Tag Archives | Apple. iPhone

Please, AT&T, Just Tell Me How Much You Want For an iPhone 3G S

AT&T FrownyI swear that I’m not trying to turn Technologizer into an AT&T bashfest. But I’ve spent part of my afternoon girding myself to get an iPhone 3 GS. I’m ready to pre-order and pay up. So far, though, I’m just confused.

I started at the AT&T Store at my local shopping center. A helpful rep looked me up in the system and said that I didn’t qualify for a discount–I’d have to fork over $599 for a 16GB 3G S or $699 for the 32GB model. He stood there expectantly. But I arched an eyebrow and asked him if he was sure I didn’t qualify for some sort of discount.

He told me that I might, but said that I needed to dial 611 on my phone to find out. Why didn’t he mention this until I asked? How come he couldn’t determine it himself? I don’t know.

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How iPhone 3G S’s Better Graphics Complicate Matters for Developers and iPhone Owners

I’ve had several computers that were less powerful than the iPhone 3G S. My Intel 486 machine was bleeding-edge at the time, but could not compare to the ones like my 300-MHz Pentium powered PC that I owned just a few years down the pike. iPhone owners will soon experience a similar phenomenon, and some apps in the App Store will be off limits to anyone that doesn’t have the latest Apple hardware.

The iPhone 3G S has a 600MHz CPU, 256MB of RAM (my family’s Commodore 128’s clock speed was about 4 MHz, and it had 128KB of memory). The graphics processor in the 3G S is the PowerVR SGX (same as the Palm Pre) that supports OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics–meaning, it would blow my old desktop PCs out of the water.

The iPhone 3G only supports version 1.1 of the OpenGL ES specification. It’s possible to write an iPhone app that provides basic graphics on an iPhone 3G and better ones on an iPhone 3G S, but many developers may not bother. That means owners of the iPhone 3G will not be able to run applications and games with souped-up graphics. An increasing number of applications will be off limits, essentially being roped off into a VIP section of the App Store. How that will affect application development is an open question.

My take is that developers will need to decide which version of the iPhone they will be targeting. With Apple offering the iPhone 3G for $99, its market share will ostensibly increase–especially if Apple opens up to another domestic carrier in the U.S. Developers have finite resources, and will have to pick one or the other.

Consequently, there may not be many advanced games available for the 3GS  for some time. Over time, the number of 3G S owners will hit a critical mass, and developers will target it more often. If I was buying the 3G S simply so that I could play more advanced games, I wouldn’t be in a rush to get one.


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Yes, Original iPhone Owners, I Am Sympathetic

Original iPhoneWow. My post contending that AT&T’s upgrade pricing for iPhone 3G owners who want to buy an iPhone 3G S is fair has prompted dozens of comments, pro and con. Some of the feedback is from people who bought the original iPhone, which reminds me that they’re in an entirely different situation than 3G owners like me.

The first iPhone was sold under unique and unreasonable policies: The first folks who bought it paid the extremely unsubsidized price of $599, yet were required to sign up for a two-year AT&T contract, just as if they’d gotten a price break. That’s one of the most consumer-unfriendly moves in the history of the cell phone business, which is saying something.

AT&T did at least acknowledge the unique situation by letting owners of first-generation iPhones buy the 3G at the fully-subsidized price. But the fact that those folks were under any contractual obligation to AT&T at all remains pretty darn ridiculous.

It’s one of a number of examples of policies relating to the iPhone being less reasonable than those for garden-variety phones. Another one: I’ve repeatedly bought cell phones from AT&T at unsubsidized prices and found that the company would cheerfully unlock them for me. But it took months before it offered a contract-free iPhone at all, and as far as I know, there are no circumstances under which it will unlock an iPhone for you.

The iPhone is an exceptional product–probably the most important cell phone in the history of cell phones, and an amazing gadget in spite of some significant flaws. But at the end of the day, it’s just a phone. And carrier policies relating to it should be the same as for any other phone they sell.


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No Specs Please, We’re Apple

My friend and former colleague Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld, has a good piece up on the fact that Apple isn’t saying much about just how it made the iPhone 3G S faster–the list of tech specs for the new phone doesn’t disclose its CPU or how much RAM it has, which are probably the two most important aspects of its hardware when it comes to determining how speedy it’ll be.

