5 Big Blemishes for the Apple iPhone 4

Posted by: Flirtation Creations  /  Category: Apple Inc, iPhone

Apple’s (AAPL – News) redesigned iPhone is destined to be a knockout success. The phone scores high on style points with its sleek glass and stainless steel design, and it wins points for its multitasking software and improved screen.
There are, however, a few shortcomings.
The Apple iPhone 4 is set to go on sale Thursday. Judging by the record demand during the pre-sale period, the newest iPhone will make a huge sales splash, especially with old iPhone owners trading up.
All the presales excitement and Apple-driven hype have set expectations very high. But mighty Apple plays to a tough crowd. It’s an affluent group that has been eager to buy the next new thing out of Cupertino, Calif. It’s also a highly discerning group with a refined taste in gadgets, and that makes them a bit fussy.
Here are five bruises on the new Apple iPhone that may engender complaint.
No. 5: A Skimpy Camera
As smartphone challengers like HTC, Motorola (MOT – News) and Nokia (NOK – News) embrace the megapixel race with 8-megapixel and 12-megapixel cameras, Apple’s new iPhone keeps it cheap with a 5-megapixel model.
This will be a bigger point of contention this week when Verizon (VZ – News) and Motorola unveil the Droid X Wednesday, the newest Google (GOOG – News) Android phone, which features an 8-megapixel camera. Android phone giant HTC has also been generous with 8-megapixel cameras in its Droid Incredible and Sprint’s (S – News) EVO.
Meanwhile, Apple, always the laggard in cameras, won’t enter the 8-megapixel class until next year when it debuts a sweet Sony (SNE – News) camera in its 2011 iPhone. But by then, who knows where the rest of the pack will be?
No. 4: No Swype
If you’ve seen Swype or used it, you know why this omission makes the list. Typing on a touchscreen is a challenge as the flat glass surface offers few clues to where your fat fingers are precisely making contact. It’s an error-prone process that gives one a longing for the raised keys of the BlackBerry keyboard from Research In Motion (RIMM – News).
But the Swype keypad software helps tame the new medium. Swype follows the pattern of your finger movements to type words or predict words without the usual hunting and pecking.
Apple did wonders with the touchscreen, but Swype makes it more useful for those among us who like to type.
No. 3: Video Calling
Okay, it’s not totally bait and switch, but Apple’s hot new iPhone video calling feature, FaceTime, comes with lots of asterisks and a limited applicability.
Say you want to video chat with someone using the Apple iPhone 4. That someone has to have a WiFi connection and he has to use the same application on his own iPhone 4. You’re looking at a small club of people — not exactly an application of global Skype-like proportions.
No. 2: iPhone 4 Shortages
Strong demand is only half the story for Apple’s iPhone sales debut. Limited supply is the other. A shortage of in-plane display panels, the crucial part of Apple’s touted retina display screens, has forced Apple’s contract manufacturers to cut production rates in half to 1 million iPhones a month.
This means there won’t be enough iPhones on hand to meet the presumably high demand. Though it’s not a terrible problem to have if you are a gadget maker, sellouts and delivery delays will mar Apple’s big iPhone 4 debut. The frustration could push buyers toward other phones.
No. 1: No Verizon iPhone.
A new iPhone is big. But a new iPhone at Verizon? Much bigger.
Apple’s exclusive partnership with AT&T (T – News) has been a point of discord among iPhone owners and it has tarnished the public perception of both companies. It also has done almost nothing for AT&T’s stock.
Investors have been waiting for the Verizon iPhone. But that’s apparently not going to happen until next year, if ever.
So Apple fans who want the new iPhone have to lock in for another two years with AT&T. This scenario is not particularly pleasant considering that AT&T’s new subscriber plans put penalties on people (like iPhone users) who happen to be heavy data users.

Should AT&T-iPad 3G security breach worry you?

