Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’


I wonder if many will remember the small task I gave myself half a year ago? When I commenced that “project”, I projected 1.5 years for the entire project to be completed. Well, it is done; I had finished tagging/correcting/organizing/updating/revamping/re-ripping my music library ahead of schedule. It was frustrating at times, almost futile but I persevered. Today, I present my new iTunes library:

Go on, expand this thumbnail 😉

It took a lot of effort & perseverance, not to mention time. The irony of it all is now I literally have to search for non-western songs using the appropriate characters, i.e. I can’t easily locate my Japanese or Korean titles any more. Despite all the hassle, I’m pretty pleased with the end-result. The end of this task is succeeded by another frightening one: synchronizing my iPod to this new library. Frightening, as I have a lot of application-specific data on my iPod & I’m afraid sync-ing to a new library will wipe the iPod clean. Nonetheless, it had to be done (otherwise I clean up my library for?). So with much trepidation (& adequate backup of critical materials wherever possible), I proceed to connect my iPod to the new library for the first time. I shall share a few of my observations for anyone who likes to tinker with iTunes and iPod synchronization.

 

The Observations

I was perplexed why the new iTunes library didn't immediately try to overwrite my iPod with "emptiness" upon connection; then I realized I'd this option "unchecked" all this while. In fact, I'd advise everyone to leave this option unchecked to safe-guard against any unintended synchronization.

 

Connecting my iPod Touch to the new library does not initiate a sync automatically as I’d the “Prevent iDevice from syncing automatically” option unchecked all this while.

EDIT: I strongly advise to leave that option unchecked to prevent any “accidental” syncing. Do note however, leaving this option unchecked does not mean setting your iPod into “Manual management” mode; unchecking the option simply means a sync will not start automatically.

[ I was hoping the apps that are currently already on my iPod will not be wiped off, and then re-sync-ed afterwards. This is because once these apps are wiped, their application-specific data will be gone too. To prevent this, with my iPod connected, I right-clicked on its entry in iTunes “source list” & select “Transfer purchases“. Then I realized uploading 100+ ipa files from my iPod to my new library ain’t as speedy as I thought (even though it was done over an USB connection). I interrupted & just dragged all my 177 ipa files from my old library’s “Mobile Applications” folder, literally onto the “Apps” section (again in the iTunes “source list“). This imports those apps just fine & extremely speedily (since there’s no longer any uploading from the iPod involved; it’s simply copying the ipa files from my old library folder to my new library folder). So what will happen to the set of apps already on my iPod (associated & uploaded previously with my old library), since I didn’t “transfer any purchases”? Read on…

Amazingly, even though I’m using iTunes with a new library that hasn’t even sync-ed with my iPod once, it seems to be able to detect the sub-set of apps that I previously indicated (via my old library) I wished to sync to my iPod. Example: suppose with my old library, I’ve selected 10 apps out of the full 177 apps that I wish to sync onto my iPod Touch. Even though I haven’t sync my iPod to this new library once, it “knows” which 10 apps were previously picked to exist on the iPod. & the good news? When I select to “Sync apps” between the new library and my iPod, it does not wipe and then re-sync those apps that are already existing on the iPod. Which means all data preserved! Yeah! ]

NOTE: please read the 2 paragraphs in [ ] as a set, lest you miss out anything & your (applications) data get wiped. & I wish to iterate: the above experience relates to Mobile Applications only.

UPDATE: per my knowledge gained from iLounge forums, Apps (& Photos and PIM data) only will not have their “Sync checkboxes” checked by default when you connect an iPod to a new iTunes library. Hence the reason why the existing apps on my iPod are left untouched until I explicitly chosed to “Sync Apps” from the new library. Even then, when iTunes detects the apps that I wish to sync onto the iPod, were already on the iPod, it will not wipe them then re-upload, essentially preserving any application-specific data.

Source (look for the lines, “You’ll find that the settings for Apps, Podcasts, Photos and Info are left alone (unchecked) on the new computer, and that data will remain in place unless you specifically enable those options separately …”, & “That’s exactly it.  The warning uses the language “Erase and Sync” as that is the perception of the average user. The fact that existing content is left alone is really just to save time…“)

Another thing I learnt is that iTunes treat each type “certain groups” of content as an individual library between itself and the iPod. Example: after great success with the Apps syncing, the next thing to do will be to wipe all the existing music (with their outdated tags) off my iPod and re-upload songs from my new library onto the iPod. Naturally, since my iPod hasn’t sync music with this new library before, iTunes warned me in the rather cryptic manner, “All existing music on the iPod will be replaced with music from this iTunes library“. Yup, that’s one of the reason/warning why some folks realized sync-ing their iPod/iPhone to a new library causes all the existing songs on their iDevice to be wiped. But I’m more concerned about whether only the music on my iPod will be wiped and replaced, or will all existing data (which includes the apps that I’ve luckily preserved earlier on, my mail account settings, my notes, etc) be treated as part of one overarching “library” and be annihilated by this library replacement sync? Well, it turns out (as I’d pointed out earlier): music library is disparate from apps library, disparate from podcast library, disparate from photo library, etc. So while my music is refreshed/replaced, my apps (along with their data) are preserved. Again! Sweet!

Another very useful piece of information which I learnt from iLounge forums, is that sync decisions (unless you are doing Manual Management) made at the device’s tabs, are perpetuated at the content-group-level. Example: if you choose to sync Music with the library, your iPod music, movies, TV shows, ringtones, (audio & e-) books will be synced with the current library as well, but the sync settings that is in place for all other content types will be left “as is”/untouched. This is very important. As for which type of content are grouped together, basically it’s:

  • Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books, Ringtones
  • Apps
  • Podcasts / iTunes U
  • Photos
  • Info — Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, Notes (unless you are syncing your PIM information via non-iTunes channels, e.g. MobileMe, Exchange, etc)

Source (look for the line, “If you want to look at them as “libraries” then yes. It’s broken down like this:“)

Each of these tabs (representing each type of media that can be synced to an iPod Touch/iPhone) were unchecked initially when I just connect my iPod to the new library. Checking any one of them will bring up the warning prompt, "This iPod is synced with another library. Selecting erase and sync will replace all the contents of this iPod with the contents of this library". Any "erase and sync" ala a 'replace', is local to the content group. As for which content are grouped together, it's mentioned in the paragraph above.