Apple’s disinterest in talking about the iPhone hardware’s technical details was striking at Monday’s WWDC keynote. When Phil Schiller announced the phone, he said it was really fast and quoted some benchmarks of its improvement in speed compared to the iPhone 3G–and left it at that. If there was ever an assemblage of people who’d be interested in the nitty-gritty of the 3G S’s performance boost, it was the developers in that room: A faster chip and more RAM (which the 3G S surely has) makes the phone a better platform for sophisticated third-party apps. But Apple wants people to focus on what the iPhone can do, not how it does it.

Of course, Apple is willing to talk about its engineering when it suits the company’s purposes–I don’t know of any other computer company that would spend so much time explaining the manufacturing process for its notebook cases, for instance. But manufacturing processes don’t involve numbers, and I think it’s numbers that Apple prefers to avoid dwelling on.

On some levels, I get Apple’s thinking here. I’ve written that tech specs are simply less important than they use to be: It would be a lousy idea to buy (or avoid) the iPhone 3G S based on its clockspeed or the amount of RAM it contains, and neither spec can be reliably used to judge how the iPhone compares to other phones. I’m not sure if Apple’s approach is any less satisfactory than that of tech companies who only know how to speak in spec-ese, and who forget to explain why a normal person should care.

But…

Apple products are, for the most part, bought by adults. Some of those adults are passionate about technology, and want to have a deep understanding of how the products they buy work. We already know that the iPhone 3G contains 128MB of RAM, which is on the tight side; if the 3G S has 256MB of RAM, that’s relevant information. So are basic facts about the processor, if it helps speed up the iPhone experience.

As Jason notes, third parties will break open iPhone 3G S units as soon as they get their hands on them, so we’ll know the phone’s technical vitals soon enough. Which is just one more reason why I wish Apple disclosed this information. It’s got customers who’d like to know; the info can help them understand Apple products better; trade secrets are not involved. Telling those who care to know what’s inside the iPhone would be a nice confirmation that Apple respects the intelligence of its customers.


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5Words for Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

5wordsReady to partake in news?

Mozilla Gives Firefox Extension Collections.

New iPhone is smudge-resistant.

Caterina Fake’s Hunch launches Monday.

Google Search Box for Macs.

Virgin’s contract-free wireless broadband.

Great Mac, iPhone apps honored.

Last-generation MacBooks: cheap cheap!


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5Words for Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

5wordsTech news–Apple and otherwise:

More lack of iPhone sympathy.

Buy iPhone? Wait for Verizon?

The iPhone’s new processor: secret!

A look at Safari 4.

Going to Borneo? Don’t Twitter.

T-Mobile: Yes, we were hacked.

Did Pleo just get rescued?

Nokia’s N97 goes on sale.

Are the Webby Awards obsolete?

Is the new MacBook expensive?


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Can Qik Go Legit on the iPhone?

qiklogoHere’s another question I have as I ruminate on Monday’s WWDC news: Will the fact that the iPhone 3G S has a video camera and Apple is touting video streaming as a major iPhone OS 3.0 feature mean that we’ll finally get an official release of Qik’s nifty videostreaming application on the iPhone App Store? It’s been available on the iPhone for months, but only for jailbroken phones, since Apple hasn’t permitted the camera on the original and 3G models to capture video.

I’m not sure why the iPhone 3G S wouldn’t be Qik-friendly–Apple said today that there will be an API that will allow third-party developers to write apps that make use of the video camera. And while all the examples that Apple has given of streaming video involve stuff coming into the iPhone, the fact that carriers are comfortable with the idea might mean they’d be comfortable with Qik, too. (I don’t think Qik stands much chance of bringing even AT&T’s fragile network to its knees–it’ll likely never be used by as many people as apps for consuming streaming video will be.)

None of which means that the new iPhone hardware and software will make an App Store release of Qik available, of course. We’ll see.

