Sunday, 4 November 2007

It's official: iPhone 1.1.2

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It's official: iPhone 1.1.2

We get some hands-on time with version 1.1.2 of the Apple iPhone firmware, courtesy of our UK iPhone.

Click to enlarge 1 of 3 The new firmware comes pre-installed on UK iPhones. [more images]In the UK, November 9th is D-day for everything iPhone. One detail about this date strikes the fear of god into iPhone hackers, however: with the UK phone launching on firmware 1.1.2, it's a question of time before the rest of the world's jesus phones will follow.

As part of our iPhone review, we've been having a play around with the new firmware this week, and there are plenty of cool new changes that will make Apple's cell a truly global affair.

First off, there's support for dozens of languages, so if you happen to be a fluent Cantonese speaker, the phone has all the relevant character sets so you can display your language properly.

There's full support for French and German, with special keyboard lay-outs on the ready to tackle accented characters - perfectly understandable, of course, what with the phone heading for launch across the channel this month too.

And then there's access to The Cloud WiFi hotspots, which is already available to iPod Touch customers. This exclusive iPhone deal will let UK punters get onto the web, and use wi-fi to download tunes using the iTunes WiFi store, or just zip around the web at broadband pace, all for free!

Undoubtedly, 1.1.2 will send the hacking community into frenzy - the previous update certainly did. We're not advocating hacking your iPod in any way, of course, but some gentle experimentation shows that the TIFF exploit (described over at MacNN) which could be used to jailbreak and hack the 1.1.1 iPhone has been closed, rendering the latest attempts to jailbreak the phone obsolete.

It'll all become clear this Friday when the iPhone finally launches here in Britain - and when the 1.1.2 update starts being seeded out to iPhone users all over the place.

Matthew Key opens door to iPhone in the UK

Apple's choice of O2 as a network partner followed a weekend call saying 'be in California on Tuesday', writes Dominic White

Just before eight on a wet Saturday in June, Matthew Key woke up with a start – the mobile phone on his bedside table was ringing.

He glanced at the screen and saw, to his slight irritation, that his boss Peter Erskine was calling. "I thought to myself, 'What on earth is Peter ringing me at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning for?' " says the O2 UK chief executive.

" 'We've had a call from Apple,' said Peter. 'They want us to be in Cupertino in California on Tuesday'." Key, who runs the UK's largest mobile network operator, boasting 18m customers, didn't have to ask why.

Rumours of a plot by Apple to enter the mobile market had been swirling for months. But, as ever with the notoriously secretive US computer giant, it was all shrouded in mystery.

Key steeled himself to enter battle with Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile to bring the iPhone, the most eagerly awaited mobile yet, to the UK.

Next Friday the gadget – which marries Apple's iPod digital music player with one of the world's most advanced mobiles – finally goes on sale here... and it's only on O2.
Key has ordered hundreds of thousands of the gadgets – this week named ''Invention of the Year" by Time magazine. Even at £269 each, he expects the iPhone to be O2 UK's biggest seller this Christmas ''by a mile".

But some rivals say O2 has paid a heavy price for its multi-year exclusive deal, claiming Apple will make all the money. They have also slammed the device for not matching 3G web-surfing.

The 44-year-old Londoner has choice words for those critics, but first he has invited me to his office in Slough to tell the story of how O2 landed the deal – and what it's like to do business with the most iconic computer company in the world.
Key recalls arriving at Apple HQ that Tuesday morning with Cesar Alierta and Julio Linares, number one and two at O2's Spanish owner, Telefonica. They were ushered to the office of Steve Jobs, who welcomed them in, wearing trademark jeans, black top, and trainers.

''He's a hugely impressive guy, hugely impressive guy," beams Key, remembering his first encounter with the quasi-legendary Apple founder. ''He clearly knows his stuff in a level of detail that for someone at that level is mindblowing, and he has a great incisiveness in terms of what the customer wants and needs in products."
Jobs and his henchmen wanted a single network partner but still didn't know how they were going to launch the iPhone in the UK; unlike Key, once Jobs had shown him the device.

