Apple Testing Carrier LTE Networks Before Allowing iPhone Access
According to Telecoms.com, Apple has been running its own, independent, LTE tests before it allows carriers to offer the iPhone 5 as an LTE device. It’s somewhat of a reversal of how the carrier-handset maker relationship traditionally worked – where the carrier wouldn’t sell a device until the device was tested and met all the quality assurance requirements. Now Apple, infamous for their desire to control all ends of the user experience, is testing the carriers before it allows the iPhone access to their LTE networks.
Telecoms had initially heard of the tests in October but this week heard from an official Swisscom spokesperson that said “Apple only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator’s live network”.
While extensive network testing of handsets has always been necessary, the focus has historically been on whether or not the handset functions on the network, with operators keen to protect their network assets and customer relationships against poor quality devices.
A handset vendor vetting networks on a technical basis before allowing its device to be used on them is a reversal of this situation, and one that Apple alone has the power to bring about.
Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of consultancy group NorthStream told Telecoms that he was “shocked” of hearing of the policy. Noting that it proved “who is running the industry” and that “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game quite a lot.”
WSJ: NTT DoCoMo Still Negotiating Over iPhone Launch
The Wall Street Journal has a story today (behind paywall, but try to Google the URL) detailing some possible reasons why NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest carrier by number of subscribers, still hasn’t launched the iPhone. Namely, the carrier would like to have some of its apps pre-installed on iPhones:
The closed operating system of the iPhone also limits NTT DoCoMo from pre-installing some of its applications—including its e-wallet, which allows consumers to pay for merchandise with their smartphones, as well as its i-mode email service—which Mr. Yamada said are important for Japanese customers.
Apple wasn’t immediately reachable for comment about talks with NTT DoCoMo.
I believe that’s been a common concern among carriers that eventually got the iPhone — not being able to pre-install carrier software (alternative app stores, email clients, general bloatware) on devices sold on contract. But I also remember reading this old piece from Wired, which described how the iPhone destroyed the wireless industry’s standards by providing an integrated experience where the carrier’s only responsibility is the network, and everything else is up to Apple.
Apple will never let a carrier dictate the kind of experience an iPhone comes with out of the box. If true, NTT DoCoMo is hitting a dead spot with these negotiations. As far as other possible points in the talks between the carrier and Apple go, the company would certainly want the biggest carrier in Japan to sell the iPhone, especially considering the kind of growth that Apple is seeing in Asia. The iPhone 4S, for instance, is currently available in Japan through Softbank and KDDI, which recently joined Softbank. From Apple’s perspective, it only makes sense to have the iPhone available in as many places as possible.
However, this is not the first time we’re hearing of failed negotiations between Apple and carriers recently. China Mobile, for example, was reported asking for a part of the App Store’s revenue in order to sell the iPhone.
AT&T “Working with Apple” To Show 4G Indicator on iPhone 4S
According to a document posted by This is my next, AT&T is “working with Apple” to enable a 4G indicator in the iPhone 4S’ status bar.
the carrier is apparently “working with Apple” to change the indicator in the iPhone 4S (which tops out at 14.4Mbps, up from the iPhone 4′s 7.2Mbps) to show “4G” in the status bar as well. That’s surprising considering Apple’s general reluctance over the past four years to bow to carrier pressure on… well, pretty much anything — and what’s more, the indicator will require an iOS update to enable.
Among the improvements of the iPhone 4S, there are faster download speeds through HSDPA, which Apple has purposely avoided to define as “4G speeds” leaving the debate on 4G standards to “others to talk about” (as Phil Schiller noted at the October 4th event). The confusion generates from the “4G” marketing term, used by carriers like AT&T to indicate both HSPA+ and LTE networks. AT&T is rolling out improvements to its Long Term Evolution network while giving “4G speeds” to the older HSPA+ standard, a marketing choice that has caused confusion among consumers, the tech press, and device makers.
