All three carriers last Friday launched the new iPhone 3.0 operating software which gives existing iPhones some of the same features as the new model.
The new 3G S handset went on sale in the US on Friday morning, greeted by much smaller lines and less hoopla than previous models. In New York, a few hundred queued for the 7am opening of Apple’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue a fraction of the number who lined up around the block for last year’s launch.
Apple and AT&T, the phone’s sole US carrier, defused the drama by taking orders for “hundreds of thousands” online.
In Australia, Optus’s iPhone 3.0 software launch has been marked by strong protests over the carrier’s decision to charge $9.99 a month for access to “tethering”, a service which allows an iPhone to be used as a broadband modem for a laptop. Many users believe tethering should be free. Optus Consumer MD Michael Smith is expected to defend the charge at today’s media launch in Sydney.
In Australia the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is set to watch closely a US Federal Communications Commission investigation as to whether competition and consumers are harmed by a commonplace practice in which the largest mobile phone carriers get exclusive access to popular handsets, FCC interim chairman Michael Copps said.
The commission “should determine whether some of these arrangements adversely restrict consumer choice or harm the development of innovative devices,” Copps said. If the commission finds harm, “it should take appropriate action,” he said. The investigation will be handled by the FCC’s bureau on competition.
A year ago, when the FCC was dominated by Republicans, rural carriers complained to the FCC that the exclusive deals put them at a competitive disadvantage because they couldn’t offer the most desirable handsets, such as the iPhone or Palm Pre, to current and potential future subscribers.
Recently, the Senate held a hearing on the practice. Four senators sent a letter to Copps urging FCC action on the rural carriers’ complaint. And Julius Genachowski, the president’s nominee to chair the FCC, said he would review the complaints if confirmed.