iPhone 3GS

At last the rumours have been squashed with the official announcement yesterday of the new iPhone at the WWDC. No one can claim that this was not a big announcement. From 6 o’clock onwards yesterday all the trends on Twitter were related to the WWDC. The new iPhone 3.0 software was not the big announcement, we heard all about that back in March, we all wanted to kow about a new phone.

When it was announced, many were left feeling the new iPhone 3GS does not represent a huge leap, but rather a small step for the evolution of the iPhone. Apple announced that the new model will have a faster processor, which will allow most apps to run twice as fast, faster 3G of up to 7.2MBS, a new 3.2 megapixel camera with auto-focus and capable of video recording, voice control, better battery life, a built in compass, and an option of 16GB or 30GB. As our young Apple robot Nelson shows below.

However, what Nelson doesn’t make quite so clear is that a lot of the new features of the 3GS are also available just with the free software upgrade. On the software upgrade, available June 17, you will get cut, copy and paste, MMS, voice memo, spotlight search, landscape keyboard, internet tethering (using the phone as a modem, something that O2 will charge an extra £15 a month for 3 GBs as The Times have exposed), and a host of other upgrades as Apple themselves detail.

What seems more important to me is whether the price of an upgrade or new handset really represents value for money for customers, given that you are essentially paying for a few hardware upgrades. This is especially true given the handset pricing which O2 have announced:

18 Months 24 Months
Tariff £29.38 £34.26 £44.05 £73.41 £34.26 £44.05 £73.41
iPhone 3G 8GB £96.89 £96.89 Free Free Free Free Free
iPhone 3G S 16GB £184.98 £184.98 £87.11 Free £87.11 Free Free
iPhone 3G S 32GB £274.23 £274.23 £175.19 £96.89 £175.19 £96.89 Free
UK Minutes 75 600 1200 3000 600 1200 3000
UK Messages 125 500 500 500 500 500 500
Unlimited UK Data and Wi-Fi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

*Note all prices seem to be before VAT.

As the table shows just buying an iPhone with a new contract will cost a fortune. The charge just for the handset itself is bigger than any phone I can remember (with notable exceptions of luxury handsets such as the Nokia 8600 range). Things get worse for those looking to upgrade as they would have to buy themselves out of their remaining commitment, that is monthly charge x months left on the contract, e.g. £35 x 12 months= £420.

So all in all, very pricey. Especially for what must be the core market of those that already have iPhones. I would be particularly reluctant to upgrade given that Apple appear to be releasing upgrades annually, so I wouldn’t want to pay so much to get a new handset, be tied in for 18 months and then find a new handset out in a years time. This argument has already been put forward on the site Techcrunch. While it refers more to America the same principals apply to the UK. Especially as we are not sure how long O2’s exclusive agreement with Apple will last. It would be annoying t0 pay so much for an upgrade only to find that the exclusive agreement ends in January 2010.

Many are pointing out that there is no reason that iPhone customers should get special treatment. If I had a Samsung handset and a new model was released, I wouldn’t get a discount to get the new model. While this is true I think it is slightly missing the point. Most iPhone customers are big spend customers, they have to be given contracts only start at £35 a month. Many are much higher than that. So if O2 were to subsidize the handset for upgrades they would quickly make the money back. Essentially it seems a bit short-sighted of O2, they seem to be thinking about money now, rather than bigger money long term. On top of this point O2 would never dream of charging £299 up front for a Nokia N97. They would certainly subsidize the hardware cost knowing they would make their money on the contract itself.

The charge for the iPhone itself is also a lot higher in the UK than over in America. The charges for the 3GS will be $199 for the 16GB and $299 for the 32GB, while in the UK we will be charged the same amount in pounds! (As stated the prices in the table are before VAT so add the VAT and….).

These are just my thoughts. I am certain that many people will rush out to get a iPhone 3GS, and I don’t blame them at all, it does look fantastic. What I question is whether it really represents good value for money given the limited hardware upgrades are arriving with software upgrades that will be free for current iPhone 3G owners.