Posted by: Flirtation Creations  /  Category: Apple Inc, iPad

If you were an early adopter of the 3G-embedded version of the iPad — as in, you bought it on Day One — there’s a chance that your e-mail address and your iPad’s ICC-ID number were exposed by a group of hackers who exploited a weakness on AT&T’s website. How bad is the breach, and should you be worried?
First, a little background. Gawker broke the news late Wednesday that a group of hackers going by the name of Goatse Security managed to grab the information of more than 114,000 iPad 3G owners — including, as it turns out, such high-profile early adopters as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and maybe even White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — by exploiting a wonky script on the AT&T website.
Basically, by hitting the script with an ICC-ID number (the unique identifier of an iPad 3G’s SIM card), the hackers were able to harvest the e-mail address associated with the account, according to Gawker. By methodically firing off one ICC-ID after another, the Goatse Security hackers managed to dredge up the e-mail addresses of one early iPad 3G adopter after another, including the CEOs of the New York Times, Time magazine and Dow Jones, as well as staffers at NASA and the Department of Defense.
Not good, right? Lucky for us, the hackers at Goatse Security seem more interested in revealing security holes than in exploiting them, and the group shopped around its findings to a variety of news organizations Sunday, according to Forbes, and Gawker bit. (Gawker, by the way is owned by Gawker Media, the same company that owns Gizmodo and paid for Gizmodo’s iPhone leak. Gawker says it didn’t pay for the iPad security breach story.)
In a statement to Gawker, AT&T said it learned of the security hole Monday (from a “business customer,” not Goatse Security) and had plugged it by Tuesday (a day before Gawker published its post). “We take customer privacy very seriously, and while we have fixed this problem, we apologize to our customers who were impacted,” AT&T said, adding that it would be contacting any and all customers whose e-mail and ICC-ID numbers were exposed. Apple has yet to issue a statement.
So, how did the e-mail addresses and ICC-ID numbers of iPad 3G owners end up on a publicly accessible website? As Matt Buchanan at Gizmodo explains, the problem was a “tiny convenience feature” on the iPad 3G that fills (or filled, as of Tuesday) in your e-mail address automatically when you’re checking your AT&T account from the iPad’s Settings menu. Now that AT&T has plugged the security hole, you’ll have to tap in your e-mail address every time you want to check the status of your 3G account.
So if your iPad 3G info was exposed, how worried should you be? According to Gawker, the only data that were scooped up by the hackers were e-mail addresses at the ICC-ID numbers associated with them — no phone numbers, street addresses, credit card numbers or any other personal information.
The New York Times also checked with some security experts, who note that there’s only so much someone could do with your e-mail address — hit you with a phishing attack (you know, a fake message from, say, PayPal, asking for your username and password), or flood your inbox with junk mail.
That said, “in the right hands,” your iPad 3G’s ICC-ID number could be used to track your iPad’s location, one expert told the Times, although another downplayed the threat, noting that an attacker would need “access to very secure databases that are not generally connected to the public Internet.”
Still, even if the damage to actual iPad 3G users is relatively limited (we hope), the breach is acutely embarrassing for Apple and especially AT&T, which managed to leave personal information about its customers vulnerable on a public website.
The snafu also raises the question: What other AT&T security holes are still out there, waiting to be exposed — or exploited?

AT&T Gives Up on the iPad 3G Unlimited Data Plan

Posted by: Flirtation Creations  /  Category: iPad

AT&T announced new data plans for mobile Internet and smartphone tethering. While the company claims the new plans will make “mobile Internet more affordable to more people,” there’s also a glaring downside to the new pricing — no unlimited data plan for iPad customers.
AT&T now offers two mobile data plans: DataPlus, which provides 200 MB of data for $15 per month (additional 200 MB chunks of data also cost $15), and DataPro, which provides 2 GB of data for $25 per month, with every additional GB costing $10. Furthermore, smartphone customers can enable tethering for an additional $20 per month, but only if they use the DataPro plan.
Existing iPad customers, who already have the $29.99 unlimited monthly plan can choose to keep it, or switch to the DataPro plan.
New pricing is good news for smartphone customers, who won’t go bankrupt if they exceed their monthly data limit. But from the iPad user’s perspective, AT&T’s new pricing is a big letdown compared to the previous unlimited data plan. Even the most active iPhone users won’t burn through more than a couple of gigabytes every month, but the iPad is a far more demanding device data-wise, and activities such as Netflix streaming will quickly exceed the limit of AT&T’s DataPro plan. Two gigabytes per month is just not enough data for a device such as the iPad, and we sense that many users will feel let down by AT&T’s new data plans.