 

In case I wasn’t clear, please allow me to elaborate. In the scenario illustrated above, if I “check” the “Sync Apps” checkbox, an “erase and sync” warning will appear, & if I approve it, all the apps on the iPod (that are incoherent with my new library) will be replaced with the apps from my library later when I press the “Sync” button at the bottom-right of the iTunes application. Apps that are coherent with my new library but already exist on the iPod, will not be “re-loaded. Likewise, if I want to replace all podcasts on the iPod with the set of podcasts from my (new) iTunes library, I will check “Sync Podcasts” & select “erase and sync”. Remember 3 things, however:

  1. The “replacement” (or erasing, for that matter) will not happen instantaneously when you click “Erase and sync“. This is because iTunes doesn’t know exactly what new set of media you wish to replace the iPod’s set with. Only after you select what playlists, apps, etc. you wish to put on the iPod and then click “Sync“, will the actual (erasing and) replacement commence. This point is erroneous, as per this source (look for the line, “This prompt appears only when“)
  2. Erase and sync” approvals are localized to each media type the content groupings except for “Music” and “Movies“. Any decisions you configured for music will be acted upon with the “Movies” segment as well. I think this is because Music and videos are treated as one library. UPDATE: please refer to content-grouping a few paragraphs above.
  3. If you have authorized your current library & there are purchased content on your iPod, besidesErase and sync“, there’ll be a “Transfer purchases” button which allow you to transfer purchased content from your iPod back to your current library. However, I’m not sure whether all purchased content (which means apps, songs, TV shows, etc) will be uploaded, or you will have to do it content-type by content-type. UPDATE: yup, I’m still unsure whether all types will be transferred back at once.

This is the exact sub-menu where you will import your OPML file. I'm surprised this isn't elaborated on Apple's iTunes site. Perhaps Mac veterans are acclimatised to dragging-&-dropping stuff from anywhere to everywhere.

Talking about podcast. I managed to import all podcast subscriptions into the new library without any hassle at all. I’d exported them as an OPML file previously, which is the export file type you want if you wish to “save” your subscriptions. Note though: podcasts refresh settings, how many episodes to retain, etc are controlled by your iTunes preferences and not part of this OPML file (I’d checked my OPML file for clues).

Last but not least (for this section), if you are the type of reader that desires even further details, breakdowns, elaborations, scenario explanations, you are in luck: please enjoy the back-&-forth between 1 of the administrators of iLounge forums and me. Trust me, it’s a solid read.

Source (huge thanks to jhollington of iLounge forums, for his/her relentless explanation)

Anything new (& not widely elaborated by tech blogs) with iTunes 10?

For the new “Album list” view, some folks are confused when album artwork for their albums with lesser than 5 songs do not show up in this view. To force the album artwork in this view to show up no matter how “complete” one’s album is, please tweak the setting as shown below:

 

Just in case you are wondering why some album artwork are displayed while others are hidden.

 

I also noticed with iTunes 10 (if you have been tracking this bug & it has been fixed by version 9.2 of iTunes, please notify me), the mobile applications (ipa files) will not be forced by iTunes to reside on the same drive as where the iTunes library database files are stored. This bug will be very familiar to those who store their media content in an external hard disk but have their database files retained on local hard disk. Previously, try as they might (to manually shift those ipa files to their external volume), the moment they update their mobile applications through iTunes, an (updated) copy of the ipa file will be stored locally. Now, even my ipa files are stored externally.

Smart Playlists

 

This light-coloured column on the left side of iTunes is commonly referred to as the "Source list". Near the bottom, one will observe the "feeder/component" smart playlists are further encapsulated into folders for cleaner organization.

 

As with my iTunes library, my approach to music appreciation on my iPod is revamped. At this moment, I’m using Smart Playlists to re-iterate through my song collection. Unlike a regular (more meaningfully referred to as a “static”) playlist, smart playlists generate their resultant list of songs dynamically using “conditions” the user set. I have been trying to create the ultimate smart playlist based on the best of what these sites can offer.

The tricky bit about conjuring one single ultimate from all these, is to ensure the criteria that each list is based on, wouldn't have semantic errors when all are combined.

 

Before I delve into the conditions, my ratings scheme are as follows:

  • ★★★★★ – very rare will a song be issued this, unless it is superb, or holds special meaning to me.
  • star – my “fail” rating for a song; this song must explicitly piss me off to be awarded this.
  • ★★ to ★★★★: so songs that “pass” can only be awarded these ratings. ★★ means a song is just bearable, 3 stars means its average while a ★★★★ title will deem it “quite good”. Again, it is very, very hard for a song to get ★★★★★

And here are the [smart] playlists:

UPDATE (11 Nov 2010): Apparently the way iTunes evaluate nested smart playlists, is counter-intuitive to conventional (boolean) logic. I realized something was going on when my master spl isn’t really updating/rotating/refreshing songs in its list. Posted my spl logic onto iLounge & 1 of the veterans were quick to point out iTunes’ flawed “logic” in this specific aspect of spl. The discussion & in-depth explanation can be viewed at this iLounge thread from this point onwards. Anyway, I’ve since corrected my master spl, as well as updated a few of my component spls to better reflect conventional “design”. In addition, the exclusion of “latest_additions” spl content (to prevent double weightage) has been surfaced from all rated component spls to the master spl level to remove “bad form/design” at the component spl-level. Updated versions of the respective spls are displayed directly below their old verions.

 

Short-list music that I have not rated. Purpose is to encourage me to rate my music, even songs that I'd played but didn't bother to rate.

Collects the music I acquired within the last 1 month gets uploaded, and yet not bore me too quickly by ensuring the same song do not get played twice within 3 days.

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Allow me to give a 2nd listen to poorly-rated (less than 4 stars) that I actually like enough to not skip them more than 10 times. To elaborate, a 3- or 2-star song that I keep skipping will not be given any second chances.

 

The previous "rating < ★★★" condition isn't proper design, as it will inadvertently include unrated songs, which are already captured in another spl. The updated rating criteria implies that I'd explicitly rated these songs before. In addition, a 2 month cooling period ensures these "barely-there" tunes get a proper, unbiased re-evaluation.

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Surface any music that I heard less than 10 times or haven't hear in half a year

 

"rarely_heard" spl has to be corrected to circumvent iTunes' flawed logic,

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Super nice music that has been rated and not in latest_additions (if I leave out this part, a newly-added song that has been rated, may have double its weightage). Only songs that haven't been heard in a week can be played again. Besides this 5-star list, I also have 2-star to 4-star lists. Those other 3 lists are similar except songs in 2-star cannot repeat until 2 months later; songs in 3-star list cannot repeat till 1 month later; songs in 4-star list cannot repeat till 2 weeks later. In other words, more highly-rated songs are allowed to repeat more frequently (which makes sense, to me).

 

As mentioned in the "UPDATE (11 Nov 2010)", the exclusion of the "latest_additions" spl is surfaced to the master spl level as it is illogical (or more appropriately, "bad form"?) to have the exclusion at this level. This exclusion is propagated to all "rated" spls. When someone looks at a n★-list, the list should contain all the n★ songs. You may be eager to point out that if that's the case, shouldn't the "Last Played" criteria be surfaced to a higher-level list as well. Well, that is a future decision.

This middle-tier playlist is obsolete. Groups 2* to 5* songs into one sub-list for easier "integration" into master list later on

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. If I rate a song 1 star AND also skipped it more than 10 times, obviously I detest it.

