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.

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AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

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.

Before I begin I want to review what happened last night (HK time). Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs held a press conference about the iPhone 4 antenna issue at Cupertino, California.

He claims that the iPhone 4 antenna issue is common to all modern day mobile phones and showed videos of the fact.

Having said that Apple will give out free cases to all iPhone 4 owners. For any users who had purchased Apple Bumpers Apple will refund these users. But Apple is not able to make enough Bumpers so they will source other cases, and make all these cases available for iPhone 4 customers to apply for on Apple.com starting next week. Apple will evaluate the situation on September 30th and assess if this program needs to be extended.

During the press conference Jobs also confirmed that the iPhone 4 second phrase launch is on schedule and will happen on July 30, 2010. Many of you already know about this from my previous report, but now we have an exact date. One thing changed in the iPhone 4 second phrase launch is the omission of South Korea from the list of original 18 countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hong Kong
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

I still recommend you wait for the general availability of the iPhone 4 in late August and purchase from Apple store online or from one of its authorized resellers in Hong Kong. The only differences for purchasing from non-mobile carriers are, you will have to wait about a month more to get your iPhone 4, and most importantly you do not have to commit to a 2 year contract.

If you choose my recommended method of purchasing your iPhone 4, you will need to know that none of the mobile carriers: Smartone-Vodafone (SMV), 3 HK and PCCW, that offer micro-SIM cards are giving them out to customers who do not own an iPhone 4. So there is no way for you to get a micro-SIM before the massive influx of customers demanding them, nor to get these micro-SIM ahead of the delivery of your iPhone 4.

I think these decisions of the mobile carriers are wrong, but I think it is due to the limited quantities the carriers have in their inventory at the moment. Hopefully these practices will change later when supplies become more prevalent.

Another reason to wait before you buy an iPhone 4, is due to Apple setting a deadline for iPhone 4 customers to receive free Bumpers. I speculate that the September 30, 2010 deadline may be the date they gave themselves to come out with a design modification to the iPhone 4.

In either case Hong Kong is still the best place to purchase an iPhone 4. This is because Hong Kong is the least expensive place in the world to purchase any Apple products, as proven again by the list prices of the official HK iPad. It is expected that the iPhone 4 (non-subsidized) prices from Apple store online and its authorized resellers will also be around those non-subsidized prices from UK, France and Canada; the three other locations also selling SIM-unlocked iPhone 4.

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AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Along with the minor iOS 4.0.1 update for the iPhone 3G/3GS/4 that Apple made available last night, Apple has also released the iOS 3.2.1 update for the iPad. This update should appear in iTunes when you plug in your iPad; whether it is a WiFi or WiFi+3G version.

If you do not see the update in iTunes you can click on the Update button in the Summary pane with your iPad plugged in. Still having problems getting this massive 456.9MB payload from Apple? You can try getting it directly from Apple Support page.

If you opt for the manual method, with the iPad connected to your computer, go to iTunes's Summary pane for the iPad hold down the Option key (OS X) or Shift key (Windows), then click on the Update button while the iPad is connected to the computer.

Unfortunately, this is also a minor iOS update for the iPad, we will have to wait until the Fall 2010 to see the iOS 4.x update for the iPad. I hope Apple will align the iOS versions on the iDevices this Fall. The last thing Apple wants to do is eliminate their wall-garden advantage over Android OS's disparate hardware and manufacture.

Like Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) last week, 3 HK also begins to accept registrations for the iPhone 4. Unlike SMV, 3 HK has the foresight to ask for more details from the potential iPhone purchaser. Like, colour and capacity of the iPhone 4 they intend to purchase. Not sure why SMV did not ask similar questions, since these information will give the carrier a much better idea of the different models of iPhone 4 to stock. It could also be the experience of 3 HK as Apple Carrier Partner for the past 3 years, but SMV had also became an Apple Carrier Partner in Hong Kong since earlier this year. Another reason SMV did not ask specific questions from its potential customers may be the limited supply of iPhone 4 Apple HK has prepared for the initial launch in Hong Kong. Given the high demands in the 5 initial launch countries and the number of countries (9) in the second phrase launch.

