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четвер, 28 квітня 2011 р.

Verizon Restoring 4G Network, Delays Droid Charge Launch

Verizon's unexpected 4G network issues have forced the delay of its second 4G phone, sources report.
Network operator Verizon Wireless is in the process of restoring its 4G wireless network shortage after a one-day outage shut down the network, which covers 45 metropolitan areas in the United States. The Wall Street Journal reported a user of the HTC ThunderBolt smartphone was able to connect to the 4G network in New York, and Verizon said on April 27 that it was aware of the problem and working to fix it on an area-by-area basis. Other news outlets have reported connectivity in San Francisco has been restored.

It is an embarrassing development for the company, which prides itself on its network reliability, compounded by criticism that the company wasn’t doing enough to inform consumers what the problem was or when service would be restored. Twitter was Verizon’s main avenue of explanation, and the cryptic short messages the company tweeted only led to more speculation on the Web as to what the issue actually was.

"We have determined the cause of our issue and are working with our major vendors to restore connections," a company statement released on April 27 said. "We expect to see the network restore on a market-by-market basis. Timing and additional details will be provided as they become available."

While the company works to fully restore its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network following the outage, there is speculation Verizon may have to delay the launch of its second 4G phone, Samsung’s Droid Charge. The technology blog Engadget claimed to have received an internal email from Verizon confirming the delay. “According to an internal email we obtained, the blame's on "unexpected delays" and no new date has yet been set,” the Engadget article said.

The Droid Charge is designed with Samsung's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display and is equipped with both a rear-facing 8 megapixel camera with LED flash and front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for both stills and video chatting. The smartphone is also includes mobile hotspot capability, which allows users to share a working 4G connection with up to 10 WiFi-enabled devices or a 3G connection with up to five devices. Unlimited 4G LTE data packages start at $29.99 for monthly access.

Earlier this year, the company started offering two new 4G LTE USB modems for laptop connectivity, and offer data plans starting at $50 for monthly access to 5GB of data or $80 for 10GB of data. With both plans, each additional gigabyte will come at a cost of $10. Verizon launched its 4G LTE network on Dec. 5, 2010, in 39 major metropolitan areas, covering more than 110 million Americans. By 2013, Verizon plans to expand its 4G LTE network to its entire 3G coverage area.

Verizon claims 4G LTE users should experience average data rates of 5 to 12M bps on the downlink and 2 to 5M bps on the uplink. When customers travel outside of a 4G coverage area, the devices automatically connect to Verizon’s 3G network. Records the company released earlier this year showed that more than 260,000 HTC ThunderBolt phones have been sold by the company.
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AT&T Hangs On To Its iPhone Users

AT&T recently released its Q1 2011 earnings and based on continued strength in connected device additions and controlled SG&A expenses, we have updated our price estimate for AT&T’s stock to $38.08. One interesting note from the quarterly earnings was that iPhone-related business remain healthy for AT&T despite losing exclusivity in the recent quarter to Verizon. AT&T primarily competes with Verizon and Sprint in the mobile and landline businesses.

AT&T also noted more specifically that churn in iPhone subscriber base did not change. So were previous concerns regarding iPhone subscribers defecting to Verizon overblown? Maybe, but this is just one (early) data point. We’ll see how things move from here, but one data point is far from being a reliable trend.

Our price estimate for AT&T stands at $38.08, implying a 25% premium to market price.

Healthy iPhone Base

AT&T management commented that it has been able to mitigate the negative impact from the loss of iPhone exclusivity. There was no material increase in ‘subscriber churn’, which is a metric that shows what portion of a company’s total subscribers have defected. Management noted:

Even though iPhone exclusivity ended in the first quarter, the churn impact was minimal. Total churn was relatively stable with last year’s level, and, excluding merger impacts, postpaid churn was stable sequentially and up only seven basis points from the first quarter last year. [1]

AT&T saw about 3.6 million iPhone activations during Q1 2011, out of which about 23% were new customers to AT&T. [1] These activations were not too far from the 4.1 million figure for Q4 of 2010, which tends to be a seasonally better quarter. [2] Compared to the 2.7 million iPhone activations in Q1 2010, this was a notable increase. [3]

AT&T has pulled this off by improving its network and keeping a large amount of its postpaid subscribers (including iPhone) on family plans. The results bode well for the company given that it is becoming increasingly difficult to add new subscribers given general mobile market saturation and increased competition from both Sprint and Verizon.
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Sprint adds 1.1M subscribers, halves 1Q loss

NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint Nextel Corp. on Thursday said it added more wireless subscribers in the first quarter than it has in five years, mainly on cheap service plans, as its turnaround continued despite the new threat of Verizon's iPhone.