 

Not only is this tweaked to account for iTunes’ flawed nested spl logic, but I have also updated the logic to be an “OR” instead of an “AND”. This is because I found that I very rarely 1-a song, which means too few songs fall into this list, hence the “OR” logic will enforce a more stringent level of quality in my final list.

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Sync random picks of songs (up to 7GB) from the earlier sub-lists. Explicitly leave out detestable songs (those 1*)

 

 

As you can see, to make iTunes' flawed nested spl logic evaluate the way conventional wisdom dictates, one has to go about a very lengthy workaround. In addition, I learnt that the "Playlist IS/IS NOT" criteria can be directly applied to a folder of playlists; rendering my "rated_already" 2nd-tier playlist redundent.

Ultimately, this one single master list (sync_to_iDevice) is the only list of music I sync to my iPod. To put it succinctly, it will greatly encourage rating of songs while churning through the rated ones, & keep the hits fresh by not repeating them too often based on how much I like them. However, there’s a bug with this system that I’m unable to solve yet. For those who want to figure it out, don’t peek at the solution:

There is no guarantee that at any time, there will be songs from all those sub-lists synced to my iPod. E.g. it is possible (though very unlikely) that at any moment, there may be no songs from my latest additions on my iPod, etc.

 

Smart playlists are also useful for weeding out songs with incomplete tags, e.g. songs with missing artwork

 

However, I’m unable to use Smart playlists to isolate songs with missing lyrics (& other more advanced tags not recognized as SPL criteria). Then how? How will I know which songs are missing lyrics? Well, it’s nice to have a super powerful mp3 tagger that allows regex/boolean expressions to filter by all sorts of tags/criteria on-the-fly: the extremely powerful (in other words, verify the tagging options very carefully) MP3Tag.

 

For "proper/advanced" tagging purposes, can't go wrong with MP3Tag. Just need to refresh your tags within iTunes after you update/correct them externally.

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I waited quite a while for Apple’s official-until-cannot-official stand on this issue before posting my thoughts on the whole debacle. But before I proceed any further, there are a couple of details I need to clarify. Essentially, there’s 2 antenna-related issues uncovered soon after the release of the iPhone 4. The “original” one is the impact on signal transmission when the iPhone 4 is gripped in a certain manner (a manner, which isn’t all that uncommon to me, even though I’m a right-hander). The negative impact on the phone’s data communications was represented by the drop in signal bars when the phone is held in one’s left palm. Certain individuals were quick to point out that diminishing signal bars are not irrefutable proof of (drop in) reception quality, but when YouTube demonstrations, i.e. loading a website via 3G NOT over a WLAN, of ridiculous slowdown, sometimes even complete termination of data-based operations were blooming like toadstools/fairy rings after a night’s shower, these individuals were once again eager to state their devices did not produce such behaviour. Naturally at this point in time, it is easy for me to derive the fix if your iPhone 4 is afflicted by such symptoms: a bucket-load of DENIAL. Either that, or being a fanboy appears to be a quick solution, since I’ve nary heard any fanboy being affected.

The second, distinct issue, which was lucky to have been revealed at all, is the wrong algorithm used to calculate & subsequently manifest the no. of signal bars since outdated models like the iPhone 3G.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

If I understand that letter/paragraph correctly, the reception could have easily been far worst than what the signal bars are depicting. It’s a wonder & likely a blunder that Apple declared this issue in the midst of the storm of the first issue! It is unfortunate that some of the less vigilant consumers may be hoodwinked into thinking that open letter was Apple’s acknowledgement of the first issue.

& I feel the intense need to clarify one point in case people think as long as there is no direct contact between the 2 antenna types on the left side of the phone, the reception’s gonna be okay. Because it is NOT (to be EXTREMELY clear, there are 2 effects users are exerting on the phone’s reception depending on how you hold it; direct contact between the 2 antenna types on the iPhone 4 inconsistently recreates both/these 2 effects, which is why a THIN tape will not solve rid those 2 effects completely). This is a misnomer, & I feel that an episode from This Week in Technology will illustrate 1 of the negative effects pretty well:

Spencer Webb If you go to my blog I wrote a little bit on why the – the thicker the bumper the more it pushes your lossy hand away from the phone and it’s going to reduce the sensitivity to your hand. And I’m not so sure that Apple hadn’t considered this from the beginning, obviously the evidence is that they came out with the bumper so quickly.

Leo Laporte Right.

Spencer Webb But…

Leo Laporte You used electrical tape and did that work?

Spencer Webb I used electrical tape, in fact here is the actual roll of electrical tape, this is exclusive to this WEEK in TECHNOLOGY…

Leo Laporte I thought electrical tape was black.

Spencer Webb No, antenna engineers are permitted to buy white electrical tape.

Leo Laporte Oh, you have to have a license.

Spencer Webb You do. You have to show it at The Home Depot, so we used white electrical tape; this is serious…

Leo Laporte Stop Laughing.

Spencer Webb …and we did the insulation and we did the grip of death and it had no absolutely no change on our experiment, I have to admit it wasn’t a rigorous experiment, it wasn’t a very carefully controlled experiment but it was enough of an experiment for two RF guys sitting next to each other, look at each other and say, yup, okay, no change, no difference.

Leo Laporte So it’s not that the moisture in my hand or somehow bridging this plastic gap that’s a misnomer, that’s not what’s happening.

Spencer Webb That’s DC thing, that’s light bulbs and flashlights thing, we are dealing with radio frequency currents that are switching back and forth at, in this case about a billion times a second, RF acts differently. And if we take a thin insulator and put it over that band, the RF actually doesn’t know the difference because we are making so much capacitance with our hand. So it’s not really what we would call a Galvanic connection that’s causing the problem, it has nothing to do with that; it is a combination of detuning the antenna from putting our hand there and literally attenuating the signal as it’s coming off the antenna which means it’s turning into heat inside of our hands.

Leo Laporte So the farther away the bag of moisture that is your body is from this part of the phone the better?

Steve Gibson Yep.

Spencer Webb Yes. Absolutely.

Leo Laporte To a certain point, obviously if you are six inches away…

Jerry Pournelle And but it only takes one thin piece of tape to do that. Is that correct?

Leo Laporte No, no, it doesn’t, it sounds like.

Spencer Webb No, you need to – the bumper case pushes your hand, or I haven’t – I don’t have a bumper case in front of me, but I have the case that I use on my…

Jerry Pournelle Okay, I misunderstood you, and I suspect if I did some others did.

Leo Laporte Yes, no, thanks for clarifying.

Jerry Pournelle You are saying that a piece of tape won’t do it, you have to have something that has [ph] enough (38:22) physical difference to actually affect the capacitance of the…

Spencer Webb Right.

Jerry Pournelle connection between your hand and the antenna.

Spencer Webb Yeah, I predicted that a thin piece of tape will have no effect, we observed that a piece of electrical tape didn’t seem to have an effect and next week I’m going to get much more detail than the measurements.

Here are some of Mr Spencer Webb’s entries on the iPhone 4 antenna. You may find his company’s & his credentials here.

