Apple cautions against “Beta test iPhone 5″ scam, tells users to be wary of unsolicited offer

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 07:42
Category: iPhone, News

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Per the Apple discussion boards and iPodNN, a recent scam spam has spread from email and forums to Twitter, Facebook and now text messaging. Users have reported seeing unsolicited texts and social-network posts claiming that “Apple” is seeking 1,000 testers for text messaging on the iPhone 5. The links go to the websites celltestnkeep.com or cellphonetesters.com and ask for email or a text message “code” to sign up.

The notoriously secretive Apple would not, of course, openly solicit for public testers of a forthcoming product (it rarely even acknowledges a forthcoming product at all), nor use a third-party company to do so. Users who “sign up” will be asked for additional information. The “promotion” is a scam operation that sells the data collected to spammers and other criminal organizations. The text messages have appeared for users of other phone platforms as well as iOS users.

Scams promoting free “iPhone 5″ units were popular on social-networking and forum sites up until the announcement of the iPhone 4S. Speculation that Apple may introduce a new model sometime later this year has apparently reached a sufficient level of mainstream consciousness that spammers are seeking to attract gullible consumers who want to get the jump on the next version of Apple’s most popular product.

The call to “test text messaging” is particularly ironic since iOS 5 introduced a new iOS service called iMessage that bypasses normal SMS traffic, circumventing a source of carrier income. Apple mobile devices that register their phone numbers or email addresses in iOS 5 can send and receive SMS-like text, image or video messages to and from other iOS devices or groups at no charge. The system works over Wi-Fi or 3G (and in the latter case does use 3G data).

AT&T is advising users to contact Apple when they receive such a text message. The company cannot block users from receiving the unsolicited text message, though Canada has recently introduced anti-spam laws that require mandatory opt-in before unsolicited electronic messages can be sent.

In other news, if you’ve already fallen for the iPhone 5 tester scam, I’ve got a great bridge to sell you just a few blocks away…

Rumor: Apple purportedly testing upcoming iPad model with 8-inch screen

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 06:49
Category: iPad, Rumor

The next iPad could feature a smaller form factor.

And there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple is said to be working with suppliers to test a new iPad model with a smaller form factor, sporting an 8-inch screen rather than the 9.7-inch size found on current models.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the publication reported on Tuesday that Apple officials have shown some suppliers designs for a device with an 8-inch screen size. It was said that Apple is qualifying potential suppliers to manufacture the device.

“One person said the smaller device will have a similar screen resolution as the iPad 2,” authors Lorraine Luk and Jessica E. Vascellaro wrote. “Apple is working with screen makers including Taiwan-based AU Optronics and LG Display Co. of South Korea to supply the test panels, the person said.”

The report also came with a caveat, noting that Apple works with suppliers to test new designs regularly, but that such a device may never see the light of day.

Tuesday’s report comes on the heels of an initial story from the publication, which claims that Apple plans to add 4G long-term evolution high-speed data connectivity to the third-generation iPad. The LTE iPad will reportedly operate on networks from both Verizon and AT&T in the U.S., and it would be the first 4G device from Apple.

Apple is expected to hold a media event on March 7 to announce its third-generation iPad. The new device is expected to sport the same 9.7-inch screen size as the current generation model, but will have a higher-resolution “Retina Display” similar to the pixel density found on the iPhone 4S screen.

Rumors of a so-called “iPad mini” are not new and have persisted for years. But Apple has long downplayed the prospect of such a device, calling the screen size too small to be functional and criticizing competitors who released 7-inch touchscreen tablets.

In October of 2010, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs slammed rivals who were building 7-inch tablets, saying the screen size was too small for users. He said that manufacturers of those devices would need to ship sandpaper with their 7-inch tablets so users could file down their fingers to the point where they could hit smaller targets on the screen.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iPad 3 to add 4G LTE capabilities

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 06:57
Category: iPad, Rumor

There’s usually some truth to a rumor, especially if it’s been circulating for a while.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple will announce a third-generation iPad in early March that is capable of operating on 4G LTE networks from Verizon and AT&T.

Sources close to the story told the publication that Apple is planning on announcing the 4G-capable iPad during the first week of March. The device would reportedly then go on sale with AT&T and Verizon.

That lines up with earlier reports that have suggested the same time frame. One recent rumor claimed the announcement would come on March 7 and was quickly backed up by The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple.

