Rumor: Apple May Switch From AT&T to Verizon as Official iPhone Carrier

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Date: Wednesday, October 28th, 2009, 08:51
Category: iPhone, News, Rumor

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Should Apple end its exclusive carrier agreement with AT&T next year, it will likely mark the end of its estimated US$450 carrier subsidy for the iPhone, a new analysis has forecast.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Brian Marshall with Broadpoint.AmTech said that the “sweetheart” carrier subsidy provided by AT&T for the iPhone would not be attainable with Verizon. According to Marshall’s note to investors, the analyst believes that the iPhone will be added to the Verizon network in the second half of 2010, but not without consequences.

A non-exclusive iPhone, Marshall forecast, would command roughly a US$300 carrier subsidy. But he believes that any losses would be made up in volume, as Verizon is predicted to sell roughly 14 million iPhones in the 2011 calendar year. With an average selling price of around US$500, which would account for another US$7 billion in revenue for Apple.

“While AAPL started off with exclusive arrangements in 2007 with the original iPhone launch, the company has since migrated towards multiple carriers per region,” the note said. “In our view, diverse carrier support is a key element to driving global penetration of the iPhone (from ~3% share today of the total handset market). Therefore, we believe the chances are high the iPhone will find its way onto the VZ network in 2H10.”

Marshall’s assumption of 14 million Verizon iPhones is based on the performance Apple has had on AT&T’s network. Within six quarters of the iPhone’s launch, the handset has become 4% of AT&T’s postpaid subscriber base.

In the September quarter, the iPhone was said to represent more than 90% of AT&T’s total postpaid additions — an increase from 57% from a year earlier, and 33% in September 2007. It is based on the strength of the iPhone that AT&T has posted subscriber gains on market leader Verizon, adding 2 million customers last quarter to Verizon’s 1.2 million.

AT&T activated a record 3.2 million iPhones last quarter, of which nearly 40% were customers new to the wireless carrier. But CEO Ralph de la Vega also predicted that the iPhone will not remain exclusive to AT&T forever, though he believes his company’s portfolio will remain strong after the device jumps to other carriers.

Apple Releases iPhone OS 3.1.2 Update

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Date: Friday, October 9th, 2009, 06:49
Category: iPhone, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released version 3.1.2 of its iPhone OS firmware. The update, which weighs in at over 200 megabytes and can be downloaded by attaching your iPhone to your Mac or PC, clicking the device in iTunes, then clicking the “Check for Update” button, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Resolves sporadic issue that may cause iPhone to not wake from sleep.
- Resolves intermittent issue that may interrupt cellular network services until restart.
- Fixes bug that could cause occasional crash during video streaming.

The update also leads to a small carrier update from AT&T for American users.

If you’ve installed 3.1.2 and noticed any changes, for good or ill, please let us know what you think.

AT&T to Launch MMS Feature for iPhone Friday via Carrier Profile Update Over iTunes

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Date: Thursday, September 24th, 2009, 04:49
Category: iPhone, News

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American iPhone users will finally see AT&T’s MMS feature unlocked late Friday morning on the west coast by way of a carrier update file that will be delivered through iTunes, AT&T announced Wednesday.

“MMS Update: We know you’ve been eager for this service so we wanted to offer a quick update on the launch plans for MMS on Friday, Sept. 25,” AT&T wrote on its official Facebook page. “Late morning, Pacific Time, on Friday, the new carrier settings update enabling MMS should be live and ready to download through iTunes. We’ll provide the steps and all of the details you need right here at that time.”

Per AppleInsider, east coast residents will likely see their update available sometime early Friday afternoon. It also confirms that an iTunes update to the phone’s carrier profile will be necessary for MMS to be activated.

An article published over on DSLReports cited a source familiar with the company’s MMS upgrade as saying, “Starting at 10AM Eastern (on the 25), AT&T will send out a mass text to a group of iPhone users telling them that MMS now works on their phone.

Assuming all goes well, “They will keep doing groups of phones on the hour throughout the day,” the source said. Official word from company spokesman Seth Bloom said the upgrade would be targeted at early afternoon on the East Coast, or late morning for users on Pacific Time.

The source said AT&T was “very nervous” about the launch, due to seeing a surge in traffic from just a limited number of iPhone users selected to participate in advanced testing of the new service.

MMS allows users to send graphics, audio clips, location and contact files, and even video clips via an SMS-like messaging system. The new MMS features require an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS.