UPDATE #1: This is Anandtech’s updated analysis of the iPhone 4 antenna issue

UPDATE #2: The latest episode of We Have Communicators, #94, got Spencer Webb on their show as a host & I feel the segment has a pretty good grasp of the entire antenna reception debate. Strongly recommended.

This is the audio excerpt, containing only the portions with content related to the antenna issue.

UPDATE #3: Just in case you are still mystified by what those 2 effects are, here are the definitive quotes from Mr. Spencer Webb (Antennasys) & Brian Klug & Anand Lal Shimpi (Anandtech). Let’s start with Anandtech’s:

After getting those numbers, my first thoughts were that two dominant effects were responsible for the iPhone 4 signal drop being measured. The first was detuning due to capacitance added by the hand making galvanic contact with the stainless steel, and possibly even coupling the two discrete antennas together. The second was simply attenuation due to our meatbag extremities (read: hands) being not perfectly transparent to RF at 850 MHz and 1.8 GHz. I made some Star Trek references that some of you caught about us being bags of mostly water – it’s true, and it’s something Apple has emphasized heavily in its letter – that all phones drop signal when your hand is in between the path to the base station antenna. The real question was how much of that 24 dBm drop was due to galvanic contact with your capacitive hands (detuning), and how much was due to your hands being mostly water, and so close to the radiative surface.

Source

& here’s Mr Spencer Webb’s explanation:

I have seen mention of the electrical tape fix, the scotch tape fix, the bumper case fix, even the short-the-other slot fix on various web sites.  The important thing to realize is that we are dealing with radio frequency (RF) currents in the antenna, not direct current (DC) as you will find in a flashlight, for example.  If you place a thin insulator (tape) across the “gap” and over the “band” on the iPhone 4, I would not expect that to make a very big difference.  With such a thin insulator you are effectively preventing a short at DC (zero Hertz), but at the RF frequencies involved (around 1GHz, or one billion Hertz) you are just making a large capacitor.  A capacitor is fundamentally two conducting plates separated by an insulator.  When the capacitance is high enough (plates big, insulator thin) at the frequencies in question, it looks just like a short circuit.  So, I would not expect tape to create any improvement when the Grip Of Death is used (see photo).

When I was on the phone with the WSJ, I explained the two distinct effects that holding the phone over the antennas will impart: detuning and attenuation.

Detuning can be understood by imagining a wine glass that is empty.  If we tap the glass with a fork, the glass will ring, or resonate, at some frequency.  If we put some wine in it (or apple cider, since I don’t imbibe) the resonant frequency will change and in this case increase.  This is the same for antennas.  Antennas are generally resonant at their frequencies of operation, and when we put our hand over them we “load” them with the dielectric of our bag of salty water.  This lowers the resonant frequency of the antenna and may make it harder to squirt energy into it at the frequency we want.  If the antenna is particularly narrow-band, it may “kill” it completely.  Generally, physically small (compared to a wavelength) antennas are narrow-band and large antennas may be wide-band.  This is why detuning is the first detrimental effect of putting your hand on an antenna.  Any antenna.

The second effect is attenuation, or loss.  Your hand is a dielectric, meaning it concentrates electric fields more than air.  This factor is called the dielectric constant, and for your hand is pretty high, like 12 or 20 or so.  It depends on your diet and BMI, so it’s kind of personal and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by dwelling on it; the important thing is to be healthy.  Oh… right…. so this is what detunes the antenna.  But, your hand is also conductive, but not perfectly so.  So you WILL get a shock if you stick your thumb in a light socket, and I don’t recommend it.  This not-so-perfect conductor is what we call “lossy”.  RF energy impinging upon your hand (or head) is partially going to be turned into heat.  This is the SAR we were talking about, and you may have heard of.  This leads to an attenuation (reduction) in the signal being radiated into space by the antenna.  This is the other bad thing that happens to hand-wrapped antennas.  Once turned to heat, the RF energy is gone.  Just ask your dinner in the microwave.

So, detuning causes problems with squeezing energy from the circuitry into the antenna (or vice versa), and attenuation causes problems with losing energy to heat.

The so-called bumper case is a much thicker insulator (or dielectric) than a piece of tape. It pushes the lossy dielectric (your hand) further away, significantly reducing the capacitance.  I would expect this to reduce the detuning effect, but not the attenuating effect.  Will it help?  You betcha’.  However, it is a tradeoff: pushing a very high dielectric constant but lossy material away, and substituting it with a lower dielectric constant material.  If I were a betting man, I would guess that the dielectric constant of the materials used is about 3.3.  So, it still will load the antenna, but not as much; and it is entirely possible that this was taken into consideration in the design of the antenna.  Since I have had a case on my Primordial iPhone since it was new, I expect to do the same with the iPhone 4.  When it gets here.  Any time now.

Source

As for me, I have been waiting for a trigger to force Apple’s hand, i.e. to acknowledge the first issue, i.e. the then-ingenious design of the antenna hardware which turns out to be a southpaw’s hindrance. I’ve mentioned countless times across multiple channels, that a hardware design flaw can never, never be truly fixed by mere firmware updates. No matter how magical Apple’s software are, I don’t think they can bend the laws of Physics. Heck, they can even update the firmware until it shows 3 million bars but without modifying the hardware, once the antenna frame of the iPhone 4 is gripped in said manner, real impact on data transmission will serve to surface the [ugly] truth, be it 1 bar or a million.

Apple was forced to perform a PR recovery operation when Consumer Reports finally performed a more thorough testing & replaced their original verdict of the iPhone 4 with an updated, unpleasant version. I’m not sure what genre of consumer peruse & base their purchasing behaviour using Consumer Reports, but apparently the genre is large enough for Apple to launch a very last-minute press conference on July 16. Surprisingly, for no apparent reason, there appears to be a select group of individuals who is suddenly calling Consumers’ Report’s integrity & validity into question. I suppose those individuals must have more experience than a publication solely dedicated to test-drive consumer products using non-sponsored, no-ads, anonymously-purchased units. In fact, there is even a podcast dedicated to naming one of its episode, “Consumer F-ng Report“!

More crude than entertaining. Definitely NOT value-adding

But I digressed. I will like to point out for such a PR-maestro that is the Apple we all know, that last minute press conference is an insult to the attendees’ intelligence and time. Every one’s there on their own (company’s) timesheet & naturally would expect Apple to be straight to the point & settle the issue specifically. Apple threw a curl ball when it screened an YouTube video that adds no value to the conference.

The press must be thinking, "why did we fly here again?"

It’s shocking for me to learn shortly after that, the press was treated to the usual “Apple-tizer” often served at the beginning of their usual annual keynote. I can’t speak for the press, but that conference, to me, is not the time for Apple to perform its regular “pats on its own shoulders”. Secondly, which is my main gripe with that conference, is the very next moment Apple dragged all its 3 major competitors under the bus! HTC, Blackberry & Samsung cellphone units were demonstrated by Steve Jobs to reproduce the same antenna-related issue as the iPhone 4. That’s a new LOW. My opinions are: when you are drowning in your own crap, you fix your own problem. Dragging other company’s product into the same sh*thole you created for yourself, is NOT solving the problem.

