AT&T advances upgrade dates for some iPhone customers in anticipation of fourth-gen handset

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Date: Wednesday, May 12th, 2010, 10:58
Category: iPhone, News

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AT&T wants to sell some iPhones.

And they’re taking steps to do so.

Per MobileCrunch, AT&T has begun modifying some customers’ upgrade dates, shortening them in some cases by months to allow customers to buy a new, subsidized, fourth-generation handset in June.

This week, a reader contacted MobileCrunch to say that his upgrade date was moved from Nov. 21st, 2010, to June 21st, 2010. The reader said they bought an iPhone 3GS in 2009 on the device’s launch day.

“As a valued AT&T customer, we can offer you a discounted iPhone upgrade at a higher price, along with a 2-year commitment and an US$18 upgrade fee,” the customer’s account profile reads. “Please proceed with the online upgrade process for pricing details. You may qualify for a full discount on a standard iPhone upgrade on 6/21/2010.”

The same changes have appeared for some other customers as well. AT&T has revealed in the past that generally speaking, the more a customer spends with AT&T, the quicker they become eligible for a price break on a new device. For example, iPhone customers who spend more than US$99-a-month per line are generally eligible for an upgrade between 12 and 18 months into their contract.

The revised dates will likely pave the way for AT&T to offer some customers reduced prices on Apple’s fourth-gen iPhone, expected to be announced in June. AT&T also took the same approach last year when the wireless carrier offered early iPhone 3G adopters the opportunity to purchase an iPhone 3GS as the same US$199 and US$299 price points as new customers.

In years past, Apple has introduced its annual iPhone upgrade at the Worldwide Developers Conference. This year, WWDC 2010 will be held June 7th through June 11th at San Francisco’s Moscone West. Tickets for the event sold out just eight days after Apple announced the dates.

Another rumor has suggested Apple could sell the next-generation iPhone as soon as it is announced on June 7th. That approach would be a change from years prior, when a new handset was announced a few weeks before its sale date. AT&T has also blacked out the month of June for its employees, preventing them from taking vacation days.

Court documents confirm Apple/AT&T exclusive five year deal, questions surface over contract renegotiations

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Date: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010, 05:51
Category: iPhone, News

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With additional chatter surrounding the idea of Apple extending the iPhone to Verizon this year, the exact specifics of Apple’s five-year exclusive contract with AT&T have never really been published. Fortunately, the cool cats at Engadget managed to uncover the following:

An ongoing California class-action lawsuit filed in 2007 claims that Apple and AT&T illegally exerted a monopoly over iPhone service by telling customers the iPhone’s required service contract was two years long when the Apple / AT&T exclusivity deal was actually for five years. Per the case, this required buyers to re-up with AT&T for three years if they wanted to keep using the iPhone. Within Apple’s response to these allegations, and in addition to arguing that no one was ever promised an unlocked iPhone after two years, the company’s lawyers repeatedly confirm the existence of the five-year agreement while noting it was publicly reported in USA Today.

Select quotes include the following:
“The duration of the exclusive Apple-[AT&T] agreement was not ‘secret’ either. The [plaintiff] quotes a May 21, 2007 USA Today article – published over a month before the iPhone’s release – stating, “AT&T has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for five years-an eternity in the go-go cellphone world.”

“[T]here was widespread disclosure of [AT&T's] five-year exclusivity and no suggestion by Apple or anyone else that iPhones would become unlocked after two years… Moreover, it is sheer speculation – and illogical – that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term would produce monopoly power…”

Since this case occurred in October of 2008 and has gone relatively off the record, the real question is whether or not the exclusivity deal is still on the books. Even given that the case is ongoing and many of its relevant bits have been under seal since 2009, contracts can be canceled, amended, and breached in many ways, especially given AT&T’s track record and the explosion of the iPhone market. In addition, the two companies obviously hit the negotiating table again to hammer out the iPad’s pricing plans, and there’s no way of knowing whether that deal involves the iPhone as well.

