EE launches the first 4G network in the UK today, plans starting at 500MB for £36 a month

Everything Everywhere, a 50/50 joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom, has launched the UK’s first 4G network today, citing speeds “typically ten times faster” than broadband. The 4G service is now available in 11 cities: Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield, and Southampton. The rollout across the UK will continue 2,000 square miles every month to cover 98% of the country’s population by 2014, the company announced.

4G data plans on EE will start monthly at 500MB for £36, 1GB for £41, 3GB for £46, 5GB for £51, and 8GB for £56. There are six compatible phones that customers can purchase at T-Mobile and Orange stores to use on EE, and as announced last month the iPhone 5 is one of them, along with the iPad mini and 4th gen iPad in mid-November. 4G service will also be available in the UK from Vodafone, O2 and Three in May 2013, after dealing with government regulation.

EE CEO Olaf Swantee discussed the rollout: “But this is just the start as our 4G network will continue to grow stronger and wider by the day. We’re investing £1.5 billion in our network to be the first company to offer mobile 4G in the UK, alongside the biggest 3G network.”

Additionally EE launched 700 retail stores today, offering a place for customers to buy handsets and sign contracts for the 4G network. EE is calling it “one of the biggest and fastest transformations in UK retail history.”

More in the PR below:

Check out this redonkulous 300W iPhone portable DJ controller/Hi-Fi Party Machine [Video]

The Philips FWP3200D 300W Mini Hi-Fi System, often simply referred to as the “Party Machine”, is essentially a set of rotatable iPhone docks (made to look like turntables) atop a 300W speaker system that includes two speakers boxes and packs a 2-inch tweeter and a 5.25-inch woofer. The turntables do little more than allow you to rotate the docked iPhones to either side of the system, providing a traditional DJ setup from behind the speakers or a more casual setup when docked in front. As for the controller itself, the majority of your DJing will be done from the iPhone’s touchscreen via the supported Djay iOS app. While it is not as feature-filled as your typical DJ controller, it does provide physical controls with a 13-key remote for fast reverse/fast forward, play/pause, repeat, etc., and a number of other features you will not find in your average docking station…

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UK Judge rules against Apple in Samsung patent case, claims Galaxy Tabs ‘are not as cool’

Reports from last week noted that Samsung’s attempt to lift Apple’s preliminary injunction placed on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the United States was rejected by District Judge Lucy Koh. Today, in Apple’s ongoing patent cases with Samsung in the United Kingdom, Bloomberg reported Judge Colin Birss ruled against Apple, claiming Sammy’s Galaxy Tabs “are not as cool.” It is hard to imagine Apple losing in any more of a complimentary way, as Judge Birss claimed his decision was based partly on the fact Galaxy tablets “do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity” as iPad.

The Galaxy tablet doesn’t infringe Apple’s registered design, Judge Colin Birss said in a ruling today in London. He said that consumers weren’t likely to get the two tablet computers mixed up.

The Galaxy tablets “do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design,” Birss said. “They are not as cool.”

The company provided a full email statement regarding today’s decision (via Pocket-lint). Samsung explained the court referred to roughly 50 pieces of prior art when dismissing Apple’s case:

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New Apple Stores coming to UK, France, Canada, Salt Lake City, & more

Apple announced its plan last year to spend roughly $900 million opening 40 new retail locations in 2012. In March, we told you new stores were coming to Germany, Spain, Australia, and France‘s Burgundy wine region, and several reports this week confirmed a handful of new locations for the United Kingdom, France, and Canada. Ten of the 40 stores Apple planned for 2012 will début in the U.S., and recent reports indicated two of those U.S. stores will be located in California and Salt Lake City… Read more

Following closely behind Australia: Denmark, Sweden and UK’s advertising authorities looks at iPad ‘4G’ marketing claim

Yesterday, we reported that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wants Apple to lose the “4G” marketing for the third-generation iPad, alleging it misleads consumers into thinking the device is capable of accessing 4G networks in Australia. Reports from ABC news quickly followed and claimed Apple would give refunds to customers and publish clarification regarding incompatibility with the Telstra network. Apple’s AU website now has “Ultrafast wireless” instead of “Ultrafast 4G” on the main features page, despite still advertising 4G as a highlight of the device through its international sales pages.

Now, authorities in other countries where the new iPad is not compatible with local 4G networks are investigating the issue. Authorities in at least the United Kingdom and Sweden confirmed they are considering investigations…
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Apple’s new retail SVP and why he was chosen to replace Ron Johnson

We reported last night that Apple officially appointed CEO of Dixons John Browett as its senior vice president of Retail following Ron Johnson’s departure in October of last year. Browett is leaving his position at Dixons Retail, which operates various United Kingdom-based retail stores including Currys, Currys.digital, and PC World. Dixons is one of the largest electronics chains in Europe, and PC World, the last on that list,  is one of the largest computer/consumer electronic retailers in the U.K. It also has a reputation of being a big-box consumer electronic store that consumers describe as “the worst of Best Buy and Radio Shack combined.”