Checking AT&T iPhone Data Usage History

Posted by: Flirtation Creations  /  Category: iPhone

With AT&T’s announcement today that it is rolling out new data plans next week for the iPhone and other smart phones, many customers have been thinking about which data plan is right for them in light of the new download limits.
AT&T iPhone customers can view their data usage for the current billing period on the summary page for their account by logging in to the AT&T Wireless website. Such data is only an estimate, however, and AT&T notes that delays of up to five business days may be experienced before data activity shows up in the displayed total. Users can also dial *DATA# and receive a text message with their current billing period’s usage.
From their AT&T Wireless account summary page, users can also click on the “View Past Data Usage” link to see a six-month history of their data usage to help gauge which new data plan they may want to select.
For existing customers who wish to keep their $30/month unlimited data plan, they can continue on the plan even if they upgrade to new hardware. If a customer elects to switch to one of the new plans, however, they will be unable to switch back to the unlimited plan at any point in the future. Customers on the grandfathered unlimited plan will also be unable to use AT&T’s tethering feature, which comes as a $20/month add-on to the new $25/month 2 GB data plan.

AT&T iPhone Customers Can Keep Unlimited Data Plan for Next iPhone

Posted by: flirtations  /  Category: iPhone

AT&T’s announcement of their new capped data plans has generated a lot of discussion amongst current and future iPhone owners. In short, AT&T eliminated their $30/month unlimited plan for new iPhone customers starting on June 7th. After that time, new iPhone (and other smartphone) customers have the option of $15/mo (200MB) and $25/mo (2GB) data plans. AT&T, however, has grandfathered in existing iPhone customers by allowing them to keep the $30/month unlimited plan if they desire.
But with the new iPhone just around the corner, several readers wondered if that guarantee would hold even if they chose to upgrade to the new iPhone. It seems like it will.
AT&T has replied on their Facebook page indicating that current customers may keep the $30/month unlimited plan even when they upgrade to a new iPhone:
The good news for current customers who love their unlimited plan is this: they are not required to switch, even when it’s time to upgrade to a new phone. So you are welcome to keep your unlimited plan :)
Of course, by staying on the unlimited plan, customers won’t be able to add on tethering service.

Dead Zone Doldrums Test Skills of iPhone Customers

Posted by: Flirtation Creations  /  Category: App Store, Apple Inc, Applications, iPhone, Technology