UPDATE #4: At least Mr. Tom Merritt from Tech News Today agrees with me.

UPDATE #5: Here’s gdgt’s take on how Apple Inc. “dis-apologizes”

Don’t forget: those companies were never the ones that advertised their devices as magical & revolutionary in the first place! Imagine how you will like it when the next time round should the other 3 companies hit some brick wall on their own product launches & they dragged Apple into it then? I can’t imagine how even the friendly Blackberry “camp” was thrown into oncoming traffic by Apple; my impression of Blackberry supporters are that they have always been a peaceful, mind-their-own-business bunch.

"You see, all cellphones has this issue, as I've demonstrated using my unit. But yours may not exhibit such issues as yours isn't a cellphone and you are seated so far away from me the reception profile in your zone may be different"

Ironically, during the Q & A session when someone wishes to hand Steve Jobs a Blackberry to reproduce the signal-bar-diminishing issue, Steve Jobs retorted the fellows that he may not see it in certain area. But I thought Steve Jobs was sitting on the stage simply a few rows in front of that fellow who proposes the 2nd demonstration?! Is Steve Jobs implying the few-rows’ distance between their 2 spots within the same hall has very different service provider reception profile? Is this the same Steve Jobs who claimed at the iPhone 4 launch keynote, that the ad-hoc 3G-Wifi/Mifi hotspots created by his audience at the bottom of the stage, has an impact on the iPhone 4’s then-data-failure on-stage?

Yup, some people, don't say who, always like to tear Google down because Google is "doing well"

On a totally un-related note: I will like to discuss the topic of hypocrisy. It’s funny how the tide has turned. Because during the Q & A following the press conference, Steve Jobs mentioned how other people like to attack companies that are successful. It’s even more funny when he mentioned Google as one of those successful companies that people has been trying to tear down. It’s simply freaking hilarious when I recall another Steve Jobs saying the following:

& he just said this, like earlier this year?

Oh btw, the conclusion of that press conference, which in the end I personally concluded is a huge waste of time for those that flew down: is that Apple will issue free bumpers/cases to fix the antenna-placed-in-a-spot-where-it’s-super-easy-for-someone’s-hand-to-bridge design problem. Hold on; scratch that. Apple didn’t apologize. It can’t apologize because it still refused to acknowledge that design flaw as its own! Basically, Apple held the press conference is claim the iPhone 4 is still the #1 smartphone & almost nobody is complaining about the antenna issue, despite what is on YouTube & other blogs. That press conference is a reluctant admission of the fact that Apple’s telecommunication devices are subjected to the same constraints of Physics as the other manufacturers’ phones. Shocking, perhaps is this realization, to Apple & its rabid supporters. Of course, I may very well use this opportunity to interject some brilliant examples of fanboyism

Example #1 – iPhone Live! podcast episode #108: 1 of the host says he gives kudos to Apple for trying again and again after some of the less-desirable aspects of earlier iPhones were proved to fail effectiveness i but remember, these are the same people that always throw mockery at competitors like HTC & Samsung for trying & trying to be the next “iPhone-killer”. So why does Apple deserve kudos for repetitively trying-&-failing while its competitors are left with mockery for trying just as hard? They also mocked every HTC phone for looking the same while conveniently forgetting the iPhone 2G-3Gs design similarities? In addition, it’s been a trend for this podcast, iPhone/iPad Live! to mock the Motorola Droid series whenever 1 of the host’s headset produce some audio issue. I find it revolutionary that repeated headset “accidents” on their own parts can be used to bash another company’s products time after time. But then I recalled the manner in how Apple “solved” its antenna situation & suddenly I’m not that “amazed” any more. Maybe it’s just how some people handle problems, i.e. mechanisms such as verbal mockery & open letters to detract from real problems. It’s also extremely commonplace for such podcasts to mock analysts for making erroneous predictions when I dunno what gave these hosts the qualifications to “guarantee” the next iPhone won’t have such antenna issues. I suppose these hosts are henceforth also qualified to critique the press/mass media for being hyperbolic & irresponsible for reporting negative issues of the iPhone 4 when they “conveniently” forgot that its the same press that always gave Apple product launches excessively-exuberant publicity at other times. I also observed how they keep emphasizing that nobody is forcing the iPhone 4 down your throat when clearly, before the antenna issue gained critical mass, their tone were of a different theme. “No one’s forcing you to buy the iPhone, but we will just keep mocking Motorola, HTC, & other competitors like those are such worthless piece of crap”…

I'm sure this is taking it a wee bit too far?

Example #2 – Today in iPhone podcast episode #137: Two listeners wished to point out that Apple was less than honest when in the open letter it claimed it was shocked to learn that it has been using the wrong formula for calculating signal bars display. The host was quick to talk about how much better the actual battery life of iOS devices were, compared to what Apple always declared. I feel tempted to tell you how cooling the weather was, when I wrote this entry, but you may wonder, what has the weather got to do with this entry? This is the same bemusement I experienced when the host starts talking about battery life when 2 listeners dialled in to talk specifically about intentional signal bar misrepresentation. To make matters worst, the host once again drags the HTC Evo 4G under the bus and “claims” it has only 2 hours of battery life as compared to HTC’s stated 6-hour battery. I doubt the host even used the HTC Evo 4G for more than an hour or so. But of course, it’s easy to claim the 2-hour battery performance as absolute truth when the host has simply read it somewhere else. Hmm, I suppose simply reading it somewhere else & re-posting things as the truth is al right when it comes to bashing anything non-Apple, but when the blogosphere starts doing the same thing to Apple devices the very same act becomes a crime? May I have an “H” for “H-ypocrisy”?

I expect the "symptoms" for the iPhone 4 SG launch to be much, much exagerrated

Talking about rabid supporters, I’m disturbed to observe how the local iPhone discussion community is harbouring a select group of individuals that possess “unique” perspectives on discussions related to the iPhone. Some of these people are breathing down others’ necks for the slightest inaccuracies in information. Some are claiming that Android fans are mocking their iPhone 4 ownership excessively (though I “dunno” why other people will disturb you if you didn’t rub your elitism/superiority in their faces earlier on). It is unconvincing, that I am too tired to provide reference to each and every single post in that forum that lay claims to such animosity there, but if you are someone who trawls that forums for whatever bits of useful information, I believe such behavioural patterns are too foul to ignore. Why is there so much anger & temper & outbursts over such trivial communication devices? Of course, I’m not suggesting every participant in that sub-forum is a frothing, agitated troll, but I often indulge myself in wondering whether such extreme forms of self-belief are exhibited by these folks in their real life to the same extent as their cyberspace presence. Some already took leave to prep for the iPhone 4’s launch in Singapore; some are considering (feigning) medical leave to queue, some are cooking up excuses to take a day off from school, etc. The tension in that specific iPhone discussion forum is so tight one can cut it with a knife, i.e. the same group of boisterous supporters believe they are the victims of the media. They still believe they are the under-dogs! They believe their beloved Apple company is under attack by everybody for no good reason. In other words, they believe it’s 1984.