For either carriers there are no commitment on the part of the registerer to purchase the iPhone 4, so in anticipation of the high demand will people register with both carriers?

Remember all iPhones sold through official retailers in Hong Kong are SIM-unlocked. The iPhone 4 is expected to be the same, along with the iPhone 4 sold in Canada, France and UK.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

As many of you already heard Phase 1 of Apple's iPhone 4 launch is planned for June 24th, and the initial demand at the phase 1 countries: France, Germany, Japan and USA, were higher than expected. So much so that AT&T and other resellers in USA had stopped receiving pre-orders. Hong Kong falling in the Phase 2 of the launch countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hong Kong
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Apple has yet to announce an exact date for the Hong Kong release except July 2010, but Smartone-Vodafone is not waiting for the date to be announced. An hour ago it began accepting "registration" for an iPhone 4.

In this registration page there is no promise of receiving an iPhone 4 on any specific date, it does not contain any details of the available tariff plans, it does not contain any pricing for the iPhone, nor does it contain any details of the models and colours available for purchase.

Even though this is the case, I am sure SMV will receive many registrations as there is also no commitment on the part of the registerer. Not sure what SMV is expecting to accomplish with this exercise.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Apple has sold out of the iPhone 4 during the initial 24 hours of pre-ordering in the 5 initial launch countries: France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom and USA. As you may remember the expected release date for these 5 initial launch countries was June 24th, but now the estimate ship date for these pre-orders have moved back twice for USA. First it was push back to July 2nd (France, UK and USA), now the Apple online stores are listing July 14th (USA) as the expected delivery date.

We learn from the iPad launch in the US, when the US launch has higher than expect demands, this pushes the launch date for the 9 countries in the 2nd phase back a month later. Will this recent delays in delivery dates for the iPhone 4, does it mean that the 2nd phase of the iPhone 4 launch will also delay?

At the moment the 2nd phase of the iPhone 4 launch expects to be in July for the 18 countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hong Kong
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Now that the ship dates for the pre-orders from the initial 5 countries have been delayed until July 14th, it is unlikely that the release date for the 18 countries in the 2nd phase will be any sooner than July 14th.

None of the carriers in Hong Kong have made any announcements regarding dates for pre-orderring, nor do we have any official statement from Apple to say that the launch in the 2nd phase countries has been delayed.

Given the official release of the iPad in Hong Kong is also expected to be in July, I expects if there is any delay in the 2nd phase launch of the iPhone 4 it will be in August. Let's just hope that it is not too much later.

[Updated: July 17, 2010, 23:24] A reader informs me that he was still able to pre-order an iPhone 4 from SoftBank (Japan's official Apple carrier partner) today and the carrier tells him to expect deliver of his iPhone 4 on June 24th. I appreciate this reader's information, but am surprise to hear that Japan's (SoftBank's) delivery date had not been pushed back like France, UK and USA. Given now US' AT&T customers are told to expect delivery of their iPhone 4 on July 14th for any new pre-orders, it is expected that inventory destined for Japan and Germany will be diverted to cover the demand in these 3 countries: France, UK and USA.

The only explanation is that for Germany and Japan the iPhones are not fully SIM-unlocked by Apple, therefore the initial allotments are pre-ordered by the respective carriers. So unless the carriers' estimations are incorrect the ship date for Germany and Japan will remain June 24th.

We already know that iPhone 4s sold in UK and France are fully SIM-unlocked by Apple. If any readers can comment on whether the pre-ordered iPhone 4s in Germany are also SIM-unlocked that will be great.

I don't suppose the versions sold in USA or Japan are, since Apple appear to have an iron clad contract with AT&T and SoftBank. For the latter it is reported that iPad WiFi+3G sold through SoftBank are SIM-locked to SoftBank, which implies so are the iPhone 4s.

