ESPN expresses interest in subsidizing mobile data plans, looks to keep users watching streaming video

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Date: Friday, May 10th, 2013, 07:58
Category: iOS, iPhone, News

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ESPN wants you watching streaming video, even if they have to pick up part of the check…

Per the Wall Street Journal and AppleInsider, cable sports network ESPN has expressed interest in potentially subsidizing those data plans to allow users to stream video without worrying about overage fees.

ESPN has allegedly had discussions with at least one major U.S. carrier about the plan. The two largest carriers in America, Verizon and AT&T, both carry the iPhone and both restrict new customers with capped data plans.

The concept proposed by ESPN could guarantee that content streamed from the network would not result in data plan overage charges. The network has reportedly expressed interest in either paying carriers outright, or giving them a share of advertising revenue.

But the alleged deal isn’t imminent, the report said, as questions remain about the economics, and the fact that any agreements could run afoul of government regulators.

Carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are said to be interested in content deals as a way of increasing revenue without raising fees for subscribers.

ESPN has aggressively pursued mobile streaming capabilities as smartphones and tablets have gained in popularity. The network’s WatchESPN application allows users with participating cable subscribers to stream live sporting events from the ESPN family of networks.

Content available on WatchESPN includes the NBA regular season and playoffs, major golf tournaments like The Masters and U.S. Open, college football and basketball, and thousands of other live events. The service also streams original ESPN shows like SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption, and Mike and Mike in the Morning.

But smartphone users might be reluctant to use live streaming video services like WatchESPN on the go because of restrictive mobile data plan caps in place via wireless carriers. Both Verizon and AT&T charge customers a US$15 fee for each gigabyte consumed in excess of their data plan cap.

Watching low-quality video for one hour uses about 200 megabytes of data. For an hour of high-definition video, a user might expect to see 400 megabytes of usage on their mobile data plan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to introduce HD Voice later this year, iPhone 5 users rejoice

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Date: Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013, 06:02
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re an iPhone 5 user, your call quality with AT&T should improve this year.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog and AllThingsD, when Apple introduced the iPhone 5 last year, Apple’s Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller explained that Apple updated the iPhone 5′s entire audio system. In addition to the inclusion of three microphones and an improved speaker design, Schiller also boasted that the iPhone 5 featured a technology dubbed wideband audio, otherwise known as HD Voice technology.

Phil Schiller said the technology was capable of delivering amazing sound performance and described it thusly:

In a typical cellphone call, this is what it looks like. The frequency of the data in your voice is compressed around the midrange to help make that call sound more intelligible, but it doesn’t sound entirely natural all the time. So with wideband audio we can fill up more of the frequency spectrum and make your voice sound even more natural.

In order to take advantage of the much improved call quality, however, the technology must be supported by the carrier and both devices on a particular call.

When Apple first introduced the iPhone 5, Schiller said that 20 cellphone carriers worldwide would be ready to support the iPhone 5′s wideband audio technology at launch. Notably, no US carriers were part of that original grouping of 20.

But that’s all poised to change.

According to statements made by AT&T senior VP Kris Rinne on Tuesday at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit indicating that Ma Bell is planning to roll out support for wideband audio later this year.

“HD Voice is part of our voice over LTE strategy,” Rinne explained.

Of course, this is welcome news for AT&T subscribers who have long complained of subpar call quality measured against other US carriers like Sprint and Verizon.

Rinne also added that AT&T is taking other measures to improve call quality on its network.

Rinne, who oversees network technologies for the carrier, said that the carrier will also begin work on so-called advanced LTE which does things to reduce interference and bond together traffic from various frequencies.

Sprint is reportedly interested in supporting HD Voice as well, though a timetable for such support wasn’t specified.

So, if you ever felt your iPhone 5′s call quality was just slightly short of stellar, this should help. Verizon users, on the other hand, will have to wait until 2014 for HD Voice support.

T-Mobile to offer iPhone 5 on April 12th, will incorporate $99 upfront payment plan

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Date: Tuesday, March 26th, 2013, 08:33
Category: iPhone, News, retail

The day T-Mobile customers have been waiting for has arrived.

And you’ll be able to snag an iPhone via T-Mobile on April 12th.

Per AppleInsider, customers of T-Mobile, the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S., will get long awaited access to Apple’s iPhone when the iPhone 5 launches on the carrier’s network April 12.

The announcement was made Tuesday by T-Mobile as part of the company’s “Uncarrier” branding, which seeks to differentiate the carrier from competing providers like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint — all of which already carry the iPhone.

In standing out from the others, T-Mobile is offering a 16-gigabyte iPhone 5 for US$99 up front, with 20 additional monthly payments of US$20. With an April 12 sale date in T-Mobile’s retail stores, preorders will begin April 5.

