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Loose Lips Sink 3G iPhones
As recently as September, Apple was playing coy when it came to a rumored 3G iPhone. At a news conference that month Steve Jobs told reporters a phone wouldn't appear before they can "see the battery lives for 3G get back up into
the five-plus-hour range." Nevertheless, its carrier seems to have less compulsion to hold back. Yesterday, AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson all but announced an impending 3G iPhone, responding to a reporter's question about the possibility with: "You'll have it next year." Apple declined to comment, but presumably isn't thrilled about the slip—especially when it comes on the tails of the holiday wish-list deluge.
Meanwhile, on PPX the news incited a flurry of trading on our 3G iPhone proposition. But until Apple proffers an announcement of its own, the stock's up for grabs.—Abby Seiff
Steve's Blog: Third-Party iPhone/iPod Apps Are Back
The Web is still a-twitter after Steve Jobs's pronouncement yesterday that an official software development kit is in the works (due next year) for the iPhone, allowing programmers to build native third-party applications. There's something about the tone of this communique—effectively a CEO's blog post—that I just love, so to quote:
Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users.
As many are pointing out as the dust begins to settle today, Steve saved the best for his love note's conclusion:
P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch.
While programming for the iPhone is great and all, that last juicy morsel is what seems to be getting Mac developers most excited. No matter how successful Apple's superphone becomes, its sales will likely remain a drop in the ocean when compared to the iPod, a gadget that has managed to sink its hooks into mass consumer consciousness like none before it. Safely assuming most future 'Pod permutations will be sporting higher-performance processors and an OS X operating system like the iPod touch, developers are licking their chops at the prospect of selling their applications to such a huge market of users.
In the end, though, Apple will have final say over what apps can and can't do via an "an advanced system which will...protect users from malicious programs." So you can probably stop crossing your fingers for that iPhone Bit Torrent client. The outlaw days were fun while they lasted. —John Mahoney
And they're off. George Hotz, New Jersey blogger and hacker extraordinaire, gets his name in the paper (and in our hearts) for pulling off a network transfer on an iPhone. In his YouTube footage you can clearly see the T-Mobile insignia (the iPhone runs AT&T, if you didn't know).
How he did it I don't understand. But it means that not only those of you stuck with T-Mobile now have a shot at the iPhone, but now anyone anywhere in the world can buy a prepaid GSM card and use Apple's holy grail.
It takes a few steps to pull off (and a lot of Red Bull), but heck if the kid hasn't done what Apple should have done in the first place. —Jacob Ward
(p.s. Classy kid. He takes time to thank his friends and fans at the outset, and Mom raised him right — he thanks "the dev team for a great product.")
Two Defective iPhones in Less Than Two Months: What's Going on Here?
I’m sending my iPhone back to Apple for repair this weekend for the second time, after only a month and a half or so of total ownership. My first piece suffered the dead-zone problem along the bottom edge of the touchscreen, and now last night, my brand-new replacement phone’s earpiece speaker conked out for no apparent reason after only a few weeks of use. This in itself is notable—that the iPhone seems to be suffering from some isolated but pretty serious manufacturing defects in its infancy. I could rant and rave about this fairly cut-and-dry issue along with everyone else, but instead this surprising second failure (and the second switch back to my previous phone while I wait for a new iPhone from Apple Care, God bless ’em) got me thinking more broadly about why, when asked how I like the iPhone, I invariably reply “Eh, it’s OK.”
Ultimately, the iPhone is still, well, a mobile phone: A nearly classless device that has integrated itself deeper into the daily lives of modern humans around the world than arguably any other piece of technology to date. Something that gets left in taxicabs, gets a drink spilled on it, gets dropped in the dirt, gets carried around in pockets and purses along with keys, coins and who knows what else every waking hour. To have a device this personal, this integral to day-to-day life, be the product of such a cultural moment, to be featured on local news broadcasts, to cost $600 and thus have to be guarded with your life, just doesn't feel right. A mobile phone in today's world is, above all, utilitarian, which sadly does not necessarily mean beautifully designed or even fun to use (especially in the U.S.). It should just get the job done.
Which brings up another point: The various incredibly simple jobs that other phones do well that the iPhone either can't do or does poorly is frankly shameful. Some who bought in to the advance hype might have expected the iPhone to do your laundry (and might be disappointed now to find that it doesn't). But this isn't the kind of thing I'm talking about. I'm talking about sending files to a computer or another phone via Bluetooth; easily texting a picture to a friend or uploading one to Flickr; being able to add your own MP3 ringtones easily (wirelessly, even); or even being able to send a text message to more than one person, for heaven’s sake.