Sprint added a net 1.1 million subscribers in the January to March period as its contract-free Virgin Mobile and Boost brands raked in a record number of new subscribers.

Verizon's launch of the iPhone on Feb. 10 and AT&T Inc.'s price cut on an older iPhone model didn't leave Sprint completely unscathed. Sprint posted a net loss of 114,000 subscribers on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative. People weighing between smartphones on Sprint and Verizon seem to have been tipped toward Verizon by the new iPhone.

But people who were already Sprint subscribers showed no inclination to abandon their contracts and move to Verizon. Sprint reported stronger loyalty among its contract subscribers than it's ever seen.

The effect of the Verizon iPhone launch on AT&T's quarterly results was similar.

Sprint has reported losses in every quarter for almost four years. The period ended March 31 was no different, with a net loss of $439 million, or 15 cents per share. But that was down from a net loss of $865 million, or 29 cents per share, a year ago, and Sprint posted an operating profit for the first time since 2007.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $8.3 billion from $8.1 billion a year ago.

Analysts had expected a larger loss of 22 cents a share, and lower revenue of $8.2 billion.

Sprint shares rose 16 cents, or 3.3 percent, to 4.95 in morning trading.

The company has been holding the line on costs while subscriber trends have improved thanks to better customer service, a signature project of CEO Dan Hesse. In January, Sprint effectively raised prices by adding a $10 per month fee for new smartphones.

"Our strengthening brand helped us mitigate what otherwise would have been difficult to navigate: increasing our price in the face of a new iconic competitive device and widespread industry price pressure," Hesse said on a conference call.

Hesse has said that Sprint, and the health of the wireless industry as a whole, is threatened by AT&T's $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest carrier. It would leave Sprint even further behind the top two carriers, AT&T and Verizon.

Speaking to analysts and investors on a conference call, he said many of them probably welcomed the combination because it would lead to higher, more stable prices and thus better profits in the industry. But they should pay attention to what diminished competition would do, he said.

Sprint's push to develop a fourth-generation wireless data network (now part of its Clearwire Corp. subsididary) pushed Verizon to develop its own 4G network, which in turn prompted AT&T to speed up its plans, Hesse said. The U.S. now has the largest 4G network in the world.

"The U.S. has regained wireless technology and innovation supremacy," Hesse said. "If Sprint had not been a legitimate ... competitive threat, the U.S. would still be a wireless also-ran."
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Report: Apple Testing iOS 5

It appears Apple is testing iOS 5. Developer FutureTap has received a crash report from a device running the next version of Apple's mobile operating system, as confirmed via Twitter.

The crash was apparently caused by something called MKUserLocationBreadCrumb, the API of which, 9to5Mac pointed out, is related to iOS maps and location features. This means that Apple likely made some changes to map-based apps in iOS 5 that are causing problems for older versions of iOS.

Rumors have indicated that iOS could have a focus on cloud-based applications and support, which would include a "locker" for storing music, video, and photos. It could also debut a person-finding feature for tracking friends and family. On top of that, Apple said yesterday it was leveraging location data to create a traffic database for future applications, and the crash could be related to that.

Apple is expected to preview iOS 5 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that kicks off on June 5. It's likely that the OS won't be released to the public until this fall.

But what does this mean for the iPhone 5? Apple typically previews an upgrade to iOS in the spring in anticipation of unveiling a new iPhone in the summer. But if the rumors are any indication, Apple might not be launching a new iPhone this summer. There isn't a consensus among Apple rumor mongers as to when the world will see the iPhone 5. For every report that says the smartphone won't appear until this fall, there is one to counter it reporting that Apple will stick to the typical annual update cycle and unveil the device at WWDC this June.

