It has been over 6 months since Apple HK sold officially carrier-unlocked iPhone 4 through Apple Store online. Unlike when Apple HK begin to sell iPhone 4 back on July 31, 2010, this time there are no limits on the number a customers can purchase. This is a bit strange since the speculation on why Apple discontinue selling iPhone 4 through their online store and authorized resellers, was because of the overwhelming number of people purchasing and selling them to mainland Chinese gray-market resellers.

With rumors of Apple may be missing the annual iPhone June launch this year, this may explains the reasons why iPhone 4s are back on sale in the Apple Store HK online. The current estimate ship date is "3 - 5 business days", which is 2nd level in the possible estimate ship dates for Apple products sold through the Apple Store online.

This also refutes the speculations that the triple disasters in Japan was going to effect Apple's production lines at Foxconn.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Apple released a press release confirming the dates of the phase 2 launch of the iPad 2 in 25 more countries.

In doing so, Apple finally offer a release date; kind of (at least the month), for Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore.

...iPad 2 with Wi-Fi will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK on March 25 for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model, $699 (US) the 64GB model. iPad 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G will be available for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model and $829 (US) for the 64GB model. iPad 2 will be available in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and additional countries in April, and in many more countries around the world in the coming months. Further international availability and pricing will be announced at a later date.

After Steve Jobs' announcement at the "iPad 2 Event" that the Personal Hotspot feature will be available in iOS 4.3, people have been wondering if their mobile carriers will allow the feature to work, and how will these carriers charge for the usage of this feature on their network. Like these users I wonder about it for my current mobile carrier, Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) in Hong Kong. So right after the iPad 2 Event I posted a question on Smartone-Vodafone's Facebook Page asking them to comment on the feature's use on their network and the charges if any. All SMV has to say is "We do not have any information regarding Personal Hotspot at this time, please stay tuned".

Fortunately Apple made iOS 4.3 available a day early (March 10th) since my bill-cut-off date is the 11th. I installed it right away and tried the Personal Hotspot feature, only testing the speed of the connections of devices connected to the Personal Hotspot host. Because I have yet to confirm with SMV the charges relating to Personal Hotspot use. I waited all weekend and Monday for my March 13th bill to be available online, and it was finally available a few hours ago. As I have expected, SMV is able to distinguish the Personal Hotspot traffic from other data use, just like regular Tethering via USB, but unlike regular Tethering over Bluetooth. Apple probably provided the carriers a mean to identify Personal Hotspot traffic, since carrier partners are given the ability to turn on and off Personal Hotspot for individual subscribers on their network. The Personal Hotspot connection I tried was via WiFi, I'm sure the results will be the same through Bluetooth and USB.

Also as expected, my Personal Hotspot usage was "FREE". I have SMV's HKD389 iPhone Plan with unlimited data, which also comes with a handset rebate, giving me a monthly bill of HKD259 (USD33.24).

In the past month (30 days) SMV's bandwidth had dropped dramatically. On average it had fallen more than half as compared to previous measurements. I'm sure SMV is monitoring Personal Hotspot usage to see if it further congest their network. Fortunately, I currently also have access to the CSL 1010 3G network, and it is indeed much faster than SMV's 3G network at all locations: Wanchai, Central and Admiralty, I've tested. In most cases it is faster by 50% - 100%.

A pair of fellow Hong Kong bloggers, @HKFashionGeek and HKShoeGeek (@cko01), focus on the latest fashion scene, special offers, pre-sales and new releases in Hong Kong with their site HKFashionGeek, just got a minor face lift with a new logo. Please help me congratulates HKFashionGeek and HKShoeGeek on their new look.

Along with a new logo, they also launched their first ever offline event. Checkout the details on their Hong Kong Fashion Geek Photo Hunt to win great prices.

Last November (2010) Jawbone introduced the Jambox portable bluetooth speaker to the world and today CSL introduce it to Hong Kong customers. Although it is similar to the Soundmatters' foxL in terms of technology; it is both based on the technology invented by Dr. Godehard Guenther, the Jambox has a better aesthetic with its minimalist design, it is more attractive to the non-geeks, this is not surprising since the Jambox is designed by Yves Behar. On the other hand the foxL is obviously designed by an engineer. Since the launch of the Jambox, Jawbone has added three more colours to the collection: Blue Wave, Black Diamond (limited), Grey Hex and the latest Red Dot. The sound quality of the both are not bad but the Jambox has less fuller sound compared to the foxL. Fortunately, aside from the aesthetics Jawbone did add its know how in bluetooth, sound cancelations, an impressive voice firmware Jawbone brought over from their Icon line of bluetooth headsets, and most of all a better battery life (10 hours of continuous play). For a portable speaker battery life is one of the most important aside from sound quality.