Picture and video messaging was originally scheduled to arrive in the summer, but will be a few days late. AT&T has said that iPhone data usage has been very taxing on its network, leading to delays as the company attempts to strengthen its service.

Originally, iPhone tethering was also announced for the summer, but AT&T officials have said that service is coming at a later date, with no specifics given. The company apparently has no intentions to cap bandwidth for iPhone users.

Rumor: AT&T MicroCell Device En Route, Will Offer Unlimited Coverage for Extra $20/Month

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Date: Monday, September 21st, 2009, 04:39
Category: iPhone, iPhone 3GS, Rumor

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AT&T customers based in one of the company’s weaker pockets of coverage will be able to pay US$20 to pay $20 extra to obtain unlimited calling over 3G using their own Internet access. Per Engadget Mobile, an anonymous tip has stated that the company plans to offer an unlimited calling plan for users for US$20 per month.

The service would be bundled with AT&T-supplied Internet (if available in your area), the monthly fee would drop to US$10, and with AT&T Internet and landline service, the monthly fee goes away entirely.

It’s not clear if the monthly fee for unlimited wireless calling through the device will be mandatory in order to obtain the 3G MicroCell device. According to the photo of official looking marketing collateral included in the report, “3G phones connected to the MicroCell without AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling continue to use existing plan minutes.”

If unlimited calling is entirely optional, iPhone 3G and 3GS users may be able to purchase and install the 3G MicroCell and simply use it to burn their existing plan minutes without paying any additional monthly fees, solving dropped call or delayed SMS issues for users within poor coverage areas.

Even if obtaining the device requires the additional unlimited calling plan, users may end up saving money by cutting their existing plan minutes and placing most of their calls from their home or work location. Current iPhone service plans with AT&T cost US$60 for 450 daytime rollover minutes, US$80 for 900 minutes, US$100 for 1,350 minutes, or US$120 for unlimited time.

In either case, other AT&T users who access the MicroCell to place 3G calls, texts or access mobile data will not be charged any differently than if they were to use a regular 3G tower; they will simply eat up their existing plan minutes.

The 3G MicroCell does not create a VoIP alternative to AT&T’s network. In fact, the unit simply tunnels 3G voice and data over the user’s existing broadband Internet service to AT&T’s servers, which process it like any other call handled by its existing 3G cell towers.

AT&T’s 3G appliance isn’t usable by 3G mobile users on other carriers, nor does it provide GSM/EDGE service usable by the original iPhone model. It will work with any 3G-capable sold by AT&T, however. It’s not yet known if the MicroCell supplies the standard 3.6Mbit/sec HDPA service typical of AT&T’s current towers, or if it supplies the faster 7.2 service supported by the iPhone 3GS.

Due to broadcasting regulations, users will also be prevented from using the 3G MicroCell in areas where AT&T doesn’t officially do business. For example, it can’t be installed by users in Vermont or North Dakota or in other countries outside the US; this is enforced by GPS tracking in the device.

Other mobile providers already sell similar “mini cell tower” devices, commonly referred to in the industry as a “femtocell”. These units are used both to provide service where coverage is missing or to allow customers to provide their own pipe for unlimited mobile calling. For example, Sprint sells its Airave for US$5 per month, or with an unlimited calling plan that costs US$10. Verizon sells a femtocell for its 3G users with no monthly fees, but does not provide any unlimited calling option.

T-Mobile, for their part provides unlimited calling through its HotSpot@Home service, which costs US$10 per month.

AT&T is expected to begin rolling out 3G MicroCell devices to users in a limited number of markets over the next couple of weeks, following an extensive beta testing period. Hammered by the iPhone’s voracious data demands, AT&T’s 3G mobile network has been criticized as severely inadequate by many high profile critics and plenty of frustrated users.

AT&T Staggering iPhone MMS Feature Release, Some Users Report Early Activation

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Date: Monday, September 14th, 2009, 04:20
Category: iPhone, News

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A number of iPhone users have reported that the long awaited MMS feature seems to have been enabled on their devices well in advance of AT&T’s declared September 25th start date according to howardforums.com.

The MMS support feature will allow iPhone OS 3.0 users to send pictures, video and audio recordings, contacts, or locations from Maps via 3G-capable iPhones.