''I played with it for two minutes and just thought, 'oh my God, this is leagues above anything I've ever seen before'," he gushes (to be fair, so do most people who've seen the device). ''If you see the photo functionality, watch videos on it on YouTube, or the weather, or just see the threading on the texting, or the visual voicemail."
Apple's choice was made harder by the crowded nature of Britain's mobile market, whereas in France and Germany, it has plumped for the fairly clear market leaders, Orange and T-Mobile respectively.

Key, very much a straight-talking bloke (albeit with a sentimental streak), admitted to Jobs that O2 would need to use Carphone Warehouse as a retail partner to maximise distribution.

His openness chimed with Apple, which it later emerged had already mystery-shopped all the networks' stores in the UK – something Jobs did for himself following a subsequent meeting with Key in London's West End.

''When we left two hours later, I said to Cesar, 'that's a device I've got to offer. In the UK market, where the top four networks have pretty much equal shares, it offers a great way for me to get a hell of a lot of high-value customers on to O2 and drive up data usage [to help offset pressure on voice call revenues]'."

Alierta told Key to negotiate the deal himself, a testament, says the O2 UK chief, to the way Telefonica has left O2 to run its own shop since the Spaniards bought the company in early 2006, a year after he took the helm at the UK business.
He admits to having worried at the time of the takeover that Telefonica might ''do a France Telecom" – a reference to the way he reckons that the former French monopoly has ''screwed up" Orange.

In fact, surveys today show that O2 has usurped Orange's place as the best-loved mobile network, helped most recently by the successful relaunch of the much-ridiculed Millennium Dome as The O2 concert arena. Key, who spearheaded that deal too, reveals he had to go back to his board three times to get it signed.
He also recalls feeling ''like a fish out of water" when he had to make a speech to 17,000 O2 staff at the opening of the venue, when the former county athlete was sandwiched between performances by Dermot O'Leary, Tom Jones, Peter Kay, and the Kaiser Chiefs.

But when Apple's executives visited the venue for another iPhone meeting, it was the blue lightbulbs in the white sofas of the VIP lounge that most impressed them. ''We were in the bar talking about how many iterations of this blue bulb we went through to get the colour just right for our brand," laughs Key. "And they said later that they realised then just how passionate we are, like them, about our brand in terms of obsessive attention to detail."

Jobs' men hammered out the deal with Key's team in Slough the following Saturday ''over Marks & Spencer's sandwiches". Vodafone, Orange and
T-Mobile had all thought at some stage that they were in prime position for the contract instead, and Jobs later admitted that Apple had upset some networks over the selection process.

Rumours were rife that O2 had ceded as much as 40pc of revenues from users' bills to Apple (rumours that Key rubbishes). Meanwhile, Arun Sarin, Vodafone chief executive, said he was put off in part by the iPhone's lack of 3G capability.

One rival even claimed O2 had struck a ''madly money- losing" deal. When I ask Key, a former accountant and finance director of O2 UK, about that comment, he snorts, pauses, and deadpans: ''It's sour grapes. We don't sign bad deals."

There is ''no question", he says, whether O2 will make money over the lifetime of the contract, during which he expects three-quarters of iPhone customers to come from other networks. ''For me to sign a – whatever it is –'madly money-losing deal', well, it's almost a slight on my professional integrity, isn't it? Why would I do that?"
He admits iPhone has limitations: unless you're in a WiFi hotspot, he says, there is little point trying to watch YouTube videos on the phone, and reports that the handset can be hacked are ''a concern", albeit one he predicts that Apple will counter admirably.

In an industry so often guilty of hype, the iPhone is by far the most hyped device yet, so does Key worry that this trophy contract might yet prove a hubristic moment in his and O2's history?

"No I don't," he says plainly. ''If I look at the balance of risk and reward... the O2 arena was a lot bolder than the iPhone – it was really just a concept... but with the iPhone, we already have seen that it works in the US."

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