In the past, Apple has shied away from implementing carrier’s modifications to the iPhone’s software, giving them only choices over App Store 3G download limits, or Personal Hotspot. AT&T seems pretty confident they’ll enable the 4G indicator through a software update — iOS 5 is coming out on October 12th, two days ahead of the 4S’ release. Check out the leaked document here.
Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) will offer Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone next month with unlimited data service plans to distinguish itself from rivals AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless, according to people familiar with the matter.
Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, plans to begin selling the device in mid-October under a deal with Apple for the next model, the iPhone 5, said the people, who wouldn’t be identified because the plans aren’t public. Becoming the country’s only operator to offer the device with unlimited data service for a flat fee may help Sprint draw customers from AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which already carry the phone, they said.
Both Verizon and AT&T switched their previous unlimited data plans to tiered ones, and Sprint is said to be considering the iPhone as a way to win consumers over the nation’s two largest carriers — Sprint has lost money for 15 consecutive quarters, with several analysts claiming that the lack of Apple’s iPhone in its line-up has certainly contributed to the carrier’s loss. A lawsuit filed by Spring against the AT&T / T-Mobile merger earlier this week stated the company had to compete without the iPhone for nearly five years.
US carrier AT&T today reported its second-quarter financial results, which broadly speaking has seen some strong growth. The company’s consolidated revenues were up $680 million (2.2%) to $31.5 billion year-over-year and AT&T added a total of 1.1 million new subscribers during the quarter.
AT&T also saw its best ever second quarter for smartphone sales, which were up 43% year-over-year with a total of 5.6 million smartphones sold. The loss of iPhone exclusivity doesn’t seem to have affected AT&T too much because 3.6 million (or 64%) of all smartphones sold were iPhones, which is identical to last quarter in which AT&T sold 3.6 million. To give that figure some perspective, of all iPhones sold in the last quarter (globally), AT&T sold 17% of them. Also interesting is that a quarter of the iPhones sold by AT&T were to new subscribers.
Jump the break for AT&T’s full press release on their earnings.
One day earlier than was predicted, Apple has finally offered consumers the ability to purchase an unlocked iPhone 4 in the United States. At the moment only the GSM variety is available but you’re free to choose it in either white or black styling and in 16GB or 32GB variety.
Regardless of the color you choose, the iPhone 4 in 16GB variety starts at $649, whilst the 32GB is $749. It doesn’t come with a micro-SIM card so you’ll need to activate one yourself from any supported GSM carrier (worldwide). Whether you plan on using an iPhone extensively overseas or just on an alternative carrier, the unlocked iPhone may be your best choice – at least if you don’t want to go down the jailbreak and unlocking road.
You can purchase an unlocked iPhone 4 from the Apple online store here, and it is expected that Apple retailer stores will have them on sale from today or possibly tomorrow – we will update when we know for sure.
In a lengthy report published earlier today, TechnoBuffalo shares some of the interesting details behind the launch of the Verizon iPhone 4, which went on sale in the United States in February. In the months leading to the launch of the CDMA device, speculation was running wild on the Internet as to whether Apple was really ending AT&T exclusivity to release an updated version of the iPhone to support Verizon Wireless’ CDMA infrastructure; citing a source “close to the action”, TechnoBuffalo says only top executives at Verizon knew about the device, which internally used to be mentioned as “ACME device” to avoid other employees would hear the “iPhone” name and leak information outside of the company. Public testing of the CDMA iPhone 4 began at Apple Stores (and obviously, Apple’s own campus, where Steve Jobs said they had installed Verizon and AT&T towers) six months ahead of the official launch, meaning in summer 2010 shortly after the release of the AT&T iPhone.
Though key employees and executives were in the loop, everyone else at the carrier knew little more than the rest of the public. And it would seem the higher ups wanted to keep it that way. No one talked about the Apple smartphone externally, and even internally, it was still a hush-hush operation. In fact, says the source, the word “iPhone” was never uttered; only its codename was referenced: It was called the “ACME” device.