At first I didn't think these well-reported limitations were deal breakers, because honestly, I don't necessarily live or die by whether I can send photos I've just taken to my computer wirelessly or if I have to use a cable. But I can recall several instances, at both work and play, when this feature on my old phone was either very handy or actually saved my butt (when I didn't have a data cable on me). And I damn well like having Van Halen's "Jump" as my ringtone (something that's possible on the iPhone only through a complex backdoor hack). That my $600 Jesus Phone can surf the Web and make calls so elegantly but can't do some very useful, very basic things out of the box sets off something that I can only describe as consumer-electronic cognitive dissonance. You can't begin to understand this dissonance by reading a spec sheet—it can only come after using this thing for an extended period of time. After which, of course, it's likely too late to return it.
It all comes back, I think, to Apple’s tendency to idiot-proof its hardware, especially its consumer electronics. The fact that most mobile phones, in their complexity, can do much more than the typical user realizes is one of the main problems Apple’s design team attempted to solve with the iPhone—and for the most part, they succeeded. They refined the user interface of these basic tasks to the point that it's a piece of cake—nay, a Joy with a capital 'J'—for almost anyone to pick up the iPhone and start using it for a few minutes. The sacrifice, however, is that in this quest for clarity via simplicity, what is eliminated are the small but important touches that might confuse Joe Blow but that users patient enough to learn will appreciate immensely. These are what the iPhone lacks.
Aside from all that, though, it's the access to an unlimited mobile data plan—something that remains prohibitively expensive in this country for the majority of mobile users and that I personally have never used before the iPhone—that has been truly game-changing for me. I think it's telling, though, that I enjoy unlimited data just as much, or more, when the iPhone is in the shop and I bust out my older, cheaper (and unlocked!) smartphone (Yes, AT&T's unlimited iPhone data plan—a bargain at $60 per month including voice—works with other phones).
Considering all these frustrating weaknesses along with an incredibly high cost of ownership of some fairly buggy hardware, and I'm starting to wonder what kind of revolt lies in store for us when first-gen iPhone users' warranties start to expire come July '08. Let alone next week, when you instantly burn up $600 by accidentally leaving it at the bar. So I definitely join the others who have said to wait for the next version, but in addition, I have to question whether any iteration of a super-high-end yet ultimately restrictive device such as the iPhone can tackle the huge job of being the go-to consumer electronic device for the masses, as Apple so clearly hopes. —John Mahoney
Today is a special day for PPX—our first proposition has reached its endpoint. As screenshots, binaries and source code for the iPhone's "hello world" application surfaced late Sunday, the necessary verifications was there to finally confirm that the iPhone Dev team has indeed succeeded in running a simple third-party application. Trading is currently suspended on IPHACK, and pending final approval, the stock will officially delist sometime in the next 24-48 hours. Holders of IPHACK rejoice—you just made some money (POP$100 per share, to be exact). For the record, PPX called it from the beginning: the price reached POP$80 (80% probability) less than a week after the iPhone's release and didn't look back.
As you can see, the application doesn't do too much yet (other than display a greeting to "netkas," one of the hackers responsible - see more on his blog), but "hello world" is the necessary first step for any programming platform to grow. The door is open—now it's only a matter of time until more full-featured apps start to pop up.
The interesting question now is how will Apple respond? Will they attempt to plug the hole via a software update? Fully embrace the move and release an official software development kit for programmers? Or simply ignore it? My money, for now, is on the latter—with the iPod, anyway, Apple has been fairly tolerant, allowing the iPod Linux crew for instance to hack away in relative comfort. But the iPhone is a decidedly different beast, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Hmm, do I smell PPX prop potential? —John Mahoney
It had to happen at some point. A group of security experts from a company called Independent Security Evaluators figured out a way to sneak past the iPhone’s defenses and pull off the user’s personal information. To do so, the group set up a web page with malicious code. In the experiment they ran, if someone accesses this page through a Safari browser, the code grabs the person’s text messages, the call log, address book, and voicemail data, then makes it all available to the hacker. But the group added that it could tweak the code to swipe passwords, too—it can essentially pull out anything they want. Don’t go switching off your iPhone, though. The group has warned Apple already, and suggested a possible fix. There’s also no evidence that anyone has tried this with bad intentions. For those of you who are concerned, Independent Security Evaluators suggest taking the same precautions you would with a laptop. Use only secure WiFi, and don’t visit suspicious Web pages, and don’t click through links in shady emails. Computer scientist Charlie Miller, one of the team members, will be presenting the detailed results of their study at the BlackHat computer security conference in Las Vegas on August 2.—Gregory Mone
Hello World: Third-Party Application Running on a Hacked iPhone?