In announcing its plans to enable the feature for iPhone users, AT&T explained, “It was important to give our customers a positive experience from day one. We support more iPhone customers than any other carrier in the world so we took the time necessary to make sure our network is ready to handle what we expect will be a record volume of MMS traffic. We truly appreciate our customers’ patience and hope they’ll understand our desire to get it right from the start.”

Rather than turning on MMS service for millions of American iPhone users all at once, AT&T has been selectively activating users across the country. Once activated, iPhone 3G and 3GS users should see a new “Cellular Data Network” menu item within the General/Network page of the Settings app and a new camera icon within the Messages app for sending photos.

It’s possible to install a modified carrier bundle for AT&T to activate MMS software features, but this does not necessarily result in functioning MMS. Without AT&T removing your opt out, MMS messages will queue up with a red exclamation icon as they fail to actually send.

Many users are reporting that there is no correlation between working MMS and either their installed software version, their carrier bundle version, their service or texting plan, or their geographic location. AT&T appears to turning on MMS for users at random to achieve a staggered release up to the September 25th deadline.

AT&T to (Finally) Bring MMS to iPhone on September 25th

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Date: Friday, September 4th, 2009, 04:08
Category: News

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On Thursday, wireless carrier AT&T finally disclosed a firm date as to when the company would add MMS support for the iPhones on its network. According to Electronista, the carrier will activate the feature on September 25th through a software upgrade for iPhone 3G and 3GS owners. Adding the feature will let those running iPhone 3.0 or later firmware send photos, videos and general data like contact cards to any MMS-aware phone. Original iPhones won’t be eligible for the upgrade, though it’s never been fully explained as to why this is the case.

The company acknowledged that the release will be just past the official “end of summer” target announced after the iPhone 3GS unveiling at WWDC and elaborated on its reasons behind the months long delay. Officials claim the company had to prepare its network to handle the likely “record” load of data traffic.

In other news, AT&T declined to commit to a specific release window for a much-anticipated data tethering feature. Represenatives said the addition could “exponentially increase” the network load and that it only plans to offer tethering sometime “in the future.” As with MMS, the company wants to make sure its upgrades are complete before it sends a carrier update that enables tethering.

AT&T normally charges extra for tethering but hasn’t said what its pricing, if any, will be.

Google Voice to Hit iPhone as Web-Based App

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Date: Tuesday, August 11th, 2009, 04:42
Category: iPhone, Software

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In spite of recent drama between Google and Apple, Google Voice will soon be available for the iPhone, though as a web-based application according to the New York Times.

The all-things-phone-management application (which was widely speculated to have been rejected for threatening AT&T profits on calling plans) will be rewritten as a stylized Web site that offers everything the rejected app would have.

It’s currently unclear as to whether Apple would reject a repurposed Google Voice app, though considering that Apple’s recent decision to reject the app managed to draw attention from a wide range of people, including some at the FCC, the company probably thought it best to allow a Google Voice variant slide.

Web-based apps can be bookmarked on the iPhone interface and appear like an app purchased from the App Store.
A text-heavy version of Google Voice can currently be tested on your iPhone by pointing Safari to google.com/voice/m.

Apple Systematically Pulling Google Voice, Similar Applications

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Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2009, 06:24
Category: News

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Apple is apparently systematically yanking iPhone applications from the App Store that use Google Voice to simplify and reduce the costs of making phone calls, though it’s suspected Apple isn’t the one making the actual judgment call.

According to AppleInsider, developer Sean Kovacs, was surprised on Monday to discover that his GV Mobile client for Google Voice was to be pulled from the App Store as it was allegedly duplicating the iPhone’s calling and text messaging features. Apple representative Richard Chipman contacted him personally but not only wasn’t specific about what could be fixed but wouldn’t provide e-mail to confirm the takedown.

Although individual removals aren’t uncommon, later reports have surfaced that Apple had pulled VoiceCentral, another competitor, and had even denied Google when it tried to quietly submit a Google Voice app six weeks ago in spite of its corporate partnerships with Apple.

The systematic disappearances don’t currently have a larger official explanation but, given the common thread of their using the same service, is now thought less to a matter of Apple guarding its built-in features and more cellular carriers pushing it to keep the service out. Google Voice not only allows users one virtual phone number to call multiple real phones but greatly reduces the cost of outbound long-distance and messaging, all of which potentially deprive AT&T and eventually other carriers of possible extra revenue.