Aside from acting as an external speaker for music playback and game play, it is also ideal as an external speaker for speaker phone, which Jawbone's noise cancellation technology really shines.

The Jambox is compatible with any devices that support bluetooth A2DP streaming.

Technical specifications:

  • Bluetooth v2.1+EDR (A2DP 1.2, HFP 1.5, HSP 1.1)
  • 3.5mm audio input
  • micro USB for charging
  • Output: 85dB @ 0.5m
  • Frequency: 60Hz - 20Hz
  • AC Adapter: 5V 550mA Max 2.5W
  • Weight: 347g
  • Dimensions: 151mm x 57mm x 40mm
  • All the necessary cables needed for charging and AC Adapter.

CSL also took this opportunity to introduce their Connecting Tone Facebook app. It is a service that allows subscribers to change their CSL Mobile account's connecting tone from within Facebook. The normal Facebook privacy options and sharing options are also available.

Aside from the above, with the introduction of an amazing portable speaker system CSL also announced the availability of exclusive HD Android games from publishers like EA Games in their CSL MyNet Game Zone.

In the US it is sold for USD199.99 through Jawbone's online store. You may find discounts at other online retailers. In Hong Kong CSL are asking for HKD1888.00 (approx. USD243) for it through CSL shops, with the Black Diamond.

My broadband service provider, Netvigator (by PCCW), throw the switch of my broadband connection this morning to upgrade it from 30 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Although Netvigator has fiber services to homes unfortunately this is not available for my home. Instead what Netvigator offers at my address is DSL at 100 Mbps. Since my DSL modem was recently (3 months) upgraded all that was needed was a setting change at the PCCW exchange.

With this new technology it means most customers who receive broadband services from Netvigator will have or will soon to have 100 Mbps bandwidth if they want to upgrade.

I am now getting an average of 69 Mbps for downlink and 25 Mbps uplink. Previously when I was subscribing to their 30 Mbps service, my downlink was averaging at 28 Mbps and uplink was 8 Mbps.

Before the upgrade I was on the 12th month of a 24-month contract for Netvigator's 30 Mbps service at HKD238/month. Netvigator was able to cancel the remainder of my 30 Mbps contract and upgrade me to the 100 Mbps service with a 18-month contract for an additional HKD18/month, giving me a total of HKD256/month.

Since this is not Netvigator's FiberDirect service it is not a symmetric 100 Mbps (both downlink and uplink), but a bandwidth that offers theoretical 100 Mbps downlink and 30 Mbps uplink.

I use SpeedTest.net to check the speed but since it's scale does not go pass 50 Mbps I am not certain it is truly accurate. Using HK Broadband's test I was able to confirm that I do have a 100 Mbps (downlink) connection.

You may say, why do I need that kind of speed at home? Will I actually be able to utilize it? Keeping in mind there are many factors that reduce the quality of experience when accessing content over the Internet. One of the main bottleneck being the country's (city in the case of Hong Kong) connection to the Internet and the speed of the web service provider to serve the content/service you are seeking.

In my case the decision to upgrade to 100 Mbps was simple; given Netvigator's offer of only an additional HKD18/month and only another 12 months to my previous contract. Plus since the day I subscribed to Netvigator's 8 Mbps service the number of individuals and the type of content/services they access through the Internet had grown in my household, having a bigger pipe just eliminates one of the many bottlenecks that may result in poor quality of experience.

I do suggest people upgrade to 30 Mbps if they can find a good deal, and to 100 Mbps if they are already on the 30 Mbps service and it is available at your location.

[Updated: November 18, 2010, 15:15] After several hours of use the bandwidth had not degraded. I even did speed tests while NOW TV (the Netvigator IP TV service) is running and the bandwidth still averaging at around 65 Mbps downlink and 25 Mbps uplink. That's impressive. Previously even with the 30 Mbps broadband service I was getting bandwidth of 18 Mbps downlink and 3 Mbps uplink if I had NOW TV on.

