iPhone UK launch: Liveblogging the Apple press conference

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So, here we go again. It’s a cold September morning, and yet again, we’re all here, poised, ready and waiting for an Apple announcement. Except this one is slightly different.

We know what the product is. We don’t know who’s going to tell us about it (there are rumours that we’ll get an Actual Steve Sighting) and we’re not entirely sure what the details are going to be (although the smart money is on O2). It’s also UK specific, lending further weight to the iPhone-report stuff. If Steve does turn up, I’m three rows from the front. If the phone does go to O2, I have an O2 contract. And if it’s not an iPhone announcement? Well, we’re all screwed.

Oh my god. It’s him. It’s Steve.

So, it’s confirmed. We’re all here for the launch of the iPhone. That’s a relief – our homework was for the right subject.

Apparently the iPhone is the best iPod they’ve ever made – screen, interface, etc. It’s the best. He’s claiming it’s the first time the internet has been in your pocket – the iP is claimed to have the browser that means you really can use the internet in your pocket. We’d argue unless they’re going to stick some 3G connectivity on this then it’s not entirely true- we’re not as easy to please as the US customers.

Now we’re running through customer satisfaction results. 1 million iPhones sold.
Carrier announcement – who’s it going to be?? Duh, duh, duuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
It’s O2.

Shocker. There’s a round of applause. We’re definitely at an Apple conference.
Here it’s going to cost 269 pounds inc VAT. It’ll be available November 9th. There’s no mention of length of cost of contract yet though.

We’re watching the ads they’re going to show in the UK, having just been asked if we want to see the advert. Ooh, audience participation. I like it.

The Guardian website features heavily in the adverts. There’s a few disgruntled rival paper journos here. The ads are very different to the iPod ads – there’s no bright colours, just lots of clean, clear explanations.

Matthew Key, O2 CEO.
He LOVES the iPhone. With all his heart. And he wants to share the love (for 269 pounds). Apparently, O2 is about bringing great customer experiences (not great customer call centers though…). 40% of the texts in the UK are sent from O2 apparently.

Each O2 store will have an expert on the iPhone available.

Features: visual voicemail. You can slide through a bar to find the right bit of a message.

Tariff:
3 diff tariffs. All have unlimited data. He’s really laboring this point.
35 quid –
45 quid –
55 quid –
Changing between providers – you can keep your number. Well, dur. You’ve already been able to do that.

The ip customers will have their own call center with 1000 experts. Are they expecting problems, then?

Ah, a nice bit of humanity. CEO Matt used Googlemaps to pick up his daughter from a party. How Very Steve.

The phone will always search for the best available network. Wifi is normally best. iPhone customers will be allowed to use 7,500 hotspots in the UK. Not sure where? If that’s not available they’ll slip into EDGE. Which is “perfectly adequate for the average customer”. Perhaps he means the average US customer.

Question time.
Why no 3G network?
Steve answers it’s because the chips drain power.
Phone has a talk time of 8 hours, and 3G is just 2-3 hours. When you use your phone to listen to music you don’t want to be worried that you’re going to drain the battery. He says it will happen late 2009, but they can’t afford the trade off yet. Blackberry use EDGE, Googlemaps are ok on it. Rather than cutting out battery life, they’ve put WiFi capabilities in it.

Hotspots
Will customer pay? No. They’re using The Cloud (heavily used in the City of London, and some random towns). Device will automatically pick it up, at home, office or The Cloud.

Activation
Phones will be activated the same way as in the US. You activate it on your home computer and activates through iTunes. Software updates will also be delivered through iTunes. Things will be updated, in the same way that the iPod is updated.

Some eagle eyed journo saw a new icon on the phone. It’s a purple button and it’s going to roll out on a software update. It’s the ability to use the iTunes store through WiFi, the same way the Touch has.

Contract length – 18 month contract – that’s not too bad.
“unlimited” – is it capped? Yes, fair usage. To break it, you’re looking at 14,000 internet pages per day.

Will UK users be ok about shelling out for a mobile, when they’re normally free?
They argue that it’s more than a phone. You pay for an iPod, therefore you should pay for the iPhone. Steve “you get what you pay for “.

Unlocking the phone – is it a concern?
Steve reckons it’s like the DRM on iPods. People will always try to create hacks. Doesn’t actually answer how worried he is about it.

What kind of investment has been made into the network?
I’ve noticed EDGE popping up on my Blackberry recently – this is as a result of the work they’ve been doing on the network. More than just the iPhone customers who benefit. A launch 30% of the network will be EDGE.

Ooh, good question. Did O2 know that the iPhone Touch was going to be launched and do you think that it’ll be harmful to sales?
You’ve got to accept that Apple are forward looking, and are always going to be able to come out with new products.
Steve “the iPod Touch is the training wheels for the iPhone”. Nice soundbite stevo.

How many are they going to sell before Christmas?
Research suggests that 40% of other networks customers would swap for the iPhone.
Why is it more expensive in the US? VAT is included in the US. It’s more expensive to do business her in the UK. Grrr. Whatevs.

Steve dated a few networks before they got married to O2. There are now a few upset girlfriends out there. Vodafone as your girlfriend? Yuck.

Steve wants 10 billion iPhones [as someone quite rightly pointed out, with a population of 6 billion, this will be tough. I believe he might have said 10 million] want to be sold by2008. No idea what proportion should come from Europe.
He won’t be drawn on any plans for the rest of Europe.

Is the iPhone going to be made open source?
The key is Web2.0. Facebook has already got iPhone apps. They haven’t made any non-internet decision yet. Don’t want to trade off reliability.
The pricing will change in the future, but probably not to the same extent that the US saw a price drop. They’re focusing on the next product already.

Will European customers be disappointed with 2 megp?
Megapixel wars – people should not be drawn into it. The key is if you don’t have low light sensors to take a decent picture.
Unlimited data will roll out to all data packages regardless of iPhone or not on O2 from 1st October.

Susi Weaser

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