AT&T holds back on data tethering for iPhone, cites potential traffic spikes

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Date: Thursday, April 29th, 2010, 04:59
Category: iPhone, News

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You’ve wanted data tethering on your iPhone for years now.

And AT&T may one day provide this.

Per MacRumors, Engadget received a comment from AT&T stating that installing data tethering could create high traffic usage that could hamper network performance:

“iPhone tethering has the potential to exponentially increase traffic, and we need to ensure that we’re able to deliver excellent performance for the feature –over and above the increases in data traffic we’re already seeing – before we will offer the feature.”

Tethering is the process of using your iPhone as a wireless internet modem for your other devices such as your laptop.

Feel free to hurl your two cents in on this one.

Apple pushes iPad 3G pre-order ship date back to May 7th, ships camera kit

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Date: Monday, April 19th, 2010, 06:32
Category: iPad, News

Right, this is NOT going to make you happy.

Over the weekend, Apple began e-mailing customers to tell them that their iPad 3G orders had been pushed back to May 7th to reassure them that their hardware will ship on schedule in late April. In addition, the company has also begun shipping the iPad camera connection kit to some who ordered.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s online store has been updated to reflect that new orders of the iPad with both 3G and Wi-Fi will not ship until May 7th. But while those ordering new iPads with 3G connectivity will not get their device until a few weeks later, original preorders are still on track for a late April release. To confirm this, Apple began sending the following e-mails to customers who already ordered:

“To Our Valued Apple Customer:

Thank you for your recent order of the magical and revolutionary iPad 3G.

We would like to confirm that your order will be shipped in late April as communicated at the time you placed your order. You will receive a confirmation notice when your order has shipped.

You can get up-to-date information about your order, including shipping status and tracking number, at http://www.apple.com/orderstatus

Thank you for choosing Apple.

Sincerely,
The Apple Store Team”

The 3G-enabled iPad models carry a US$130 premium and offer wireless connectivity with the AT&T 3G network in the U.S. No-contract data plans are available for US$15 per month for 250MB of data, and US$30 a month for unlimited access.

Though U.S. orders remain on track to ship on time, last week Apple announced that international customers will have to wait, as a shortage of devices caused the launch to be delayed until the end of May. Apple shipped more than a half-million Wi-Fi only iPads in its first week of availability in the U.S. alone.

In the U.S., online orders of the Wi-Fi-only iPad ship in five to seven business days. All orders remain limited to just two per customer.

Finally, some who preordered the camera connection kit for the iPad have been notified that their order has finally shipped. Apple first gave the connection kit a shipping date of late April on its Web site at the end of March.

Apple “rejiggers” iPhone to ease load on AT&T network

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Date: Wednesday, March 31st, 2010, 05:25
Category: iPhone, News

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A new report profiling AT&T’s bandwidth troubles posed by millions of iPhone units reveals that AT&T had Apple modify the handset to ease strain on the company’s network. Per the Wall Street Journal, AT&T Chief Technology Officer John Donovan said he and other executives flew to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., campus to give the handset maker a “crash course in wireless networking.” With regular return meetings at Apple, AT&T employees helped the iPhone designers create new technologies to limit the strain on the wireless provider.

“Apple rejiggered how its phones communicate with AT&T’s towers,” the report said. “As a result, the phones now put less of a load on the network for such simple tasks as finding the closest tower or checking for available text messages.”

Donovan told the Journal that Apple’s designers are now “in a Master’s class” on networking, having learned the basics and worked with AT&T to improve the iPhone dramatically. Exactly what changes were made, and whether they were hardware or software based, were not revealed.

The article also revealed that AT&T executives set up a 100-day play in December of 2009 to improve the company’s network in large cities where users most commonly experience dropped calls. A random performance test released in February found that AT&T’s 3G network speeds had improved by 84%.