Such an unspoken ban would also go a step beyond normal restrictions on which apps are allowed and what they can do. In the past, carriers have argued against allowing voice over IP apps such as Fring and Skype on the cellular network for technical reasons, such as latency; the lag on even a 3G network is high enough that holding a regular conversation isn’t really feasible, for example. In restricting Google Voice, which still uses the regular voice network for much of its activity, the primary advantage is to eliminate competition.

Neither Apple nor AT&T have offered official comments on the issue.

Apple, China Mobile Apparently Reach Terms Regarding Chinese iPhone Marketplace

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Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2009, 06:06
Category: iPhone, News

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After about two years of negotiation, wireless carrier has allegedly landed a three-year contract for the exclusive rights to local iPhone distribution, according to MacNN and a Shanghai Securities News report. The deal, described by unnamed sources, is said to extend for three years and guarantees annual sales of 1 million to 2 million units.
Apple recently acknowledged that bringing the iPhone into the Chinese market held a top priority. The recent report suggests the potential carriers could not come to agree on revenue sharing terms. Soon after the first iPhone was released, sources claimed AT&T was paying between US$150 to US$200 per purchased phone and an additional US$9 for each month of the standard two-year duration of a customer subscription.

Beijing reportedly objected to the idea of revenue sharing, although the carrier has agreed to purchase the devices for 3,000 yuan (~US$439 USD) each. The terms also mandate a minimum overall revenue of at least 5 billion yuan (~US$732 million USD) every year.

China Mobile, with a much larger subscriber base than China Unicom, was also involved in negotiations for the iPhone.

The Chinese iPhone is expected to be customized for the local market, although specific details remain unconfirmed. An anonymous source recently claimed that component provider Foxconn has already begun mass production. The device is said to keep 3G and Bluetooth, while omitting Wi-Fi to comply with local regulations.

Finally, Agence France-Presse has quoted a Unicom spokesman as saying that while the carrier is close to a deal, there are still problems to be negotiated. “Both sides have their own timeframe for an agreement but essentially it depends on the practical progress of the negotiations,” according to the spokesman. He adds that proper negotiations with Apple began in January, when the Chinese government began issuing 3G licenses.

Apple Facing Constrained iPhone Supplies, Could Delay Some Overseas Launches

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Date: Thursday, July 23rd, 2009, 04:10
Category: iPhone 3GS

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After selling 5.2 million iPhones in fiscal Q3, including a million units that sold in the first three days, Apple has announced being “unable to make enough 3GSs to meet demand.”

According to AppleInsider, voracious demand for the latest iPhone has helped restrict it to 18 launch countries out of the 80 where Apple currently sells iPhones. With demand for the new iPhone 3GS far outpacing supply, Apple COO Tim Cook admitted that limited stock could briefly delay the planned launch of the new iPhone in more countries overseas.

Cook said Apple expects to have the iPhone 3GS available in most nations where the iPhone 3G is currently available by the end of the September quarter and said channel iPhone inventory was flat sequentially in comparison with the last quarter and that the “channel is not loaded.” He then went on to admit that with demand for the iPhone 3GS currently very high, it’s possible that some overseas launches could be delayed. “In terms of affecting the country rollout, I believe the vast majority of the countries that we are selling the 3G in we will be selling the 3GS I think by the end of the fiscal quarter,” he said. “It may move a date by a few weeks here or there.”

The company also hopes to continue to expand its reach. “The world has more than 80 countries,” Cook said. During a question and answer session, Cook was asked about Apple’s plans to enter China with the iPhone. “Nothing to add today specifically,” Cook answered, “other than it continues to be a priority project and we hope to be there within a year.”

Cook also said wireless carriers worldwide are thrilled by the lower churn rate the iPhone delivers, helping them to retain loyal customers. When asked about other products Apple might tie to providers’ wireless contracts, such as notebook and netbook sales, Cook said the company was currently focused on working with carriers on the iPhone and had nothing else to announce.

With regards to AT&T specifically, Cook said Apple has an excellent relationship with the mobile provider and is very happy with it. When asked about phone sales being constrained by AT&T’s network capacity, Cook deferred the question to AT&T itself, but noted that providers were making more investments in their networks to meet consumer demand.

Cook also said that Apple had initially studied the wireless market and determined that “what we could do really well is build hardware” with features that were “revolutionary,” leaving the service side to companies with more skills in networks. “that’s their business and they’re quite good at it,” Cook said.