The Journal was unable to learn whether the other major carriers in the U.S., Sprint and T-Mobile, would also sell Apple’s next iPad, though it did point out that AT&T and Verizon are currently the only two operators in the U.S. that run LTE networks. Verizon got an early lead with its 4G network and now reaches 200 million people with the service. AT&T has worked to catch up to its rival, covering 74 million people at the end of 2011.

Sources also said that the next iPad will resort to slower network technology when LTE isn’t available. AT&T sold the original iPad iPad Wi-Fi + 3G in 2010, while Verizon sold the iPad with Wi-Fi and a Mobile Hotspot router. The second-generation iPad, released last year, was capable of running on both Verizon and AT&T from day one.

Though rumors that Apple would transition the iPhone and iPad to LTE in 2012 have persisted for some time, evidence that the company will make the leap next month has mounted in recent months.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T begins data throttling on “Unlimited” data plans at 2GB mark

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Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 2012, 08:55
Category: iPhone, News

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Sometimes it’s as if the wireless carriers WANT you to be disgruntled with them.

Per iLounge, AT&T has begun to throttle—or downgrade the data speeds of—customers on unlimited data plans that go over 2GB in data usage for the month.

As AT&T customer John Cozen wrote on his blog, “I received a message during my last billing cycle, warning I was in the top 5% of my region and would experience reduced data speeds next time I reach that level of data use. I immediately checked my data usage on the AT&T iOS app. 2.1 GB. Less than I expected considering AT&T offers a 3GB plan for US$30 a month. The same amount I’ve paid for the unlimited data plan since signing up with them many years ago. AT&T no longer offers an unlimited data plan, anyone still on it has been grandfathered in.”

“Data consumption by all smartphone customers, including the top 5 percent of smartphone data customers, varies by month and by market,” said Emily Edmonds, Director, AT&T Corporate Communications. “As of August 2011, the average data use across the country by the top 5 percent of AT&T smartphone customers was 2 GB per month.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this change on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Analyst sees Apple potentially forming partnerships with cable partners for exclusive “iTV” content

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Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 2012, 07:38
Category: News

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An Apple-branded HDTV is potentially awesome, but without content, it won’t get off the ground.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Peter Misek with Jefferies presented his “what if” analyses related to content on the so-called “iTV” in a note to investors on Monday. In what he sees as the most likely scenario, Apple could gain access to non-exclusive content for its television set and forge deals with existing cable providers.

By potentially partnering with carriers and cable operators, Apple could enter the market on a level playing field with everyone else for content. With access to a variety of content through existing providers, as well as the content already available on the iTunes Store, Misek believes that Apple could package everything with a “superior user interface and ecosystem” and beat out the competition.

“We think that partnerships with carriers and MSOs are possible whereby they provide the video content,” he wrote, “as they already have deals in place (at least to sell video over their own pipes), whereas Apple has to negotiate for new over-the-top distribution rights.”

While partnerships with companies like AT&T, Verizon, Bell and Rogers, combined with the existing iTunes Store, are seen as the most likely option, Misek also presented three other directions Apple could potentially take. In one option, he said Apple could simply seed content, as Google does with its YouTube Original Channels.

In this scenario, Misek thinks Apple could select about 100 groups to create channels and provide upfront financing in exchange for a year of exclusivity. Given Apple’s current clout in the entertainment industry with its iTunes Store, he believes Apple could target mainstream TV shows and movies with this method.

In another option, he said Apple could buy access to exclusive content, much as Netflix has done for the “House of Cards” program, and DirecTV has with its exclusive “NFL Sunday Ticket” package. With “headline deals,” such as a rumored bid on the English Premier League rights, he thinks Apple would gain buzz.

But exclusive content deals for an Apple television could also open the company up to scrutiny from governments. He believes that antitrust concerns could limit exclusive content options for Apple.

The final possible scenario, as seen by Misek, is that Apple could become a Hollywood studio and produce its own content. But the analyst believes lower margins and higher risks would scare Apple away from that option, as the film and TV divisions of companies like Sony, Disney, Viacom and News Corp. have substantially lower margins than Apple.

Misek believes Apple’s rumored entrance into the television market will be primarily to bolster the company’s “halo effect,” in which consumers buy into the Apple ecosystem and purchase its other products. He does not believe that an iTV with subscription revenue, as well as gross margins on the sale of HDTVs, would have much of an impact on the company’s bottom line.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked memo points towards T-Mobile officially supporting unlocked iPhones

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Date: Monday, January 30th, 2012, 04:55
Category: iPhone, News

Give it time and things will change.