Suddenly everyone's an armchair expert. Why so furious?

Wow

Outstanding

Epic

What does all these mean for me? Well, mainly I’m let down by the way Apple refuses to step out of the shadow of its pride & arrogance. Perhaps the company’s management has basked in the glory of their past successes for too long & gotten far too intoxicated in the embrace of its fanboys? Sometimes I think the over-rabid supporters don’t get it: I don’t care if your unit doesn’t exhibit such (reception) flaws; if the unit I purchase does, are you willing to place a financial guarantee or even swap your unit & mine? Will you subsidize the 2-year contract that I would have signed should I really purchased a “lemon” set? I strongly believe quality products should speak for themselves & not require too much of a company’s PR to drive/ignite its market performance. I’m not asking people not to get an iPhone 4 or to get an iPhone 4. Personally, I’ve always wanted to get an iPhone. It’s simply unfortunate when I am finally driven enough to consider a serious purchase, came the generation of iPhone that was bundled with the most controversy. On one hand, if I purchase the iPhone 4 once it launches in Singapore, I have to convince myself that I’m parting a lot of cash for an imperfect device (the antenna design {specifically, I’m referring to having the entire area where the user is most likely to grip the handset with, designed as an antenna; NOT the bars-dropping-when-intentionally-“man-handled” syndrome} is a flaw beyond doubt, to me at least. A flaw that no rational person can ignore or deny). I’ve to convince myself that I will miss out the potential silently-revised version available after September 30th (Apple will stop issuing free cases/bumpers after this date). And at a deeper level, if I purchase this phone, it implies that, on top of the imperfect design, I can live with the horrendous bullcrap that is Apple’s press conference last week 😡

Spencer Webb If you go to my blog I wrote a little bit on why the – the thicker the bumper the more it pushes your lossy hand away from the phone and it’s going to reduce the sensitivity to your hand. And I’m not so sure that Apple hadn’t considered this from the beginning, obviously the evidence is that they came out with the bumper so quickly.Leo Laporte Right.

Spencer Webb But…

Leo Laporte You used electrical tape and did that work?

Spencer Webb I used electrical tape, in fact here is the actual roll of electrical tape, this is exclusive to this WEEK in TECHNOLOGY…

Leo Laporte I thought electrical tape was black.

Spencer Webb No, antenna engineers are permitted to buy white electrical tape.

Leo Laporte Oh, you have to have a license.

Spencer Webb You do. You have to show it at The Home Depot, so we used white electrical tape; this is serious…

Leo Laporte Stop Laughing.

Spencer Webb …and we did the insulation and we did the grip of death and it had no absolutely no change on our experiment, I have to admit it wasn’t a rigorous experiment, it wasn’t a very carefully controlled experiment but it was enough of an experiment for two RF guys sitting next to each other, look at each other and say, yup, okay, no change, no difference.

Leo Laporte So it’s not that the moisture in my hand or somehow bridging this plastic gap that’s a misnomer, that’s not what’s happening.

Spencer Webb That’s DC thing, that’s light bulbs and flashlights thing, we are dealing with radio frequency currents that are switching back and forth at, in this case about a billion times a second, RF acts differently. And if we take a thin insulator and put it over that band, the RF actually doesn’t know the difference because we are making so much capacitance with our hand. So it’s not really what we would call a Galvanic connection that’s causing the problem, it has nothing to do with that; it is a combination of detuning the antenna from putting our hand there and literally attenuating the signal as it’s coming off the antenna which means it’s turning into heat inside of our hands.

Leo Laporte So the farther away the bag of moisture that is your body is from this part of the phone the better?

Steve Gibson Yep.

Spencer Webb Yes. Absolutely.

Leo Laporte To a certain point, obviously if you are six inches away…

Jerry Pournelle And but it only takes one thin piece of tape to do that. Is that correct?

Leo Laporte No, no, it doesn’t, it sounds like.

Spencer Webb No, you need to – the bumper case pushes your hand, or I haven’t – I don’t have a bumper case in front of me, but I have the case that I use on my…

Jerry Pournelle Okay, I misunderstood you, and I suspect if I did some others did.

Leo Laporte Yes, no, thanks for clarifying.

Jerry Pournelle You are saying that a piece of tape won’t do it, you have to have something that has [ph] enough (38:22) physical difference to actually affect the capacitance of the…

Spencer Webb Right.

Jerry Pournelle …connection between your hand and the antenna.

Spencer Webb Yeah, I predicted that a thin piece of tape will have no effect, we observed that a piece of electrical tape didn’t seem to have an effect and next week I’m going to get much more detail than the measurements.

Bumpers

Posted: June 26, 2010 by ralliart12 in Pod dock
Tags: , , , , , ,

If I really have to choose, it's the light grey one with the black iPhone


Comes in any any colour you want, as long as it's black or white

Knowing It

I’d contemplated switching over to the iPhone for a while. I find it increasingly cumbersome to toggle between my mp3 player & my cellphone while mobile. My Nokia E71, while being nothing less than a “solid workhorse” for emails, web browsing (Opera Mini/Mobile), instant messaging (Nimbuzz), navigation (Garmin Mobile XT, Ovi Maps & Google Maps), is lacklustre when it comes to delivering a proper music experience. At the most basic level, I’ve to get a 2.5mm-3.5mm stereo jack adapter to use “normal” earphones on it. On the other hand, the straight-forward & superior music library management experience on iTunes, makes its companion devices a far better medium to experience my music & especially, my podcasts subscription. In fact, the exponential popularity of applications development on the iPhone OS platform only serves to extend the flexibility & functionality  my iPod Touch. Therefore, it goes without question that the iTunes & iPhone OS ecosystem plays a huge role in pushing me towards the iPhone eventually. Apple is extremely capable of using its experience ecosystem, along with tight coupling of its hardware platform, to compel evergreen & recurring purchases of its products. And I’m simply looking for an unified/streamlined mobile experience.

The uber-high resolution IPS display

I won’t delve into the magical/revolutionary/amazing features of the latest iteration of the popular device, but I told myself sometime ago after Windows Phone 7 has broke my heart, I’ll get the next iPhone if it has the following few features:

  • an extraordinary display, i.e. with the most basic criteria being it must be IPS (I lust after the Dell U2711 & now the HP ZR30w, I’m a sucker for IPS displays). The confirmed 960 * 640 resolution packed into the same 3.5″ physical dimensions only serves to be icing on the cake. This combination will deliver a DPI resolution that literally convinces one that he is looking at “ink on printed media”. For people who wanna gain some background about this, go search on why 72dpi is adequate for web publishing while media publishing requires at least 300 dpi.
  • I want the processor to be at least on par with what is powering the iPad. I’ve experienced, first hand,  the UI response of an iPad. The succeeding iPhone must be able to meet head-on with SnapDragon processors to entice me.

