Mac Bloggers on Surprise Products, Snagging 3G iPhones and Squeezing Out Battery Life
What in the world was Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer talking about when he mentioned a new product with "technologies and features that others can't match" at Apple's quarterly conference call? Let the guessing -- and wishing -- begin. The Mac blog world this week also saw readers offering each other tips on how to get an iPhone 3G and how to save battery power once it's in their hands.
07/25/08 4:00 AM PT
While Apple's third quarter financial performance report kicked off the week's news, it was Apple's Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer's commentary about a possible mystery product that really had bloggers typing.
The iPhone 3G remains a hot topic as well, but finding one is still posing a problem for many would-be owners, and for those who have an iPhone 3G in hand, the challenge is keeping it running throughout the day.
Apple's third quarter financial report had all the expected raw numbers: Apple posted revenue of US$7.46 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.07 billion -- or $1.19 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $5.41 billion and net quarterly profit of $818 million, or $0.92 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 34.8 percent, down from 36.9 percent last year. International sales accounted for 42 percent of the quarter's revenue.
Apple shipped about 2.5 million Macintosh computers for a whopping 41 percent unit growth and 43 percent revenue growth over the year-ago quarter, with iPod sales numbering 11,011,000 during the quarter, representing 12 percent unit growth and seven percent revenue growth. Quarterly iPhone units sold were 717,000 compared to 270,000 in the year-ago-quarter.
"We're proud to report the best June quarter for both revenue and earnings in Apple's history," noted Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO.
"We set a new record for Mac sales, we think we have a real winner with our new iPhone 3G, and we're busy finishing several more wonderful new products to launch in the coming months," he added.
Mystery Product or Mystery Pricing?
Mac bloggers, however, were quick to notice Oppenheimer's comments on a new product transition. An AppleInsider post on the subject noted, "The new, unnamed product will continue to have 'technologies and features that others can't match,' according to the CFO."
Commenters were quick to offer their own ideas -- or hopes and dreams -- with many hoping for a less expensive MacBook Pro, an aluminum MacBook, or cut-rate pricing on the MacBook Air.
"The only products Apple sells that can shut out rivals are iPods, and there already are no real rivals, and not likely to be any in the future. The iPod Touch is of course due for a price reduction," noted elroth on the AppleInsider post, adding, "The Apple TV? I don't see how anything regarding the Apple TV could shut out rivals, since the market is so small and fragmented right now, and Apple doesn't have enough content."
The Baltimore Sun's Apple a Day blogger David Zeiler believes the mystery product will contain a touchscreen, noting, "I believe it could be the long-rumored Mac tablet PC."
The dark horse may be the Mac mini, which has been plagued with pricing that's often undercut by PC manufacturers like Dell. The Mac mini also seems pretty overdue for a product refresh.
"I'd like to see a cheap mid-line computer," Sven Rafferty, technology blogger and director of Internet technology for hyperSven, told MacNewsWorld.
"Many complain for the lack of this between the Mac mini and iMac. I don't know if it'll happen, but it may. In fact, it may just be a replacement for the Mac mini all together. This would be a surprise since Apple has focused so much on consumer electronics and not its roots as of late," he added.
Got iPhone 3G?
For many iPhone 3G buyers, the wait is far longer than for those who stood at the front of the lines on July 11, when the first iPhone 3Gs hit the streets.
Lonnie Lazar, posting on the Cult of Mac blog, noted that AT&T has authorized some Northern California store managers to begin taking iPhone 3G pre-sale orders with a promise of 72-hour availability.
"I called my local San Francisco AT&T store upon hearing this, and they knew nothing about it. (I think SF counts as "Northern California.") The agent on the phone quoted me 20 days to a month for pre-orders to be delivered," noted Willo on the Cult of Mac post.
Others have found success. "I then went to the nearest AT&T store, and put in my reservation thinking that it would take the entire seven days they said at the store to arrive. It got there within three days, and the overall experience was much more satisfying than driving store to store and wasting time and gas. When my iPhone arrived, the AT&T store rep called and let me know it was there, and within 25 minutes I was up and running. I would highly recommend this option," noted Lance.
Others have found novel ways to track down an iPhone. 9to5mac posted a note about an iPhone-based iPhone 3G availability tracker that updates its information based on Apple's inventory information for its retail stores. But even so, the app might not work correctly.
"Used the app and saw stock levels for my local store change from none to two models, went to the store and they had nothing, app still says they have 2 models in stock (6 hours later). Not so sure the accuracy can be trusted at all," an anonymous 9to5Mac user posted.
AT&T Says Just Order It Already
"We've seen incredible demand for the iPhone 3G," Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations for AT&T Mobility, told MacNewsWorld, noting that AT&T sold out at the launch of the iPhone 3G on July 11.
"In fact, in the first 12 days it was on sale, we actually sold nearly twice as many in a similar period as the first iPhone," he added.
Most AT&T customers are purchasing via direct fulfillment, wherein the customer buys from AT&T and the iPhone 3G is put on order. When the AT&T store receives new stock, the store calls and the customer comes running to get the shiny new iPhone -- but it isn't a race. AT&T is doling out the units on a first-ordered, first-served basis.
So what's the real wait time?
"The wait times on average are 13 to 14 days following the purchase, though it could be quicker," Siegel said.
The amount of stock available comes from Apple, so there's little AT&T can do to make it come faster. "We hope to be restocking our stores as soon as we can," Siegel said, noting that some customers have been able to get new phones in as little as a few days.
So what's the best shot at getting an iPhone? Order it from AT&T, and when AT&T gets the units, they'll ship out to customer stores for delivery as soon as possible -- that is, unless you happen to get lucky at an Apple retail store, of course, or are looking to buy in an international location. Either way, demand is still raging.
No More Juice!
While the iPhone 3G has been getting hammered by critics for not having enough battery power to get it through the day, lots of bloggers are offering tips on how to squeak out more life.
Most blogs are hitting the obvious tips -- turn off Bluetooth and WiFi if you don't need it, don't use the GPS unless you really need it, ignore 3G and use EDGE-based networks instead for non-Web use, don't use the new push e-mail and calendar features unless you must, and close any applications that could be left running in the background (by holding the Home button down for about four seconds).
"I have found that if you turn off location services, I'm getting about 30-40 percent more battery left by the end of the day. Of course when you use maps, it turns it back on..but otherwise leave it off...it helped a ton," commented David on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) post on the subject.
Still, the iPhone 3G may be stuck in a perfect storm of battery issues, some of which aren't really the battery's fault at all.
It's a combination of things -- 3G by itself is a battery drain, but doesn't account for all the problems people are having because Apple improved the battery for the 3G model, said Avi Greengart, research director of wireless devices for Current Analysis. "What's killing the battery is the combination of 3G, push e-mail and additional use -- and uses," he told MacNewsWorld.
"With corporate e-mail, games, applications and a better (faster) browsing experience outside of hotspots, I'm using the iPhone more and more often than I used the original. Where the original iPhone would last a whole day, my iPhone 3G often dies mid-afternoon," he explained.
"I have had similar issues with Samsung's Instinct when I used the browser, e-mail, GPS and TV functionality heavily while out on the road. Samsung seems to have anticipated this and includes a spare battery and a separate charger for it. That's not possible on the iPhone, though because Apple has sealed in the battery," he added.
Now if Apple could just develop a really cool-looking battery pack ...