Per TmoNews, despite not being able to sell the iPhone, a reportedly leaked employee memo reveals that T-Mobile will begin to offer official support for subscribers using unlocked versions of Apple’s popular handset on its network.

The memo notifies current T-Mobile employees that starting Jan. 30, it will be initiating a support program for the carrier’s estimated one million customers who use an unlocked iPhone on the network.

Coverage under the new “iPhone Scope of Support” is not comprehensive, but does include help with common procedures, information regarding handset features and specifications and “other basic device questions.”

Currently, iPhone information on T-Mobile’s support page is sparse and mainly focused on getting unlocked handset users up and running on the carrier’s network. For example, when running a search for “iPhone” on the company’s website, the top hit is a page detailing internet and picture messaging settings for the Apple smartphone.

While T-Mobile is not an official Apple carrier partner and operates on a wireless spectrum not supported by the iPhone, a report in December noted that the Deutsche Telekom holding company had been “refarming” its AWS 3G spectrum in a move that granted compatibility for unlocked versions of the device.

As contract-free iPhones are unsubsidized, they cost significantly more than their AT&T, Sprint or Verizon counterparts, however it could be the only option for a customer who is loyal to their current carrier. An on-contract 16 GB iPhone 4S is priced at US$199, while the unlocked version retails for US$649.

Earlier this month, T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm said that the company’s wireless operating frequency was the key reason as to why it doesn’t yet sell the iPhone.

Most recently, U.S. number two mobile carrier AT&T filed for FCC approval to transfer wireless spectrum worth US$1 billion to T-Mobile, a result of a failed US$39 billion bid to takeover of the smaller company. AT&T must also pay the German-owned carrier US$3 billion in cash to fulfill the deal’s pre-negotiated terms.

Apple’s smartphone is seen as a major boon for networks that support it, and carriers have even blamed poor customer sign-up rates on not having access to the device. When the iPhone 4S was launched in October 2011, it was reported that Sprint had struck a US$20 billion deal with Apple for rights to sell the next-generation handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T looks to transfer $1 billion of wireless spectrum to T-Mobile

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Date: Tuesday, January 24th, 2012, 06:35
Category: iPhone, News

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If you’ve got a spare billion dollars of wireless spectrum just laying about, why WOULDN’T you transfer it to the wireless carrier that you’d made a bid to purchase?

Per the Wall Street Journal, AT&T has filed for FCC approval to transfer wireless spectrum worth US$1 billion to T-Mobile as a result of the failure of its US$39 billion effort to acquire the smaller mobile carrier.

Along with the spectrum, AT&T will give T-Mobile’s German owner Deutsche Telekom US$3 billion in cash as part of its pre-negotiated terms for backing out of the acquisition, which was quashed by the US Justice Department and the FCC as threatening competition in the wireless market.

T-Mobile’s senior vice president for government affairs said “this additional spectrum will help meet the growing demand for wireless broadband services.”

T-Mobile is the only carrier among the US’ top 4 to have not articulated any plans for rolling out LTE 4G service, and is also hampered by its use of non-standard UMTS 3G service. That prevents the carrier from selling Apple’s existing iPhone, which it has cited as a key reason for its poor performance.

T-Mobile has previously indicated that new chipsets could enable future iPhone models to support the company’s existing 3G service. Without building out LTE however, T-Mobile could likely be left behind as support for the new networking standard begins to trickle into the mainstream.

Both T-Mobile and AT&T have referred to their existing HSPA+ networks as 4G, because they can offer data speeds compatible to LTE. However, LTE has future potential well beyond HSPA+.

Apple is expected to release an iPhone model capable of supporting LTE later this year. It has not previously supported LTE until now because of technical issues involving battery life and size.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T announces data plan price increases

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Date: Thursday, January 19th, 2012, 07:13
Category: iPhone, News

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You might not like this.

Per AppleInsider, AT&T has introduced new data plans for smartphone and tablet users, adding additional cap space but also charging customers more. The new plans max out at 5GB with tethering for US$50 per month.

A press release on Wednesday stated that the new rates that will take effect on Sunday, Jan. 22, marking the first change to the company’s data plans since 2010.

“Customers are using more data than ever before,” said David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment.”

The new smartphone pricing is basically a US$5 surcharge for a 1 GB bump in data for DataPro users, while DataPlus subscribers will get an extra 100 MB for the same price.