Holding an exposed antenna during transmission...

And boy Apple did deliver. The screen came true. The A4 processor finds itself in the iPhone 4. On top of it all, there’s a couple more design specifications that are pleasant surprises. Apple has the transceiver antennas structurally integrated as part of the stainless steel (aluminium can’t be used as antenna while titanium caused Apple some backlash as the back of the iPhone 2G was found to be”not very environmentally-friendly”) frame. To me, this is a very clever design instead of having the antenna situated at one corner of the iPhone/iPod Touch. However, clever designs may not necessarily be ideal designs. If you read the instruction manuals of cellphones, they always advise to avoid one’s fingers/hand coming in contact with the phone’s antenna’s area when transmission are on-going. So, while the entire-frame-as-the-antenna idea is pretty neat in my opinion, I’m clueless about any (adverse) effects it has on our fingers/transmission quality.

UPDATE: What can I say? Looks like it’s not a good idea after all (& it’s hardware-based; I wonder how Apple’s gonna “patch” this…)

The A4 processor found originally on the iPad. The clockspeed for the version in iPhone 4 has NOT be revealed yet.

Next, we have the “Retina Display”. Apple has a knack for naming their components (someone from Engadget discussion boards commented his HTC has a cochlea earpiece!). As with any bold claims any tech companies make of their products, the true attributes of this display became a subject of controversy. If you wanna get your mind boggled, you can read any of the articles I’d linked below this paragraph to have a great amount of context. The bottomline is: regardless how exaggerated Apple made of the RD’s pixel density, uber resolution, the IPS component cannot be denied. In addition, I strongly believe, at the very least,  the display is definitely on par with any of the current smartphones in the market. & since the display is the iPhone’s primary UI for everyday use, having a quality one (not necessary the best) is critical.

Very basic overview of the “Retina Display”

Digital Society‘s article on why Apple’s ad is mis-portraying the Retina Display attributes (opening argument is that Apple is showing 3 to 5 times the Pixels Per Inch (PPI) in their ads when they should only be showing 2 times the PPI)

Related article on how Apple is not entirely honest in their marketing

Balanced argument by Discover magazine on how Steve Job’s portrayal of Retina Display may or may not be entirely accurate

Wired magazine’s opinion on Retina Display’s over-exaggeration (do checkout the links given in the 1st short paragraph as well)

Robert Scoble’s take on how sharp the Retina Display is

Gizmodo‘s take on the Retina Display’s controversy (if you looking for over-analysis, this is not it)

Of course, Samsung has to back its own AmoLED

Ignore everything except the line, "Backside illuminated Sensor"

Lastly, I’m very excited about the backside-illuminated sensor. I’m surprised nobody in the audience went wild over this announcement. If the iPhone’s camera has been lamented as one of its Achilles’ Heel, then the new sensor will secure it as a leader in cellphone cameras. In fact, there was some rumour that the replacement of the Panasonic LX3 will be using a BSI sensor. Sony’s current flagship PnS are all already on it (if you getting a Sony camera, the feature to look out for is “Exmor R”, not just “Exmor” only. This is because Exmor R depicts Sony’s BSI while the Exmor technology is the one where they grab 6 images at different ISO to stack for noise reduction). Some of Fujifilm’s high-end bridge cameras are also on BSI sensors already. So I’m thrilled to see Apple managed to rushed one into their phone.

Wikipedia entry on BSI sensors

Omnivision short-&-sweet explanation of a BSI sensor

Ars Technica: Sizing up the iPhone 4 for shutterbugs

Falk Lumo: Apple iPhone 4 camera specs

Extended description of (Sony’s) BSI sensor with illustrations & photo examples

Lumix LX3’s replacement to use BSI sensor

BSI-based successor NOT LX3’s successor?

Good illustration of BSI versus the current, typical sensor

Basically that’s about it. It will be pointless for me to convince another, about the prowess of the A4 processor if you have not experienced an iPad. As a matter of fact, the A4 isn’t truly conjured up by Apple. It has the Coretex A8 core (code-named “Humming Bird”) designed by Intrinsity, which Apple acquired not long after P.A. Semi. So I was disappointed that I’m not getting a “true Apple processor”, but maybe the next iPad will see some light of the P.A. Semi & Intrinsity acquisition? The gyroscope, while opening up possibilities, requires applications to truly realise its full potential. The iOS 4 is “yesterday’s-news”. In fact, an improved OS wasn’t my criteria for getting the next iPhone, as the existing 3.1.3 is definitely a balanced design for both consumer & geeks; not to mention the existing iPhone OS already makes very effective use of of a 600MHz processor (compared to SD’s 1GHz). Apple did copy a few nice features from other related products, i.e. namely the 2nd noise cancellation microphone from the Google Nexus One; as well as the “WhisperSync” capability from Amazon’s Kindle.

Apple iPad and Samsung Wave share a brain

Apple’s A4 is like Samsung’s S5, except where it’s not

Apple purchases Intrinsity, just 498 more ARM licensees to go

Apple rumor roundup: Intrinsity behind the A4, ARM being eyed

List of changes from iPhone OS 3.1.x to iOS 4

I also observed a couple of small things. OS upgrades for iPod Touches are officially delivered free from now on. Having straight surfaces & edges means one can finally prop the iPhone up on its sides & truly take self-portraits/shake-free shots…by yourself. The flat front & rear also means ease of apply film protectors without the phone “rocking”/corners peeling after a while.  The video calling is nothing new, except that seamless switching to rear camera means remote guidance of equipment operation is made even more convenient. I still think the split, round volume buttons tarnish the design, though.

Why iPod Touch owners used to be charged for major firmware upgrades

Why Apple no longer need to charge Touch owners for future upgrades (scroll down all the way & look for this email by “Ross from Virginia”)

Getting One

This is the “executive summary” for the (entire) following section. If you are not too concerned of how I arrive at my proposed solution & is simply keen to learn the execution only, this micro-section will suffice.

The important details are: expiry date of EpiCentre vouchers; discounted rates of iOne+ subscription; monthly consumptions of BBoM 1Mbps plan; & monthly promotional rate of BBoM 1Mbps (no longer offered)

If SingTel has not launch iPhone 4 by mid-August, A will have to purchase the accessories 1st (see Note #6).

Upon phone launch A will purchase a subsidized iPhone 4 32GB black by getting B or C to re-contract. C will insist on retaining the normal-sized SIM to continue using Classic100 plan. B will also re-contract to cash in some monetary returns (see Note #8). As both B & C are busy, artefact #1 has to be in place for A to execute the plan smoothly. A will convert 2G sim card to 3G sim card (see Note #4) while applying for MobileMail+ & multi-SIM simultaneously. Secondary SIM card (unaltered) will be distributed to C for use in artefact #2 while primary SIM card will be used in A’s iPhone 4 after treatment with artefact #3. In case it isn’t obvious, A & C will share the cost and 2GB data capacity bundled with MobileMail+ (see Note #7).