In related news, Qik is announcing today that Qik will ship on all of Nokia’s Symbian S60 phones, starting with the soon-to-be-released N97. Score one for the N97, especially if there’s no good news about Qik on the iPhone in the immediate future…


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Sorry, iPhone 3G Owners, I’m Not Sympathetic

iPhone 3GsIf you ask Apple or AT&T how much the iPhone 3G S costs, they’ll emphasize two prices: $199 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB one, as Apple does here. It’s only in the fine print and disclaimers that they’ll explain that only new customers and those who aren’t on a contract (or nearing the end of one, at least) qualify for those deals. Which means that all of us who bought AT&T iPhone 3Gs upon their release a little under a year ago don’t qualify–we’ll pay $399 for the 16GB model or $499 for the 32GB one, assuming we’re willing to extend our contracts for another two years. Which still represents a discount off the no-commitment pricing: $599 for 16GB and $699 for 32GB.

Some folks are irate at this turn of events, arguing that the pricing punishes loyal AT&T customers. Nope. What it does is prevent customers who got a steep discount on an iPhone a year ago in return for signing up for a two-year contract to get an equally steep discount this year for signing up for another two-year contract. Which strikes me as perfectly reasonable, given that this scenario involves you only being under contract to AT&T for a total of three years. You can still get a discount on a new iPhone–just not one that’s as steep as someone who commits to AT&T for a total of four years.

Come to think of it, the math is perfectly logical: You get a total of $400 in discounts (on one phone) for two years of commitment, $600 in discounts (on two phones) for three years of commitment, and $800 in discounts (on two phones) for four years of commitment. That’s a $200 discount per year of contract you fulfill.

(Why doesn’t AT&T let iPhone 3G owners get a $199 iPhone 3G S today in return for agreeing to fulfill their original two-year contract and extend it for an additional two years? I’m not sure. But I’m wary of long-term commitments to any wireless character, and therefore wouldn’t endorse a scenario which involves agreeing to marry AT&T until at least 2012 in order to get a discount on a phone.)

If there’s a problem here, it’s the way phones are usually sold in America, via subsidies that encourage us to think that phones cost less than they really do, and which tie us up with a carrier and prevent us from moving a phone we’ve bought to another carrier (even temporarily, when we’re overseas). A top-of-the-line iPhone really costs $699, which is not a crazy price given its capabilities; it’s just that very few of us ever pay that price or even realize it exists. We’re conditioned to think of those subsidized prices as the prices, in part because phone manufacturers and carriers stress them above all else.

So no, I’m not that sympathetic towards iPhone 3G owners who want AT&T to sell them the iPhone 3G S at the same sweetheart price as someone who didn’t buy an iPhone 3G last year. You agreed to fulfill a two-year contract with AT&T in return for the discount you got last year. AT&T is willing to renegotiate it and give you a proportionate discount on a 3G in return for another year of commitment. Explain to me again what’s offensive about that?


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Your WWDC Predictions: Not Perfect, But Not Bad!

Apple WWDC PredictionsQuick, you guys: Quit your jobs, team up with each other, and form a research firm specializing in Apple punditry. As a group, your predictions would likely be significantly closer to being on-target than those of a bunch of well-known analyst firms where serious moolah is made guessing what Steve Jobs and company are working on.

That, at least, is my conclusion after conducting an experiment that I called Technologizer’s WWDC Prediction Challenge. I invited Technologizer community members to take a survey involving WWDC predictions, then tallied the results and considered any prediction to be official if the majority of survey respondents made it. You didn’t get every single data point right–and failed to anticipate the major changes Apple made to its laptop lineup–but your iPhone predictions were very close to perfect (unlike those of many bloggers and analysts). Overall, I’m impressed–and I think I’ll repeat the experiment before future Apple product launches.

After the jump, a full accounting of how your guesses squared with WWDC reality.

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The T-Grid: Palm Pre vs. iPhone 3G S

So much about Apple’s new iPhone was revealed through rumor ahead of time that I prepared a provisional grid comparing it to the Palm Pre a couple of weeks ago. Now that everything’s official, I dug out that grid for an updating and to make any necessary corrections–and found that about 98 percent of the specs I filled in for the iPhone to Be Named Later turned out to accurately describe the iPhone 3G S.

After the jump. lots and lots of specs for the summer’s two most notable smartphones. As usual, I’m not claiming that you can use this list to determine which phone is better (especially since the 3G S remains an unreleased product as I write this). But it’s still fun to see how they compare.

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