Tablet owners will see a reshuffling of options as the previous 2 GB DataConnect plan is to be replaced a 3 GB per month flavor previously only available on a two-year contract. An additional 5 GB plan will also be added for US$50 per month and the lowest 250 MB plan remains unchanged.

Current subscribers can keep their existing plans or opt in to one of the new tiers when the program launches on Sunday.

Smartphone plans are as follows:
- AT&T DataPlus 300MB: US$20 for 300MB

- AT&T DataPro 3GB: US$30 for 3GB

- AT&T DataPro 5GB: US$50 for 5GB, with mobile hotspot / tethering

Additional data pricing remains at US$10 per gigabyte for the DataPro plans and US$20 per additional 300 MB for DataPlus customers.

Tablet data tiers have changed to:
- AT&T DataConnect 250MB: US$14.99 for 250MB

- AT&T DataConnect 3GB: US$30 for 3GB

- AT&T DataConnect 5GB: US$50 for 5GB

Overage charges only apply to 30-day tablet prices and include US$14.99 for and extra 250MB with AT&T DataConnect 250 MB, and US$10 per additional gigabyte for DataConnect 3 GB and 5 GB.

The new plans reflect an upward trend in cellphone and tablet data pricing from U.S. carriers as their networks strain under the pressure of a growing customer base.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Unicom customers can snag free iPhone 4S handset after signing multi-year contract

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Date: Friday, January 6th, 2012, 09:11
Category: iPhone, News

Incentives are always a good thing.

Apple’s carrier partner in China is offering an aggressive promotion in which customers can get a brand new iPhone 4S for free if they sign a multi-year service contract.

Per Bloomberg, customers can pay as little as 286 yuan, or US$45 per month, for the plan to get a free iPhone 4S. The promotion will begin Friday, Jan. 13, which is the day the iPhone 4S will go on sale in mainland China and 21 other countries.

China Unicom subscribers can get a free 32-gigabyte iPhone 4S with a three-year service contract. And the 16GB model is available free for those who agree to a two-year contract.

The iPhone has already proven to be costly for China Unicom, as the carrier saw its 3G-related cost increase nearly fourfold in the first half of 2011. Some analysts believe the carrier’s heavy iPhone 4S subsidy will only accelerate those costs.

China Unicom’s 3G business has been a money-losing operation for the carrier through the first six months of 2011. Subsidies of smartphones reportedly accounted for 45 percent of the 3G service costs.

The subsidies being offered by China Unicom are much more aggressive than other carriers across the world. For example, in the U.S., customers on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon can get a 16GB iPhone 4S for US$199 with a new two-year plan, while the 32GB model is US$299 and 64GB is US$399.

Customers in the U.S. and some other countries to have an option for a free handset in the form of the iPhone 3GS, which was first released in 2009. That promotion started with the release of the iPhone 4S in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T ends T-Mobile acquisition effort

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Date: Tuesday, December 20th, 2011, 06:32
Category: iPhone, News

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Sometimes you’ve just gotta throw in the towel.

Per AppleInsider, AT&T has given up its efforts to buy carrier T-Mobile, citing opposition from federal regulators.

A statement by AT&T says the company will take a pretax charge of US$4 billion that was stipulated in the agreement between the two carriers if the deal were dropped before being finalized.

In addition to the payoff, T-Mobile patent company Deutsche Telekom is also entering into what AT&T described as “mutually beneficial” roaming agreements with its attempted buyer.

“The actions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block this transaction do not change the realities of the U.S. wireless industry,” AT&T stated. “It is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, with a mounting need for more spectrum that has not diminished and must be addressed immediately. The AT&T and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage. In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.”

The merger was opposed throughout the year by the US FCC and the DOJ, both of whom cited limited competition and job layoffs as reasons for opposing the deal.

AT&T’s chairman and chief executive Randall Stephenson wrote that “to meet the needs of our customers, we will continue to invest. However, adding capacity to meet these needs will require policymakers to do two things.

“First, in the near term, they should allow the free markets to work so that additional spectrum is available to meet the immediate needs of the U.S. wireless industry, including expeditiously approving our acquisition of unused Qualcomm spectrum currently pending before the FCC. Second, policymakers should enact legislation to meet our nation’s longer-term spectrum needs.”

It is not known if the new roaming agreement between T-Mobile and AT&T would enable Apple to sell its existing iPhone models to T-Mobile, or if it would still need to develop a unique version of the iPhone to sell on the carrier, which uses a different AWS band for 3G service than the rest of the GSM/UMTS world.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.