Between NDAs to sign, corporate secrets and internal discussions about field-testing and cooperation with Apple, the most interesting tidbit details how, rather than installing geo-location software (like Find my iPhone) on the prototypes to make sure they wouldn’t end up in the wrong hands (as the AT&T iPhone 4 did), Verizon testers were required to text a PIN code every 12 hours as a confirmation the device was being used internally for testing purposes only.
Our source describes a unique protocol requiring staffers to text a secret PIN code to a dedicated phone number every 12 hours. This served as ongoing confirmation that the handset was still in the proper hands. So no PIN code, no functionality.
Unlike the original iPhone 4, Apple managed to keep the Verizon iPhone closely under wraps until the official announcement, not even allowing Verizon to tease anything at CES 2011 in Las Vegas a few weeks before. The security measures taken by Apple to ensure devices were only used internally are particularly interesting, and a sign Apple must have reconsidered its testing process after the AT&T iPhone got leaked to Gizmodo.com in Spring 2010, months before the WWDC announcement.
Two weeks ago we reported about a company called CutYourSim that, alongside iPhone SIM cutters and adapters, began offering a $169 “permanent and universal” unlock service that would allow users to use any GSM iPhone — likely one purchased in United States — on virtually any carrier with no jailbreak required. The service offered by CutYourSim quickly made the rounds of the Internet as, in spite of CDMA model incompatibility, it simply required users to pay an activation fee without needing to jailbreak a device, or install additional software. Speculation arose quickly about the company having gained access to Apple’s (or a carrier’s) IMEI database — thus being able to “whitelist” devices on a network by adding a GSM phone’s IMEI number to the database. As you can guess, unauthorized access to the database was likely achieved thanks to a “source” within Apple or a carrier that had access and could quickly import devices to whitelist through the IMEI identifier.
After two weeks and an alleged explosion in sales, the service has been shut down. CutYourSim doesn’t provide a real explanation on their official website, but after speaking with the founder of the company Cult Of Mac reports CutYourSim doesn’t know what’s going on, either: Apple may or may not be behind the discontinuation of the service, but CutYourSim can’t (or perhaps, doesn’t want to) detail why their service stopped working.
Unfortunately, we were not able to complete the rest of the unlocks waiting in our queue due to our suppliers being unable to offer the service anymore,” CutYourSim told Cult of Mac. “Our suppliers have told us that there is a possibility that the service may return, but they do not know when, so we have decided to start processing refunds for any orders that we were not able to complete.”
“To tell you the truth, first our supplier told us there were server issues, then after that they just told us that they will not be offering the service anymore. We are not sure where the service comes from, or whether it’s a contact through AT&T or Apple. We do know that the service is performed in the UK, but that’s about it.
CutYourSim claims the service might come back online in a few days, but the fact that they’re already offering refunds to customers who paid and couldn’t get the unlock in time is telling. Clearly Apple wasn’t pleased with the effects of a service that somehow enabled users to have their device whitelisted for any GSM network, and either through a carrier or direct investigation within the company’s database managed to track down whoever was manually adding IMEIs to the database.
You can read more about CutYourSim’s discontinued service here, and even find alternatives with a bit of Google research — but as we said in our original post, we don’t recommend any of these services. They are destined to be blocked by Apple, or carriers.
According to Geeky Gadgets, carrier T-Mobile UK will begin selling the iPad 2 tomorrow with online and phone orders, and there will be upgrade options (with different prices) for owners of the original iPad. The website reports the following prices with a 2-year contract:
iPad 2 16 GB WiFi + 3G: £199 upfront + £25 per month for existing customers
iPad 2 16 GB WiFi + 3G:: £229 upfront + £27 per month for new customers
The two-year contract with T-Mobile UK gives 1 GB of data per month and an additional “quiet time” 1 GB for usage between 12 AM and 10 AM. Online and phone orders with T-Mobile UK will start tomorrow at 5 PM — same applies if you want to buy an iPad 2 at the Apple Store tomorrow in the 25 countries that will get the device.