Joining the iPhone 5 will be the remainder of Apple’s current smartphone lineup: the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4. As with other carriers, only the iPhone 5 will be compatible with T-Mobile’s new 4G LTE high-speed data network.

T-Mobile officially announced its new LTE network at Tuesday’s event as well, available in a total of seven U.S. markets: Kansas City, Kan., Houston, Tex., Las Vegas, Nev., Phoenix, Ariz., San Jose, Calif., and Washington, D.C.

T-Mobile’s new data plans include 500 megabytes of high-speed online data and unlimited calls and texts for US$50. For an extra US$10 per month, users get 2.5 gigabytes of high-speed data, while unlimited 4G access runs US$70 per month. In addition, users are simply throttled, not penalized, when they go over their data cap.

Bringing Apple’s iPhone to T-Mobile with full support has been no small task. While the carrier counts some two million iPhone customers among its base — with about 100,000 added per month — T-Mobile’s reliance on the 1700MHz frequency for its 3G HSPA+ network proved an obstacle for T-Mobile with regard to Apple’s bestselling smartphone.

The 1700MHz frequency, branded as “4G” but not “LTE”, is unique to T-Mobile among carriers, and allows iPhone users only very slow 2G connectivity. Given T-Mobile’s relatively small customer base, Apple never moved to support T-Mobile’s standard. Instead, T-Mobile has been working to switch much of its network to 1900MHz in order to allow iPhone connectivity. The company will be repurposing its 1700MHz band for 4G LTE.

T-Mobile last year announced a deal with Apple to begin selling Apple products in 2013. Executives from the carrier said in January of this year that customers could expect Apple products on T-Mobile sooner rather than later, floating the possibility of “three to four months” rather than “six to nine.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T adds premium shared data, data-only options to Mobile Share plans

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Date: Wednesday, March 20th, 2013, 07:52
Category: News

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If you’ve got the money for it, AT&T has a fairly hefty data plan for you.

Per TechHive, the wireless carrier just added three new tiers for its Mobile Share plans, which allow users to share a single pool of data across several devices. Subscribers can now get 30GB per month for US$300, 40GB per month for US$400, and 50GB per month for US$500.

At these tiers, AT&T also adds a per-device charge of US$30 per month for each smartphone, US$10 per month for tablets and gaming devices, and US$20 per month for each laptop or USB data sticks.

Streaming video through services like Netflix is one example of where you might engage in heavy use, especially with data use skyrocketing over LTE. Although if you’re dropping US$300 per month on a bad Netflix habit, that’s a problem.

Previously, AT&T’s top tier was 20GB for US$200 per month. Exceeding the limit meant paying a US$15 per gigabyte overage charge so, while the new plans seem expensive, they do offer a savings to users and businesses that need large amounts of data.

AT&T and Verizon launched their respective shared-data plans last year. Both carriers include unlimited talk and text in these plans, as well as mobile hotspot use on smartphones at no extra charge.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple announces 36 international wireless carriers moving to 4G LTE networks in 2013

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Date: Thursday, January 24th, 2013, 08:31
Category: iPad, iPhone, News

If you’re traveling internationally with your iPhone 5, this will come in handy.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will more than double the number of carriers that support fast 4G LTE data service for its flagship iPhone 5 next week, with 36 new LTE carriers joining its existing pool of 24.

When asked about “the pace of LTE build outs across the globe, in Europe or parts of Asia” and how that could have an impact on Apple’s iPhone business as LTE capacity becomes more available, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook outlined big expansion plans beginning next week.

“Today we have 24 carriers around the world that provide LTE support for iPhone 5. Those are in countries like the US, Korea, the UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, Australia and a few others,” Cook said.

“Next week,” he added, “we’re adding 36 more carriers for LTE support. These carriers will be in countries that we are not currently supporting LTE.”

Cook specifically noted new carriers “in Italy, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Philippines, and also several middle eastern countries,” pointing out that “if you look at the total of all of these, the incremental subscribers in those countries it’s over 300 million.”

That subscriber total of the 36 country expansion is just over 10 percent larger than Verizon Wireless, which is currently the world’s largest LTE carrier, with about 257 million subscribers. Verizon just announced having sold 9.8 million smartphones in the winter quarter, 6.2 million of which were iPhones.

In addition to carriers supporting LTE, Cook also drew attention to iPhone 5′s ability to work with other advanced data networks, noting, “as you know iPhone 5 also supports other ultra fast networks like HSPA+, with downloads up to 42Mbps, which is 3 times the speed as iPhone 4S.”

Cook concluded his comments on global carrier expansion by saying, “we feel really good about the situation we are in, particularly with these adds next week.”