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AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Last night Hong Kong time (10:00 US PST) Apple announced the next generation iPhone, the "iPhone 4", and renamed its OS from "iPhone OS" to "iOS 4", during Steve Jobs' keynote speech at their WWDC '10. During the keynote Jobs highlighted 8 of the new features in iPhone 4. These are:

  • FaceTime
  • Retina Display
  • Multitasking
  • HD Video Recording
  • iMovie for iPhone
  • iBooks
  • Gyroscope
  • 5-Megapixel Camera with LED Flash

Aside from these 8 features mentioned there are a few more that worth mentioning.

  • External antenna
  • Front facing camera
  • 7 hours of talk time on 3G

I will leave the summary of these features to Apple's excellent web pages for the iPhone, what I will do instead is explain how these features should or should not affect your purchasing decision of the iPhone 4.

Feature Benefits

Before we understand how these features should effect your purchasing decision, we should understand how these iPhone 4 features will benefit you.

FaceTime

This is simply video chat on the iPhone. Unfortunately, it currently works only between iPhone 4's and only if these iPhones are connected via WiFi to the Internet.

Fortunately, FaceTime is based on open standards: SIP, h.264, AAC, STUN, TURN, ICE, RTP and SRTP. Apple will submit FaceTime to the standards body to get it accepted as a standard, like they did with QuickTime for MPEG-4.

The important point to note here is the SIP standard used in FaceTime. This means that other SIP video chat service can potentially work with FaceTime. One such service is Gizmo5, now a Google property, but Google has yet to integrate it with Google Voice or shut the service down. One popular video chat/VoIP service that FaceTime will not work with is Skype, because Skype uses proprietary technology to establish connections between users.

Due to the current limitations of FaceTime, this feature should not have much value in your decisions to purchase an iPhone 4. Also in the near future, if you do not know anyone who has an iPhone 4 and is significant enough to want to video chat with, this definitely will be one feature you will not use.

The Camera

In the new iPhone 4 there are two. A 5-Megapixels camera with 5X digital zoom on the back with built-in LED flash, and a VGA quality front-facing camera on the front. Both of these cameras are capable of capturing still photos and videos up to 30 fps. The former is capable of also capturing HD videos at 720p.

You may notice these capabilities do not appear to be new for smartphones, and you will be right. Apple isn't always the first to implement a particular technology, but they usually do it better than most competitors. In the case of the 5-Megapixels back side camera, unlike other manufactures, Apple achieved this megapixels not by reducing the size of the pixel, therefore the captured image is a true 5-Megapixel image.

If you are the type that always like to have a high resolution camera with you this feature will be great. Or if you are a parent with a young child this will be perfect for those special moments you like to capture for prosperity.

Retina Display

This brand new LCD display technology has 4 times as many pixels compared to previous iPhone models, paceked inside the same 3.5" LED-backlit display, hence producing a display of 960 x 640 pixels display with 326 ppi pixel density.

Again Apple did not do what it's competitors have done, they invented a new way to fuse the LCD to the Multi-Touch screen, therefore removing any possibility of air leaking into the gap between the two layers. This produced an effect as if the pixels are painted directly on the glass surface, with a superb viewing angle. This display also has the same IPS technology used in the Apple LED Cinema displays and iPad, as a result the screen has a 800:1 contrast ratio, producing the darkest darks and whitest whites.

If you read a lot of documents or images this Retina display will be perfect for that. Almost like looking at real printed paper or glossy printed photos.

External Antennas

The iPhone 4 has strips of stainless steel which make up the edges surrounding the phone, aside from serving as structural rigidity and mount points for internal components, they are also part of the GSM/UMTS and Bluetooth/WiFi/GPS.

This new design produces a very thin phone and better reception compared to the previous iPhone models.

The iPhone 4 also has 802.11n WiFi support at 2.4 GHz only, but this will also improve the speed of WiFi connectivity when 802.11n access point is available. Although, due to the lack of 5 GHz support this will not improve the WiFi range of the iPhone 4.