But the Journal also noted Tuesday that AT&T is still “racing” to improve its network as Apple is rumored to be working on a CDMA capable iPhone that could be headed to the Verizon network as soon as this year.

“Geohot” reveals untethered hack for iPhone, cites method will “probably” work for iPad

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Date: Friday, March 26th, 2010, 07:46
Category: News

Over in the hacking domain, George Hotzhas demonstrated a new method to permanently “jailbreak” the iPhone 3GS, and he said the hack will “probably” work on the iPad, which goes on sale next week.

Per AppleInsider, Hotz, known online as “Geohot,” posted a recent blog entry including video which demoed a jailbroken iPhone 3GS being rebooted. The handset had been hacked via the first untethered method to date.

“The jailbreak is all software based, and is as simple to use as blackra1in,” Hotz said, referencing his previous iPhone 3GS crack that employed a method known as a tethered jailbreak. “It is completely untethered, works on all current tethered models (ipt2, 3gs, ipt3), and will probably work on iPad too.”

Late last year, Apple quietly updated the BootROM in the iPhone 3GS to thwart potential hackers. The change marked the first time ever that the handset maker had modified its hardware in the middle of a product line, without a new model released.

The new BootROM, known as iBoot-359.32, has proven challenging for hackers, who have only been able to implement the tethered jailbreak, which requires users to connect their iPhone to a computer via USB every time they reboot the device. Hotz claims his latest hack will not require a USB connection.

While iPhone users can rely on jailbreaking to unlock their handset for use with unauthorized carriers, the 3G-capable version of the iPad, scheduled to arrive in late April, ships unlocked by default. However, its 3G frequencies are only compatible with AT&T in the U.S.

Apple and the jailbreaking community, led by Hotz and a separate group of hackers known as the iPhone Dev Team, have gone back and forth for some time, as the Cupertino, Calif., company has looked to close avenues used by hackers. One of the main concerns about jailbreaking is piracy, as the procedure can allow users to steal software from the App Store.

AT&T to begin national rollout of 3G MicroCell device in April

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Date: Thursday, March 25th, 2010, 05:05
Category: iPhone, News

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After months of promotion, AT&T announced that the company will begin the formal national rollout of its 3G MicroCell service next month.

Per AppleInsider, the company announced that there would be no additional costs, other than the purchase of the 3G MicroCell device, for using the 3G MicroCell service, as minutes used through the hardware affect the account of the phone making the call. Individual or Family talk subscribers can pay US$19.99 per month to make unlimited calls through the special femtocell hardware device.

The 3G MicroCell hardware itself will retail for US$149.99, but comes with a US$100 mail in rebate for customers who select a MicroCell calling plan. In addition, customers who purchase a new line of broadband service with AT&T are also eligible for a US$50 mail-in rebate. Those who select both could receive the hardware for free.

The hardware blankets a 5,000 square foot area, about a 40 foot radius from the device, to provide voice, data and text service coverage in areas that might otherwise be a “dead zone” for cell phone reception. The hardware supports up to four users making simultaneous calls, and up to 10 on 3G standby available for incoming calls and messages.

Last September, Charlotte, North Carolina served as the first test market for the femtocell device, which provides 3.2Mbit/sec 3G service from the home. In order to support that bandwidth, the device must be connected to an appropriately fast broadband connection.

AT&T was expected to expand its 3G MicroCell service to other markets in 2009, but until this week availability was limited to Charlotte. In that test, the device was said to cost US $150 and carried no monthly fees.

In February, AT&T expanded its trial of the 3G MicroCell service to five markets, adding select counties in Georgia, South Carolina, San Diego and Las Vegas.

Jobs to keep iPad out of AT&T stores; for now

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Date: Wednesday, March 24th, 2010, 06:16
Category: News

With April 3rd only a handful of days away it’s time to dig through the Steve Jobs mail bag for some additional answers.

Per AppleInsider, a recent e-mail from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs stated the forthcoming iPad will initially be sold only in Apple retail and online stores, as well as Best Buy and not AT&T retail outlets.