At this point, the launch date projections are just rumors. Apple hasn't commented on the next version of iOS or the next-generation iPhone 5, and probably won't until they're both ready.
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Gore, Ex-Apple Engineers Team Up to Blow Up the Book

What do you do after working for Apple, a company whose mission seems to be nothing less than disrupting entire industries? Easy. You start a company to create your own ding in the universe.

That’s the idea behind Push Pop Press, a digital creation tool designed to blow up the concept of the book. Frictionless self-publishing is a fertile new space, but this particular startup got a little help from former vice president Al Gore, whose exacting demands on an app version of his book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis gave this would-be company its first real boost.

Developed by former Apple employees Mike Matas and Kimon Tsinteris, Push Pop Press will be a publishing platform for authors, publishers and artists to turn their books into interactive iPad or iPhone apps — no programming skills required.

“The app is the richest form of storytelling,” Matas said. “[Push Pop Press] opens doors to telling a story with more photos, more videos and interactions.”

This article is part of a series of profiles about hit apps and the successful programmers behind them.

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How Angry Birds Is Becoming the Next Super Mario
How Flipboard Turned Web Noise Into iPad Gold

Push Pop Press is pushing into a widening niche within the print industry, which is scrambling to produce digital versions of books, magazines and newspapers in hopes of reversing declining revenues.

The platform comes as a slew of competitiors seek to upend the book publishing business, a shift that once seemed improbable but now inevitable, thanks to the success of new devices such as the iPad, Kindle and Nook. Notably, Amazon began selling more e-books than printed editions just 33 months after its Kindle launched.

If e-books have been flying off the “shelves” for years, Push Pop Press aims to bring a new dimension to the platform, adding high-end graphics to the largely unadorned text offered in popular e-book editions like the Kindle. It’s the latest bet — still unpaid after some 25 years of digital publishing– that plain old text is about to undergo a major evolution as authors and readers demand more interactivity.

For magazine publishers and newspapers, one of the trendiest technology solutions involves creating iPad or Android editions of publications — for which advertisers, so far, seem to pay at rates which rival print dollars instead of web pennies.

The 800-pound gorilla in this digital space is Adobe, whose tools are used to create some tablet 280 periodicals (including the iPad version of WIRED magazine). But the complexity — and expense — of Adobe’s Creative Suite is an opportunity for new entrants in the self-publishing game.

Problem is, it’s neither easy nor cheap for dead-tree publishers to hire app programmers, or to purchase the resources necessary to digitize their publications with sexy code. And after factoring in the hefty costs of development and time spent on production, mobile apps have hardly proven a goldmine for major publishers.

If successfully scaled, Push Pop Press could become the easiest and quickest way for publishers and independent artists to turn their media into iPhone and iPad apps and take a whack at making money in the App Store.

Book apps created with Push Pop Press can take advantage of the iPad’s and iPhone’s advanced sensors, touchscreen gestures, microphone and powerful graphics chip to turn reading into a rich, interactive experience, Matas said. Videos, interactive diagrams and geotagged photos are just some elements that can be embedded in a book produced with Push Pop Press.
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South Park takes on Apple location tracking in ‘HUMANCENTiPad’

South Park's new season opened by making fun of Apple hysteria and the crazy controversy over location tracking that has erupted in the last week or so. Prepare for Steve Jobs's newest creation: the HumancentiPad!

Apple location tracking has only been an issue for a week or two, but South Park has already weighed in with a full episode dedicated to the location tracking debate.

Small spoiler: In the first episode of its 15th season, everyone at school is using their iPads until Apple “G-Men” come and start following Kyle down. When he says he doesn’t want them following him, they simply point out that he already agreed to it when he signed the latest iTunes terms and conditions. Poor guy. Eventually he is abducted by Apple and forced to become a part of Steve Jobs ultimate creation: the HumancentiPad. Meanwhile, Cartman desperately tries to get his mom to get him an iPad so he doesn’t get made fun of at school.

You have to hand it to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, they sure stay relevant. While we haven’t seen the full episode, we know Kyle’s pain. Is it really fair to be forced to agree to more than eight pages of lawyer-language terms and conditions before you use any electronic product or service? Nobody reads it all. Who knows what crazy things we’ve agreed to over the years.