Gyroscope

The iPhone 4 has a built in 3-axis gyroscope, along with the accelerometer it will provide a 6-axis motion sensing.

This addition sensor will help application developers produce even more imaginative applications. During the keynote game control was demonstrated using these 6-axis motion sensors, but I believe there will be many usage in the area of augment reality applications.

Last Friday Read Write Web reported that Google may release Google Goggles iPhone app. With the additional sensor it will greatly improve the accuracy and user interface of Google Goggle.

Conclusion

Now you have some ideas how these new features in the iPhone 4 can be use, I will begin to help you with the decision of choosing the right iPhone. What I will not do is get into the discussion of whether to get an iPhone. I will assume you have already made the decision to do so.

First I need to separate the readers into two groups: ones who already own a model of iPhone, and ones who do not own iPhones.

Do Not Yet Own an iPhone

Your decision right now should be whether to choose the new iPhone 4 or an iPhone 3GS.

This decision should not include the iPhone 3G; even if you can find a store that still carries it. Therefore, second handed iPhone 3G and first generation iPhone (aka. iPhone 2G), should also be avoided.

The main reason for this is because Apple has discontinued future OS supports for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 2G models. The last iOS that fully supports these iPhone models is iOS 3.1.3. So these models will not be able to take full advantage1 of the features and enhancements from iOS 4 onwards.

I will assume you are not the type that wants the latest greatest gadgets, since it took you over 3 years before you decide to purchase an iPhone. Also because doing so with any technology is an endless uphill battle. Having said that, I believe a new or used iPhone 3GS can be a good choice for you. Especially when Apple has lowererd its price.

You Already Own an iPhone

Among these users there are three types:

  • iPhone 2G (first generation iPhone) users: it is definitely time for you to upgrade to iPhone 4. You had waited 2 years and you had been missing many of the modern features of the iPhone. While your iPhone may still worth something in the 2nd hand market, you should sell your iPhone.

  • iPhone 3G users: like the iPhone 2G Apple has discontinued future OS support for this model, and you may have notice your iPhone is a bit slower than your friends using the iPhone 3GS. You may have correctly thought that the iPhone 3GS was a minor upgrade to your iPhone 3G. You did not care about the faster processor, better battery life and digital compass back then. This time the iPhone 4 will be a much better upgrade in the same three areas.

  • iPhone 3GS users: for you you may want to hold off on upgrading to the iPhone 4. Yes the new features may be nice, but will you be able to fully utilize it? Plus iOS 4 will give you many of the same features, which you can upgrade your iPhone 3GS to when it becomes available. So I will recommend you upgrade the iOS on your iPhone to iOS 4, use it for a while and see if the iPhone 4's additional features are worth the upgrade. Remember though, the longer you wait the less your iPhone 3GS will be worth in the 2nd hand market.

In the above analysis I mentioned the 2nd hand iPhone market. At the moment, the largest market for iPhones is mainland China, but the "officially" sold iPhones do not have WiFi support. Therefore, gray market iPhones from around Asia; particularly Hong Kong due to its officially fully unlocked versions, and 2nd hand iPhones are still in great demand. This should always be a consideration when you are planing to upgrade to a newer model of iPhone.

1 You can install iOS 4 onto the iPhone 3G but most of the features will not be available. Most evident will be the Multitask feature.

Each time you allow iTunes to update your iOS device, iTunes will automatically delete the previous iOS firmware (ipsw) file from your computer. As a result you will not be able to restore your iOS device to one of these older iOS firmware. I decided to create a place where I list all the iOS firmware Apple ever released in the past. The following are all hyperlinks to Apple's official repositories, so there are no worries if any of these package contains malware payloads.

iPhone links:

iPad links:

iPod touch links:

I will do my best to update this list as Apple releases new iOS firmwares. I do not know how long Apple will continue to offer access to these files, I would be happy to serve these files from my own repository, but worry about infringing on Apple's copyrights.

If I have missed any, please feel free to share the official Apple hyperlinks to iOS firmware versions in the form of comments below.