The race to hack the iPhone was taken up a notch today by the folks at the iPhone Dev Wiki (Google it, they still don't want links in to avoid crashing their servers), as one of the team's most dedicated members claims to have written, compiled and ran a "hello world" application—geek-speak for a test program that simply displays the text "hello world"—on the iPhone. Patrick Walton (or "Nightwatch"), who appears to either be a student or professor at the University of Chicago, is being credited with the break-through.
Once a video surfaces and others and/or others are able to confirm the process, we'll know for sure. Good work PPX traders, you called it: the proposition has been valued at POP$80 or above since the iPhone's release, and it's currently trading at POP$91 and climbing. —John Mahoney
Duke University Says iPhones Might be Jamming Network
Let’s hope this isn’t another false accusation, delivered before the verdict is in. A Duke University spokesman says the college has been working with Apple in preparation for the start of the school year, because that company’s new iPhones have supposedly frozen parts of the school’s wireless network for up to ten minutes at a time. Apparently a single iPhone requesting access to the network was enough to stall parts of the system, and there are already as many as 150 of the devices trying to get online. Administrators noticed the problem nine times in the last week alone. Now the network team is trying to fix the glitch before the full student body returns for classes next week. But the bigger question, to us: Who is buying all these kids iPhones? Yes, they are bright students, but how in the name of Jobs are they convincing their parents to pay $2,000 a year for their phones? There’s a good explanation of the possible network issues, but not the spoiled student problem, here.—Gregory Mone
Note to Apple: The iPhone is Not the Best iPod You've Ever Made
There are plenty of well-publicized gripes with the iPhone. A slow mobile data network, tricky keyboard, no MMS, etc. The list goes on. None of the big spec-related weaknesses have proven to be dealbreakers for me yet as I've been using the iPhone this week (I'm trying to defer to the iPhone instead of my home PC, stereo, television and pretty much any other gadget to test its convergence abilities accordingly).
In a device billed to be all about its revolutionary user interface software, with even the tiniest of details carefully though-out in true Apple fashion for ease of use, it's logical to assume that the phone's most painful shortcomings will also be revealed in the smaller details.
Case-in-point: when I first plugged in the iPhone to my home computer after its initial sync, its music tracks were grayed-out in iTunes. I thought this may have had to do with using a different computer from the one I used to activate the phone, but alas, after a bit more research, it turns out this is default behavior. Not only can you not play songs on your iPhone via iTunes, but you also cannot manually drag-and-drop media files for loading into its memory like every other iPod. You can only sync the iPhone with a playlist or library on a single computer.
So if you use more than one computer to listen to and organize your music, you're out of luck—the only way to load music onto the iPhone is to have it mirror an iTunes playlist on your computer track-for-track. Any songs on your iPhone that aren't on the computer you're syncing with are deleted.
I keep different music collections on my computers at work and at home. With my dusty old black-and-white iPod I can simply plug in at work and load an album I may not have at home without erasing the songs that only live on my home computer. But with the iPhone, I have to choose which computer to use exclusively.
Sure, this prevents you from plugging your iPhone into all of your coworkers' computers and grabbing their music without paying for it (again, something all other iPods can do), but it also prevents you from loading the album you just legally purchased from the iTunes store or ripped from one of the CDs you keep at work for your trip home.
So buried beneath the legitimately great touch interface, a larger screen and snazzy Cover Flow browser lies a limitation that could be minor to some, but fairly significant to others. If Apple is serious about a DRM-free future, why the uncharacteristically paranoid feature crippling? Let's hope this gets hacked (or updated) soon. —John Mahoney
On Friday, we dispatched our crack team of videographers to witness the iPhone madness at the Manhattan Apple flagship store on 5th Avenue, the Soho Apple store, and several AT&T stores. They made a little documentary so we could relive the launch of the decade's most overhyped gadget again and again, forever. And it's funny stuff: Don't miss the slow-mo jog to glory as the first iPhone recipient enters the hallowed glass cube... and the receiving line of congratulatory Apple employees on his way out is also a sight to behold.
We've got three iPhones circulating around the office today, and, well, frankly everyone's a little bored with them. Has anyone started working on a hack to make these things run third party software? Tell us in the comments: PPX traders are dying to know. —Megan Miller