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Palm pre issues

Living in the UK I have not used the Palm Pre so I am far from qualified to comment. That said the signs are not great for the Pre having only been launched in America one day ago.

The first criticism I came across was the the phone will not work internationally. Slightly worrying for a handset that claims to be a smart phone. On top of that Sandford Dickert notes some other flaws that he has come across after owning his Pre less than 12 hours. The main issues he notes are that the help option is slow, the camera is faulty, the web browser has some odd quirks and charging is cumbersome to say the least.

All this sounds like rather bad news for Palm given the Pre was the handset that was supposed to be an iPhone killer and able to change the companies fortunes.

New iPhone specifications and prices (possibly)

With the WWDC taking beginning tomorrow the usual Apple rumours are circulating. However Italian site SpazioCellulaire seem to have added a bit more substance to the rumours with the photos below.

If the photos are real it looks like there will be a much greater range of iPhones available. This includes the memory going up to 64gb, which is fantastic news.

However, a word of warning on the photos. One of theiPhones is described as “yellow w/fluffy bunnies” which would seem to suggest someone with too much time on their hands was in fact having a bit of fun.

Spotify mobile app

It has been known for some time that Spotify were working on a mobile app, and they have finally demo’d it.

The verdict? Frankly it looks absolutely outstanding. The fact that you would be able to load the songs you want to listen to while you have signal is an amazing feature, allowing you to continue listening even when out of signal or on a slow 2G connection.

An interesting point is that they have choosen to demo the application on the android platform, rather than an iPhone. This would seem to suggest that Apple are reluctant to authorise a version of the application for the App store, fearful of the ramifactions for their iTunes sales. It is even more poignant given that the laptop used in the demonstration video is a Macbook.

32 gigabyte iPhone

It’s pretty expected, but it seems to have been revealed (accidentally) that Apple will be releasing a 32gb iPhone. A few networks seem to have ‘accidentally’ published coming soon images of the 32gb iPhone. Unfortunately the images have now been taken down, but Stuff managed to get a screenshot of them before they were taken down.

More importantly it should be noted that a few networks have revealed this. That would seem confirm that the exclusive agreements will be coming to an end, which is excellent news.

Vodafone drop Summer roaming charges

Vodafone have recently announced they plan to drop their roaming charges for the Summer. To put into context this only applies for countries which were already on Vodafone Passport, meaning you won’y get charged the 75p connection fee for every call as you would have previously in those countries that are included in the Passport. This is still a great saving, 75p per call soon adds up.

Having said that as always terms and conditions apply. The offer is only available between June 1st and August 31st. After that it will be back to the usual Passport charges of 75p to make or receive a call. I would also be pretty certain that you still have to be on Vodafone’s partner network in the country you are in, otherwise it will be back to very expensive call rates. Be warned.

Vodafone set to return to Carphone Warehouse

The Guardian reports that Vodafone are set to reconsider their exclusive deal with Phone4U and return to the Carphone Warehouse. Quite why they made the exclusive deal in the first place was beyond most staff in Vodafone stores. Phones4U were seen as the worst non-network retailer, who caused the most problems for Vodafone stores. So if Vodafone were going to pull out of all but one of the independents, Phones4U was the last that Vodafone staff were hoping for.

What is interesting about this article from the Guardian is when they note that Vodafone’s figures are scewed and they are actually still increasing their number of contract customers.

“Vodafone’s UK results were skewed by its new boss, Guy Laurence, deciding to stop counting the 310,000 SIM cards found in mechanical devices such as vending machines from its figures. Stripping these out, it actually gained 179,000 contract users over the three months to end March.”

This actually means that despite gloom and doom and wanting to get back into bed with Carphone Warehouse things can’t really be all that bad. If, as most believe, the iPhone becomes available on all networks come July, then things really wouldn’t be that bad at all. Begging the question, why not get out of Phones4U and don’t go back to Carphone Warehouse?

