-core.

The report also said the handset will have an 8-megapixel camera, and a SIM-less design along with 3-4 internal antennas that will allow the device to serve as a “world phone” compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks. That would allow the same hardware to run on both AT&T and Verizon networks in the U.S.

The report claims that the device, which will include a Qualcomm chipset, will be released at the end of July or in early August. While later than usual, that release date would be sooner than the fiscal 2012 claim the same site made back in March.

Finally, the report claims that Apple’s next “major new handset” will arrive in the spring of 2012. A spring release for a so-called “iPhone 6″ was previously suggested in April, in a Japanese newspaper report that said Apple had selected Sharp to create next-generation low-temperature poly-silicon LCD displays for a thinner and lighter design.

The details in Monday’s latest report restate and help to reinforce rumors that have previously surfaced. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with Concord Securities stated in April that the next iPhone will feature “slight modifications” from its predecessor, including a new 8-megapixel rear camera. Other reports have suggested the next-generation iPhone will include both CDMA and GSM radios, making it a world phone.

As for the SIM-less design, last week the CEO of carrier Orange said that Apple will introduce a new, smaller and thinner SIM card in its next-generation iPhone. There were reports last year that Apple was working on an embedded SIM design that would allow users to select a carrier and service plan directly from their iPhone, but it was claimed that those plans upset carriers who felt they could be marginalized by such a move.

Picture quality on the new iPhone is also expected to be improved with a separate component for an improved LED flash. Various reports, including one earlier Tuesday, have suggested the flash will be moved farther from the camera lens to reduce red eye.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.