Since there was no modem or wiring changes, the improvement has to do with the switch and/or circuit at the PCCW exchange, the 100 Mbps allowance and the algorithm to manage the bandwidth allowance.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesopinion

Over the past six years group buying had grown into a multi billion (US) dollar business. Among the many sites focused on group buying around the world, Groupon.com is the largest with global presences in 24 countries or 168 cities, and Woot.com pioneered the concept when it started in 2004. If you are not familiar with group buy please allow me to explain, the concept is fairly simple. A merchant (shop) subscribes to a group buying site (site). The shop creates an offer for it's services or products at a discounted price; something that is very attractive (around 50% off or more). The shop specifies a minimum number (tipping point) of sales for the offer before it becomes valid. The site will then list the offer along with customized marketing copy on its site and all channels the site has at its disposal.

The site normally sets a short deadline (1 - 3 days depending on the site) for consumers (end-users) to sign up for the offer. If the tipping point is not reached by the deadline, the offer will be invalid even for consumers who had signed up. Otherwise if it is reached within or by the deadline, the payment for the offer will be immediately withdrawn from the consumer's account, and any subsequent consumers wanting to sign up will receive the offer immediately upon payment, up until the maximum units sold, if one was set by the shop.

The purpose of having a tipping point is for the shop to receive a guarantee minimum revenue before an offer becomes valid. For the consumers it is in their advantages to spread the word about any offers they have signed up for prior to the tipping point, doing so will help themselves guarantee that the tipping point is reached. The site makes their profits from commissions on the shop's revenue for the offer.

The shop itself normally write these cost; the commission to the site and the discount, off as marketing expenses. The difference for this type of marketing compared to the more traditional methods are:

  • In most other marketing initiatives they are out bound and the target audiences have not shown interests in what the marketer is selling. The exception being certain types of social marketing.
  • Group buying brings to the shop customers that not only have shown interests in the products or services offered by the shop, but have committed to a purchasing action by subscribing to the offer through the group buying platform.
  • The shop receive payments prior to committing the services or products to the customers who signed up for the offer. Although, this may not be the case it depends on the terms from the group buying site.

There are benefits for all parties in group buying. The customers normally receive a great deal on products or services they normally cannot get. The shop is able to convince vetted consumers into their shop at cost, so they have the opportunity to up sell or cross sell the customers and may be retain them as long term repeating customers. The site is able to build its membership and further secure itself as the final stop for great offers.

In most cases group buying sites are location specific as they are normally associated with physical brick-and-mortar stores. Even for global players like Groupon their offers are specific to localized city sites. It is these localizations and ways offers can be found that draws both consumers and shops to the site. If a shop establish an exclusive offer with a site, this will heighten the offer's exclusivity making it more attractive to the consumers. While at the same time being exclusive with the wrong site may waste the efforts if no one signs up for the offer, creating a negative image for the shop's products or services.

As suggested earlier there are differences among group buying sites. Although the basic concepts of group buying are the same. How these sites spread its marketing message for the shop can be quite different. Everyone one of them use social sites like Facebook, but not all of them use it in a way that is ethical. For example, some will require customers to "Like" their Facebook Page before they can take advantage of an offer on the site, or they will require customers to provide email addresses but does not offer a easy method to unsubscribe to mailings.

In Hong Kong there are currently 11 group buying sites: BeeCrazy BuyLaBuy.com FunShare GigOnZone GoBuyA Group Buyer Joy-Coupon MyCutepons Twangoo uBuy iBuy ValuUp VBuy

Although I have not used them all I do have experience with a few of them. I will get into a more detailed comparison of the ones I tried in a subseqent article.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesNews

After I published the Open Letter to Smartone-Vodafone in April, I thought Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) finally understands the needs of its subscribers when they released the new tariff plans for the iPad in July. When the dust is finally settled I finds out SMV still doesn't understand what subscriber needs.

SMV restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans; plans that SMV believes iPad or iPhone 4 users should be using. Even though SMV now have large quantities of micro-SIM cards. SMV sales representatives say their back-office system explicitly restricts activations of certain tariff plans for micro-SIM and others with min-SIM.

Aside from the SIM type restrictions the tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices that SMV believes the tariff plans should be used with.

Just to compete with other Hong Kong mobile carriers SMV follows with its own pre-paid no contract roaming tariff plans, but these plans are restricted to Internet browsing and Email access.

Why is SMV still trying to dictate how we use the tariff plans we subscribe to? I can understand having these restrictions on limited tariff plans or if micro-SIM supplies are very low. For unlimited local data there should not be either of the above restrictions.