Owners of iPhones know that their love for Steve Jobs’s touch-screen marvel comes at a price. The iPhone’s cellular coverage, provided exclusively by AT&T Wireless (NYSE: T – News), is notoriously spotty. In some parts of New York and San Francisco, it’s impossible to connect.
If you go for a dim sum lunch at Yank Sing restaurant on the edge of the financial district in San Francisco, you are likely to miss calls from the office. Some owners can’t use their iPhones in their own homes. Even AT&T Park, the city’s waterfront stadium, can be a dead zone.
The iPhone service is affected by several factors. First, AT&T’s 3G network doesn’t cover as much ground as Verizon (NYSE: VZ – News), America’s largest carrier. Second, urban areas packed with tall buildings are bad for wireless signals. Skyscrapers can block radio waves, or they can bounce them around to create what’s called multipath interference, where signals from different directions collide and cancel each other out.
But the iPhone’s worst enemy is the iPhone itself. So many Americans use them in the same places and at the same time that they are competing with one another for use of the network. “A hundred cellphones demanding bandwidth per cell site may not be out of the question in congested downtown areas,” said Tim Pozar, a wireless engineer who installs custom repeater systems to improve cellphone coverage at offices in the San Francisco area. IPhone owners have proved to be heavy consumers of network capacity.
What to do? There is no single magic bullet to improve iPhone service. You can spend hours trying to persuade AT&T to let you out of your contract. The time you spend doing that will cost more than the contract termination fee.
Knowing a few tricks might get you a connection. If your touch screen says “No Service,” the easiest fix is to hold the phone completely vertical, rather than slanted across your cheek. The iPhone’s antenna is meant to reach furthest if it is held straight up and down. If that doesn’t work, move. Indoors, walk to a window. Outdoors, cross the street.
For the newer 3G-capable iPhones, turning off the 3G in favor of AT&T’s older Edge network is sometimes effective. Go to the iPhone’s Settings icon. Tap General, then Network. Slide the Enable 3G toggle from On to Off. But you can’t talk and browse the Web at the same time on Edge.
Another alternative is to use a Wi-Fi hot spot to make calls. Skype, the popular Internet phone service, will make and take calls as long as you leave the app running and signed in. (Until an iPhone can multitask, that means you have to have the Skype app on all the time.) Calls with other Skype users are free, but calls to and from phones cost about two cents a minute. The app is available in the iPhone App Store.
Skype call quality varied in our tests from clear to sputtery, with a delay from one half-second to three or four seconds. Also, the app works only over Wi-Fi, so you will need to juggle between Skype and AT&T, depending on where you are.
Or, for $15 a month, you can subscribe to the Line2 app that mimics Apple’s phone in look and feel, but switches calls to a Wi-Fi network whenever the iPhone connects to one.
Line2 can start a call on AT&T’s 3G network and then transfer to Wi-Fi, whereas Apple won’t allow Skype to handle calls via AT&T. If left running, it will also receive inbound calls over Wi-Fi. (If Apple were to add a Wi-Fi option to the built-in Phone app, this wouldn’t be a problem.)
But for reliable service, there is no substitute for hardware that increases range. That is why AT&T has begun offering home 3G base stations that look like Wi-Fi routers, but send and receive 3G radio signals instead. These microcells, as AT&T calls them, connect to the Internet and offer wireless coverage of up to 40 feet in any direction. They work with any 3G AT&T phone, but not with Apple’s older non-3G model of iPhone.
The catch is that you will have to pay AT&T for the boost. There are two payment plans: If you buy the microcell for $150, AT&T will charge your voice calls made using the device against the minutes on your monthly wireless plan. Or you can sign up for unlimited calling for a $20 a month fee, and get the microcell free.
Many people consider it outrageous that AT&T isn’t handing out microcells to solve what they see as a problem that AT&T created. But you do get your own personal cellphone tower without needing the approval of your neighborhood’s opposition watchdog group.
AT&T’s microcell is built by Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO – News), a company with a reputation for solid network gear. Setup isn’t exactly plug-and-play, but it doesn’t require you to be a technician. You log in to attwireless.com — you’ll need to create an account if you haven’t already — and open a URL clearly labeled on a sticker that covers the microcell’s cable ports. Enter the microcell’s serial number and the 10-digit phone numbers of the iPhones you want it to serve. Then, as the instructions warn, you must wait up to 90 minutes while the microcell configures itself.
Call quality over the microcell was almost shockingly clear, ungarbled and free of the underwater sound that plagues many cellphone calls. You also might be less likely to experience the common many-second delays between your saying something and the other party’s hearing it. Cellular experts warn that delays and stuttering calls are still possible because these are caused by Internet traffic jams rather than the microcell.
If you make a call from inside the house and then walk outside, you can expect the microcell to reliably hand off the call to a local tower. Calls made outside, though, don’t transfer to the microcell when you get home. The only annoyance you may find with the AT&T unit is that whenever it is rebooted, as home networks sometimes are, it may take about 20 minutes to come back online.
AT&T’s solution will work for homes and small offices. But the company is clear that you can’t take it with you. It may not connect if plugged in somewhere else. So how to solve the restaurant dead-zone problem?
Mr. Pozar says the best fix is for the location to install its own repeater. For $1,000 to $5,000 in parts and labor, a hot dim sum spot could route calls through an outside antenna that connects to an inside amplifier.
That’s not cheap. But instead of a Free Wi-Fi sign, what better way to attract big spenders than one that says iPhone Hot Spot?

AT&T Activates 2.7 Million iPhones in Q1 2010 as Growth Slows

Posted by: Flirtation Creations  /  Category: Apple Inc, iPhone

AT&T today announced financial results for the first quarter of 2010, revealing that the carrier activated 2.7 million iPhones during the quarter. The number is down from 3.1 million in the previous quarter, despite Apple announcing yesterday that it had sold 8.75 million iPhones overall during the quarter, an increase of approximately 15,000 units over the prior quarter.
The results illustrate that international growth is a primary driver for the iPhone as AT&T begins to experience a slowing of its portion of the overall growth. The iPhone’s ability to attract new customers to AT&T has also begun to slip, as the company noted that “more than one-third” of its iPhone activations for the quarter came from customers new to the carrier, down from a 40% figure the company has consistently cited in past earnings releases.
Signs of slowing iPhone growth for AT&T are likely to add to the clamor for Apple to extend distribution to additional carriers in the United States, with market leader Verizon having received the most attention in recent years despite the requirement that Apple offer specialized hardware to operate on the carrier’s current network. For its part, Apple executives noted during yesterday’s earnings conference call that the U.S., Germany, and Spain remain the company’s three major markets where the iPhone is offered in exclusive carrier relationships. Despite that fact that the company has seen increased unit sales and market share in countries where it had moved to a multi-carrier model, however, it is not convinced that that dynamic would play out everywhere. Consequently, Apple continues to evaluate its carrier relationships on a country-by-country basis.

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