A response from Jobs regarding iPad sales was brief and addressed an inquiry as to whether the iPad would be available for purchase with Apple’s authorized resellers.

“Initially at Apple Retail and online stores and Best Buy,” Jobs replied via e-mail. A copy was provided to AppleInsider.

In February, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook revealed that the iPad would be available at Best Buy and other assisted locations. He said that other retail outlets will be added in time.

iPad users who opt for the 3G-capable hardware, which carries a US$130 premium, can add AT&T service to their device at any time without signing a contract. The carrier will offer data for US$15 per month for 250MB, or US$30 per month for unlimited access.

Other Jobs e-mails:
In addition to the comment on retail stores, Jobs has allegedly sent a number of other e-mails in recent days that have generated publicity.

In one note, Jobs was asked if there was a way to get documents onto the iPad through iWork.com or the iDisk. Jobs responded: “Yes.”

As noted around the Web, Apple has targeted business users as potential iPad customers, adding features designed to make the device attractive to the enterprise market. The iPad will sync documents with iTunes, just like the iPhone currently does, and will also access cloud, Web, and local file shares.

Stick around for additional details as they become available.

AT&T Exec Defends Company Decision to Remain with 3G Until Next Year

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Date: Friday, March 19th, 2010, 04:47
Category: iPhone, News

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In a conference call hosted by the GSM Association Thursday, Kris Rinne, AT&T senior vice president of architecture and planning, said the company is content to sit back and wait until 2011 to start offering LTE. The reason, she said, is because the carrier wants to wait until there are more LTE-capable devices on the market. LTE is the GSM-based wireless data standard that has been adopted by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile as their choice for 4G wireless technology.

Per Macworld, Rinne also said that AT&T’s 3G network, which the carrier has been aggressively upgrading over the past year, would be strong enough to handle data demand until it was ready to roll out 4G next year.

“Our underlying GSM and HSPA networks will be able to upgrade their capabilities… while laying the groundwork for LTE,” she said. “By improving our current HSPA capabilities, we can add more devices to our 3G portfolio while also growing our LTE portfolio.”

Over the past year AT&T has been upgrading its 3G network to the HSPA 7.2 protocol which the company expects will cover 90% of the 3G network by the end of 2011. HSPA 7.2 is a variation of the GSM-based HSPA technology that has a peak speed of 7.2Mbps, although AT&T cautions that most users are unlikely to see data rates approaching theoretical peak speeds.

Rinne said that users can initially expect that AT&T LTE services will deliver the same applications that AT&T 3G customers currently enjoy and that the applications delivered over 4G will be faster and more reliable. In particular users would see significant differences for enhanced video and mobile gaming systems, as well as eventually voice services.

Both the GSMA and several mobile carriers are working on finalizing a voice standard for LTE that can be used in mobile devices released next year. Earlier this year, the GSMA decided to adopt a profile for voice-over-LTE in an effort to avoid fragmentation of LTE voice standards before the technology becomes more widely deployed. The association said that it embraced the VoLTE Initiative’s IMS-based approach since IMS “supports all voice call service features such as call waiting, call hold and call barring.”

iPad Preorders Accepted as of 8:30 A.M. EST

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Date: Friday, March 12th, 2010, 05:10
Category: iPad, News

Apple has begun taking preorders for its long-awaited iPad tablet at 8:30 a.m. eastern standard time and 5:30 a.m. pacific standard time.

According to The Loop, preorders for the Wi-Fi-only iPad will begin first-thing Friday morning. The Wi-Fi iPad is set to launch in the U.S. on April 3, with the 3G capable model coming later that month.

In addition, both the Wi-Fi and 3G models will be available in the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland in late April.

The iPad starts at US$499 for the 16GB model with Wi-Fi, going up to US$599 for 32GB and US$699 for the 64GB model. The models with both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, compatible only with AT&T in the U.S., carry a US$130 premium.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.