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Apple rejects iPhone game about smuggling immigrants

Apple has turned down a proposed iPhone game called Smuggle Truck that features users driving a truck full of immigrants through the desert while trying to keep them from getting thrown out, The Associated Press reports.

Although Owlchemy Labs drew fire from immigrant advocates when it announced plans to create Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration, developer Alex Schwartz insists that wanted to bring attention to immigration issues, The AP says.

The game can still be downloaded on PCs and Macs, and includes a "legal mode" that portrays immigrants sitting in a waiting room for 20 years.

But not to worry. With a little deft artwork and sound-effects tweak, the company now offers Snuggle Truck, which did pass muster with Apple, according to Joystiq's Alexander Sliwinski.

"Essentially, instead of smuggling immigrants over the border, you're now bringing animals from the wilderness into the comfort of a zoo, where they are provided plenty of food, water, shelter, and state of the art health care," developer Schwartz tells Joystiq.
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40 percent of Apple game downloads are free titles with in-app purchases

Free-to-play games have become huge on Apple’s App Store in the past 19 months. Almost 40 percent of game downloads are now free titles with in-app purchases, according to a study by Xyologic, a startup which indexes and searches through App Store data.

In March, there were more than 99.9 million downloads of free iPhone games from the App Store. About 80.8 percent of all app downloads in the month of March were free. In many of these games and apps, the free-to-play model is used, where a user can pay real money through the in-app purchase feature for virtual goods such as better weapons in a game.

The scary part is that Apple has made a lot of the developers of these apps and games nervous because of its shift in stance on a particular kind of model, known as pay-per-install. In games that use this model, an app will offer an incentive for the user to install another app as a kind of cross promotion. But a couple of weeks ago, Apple cracked down on the pay-per-install model because it can be used to artificially inflate a game’s ranking in the top 25 apps in the store. That has affected pay-per-install marketing firms such as Tapjoy.

The problem is that the free-to-play model (of which the pay-per-install model is one part) has become a bigger and bigger part of the total number of app downloads and it has become a bigger percentage of revenues for developers. Those developers used pay-per-install marketing to help their apps stand out among 350,000 iOS apps. Apple feared it was leading to market manipulation. To ease Apple’s concerns, Tapjoy has limited certain promotions using the pay-per-install model.

“It may make Apple’s platform possibly less attractive vis-a-vis Google Android if developers can’t find a suitable alternative to offer walls,” the report said. “This is the biggest interference by Apple into the app economy in recent months. Its effects, at this point, are unclear.”

While Apple makes much more money with the App Store than Google does with the Android Market, the number of apps is another story now. Xyologic says that in March, 28,963 new apps debuted in the Android Market, while 18,787 debuted in Apple’s store.

Apple has to be careful about how it resolves the pay-per-install problem, if it wants to hang on to its developers. The top developers affected by Apple’s decision likely include Glu Mobile, which saw 2.48 million downloads of free games with in-app purchases in March. The second-ranked company was Pocket Gems, with 1.55 million downloads. That was followed by TeamLava (part of Storm8) with 1.41 million; Craneball Studios with 1.41 million; Gameview Studios with 1.41 million; Sunstorm Interactive with 1.18 million; Capcom Interactive with 969,000; Backflip Studios with 933,000; Storm8 with 752,000; and BayView Labs (DeNA) with 723,000.

Xyologic says that almost all of the paid games on the App Store are priced below $3.99. Of the 8,017 iPhone apps offering in-app purchases in the App Store in the U.S., some 2,156 of them were free games with in-app purchases. That was up from 709 in September. Overall, about 4 percent of game apps account for 40 percent of all downloads.

Of the 150 top free games on the App Store, 94 games, or 63 percent, are games with in-app purchases. These are some of the observations based on the data that Xyologic dug out through its search service. Berlin-based Xyologic indexes 610,000 apps in the App Store, the Android Market, and the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace on a monthly basis. It can rank the number of downloads for each app and publisher in the month, according to Matthaus Krzykowski (an occasional VentureBeat contributor), co-founder of Xyologic.
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