Speaking of "unlimited data...", in many of the tariff plans designed for the iOS device, SMV explicitly restricts these so call "unlimited data" to Internet browsing and checking emails, and do not include traffic from apps on the iOS device. Do they know that majority of the people who uses the iPad spend majority of their times within Internet enabled apps rather than the browser (Mobile Safari) or email app (Mail)? So a warning to subscribers, you need to read the small print and choose the plans that is most suitable to your usage of the iPad or iPhone.

Of all the carriers in Hong Kong I thought SMV was the only one that is open minded enough to "think different" (think outside the box) but from these actions they appear not.

[Updated: August 18, 13:20] As suggested by the reader, Art, I will clarify a few of the points in my post.

When I say, "restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans..." I am referring to SMV not allowing certain tariff plans to be issued with a micro-SIM. These plans are the Mobile Broadband: Power 3, Power 8 and Power 28, subscribers are not allow to request the issue of micro-SIM cards with these plans.

When I say, "tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices...", SMV is preventing the HKD198 iPad plan from being used on any other device other than the iPad.

Yesterday I reported Smartone-Vodafone's (SMV) tariff plans for the soon to release iPhone 4. Not long after my post was published the other competitors in Hong Kong also release their respective tariff plans for the iPhone 4. With the help of @abc1230 (on Twitter) I have created an English version of the spreadsheet (http://bit.ly/iphone4hkplans) comparing the tariff plan offerings from these carriers in Hong Kong.

As we are only 2 days away from the official iPhone 4 release in Hong Kong. One of the three Apple mobile carrier partners, Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) released their contract prices for the iPhone 4. Note that the only difference among iPhone 4 sold through mobile carrier partners, Apple authorized resellers and Apple HK store online is that the ones through the mobile carriers comes with a 24-month contract.

There are two hidden costs in the above tariff plans. One is that you must sign up for one or more of the VAS (value-added-service) valued at HKD36.00/month or more. The second is the HKD12.00 administration fee that all subscribers of any carriers have to pay.

Since the HKD12.00 administration fee is the same for all mobile carriers in Hong Kong. The actual price for these contracts are:

(all amounts in HKD) 100MB
Included Data
500MB
Included Data
Unlimited Data
Actual Cost $138 + $36 = $174 $248 + $36 = $284 $398 + $36 = $434
iPhone 4 16GB
Upfront Cost
$3480 $980 $0
iPhone 4 32GB
Upfront Cost
$4280 $1780 $580
Equivalent
Non-iPhone 4 Plan
N/A N/A $298
Actual Cost of
iPhone 4 16GB
N/A N/A ($434 x 24) - ($298 x 24) = $3264
Actual Cost of
iPhone 4 32GB
N/A N/A ($434 x 24) - ($298 x 24) + $580 = $3844

Also none of the above plans includes the SMV's X-Power service, this is a HKD36/month additional charge. So this can be the required VAS you add to your plan.

Although none of the plans states, according to SMV Customer Service, Tethering is included in all three plans. Of course the first two plans will have a data limit the subscriber keep an eye on.

[Updated: July 28, 2010, 15:05] Smartone-Vodafone now informs us that thee prepaid amount for the iPhone 4 are as follows: iPhone 4 16GB = HKD4480 iPhone 4 32GB = HKD5280

The differences between these prepaid amount and the "Upfront" amount mentioned above are rebated back to the customer through the terms of the 24-month contract.

[Updated: July 28, 2010, 20:00] Thanks to abc1230 (aka A網誘) on Twitter for putting together a spreadsheet to outline the different iPhone 4 tariff plans from 5 of the Hong Kong mobile carriers.

I have translated this spreadsheet into English (http://bit.ly/iphone4hkplans), but due to my limited Chinese comprehension there are still some work to do in the translation. Please feel free to contact me if you want to help complete the translation and or help update the information on the spreadsheet.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

An hour ago Apple released "speed bumps" versions of the iMac and Mac Pro, a new accessory Apple calls "Magic Trackpad", but the most important change is what Apple HK store online did. The highly sort after iPad are now available for purchase. Since Apple is currently listing 7 - 10 business days for delivery. So if anyone recently; the past 3 days, place their names on wait lists at Apple authorized resellers in Hong Kong, and if you had placed deposit. I suggest you get your deposit back and place your order through Apple HK store online.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad