Apple faces off against China (Mobile)..sending in unlocked iPhones through Hong Kong

Apple released its iPhone unlocked and without a plan this week in Hong Kong, the first release of its kind.  Many, including I, wondered why Apple chose Hong Kong as its release point of this unprecedented package.  Apple already sells its iPhones unlocked in countries with rules against locking phones to carriers.  These includes Czech Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxembourg, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, and Turkey (thanks DF).

However, in all of those locations, you have to buy the iPhone through the mobile provider…usually saddled with a plan and/or a providor markup.  But Apple is selling the iPhone right from its site in Hong Kong.  I can even order one here from Greenwich Village and have it sent to a friend in Hong Kong.  You can’t do this anywhere else on earth.  Why?

Many people buy the iPhone with the plan and then opt out for varying fees and sell it on the gray market.   One report a year ago said 400,000 of them had made it to China.  This hasn’t stopped with the iPhone 3G.  Chinese customers have been buying gray market iPhones like crazy.

We all know talks with China’s largest carrier, China Mobile, have been going very poorly for Apple.  According to some reports China Mobile wanted Apple to remove the Wifi access and only allow EDGE speeds on the iPhone.  Obviously, this isn’t the experience Apple wants its customers to have.

So, the the question that must be asked… Is Apple dumping iPhones into the world’s largest market via Hong Kong because none of the Chinese carriers will accept the iPhone on Apple’s terms?  Is Apple using the gray market that hurts so many retailers with knockoffs and pirated material to get at the Chinese mobile companies?

Don’t mess with the Jobs.

 

 

Thanks DF

iPhone or iPod stand made out of a paper clip

Here’s a quick  video from Lifehacker on how to make a little iPod/iPhone stand from a paper clip. Apple, if it had any creativity whatsoever, would have made that paperclip that ejects your SIM into this little guy via some crazy transformer robotics.

This reminds me of a guy I sat next to who used his dinner roll as an iPod stand on a flight to New York. This is a big improvement.

iPhone Flash: Adobe passes the buck to Apple

Clearly at this point, Apple has very little interest in porting Flash to the iPhone.  Apparently there isn’t even a skunkworks type project going on between the two companies to suss out whether or not it can run at acceptable speeds.  This, according to Flash Magazine, who covered the Adobe Flash gathering, mention that the Adobe team is actively developing the Flash app for the app store, but getting nothing in the way of guidance from Apple.  They aren’t even sure the Flash app will make it to the app store.

Even if Adobe got the chance to release a Flash Lite type of App for the App Store, it still wouldn’t serve its most important functionality properly, being embedded into webpages.  Hurdles like this keep the AIR platform and  Flash Apps like Workamajig from being able to be used on the popular mobile device.  We’ve disccussed the reasons behind Apple’s neglet of the Flash player in the past.  Not much has changed.  As we’ve said previously, Flash isn’t coming to the iPhone any time soon.

If you want Flash, go get yourself a OQO.

 

PlayFirst, Namco get their iPhone game on

 Seems you can’t turn a virtual page on any website without coming across yet more news about games making it to the iPhone – clearly the platform’s attracting big attention – to the extent Nintendo plans to add games and a camera to a new model DS later this year.

Today’s big gaming news sees causal games publisher PlayFirst promising to unleash many more of its titles onto the Apple platform. You may remember this is the company that bought Diner Dash to the iPhone most recently.

Speaking to Stuart Dredge at PocketGamer, company CEO John Welch promised to bring Chocolatier, Dream Chronicles, Parking Dash, Cooking Dash, and one other unnamed game to the iPhone this year.

"We are very bullish on the iPhone, both in general and because our catalog and technology fit it so well, so assuming its great momentum continues you’ll likely see all of our top properties there," he said. 

On development he revealed, "iPhone looks more like a Mac than a phone to us. It is a mostly homogenous platform, and similar enough to a Mac that we were able to port our Playground SDK to auto-magically generate playable games.

Also today, Namco Networks, a leading publisher and developer of mobile games and entertainment for the mass-market casual gamer, today announced the worldwide availability of Pole Position: Remix for play on the iPhone and iPod touch.

“Pole Position: Remix is a fun and intuitive game that anyone can take for a spin,” says Scott Rubin, senior vice president, Namco Networks. “Similar to playing a racing game in an arcade, Pole Position: Remix makes you feel as if you are actually getting behind the wheel and racing on the track, screeching around turns and breaking to avoid a cra

Each track in Pole Position: Remix can be played in four racing modes: Practice, Single Race, Grand Prix and Sudden Death. Points are earned for the distance traveled and for passing competing cars. If players race well, players can unlock reversed or mirrored versions of the tracks, race in new cars and experience different themes.

And in related news today, we earlier reported on Trent Reznor’s plan to release a special edition Nine Inch Nails-branded version of Tap Tap Revenge, populated with music from the band’s last two albums.

Apple Tanks, Bailout Fails

 I should have sold at 200. Apple stock today plummeted 23 points to a year-low amount per share of 105.26. The reason it dropped so dramatically can be attributed to terrible timing. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty and RBC analyst Mike Abramsky both downgraded to equal-weight from overweight, leading Apple’s stock to take a dive. However, to make matters worse, Wall Street dropped 777 points on the news that the bailout plan proposed was voted against. 

I’m gonna take a break from Apple to address an issue I find extremely important. I believe the parties are slowly dividing America. Lawmakers are voting for the opinion of their party rather than their true beliefs. Today we saw this in full effect. Democrats voted against the bailout today, not necessarily because they didn’t agree with it, but because it was proposed by George Bush. They figured that because George Bush has made mistakes in the past, he has no chance of doing anything right, and subsequently voted no to the bailout that could’ve helped a ton of people. Case in point: read this comment from AOL.

“IF BUSH WANTED IT TO PASS, I AM AS HAPPY AS HELL IT FAILED.”

No thought as to what he was proposing, no consideration that perhaps the man America elected two terms in a row might do one thing right, simply a rejection of his proposal based on the current public perception that Bush is a complete, and utter, failure in every aspect of life. I feel sorry for Bush right now: no matter how much he wants to help the country at this point, I don’t think he can. I think he has reached a point, no thanks to the media, in which America will immediately disagree with whatever he says, without even considering what he proposes. I want to make it clear to everyone that I am not a Republican, or a Democrat. I am not pro-Bush or anti-Bush. I don’t believe decisions should be made based on pre-conceived notions regarding a party or person: every politician wants to help the country as much as the other. Bush is not a complete idiot: he may not be a good public speaker, but just because he has a Texas accent doesn’t mean he’s a dumb cowboy. Think back to things Bush has done right: think of the surge, the immediate reaction to 9/11. Yes, he’s made some mistakes, but he’s only human. Yes, he’s misspoken, but you can’t be prefect grammatically all the time. I find it extremely unfortunate that the bailout got rejected, because it shows that politicians no longer pass laws based on what is right for the country: they pass laws based on what is popular, based on their party’s opinions, based on not voting with the other party’s members. As a result of this, we saw today a bad sign of things to come. Unless Washington gets their act together, this may very well be the beginning of the end.

I apologize for the political rant, but I think it needs to be said.

iPhone heart monitor is a creative way to use iPhone sensors

This one belongs in the "what will they think of next category". Some enterprising programmers managed to make a heart monitor out of the microphone in the iPhone headset.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=1791560&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

While this is a cool idea and fun for most, we wouldn’t recommend it just yet for those with heart conditions.

Fring legitimately comes to iPhone (update: soon)

Fring, easily the best mobile IM/VoIP client out there is coming to the iPhone.  So says their website (OK that was premature– but it is still coming any…second…now…).  It probably has been submitted to the App store and they are nervously awaiting Apple’s approval/random denial. Good luck Fring!

Fring is now available on the iPhone App Store making it easy for anyone to use fring on the original iPhone, iPhone 3G or iPod touch.

All you need to do is download fring here on the iPhone App Store and within minutes you can make free calls with other fringsters™ or via fring using Skype, Skype-out or any SIP providers you choose.

You will have one searchable contact list with all your instant messaging buddies from Skype®, MSN® Messenger, Google Talk™, ICQ, Twitter, Yahoo!™ and AIM® so you can easily see whose available and where they can be reached before dialing or starting a live chat session.

In short, you can finally interact with all your favorite internet applications, services and communities from your iPhone.

Now that’s fringing freedom!

Obviously, it won’t be able to operate in the background like the jailbroken version did so well – hopefully they’ll update when the Push Notification goes live.  No word yet on pricing, but unless it costs more than the I am Rich application, we are all over it. 

iPhone heading to EVDO/Verizon for 2009?

We’ve fielded a couple of tips (some more sketchy than others) about EVDO iPhones floating around Cupertino in the past, but today’s tipster seems a little bit more sure of himself.  Besides having some Verizon insider credentials, he seems to know way too much about Verizon-Apple politics.  According to him, Apple will be announcing iPhones for Verizon Wireless in 2009, perhaps as early Macworld 2009.  Negotiations between Apple and Verizon are ongoing but they expect to hammer out agreements by the end of the year. 

This isn’t a huge surprise for a number of reasons:

  1. Apple has been scouting out EVDO and CDMA Engineers for months in their online iPhone job postings (here, here, here and here).  Yes, some of these skills overlap with UTMS and CDMA can also refer to the broad swath of 3G Technologies…but come on…don’t put "EVDO" on the job description if it ain’t true.. (BTW, WiMax is also littered throughout Apple’s Job postings…interesting/digress)
  2. No matter how big AT&T is and how much range they cover, leaving out Verizon and to a lesser extent Sprint, will be eliminating a broad swath of the US wireless market.  If Apple is serious about competing with Blackberry, Symbian and Android, they will have to broaden their carrier footprint.  One carrier does not a platform make.  Apple will need a way to grow its market after AT&T is saturated.
  3. LTE technology won’t be mature until well into 2010.  Apple can’t afford to wait that long to broaden its carrier footprint
  4. Who is happy with Rogers in Canada (*crickets*)?  EVDO opens up to new carriers there as well.
  5. Verizon wireless is a partnership between Verizon communications and Vodafone.  Vodafone, you’ll recall, has contracts with Apple for iPhones in around 15 markets around the world.  Apple has a working relationship with Vodafone (and Tmobile obviously).
  6. Apple has just started going "Open" in a few markets, including Hong Kong. This will likely increase the number of unlocked 3G iPhones on the world market (South Africa is also open).  While this won’t benefit Verizon directly, it certainly shows that Apple is considering being more "carrier agnostic."
  7. Tim Cook, famously said that Apple wasn’t married to the one carrier/country model.  As Apple expands, it is going more and more open.
  8. Verizon’s iPhone Cheat sheet was weak and their arguments about Stevo getting old were silly.  They’d rather play ball with Apple than try to defend itself against it.
  9. Apple originally wanted to go with Verizon for the iPhone.  Some of the original disagreements included "not carrying the iPhone at Best Buy and hardware reliability" – see quote below.  AT&T was a second choice.  When Verizon balked, Apple went to AT&T…Think Verizon is happy about that decision (no) or willing to reconsider Apple’s overtures (yes)?

According to Verizon, Apple CEO Steve Jobs insisted that he have hard control over iPhone distribution.

The problem? While Apple and Verizon stores would have it, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and other Verizon distributors could have been left out. "That would have put our own distribution partners at a disadvantage" to Apple and Verizon stores, Gerace said.

Customer care was another hitch: If an iPhone went haywire, Apple wanted sole discretion over whether to replace or repair the phone. "They would have been stepping in between us and our customers to the point where we would have almost had to take a back seat … on hardware and service support," Gerace says.

The number one reason people think AT&T is the only US carrier that Apple will visit is because a couple of falsely reported rumors by USA Today that "revealed" Apple has signed exclusivity deals with AT&T.  Depending on whether you trust the original article which said it would be five years or the latest article which says two years, or any of the other speculation out there (CNN says 2009), nothing public has ever been uncovered that has specified the length of AT&T-Apple exclusivity deals.  At the original iPhone announcement at Macworld 2007, Cingular’s CEO Stan Sigmund indicated that Apple and Cingular had signed a multi(2?)-year deal.  A Macworld 2009 launch would put the AT&T-Apple exclusivity at 18 months from mid 2007 launch, WWDC 2009 would be 2 years from launch.  Add 6 months for time since the announcement.

There is no reason why Apple wouldn’t also be chatting with Sprint and T-mobile about possible deals as well.  We welcome some carrier competition in the US iPhone field. 

The sooner the better.

Last.fm iPhone 2.0 is available now

 Last.fm has introduced a second version of its Last.fm application for the  iPhone, and this release is feature-packed.

Here’s the feature breakdown:

– Vastly improved user interface all around (tap to zoom album art included)

– Ability to tag songs

– Personal tag radio

– Calendar based events view

– Common artists when viewing a user profile

– Many other usability and back-end features

"We’re working to release the app in as many countries as possible and this version is available now in the following: US, UK, Canada, Germany, Spain and France. We’re also working on some back-end changes that will make streaming more reliable on slower connections, so stay tuned," revealed Toby Padilla on the Last.fm blog.

"This version is a great improvement from the first, but it is by no means the end of the line, so please send us feedback! We’re looking forward to making the app even better with your help," he added.

Here’s a YouTube clip showing an earlier build of the application – there is a more up-to-date clip now available from Last.fm, but we can’t embed it, sorry. 

Via: Distorted-Loop

Apple headed to top ten handset makers

 Pacific Crest analysts believe Apple to have reduced its planned iPhone production targets by up to four million units, though reasons for this have not been given. Some speculation exists suggesting the production reduction is a response to continues stale mate in plans to launch the device in China, for example.

Apple will now build a total of 14 million to 15 million iPhones in the second half of the year, the analysts said. Pacific Crest also raised its second half iPhone unit sales projection to 11 million from 8 million.

Despite the reduction in production, these figures still put Apple in seventh place for sales in the global smartphone market, prompting Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss to tell EE Times that he is confident that Apple will make it into the top 10 handset makers this year. "A remarkable achievement," he said.

Apple has achieved strong sales in most global territories it has introduced the iPhone in, with one previous report claiming sales in Japan to be slim (a report widely-reported by based on ‘guessing’) clearly trounced by Eurotechnology Japan analyst Gerhard Fasol in mid-August, as revealed by The Australian. He estimates Apple "shifted between 75,000 and 125,000 units in July. At that rate, he thinks 2008 sales could total between 645,000 and 1 million." that month-old report informs.

uTorrent for Mac beta ships as file-sharing debate grows

 A Mac version of popular BitTorrent client, uTorrent, has sneaked online – but it’s only a pre-release alpha, the developers have rushed to explain. In development since 2006 the software isn’t release-ready – many of its features don’t yet work, but application has been made available in order to prove that a Mac version is in development.

The news comes as AC/DC are widely reported to be moving to eschew iTunes, arguing that they want to sell their music as complete album bundles, rather than allowing music fans to cherry-pick tracks. While this is being reported as a shot across the bows for iTunes, similar moves to remove songs from UK artist Estelle from the US store saw that artist’s album chart position plummet, as her music was no longer available from America’s biggest music retailer.

AC/DC’s move won’t prevent file-sharing, however, and – as noted in this report – is likely to simply boost file-sharing traffic. "We live in a track world.  You can either admit it, or get run over by the future.  AC/DC’s album will be available track by track.  And that’s how it will be listened to.  The only difference is, they’re not going to get paid!" observes fiery music industry critic, Bob Lefsetz.

The debate concerning file-sharing continues, with a slow realisation hitting most non-millionaire artists now that suing individual file-sharers may actually be bad for business. UK singer Billy Bragg this week slammed the RIAA for litigating against music fans, saying, "You know who the pirates are? The pirates are our fans, when you sue our fans, you drive our fans away."

Meanwhile, RIAA anti-file-sharing scare tactics took a setback this week when Judge Michael Davis recanted a $222.000 fine against Jammie Thomas for sharing just 24 tracks. The judge argued that key elements of the RIAA case was based on false premise, and also said the fine per song when levied against ordinary music consumers is far too high, arguing for a much lower ceiling. Regardless of the continuing legal actions of the major labels, now victims of their own size and unable to display the innovation on a budget required for true success in the digital age (cf. Radiohead) will musicians and music fans ever find a way to close the gap?