Apple first launched LTE support one year ago for its third generation iPad introducing a Retina Display. Last September, Apple launched iPhone 5 as its first LTE phone, expanding LTE and HSPA+ support to new carriers globally.

Apple currently sells three versions of iPhone 5 (and new iPad 4 and iPad mini models equipped with LTE mobile data): a model that works exclusively with American AT&T and Canadian carriers using LTE bands 4 and 17; a model supporting CDMA carriers Verizon and Sprint in the US and KDDI in Japan, using LTE bands 1,3,5,13 and 25; and a third model supporting LTE bands 1, 3 and 5, sold to subscribers in Germany, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Softbank in Japan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

T-Mobile announces company will begin selling iPhone, iPad in 2013

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Date: Friday, December 7th, 2012, 07:52
Category: iPhone, News, retail

If you’re a T-Mobile fan, you’ll appreciate this.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier T-Mobile has announced it has inked a deal with Apple to begin selling products in America next year, presumably including both the iPhone and iPad.

The announcement came as part of a press release by the carrier’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom, on Thursday. The release declined to mention specific products, but Apple’s iPhone and iPad lineup are the only cellular-capable devices offered by the company.

“T-Mobile USA has entered into an agreement with Apple to bring products to market together in 2013,” the release said.

T-Mobile is the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S., but despite its size, it has not offered Apple’s iPhone to date. And yet many smaller, regional carriers already offer the iPhone through partnerships with Apple, which T-Mobile has admitted contributed to its woes in America.

“Following on from the preceding steps such as the spectrum swap with Verizon, the towers deal with Crown Castle and the transaction with MetroPCS that we have announced, we have now added the final piece to the jigsaw to boost the competitiveness of T-Mobile USA sustainably,” said René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom.

Though the iPhone is not officially available through T-Mobile, the carrier is said to have more than 1.5 million active unlocked handsets on its network. Many of those handsets operate at wireless data speeds slower than 3G because of technical limitations with T-Mobile’s network.

To address that issue, T-Mobile has begun widening its 4G HSPA+ network in major metropolitan areas across the U.S., offering users of unlocked iPhones the ability to access high-speed data on its network.

The main reason T-Mobile has not offered the iPhone is because its network’s frequency band is incompatible with current versions of the iPhone. While the iPhone can place calls on T-Mobile’s network, it cannot connect to the carrier’s unique high-speed 3G frequency.

That’s begun to change as the carrier has transitioned its service to the 1900 MHz GSM band. That’s the same frequency used by AT&T, and is compatible with existing iPhone models.

T-Mobile has publicly admitted that the lack of Apple’s iPhone in its smartphone lineup has hurt the carrier and caused customers to leave. The carrier has about 33 million subscribers in the U.S., placing it behind Sprint, AT&T and Verizon in terms of size.

However, T-Mobile is set to grow next year thanks to a planned merger with MetroPCS — the fifth-largest carrier in America, and another provider that does not have access to Apple’s iPhone. T-Mobile and AT&T previously attempted to merge, but that deal was pulled when it became clear the Federal Communications Commission would block the agreement.

The terms of the attempted merger between AT&T and T-Mobile deemed that AT&T would give T-Mobile US$1 billion worth of wireless spectrum in the 1900MHz range if the deal fell through. That spectrum exchange is now likely key to the announced agreement between T-Mobile and Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 5 supply stabilizes, units now readily available for holiday shopping season

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Date: Thursday, November 29th, 2012, 07:41
Category: iPhone, News, retail

It took a while and there were muchos conflicts with Foxconn, but it finally happened: Apple’s iPhone 5 supply chain has stabilized.

Per AppleInsider, the popular iPhone 5 handset is now readily available in the U.S. at Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail stores as the company has apparently overcome supply issues experienced since the device was launched in September.

While the Apple online store still shows one-week ship-by dates, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said a poll of 20 U.S. Apple Stores reveals the iPhone 5 is readily available at physical Apple Stores for the first time since the unit was released at the end of September.

“We believe the iPhone 5 has finally reached a point where consumers can walk into an Apple Store and walk out with a phone,” Munster said in a note to investors on Thursday.

The analyst performs a nightly check with the online Apple Store for local pick-up orders half an hour after new stock arrives at 100 locations. He also noted that 20 out of 20 Apple Stores polled showed availability for Verizon models, the supply of which has been the most constrained out of the three major U.S. carriers.

“The bottom line is that AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are consistently showing 90%+ availability,” Munster wrote.

A similar report earlier this month showed that, while inventory of Sprint versions of the Phone 5 was improving, models supported by AT&T and Verizon’s networks were still seeing constraints.

Going further, Munster maintains his estimate of 45 million iPhone shipments for the fourth quarter, but warns that there may not be a significant upside as supply is only now meeting demand.

According to a recent report, the iPhone 5 helped to double Apple’s share of the U.S. smartphone market, pushing it ahead of worldwide leader Android.

Sprint activates 4G LTE networks in 9 additional U.S. cities

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Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 07:10
Category: iPhone, News

It never hurts to have a fast connection.

According to PC Magazine, wireless carrier Spring revealed on Tuesday that it has begun work on its 4G LTE network in nine new cities. The new markets include:

- Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

- Oakland/Fremont/Hayward, Calif.

- Key West, Fla.

- Fort Smith, Ark.

- Michigan City/La Porte, Ind.

- Bloomington, Ind.

- Eau Claire, Wis.

- Arrdmore, Okla.

- McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas

Sprint debuted its 4G LTE service in July and plans to have 125 cities on its LTE grid within “the coming months.” No more specific dates are being offered by the company at this time.

This number is well behind AT&T and Verizon, with the latter promising to have its entire 3G network converted by mid-2013. On Thursday, Verizon is flipping the switch on LTE coverage for more than 20 cities, including much of Missouri and large chunks of Wyoming and Arizona.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 5 shipping times improve, device ETA now stands at 2-3 weeks

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Date: Tuesday, November 13th, 2012, 07:59
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Maybe things are getting a little better over at the Foxconn plant…

Per AppleInsider, availability of the iPhone 5 continues to improve, as Apple’s website now advertises that all models ship within two to three weeks.

The latest estimated shipping times are an improvement from the previously advertised timeframe of three to four weeks. The shipping time applies to both the black and slate as well as the white and silver models, in all three capacities.

The improved shipping times corroborate reports from last week that revealed Apple’s supply was catching up with demand for iPhone 5 inventory at its U.S. retail stores. Gene Munster and his team at Piper Jaffray found that 54 percent of 100 Apple Stores had the AT&T iPhone 5 in stock, while 24 percent had the Verizon model, and 84 percent were stocked with the Sprint variety.

Those numbers from last week were a major improvement from the weeks prior, when supplies of the iPhone 5 were severely constrained, particularly for AT&T and Verizon customers.

“We believe this is an important step for Apple as it appears they are finally gaining momentum in being able to keep up with demand for the iPhone 5,” Munster wrote. “We believe that if AT&T and Verizon device availability follows the same trend as Sprint, it may only be 2-3 weeks before iPhone 5s are consistently available to customers.”

Also last week, Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said his checks within Apple’s supply chain found that the company had significantly improved its production capacity of the iPhone 5 since the device launched in late September. According to Wu, the supply chain bottleneck for the iPhone 5 moved from components to the assembly of the device itself.

Earlier reports claimed that the iPhone 5′s in-cell touch panel and aluminum chassis have caused quality control issues for both Apple and Foxconn. One unnamed source from Foxconn said in October that the iPhone 5 is “the most difficult device” the company has ever been tasked with assembling.

If you’ve gotten word as to when your iPhone 5 is expected to ship, please let us know its estimated delivery time in the comments.

Apple purchases Color Labs’ talent base for indeterminate price

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Date: Friday, October 19th, 2012, 08:05
Category: Finance, News, Software

Your favorite computer company bought up the talent, not the office supplies (including the trusty coffee maker)

Per All Things D, Apple didn’t buy social video startup Color, but it did acquire its engineering team of about 20 employees for as much as $5 million.

Disputing a rumor that surfaced on Wednesday claiming that Apple had bought Color, Liz Gannes of All Things D revealed on Thursday that Apple instead “acquired” Color’s engineering team. The employees were said to have been picked up for somewhere between US$2 million and US$5 million.

That would mean that earlier claims that Apple had bought Color for “double-digit millions” were incorrect. Instead, Apple made a relatively small talent acquisition of about 20 personnel.

“Apple is not buying Color’s technology, intellectual property, domain names or liabilities,” Gannes said. “Those are being left with the company, which still has considerable cash in the bank — something like US$25 million — and is going to be wound down.”

A flurry of rumors and misinformation related to Color were attributed to “bad blood” that has apparently formed between Color employees, company CEO Bill Nguyen, ex-employees, investors, and even Apple itself.

Founded by Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham in 2011, Color Labs was at the center of some controversy after netting US$41 million in a pre-launch funding round, a massive investment compared to the usual US$1 million in seed money seen by most comparable start-ups. The company released a photo-sharing app, though the initiative failed to draw users, prompting Pham to exit three months after launch and Chief Product Officer DJ Patil to do the same one month later.

Nguyen changed strategies and created a new video-sharing app that allows users to record and post 30-second silent video to Facebook, a direction that netted Color a deal with Verizon in May.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.