The Guardian article also adds:
“But it has still been losing out in the pre-pay market, where its history as the provider of choice for business customers has given it a tarnished image with cash-strapped consumers. “We have had a perception of being more expensive in the UK, which is not fully deserved to be honest,” admitted Colao.”
Both points are true, but it would seem that Vodafone’s latest prepay freedom offers could seriously change that perception. Particularly given the large advertising campaign accompanying it.

Is that a hot-spot in your pocket or are you pleased to see me?

An incredibly technology has been developed which is essentially a portable wifi hotspot. Named the mifi, it is essentially a card aout 3 times as thick as a credit card that provides a personal 30-feet wifi cloud wherever you roam. Unsurprisingly you must have 3G signal for it to work but that’s about the only catch.

Well the only catch other than the fact that you have something in your pocket that is constantly emitting a signal around you as well as your phone. But I’m sure that’s not an issue.

Seriously this is an increibly impressive technology and I for one cannot wait for it to hit our shores. It would certainyl be prefereable to have portable wifi rather than those slightly irratating 3G dongles.

Nokia profits plunge

Nokia have recently announced that profits dropped by around 90% in the first three months of the year. Putting aside issues of the recession (which does seem to be hitting the mobile phone industry, contrary to one of my earlier posts) I suspect the larger issue at work is that Nokia are so reluctant to accepting they need to fundamentally change their handsets. They have been far to use to dominating the market, and esssentially pushing out what it thought consumers wanted (similar in many ways to the Media model which was forced to change with the advent of the internet, but I diverge). The 5800 was their first real attempt at recognising a changed market, one that the iPhone had successfully tapped into. 

 

It would seem that the best way for Nokia to turn around their position is to attempt more handsets like the 5800. What they got right (or at least believe they got right) was an easy to use, touchsreen device that had a good sized screen. If they take that basic model and open up their handsets so that more applications are available for them then they may be able to claw back some of their market share. I think the way to do this is not to attempt to copy the hugely successful Apple App store, but consider something much more pen along the lines of the Android software (or just go with the Android software). Nokia make great hardware, but in recent years the issue has always been the software. They are a long way ahead of Apple with what their hardware will do (except on the touchscreen front), so they really need to sort out the operating system that their phones work on, and allow people to put the applications on the phones that suit the individual.

iPhone 3.0 software

Any iPhone update is always a very exciting moment, but there are distinct limits to the update that was announced this week. What I found more astounding is the level of excitement surrounding the announcement of features that really should have been on the iPhone from the start. Selah.

A first point to make is that finally we have bluetooth, copy and paste,  MMS and a landscape keyboard. Great. But where, o where I ask is the video record function? If jailbroken iPhones can do it then why can’t Apple? The push notifications functionality should be great, although I am a little concerned about how you stop notifications. I really don’t want to get a notification from every application I have on my iPhone for every little thing. Further to this, I definitely do want a notification for new emails, so hopefully Apple will get this right.

The spotlight feature should be excellent if it as reliable and easy to use as spotlight on macs. I am tad concerned about the turn-by-turn maps ability. Given there is no agreement with Google in place then developers will have to have their own maps and this is not going to be a freebie. I like freebies, and am very much accustomed to them given the amount of great software there is that is free in the app store.So hopefully some nice developer out there will find a way of making a turn-by-turn satnav free.

The voice record application from apple looks like nothing new, there are lots of voice recorders on the app store already. What I really want as a journalist is a voice recorder that will record conversations I have when calling people. This is can only be done with an apple app as it would have to run alongside a phone call, so please Apple make this a function!

The final issue I find exciting, very exciting as a student journalist, is the increased subscription possibilities. The ability to subscribe to something while in an app, rather than having to go back to the app store, could be revolutionary. This could be a huge step for selling content on iPhones as it would make it so easy to buy. Imagine the situation that you are on the bus home and want to read something, so you quite simply go onto your iphone and through an easy to use app download this months magazine or todays newspaper. The idea of iTunes and the iPhone being used for publishers has been considered in some depth by Tim Holmes on his magblog, and I think this new subscription update could push the idea a lot further.