While U.K. product-testing and consumer advocacy group Which? consistently ranked both Currys Digital and PC World at the bottom of its research regarding the Top 100 retail chains, a report from Financial Times explained “Apple has mystery shopped and been impressed.” Specifically, the report mentioned “a system of decision trees to match customers with products” that Browett has implemented while at Dixons.

The calculation of Mr Cook may be that if Mr Browett is good at selling people products that bore them, he will do even better selling them i-gadgets that they lust after.

According to reports in November from BBC, Browett recently renovated more than 250 stores, implemented new service, and customer support strategies. However, the company reported first-half losses of just over £25 million (slightly lower than expected, but higher than losses of £6.9 million the year prior). In 2009, Retail Week (via GigaOm) profiled Browett, calling him “affable and intellectual” and describing his “schoolboy enthusiasm” for technology during a trip to PC World. Here is an excerpt:
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For iOS users without Siri, there is Evi

We have seen Siri clones in the Android Market trying to pass themselves off as the real thing, and some Siri alternatives making their way to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Evi, on the other hand, might actually be the first true Siri competitor/alternative for Android and non-iPhone 4S iOS users.

Available on the App Store for 99 cents and free to Android users on the Android Market, Evi is the work of True Knowledge and its “core semantic search technology” better known as The True Knowledge Answer Engine. The 99-cent price tag on iOS is apparently to cover the cost of using Nuance voice recognition (the same voice recognition tech as Siri), which is not used in the Android version.

The app’s iTunes page explained Evi is capable of returning local data for the United Kingdom (along with the United States), which has been a complaint from U.K. Siri users since the iPhone 4S launch. According to TechCrunch, the app uses “an ontology of tens of thousands of classes into which” every possible user command can be recognized. True Knowledge said the app contains “almost a billion ‘facts’ (machine understandable bits of knowledge)” with the ability to infer trillions if necessary. It also reportedly uses all the expected sources, such as local results from Yelp, third-party websites, traditional web searches, and APIs.

While as of yet Evi is incapable of integrating with Calendar and Reminders like Siri, TechCrunch pointed out it sometimes provides more accurate and useful results for certain types of questions. Siri requests to search the web for an answer when users ask certain questions, such as “How do I make apple pie?” Evi, however, would provide a list of recipes with relevant links to that specific question. TechCrunch highlighted another example where Evi excels:

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Apple extends iPhone and iPad recycling program to UK, France, and Germany

Apple expanded its recycling program in the United States in August to give customers an opportunity to —well— recycle their used iPhones and iPads for Apple gift cards, and now the technology giant is extending the program  even further by launching a similar initiative in the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

According to its German website (Google translation),  Apple will not offer payment in the form of an Apple gift card, but rather as cash deposited into customers bank accounts in exchange for returned devices. Macworld UK  and Macerkopf.de (Google translation) confirmed that these same rules apply for the programs in France and the U.K.

“With the Reuse and Recycling Programme, you could turn your old equipment into a brand-new Mac, iPod, iPhone or iPad,” announced Apple. “Whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC computer, working or not, we’ll take it and determine if it qualifies for reuse and has a monetary value. If it does, the amount will be credited directly into your bank account. If it doesn’t, you can recycle it responsibly through one of our free recycling programs.”

The recycling program is made possible through a partnership with Dataserv, and the  green measure contributes to Apple’s existing programs —as noted by its website— for recycling Macs, PCs, iPods, mobile phones, and batteries…

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Apple advertises Boxing Week iTunes sale in Canada, 69-cent songs and albums from $5.99

Apple does not often have or advertise sales on Boxing Day, a holiday recognized in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. On the holiday, retailers discount products similar to Black Friday in the United States. However, this year, Canadians are getting a Boxing Week sale on iTunes.

As of right now, Apple is running a promotion in at least the Canadian iTunes store with a selection of 69-cent songs and albums from $5.99, including: Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex, Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light, and Take Care (Deluxe Version) by Drake.  Each album is selling between $5.99 and $7.99. Altogether, there are 30 or more albums offered.

There is also a selection of 69-cent song collections consisting of the top-selling songs from 2011, best songs of 2011, classic hits, and more.

It is unclear whether Apple will have a Boxing Day or Week sale in its Canadian, U.K., or Australian online and retail stores. Canadian retailers typically run Boxing Week sales from Dec. 24 through Jan. 2, but Boxing Day is traditionally recognized on Dec. 26. It appears the iTunes sale has not popped up in the U.K. or Australian stores, but let us know in the comments if it does.

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BBC iPlayer app lands on iPhone and iPod touch with 3G streaming

We heard at the beginning of the month that BBC’s iPlayer iPad app would be getting an iPhone and iPod touch version in the coming weeks and today the app has officially landed for UK users. To accompany the release, the app will also be able to stream content over all 3G networks and now officially supports AirPlay on iOS 5.

The company’s blog post notes a ‘Live Channels’ feature will allow you to quickly switch between BBC channels just like on radio and TV, and all BBC national radio stations support background audio for multitasking. They have also made improvements to streaming by introducing HTTP Live Streaming using adaptive bitrate technologies, allowing the app to adjust your streaming quality based on your connection speed. The web version of the app accessible at bbc.co.uk/iplayer will also soon get 3G streaming capabilities.   Read more