UPDATE #1: Unfortunately, the main component of the MobileMail+ VAS is the Push Mail feature. The fact that one can use the data capacity bundled with it for “normal” 3G surfing on the go, is a by-product of the service. I’m very disappointed to learn that it is specifically this Push Mail feature that prevents MobileMail from being co-subscribed with Multi-SIM. As a matter of fact, I truly believe this is a technical constraint, & not SingTel trying to prevent users from getting a super-cheap data bundle to share. Think about it, SingTel has to maintain a push connection to each MobileMail subscriber. If each subscriber has 2 active SIM cards (from multi-SIM), that means the SingTel mail server has to maintain twice the number of mail connections. We are talking about push mail here, not your typical polling mail connection. I can see why SingTel disallows this. On the other hand, that leaves me no choice but to abort my plan of sharing my data bundle, & subscribe to MobileMail+ on my own (I can still subscribe to MM+, because now I’m only using it on 1 SIM card, & it’s 2GB for $9.95 is still way cheaper than SingTel’s typical BBoM VAS for exisitng subscribers)

UPDATE #2: Definitely not getting the micro-SIM cutter as I discover the exact position of the golden chip on SIM cards varies greatly, even between SIM cards issued by the same provider (for different type of subscribers). I’ll cut it myself; though I’m still hoping SingTel offers voice-capable micro-SIM upgrades (bundled with adapter?) when they launch iPhone 4.

Artefact #1: signed letters of authorization, with accompanying identification cards from both B & C to be prepared by end June

Artefact #2: C’s Huawei E169 BBoM USB stick

Artefact #3: micro-SIM cutter bundled with to-normal-size adapters

Note #1: B & C are no longer contract-bound. Both A & B’s iOne+ subscriptions are under a promotional rate of $19.60 as compared to the normal rate of $25.68. Even C’s Classic100 is heavily discounted till $21.40. It is obvious that all parties retained their attractive subscription rates as long as possible. Prices include 7% GST and exclude the $5 caller-ID charge which is a non-factor.

Note #2: Currently (based on iPhone 3Gs subsidies), C’s Classic100 re-contract will earn $120 more in subsidy than B’s iOne+ re-contract. Apparently, Classic100 is worth more to SingTel than iOne+, even though both B & C are paying ~$20 each.

Note #3: while MobileMail+ may appear to be a push mail service, A has confirmed multiple times that its data bundled can also be used for 3G data surfing. Speeds of up to 7.2Mbps has also been claimed by CSO to A.

Note #4: for some ridiculous loophole, apparently A can (& must) swap his 2G SIM card to a 3G version while waiving the $18 service charge by calling 1688 to place a note of waiver so that Hello shops will waive before A physically approach the shops to perform the procedure. Why? A has no idea.

Note #5: as of now, multi-SIM service is unavailable if at least 1 of the mutliple SIM cards is a micro-SIM. In fact, the micro-SIM officially sold via SingTel currently, has data-only capability. In other words, you walk in with an iPhone 4 to apply for multi-SIM VAS, you are SOL. Depending on how well SingTel manage the micro-SIM conversion issue, artefact #3 may not be necessary.

Note #6: time window for plan execution is tight, as C has to begin paying full, non-promotional rate of $22.42 for BBoM 1Mbps service & A’s $50 EpiCenter accessories voucher will expire by 31st August.

Note #7: BBoM is C’s sole internet access and has an observed monthly usage of below 1.5GB. A’s BBoM usage via the iPhone 4 is expected to be “restrained“.

Note #8: Both B & C’s plans will be re-contracted; just that the plan with the least subsidy will be cashed in via source #1, source #2, source 3, or source #4.

The following sections are the lengthy ones you may not wanna read.

The next logical step is to get one. The primary objective is to secure as cheap an operational ownership of the device as possible. Unfortunately, to use an iPhone (or any smartphone nowadays, for that matter), requires a data plan; a voice-only plan is no longer sufficient to enjoy the applications on the iPhone effectively. In addition, I’m currently contract-bound until 8, April next year. To secure the iPhone without enjoying the discounted rate bundled with a re-contract, is financially lethal to me. As an estimate, a contract-free 32GB iPhone 3Gs was estimated to cost ~$1.3k, although in lieu of recent announcements, this model is depreciating like crazy. Anyway, I’m unsure if local telcos offer to sell contract-free iPhones, though one can always count on “forum-entrepreneurs” to cook out a deal just for you. As one can see, for me to own & use an iPhone, is made quite expensive by the 2 main factors above.

To illustrate my entire iPhone 4 ownership context, let me rope in a few characters, A, B & C.

A: would-be owner of the iPhone. Currently is contract-bound to a voice-only iOne+ voice-only plan till 8 April 2011. In other words, the primary owner of the new iPhone 4 will not be able to enjoy a decent discount off his re-contracting for the new phone until beginning of April next year. As the iPhone’s annual refresh is more/less stabilized, getting the iPhone 4 four months from its succeeding model will result in some anguish (assuming iPhone 4’s successor is going to be announced next July).

Obviously SingTel will like voice plan subscribers to grab these set of data VAS instead of using MobileMail VAS as a data bundle (2GB @ $9.95 for the top-tier MM+ VAS!).

B: kin of A. Currently subscribing to the same iOne+ voice-only plan as A, but contract has already expired since 9 May 2010. B is willing to re-contract so that A can purchase an iPhone 4 at B’s re-contract promotional rate. However, the subsidised price of the iPhone 3Gs (top-tier 32GB model) is $898 [whether one re-contracts his iOne+ plan or get a new 2-yr iOne+ contract]. Not a huge discount, but some discount nonetheless. B must retain the iOne+ plan subscription rates, & not be forced to upgrade [to a data] plan/pay more.

Once C is out of contract, monthly subscription for 1Mbps/30GB increases from promotional rate of $11.20 to $22.42!

C: close friend of A. C has just been freed from a Broadband on Mobile 1Mbps/30GB contract. C was paying a promotional rate of $11.20 (as opposed to $22.42) for this plan. C is also subscribed to a Classic100 voice-only plan that has an expired contract. C wishes to retain subscription to this Classic100 plan as C is enjoying obscene amount of loyalty rebates off the standard price of the Classic100 plan. However, like B, C is willing to allow A to enjoy a discounted price off an iPhone by re-contracting. Likewise, C should not be forced to depart from the heavily-discounted Classic100 plan. The difference is, when a Classic100 plan is being re-contracted, the same 32GB 3Gs model is priced at $778! A full $120 cheaper as compared to re-contracting an iOne+ plan! So apparently a Classic100 subscriber is worth more to SingTel as compared to an iOne+ subscriber.

iFlexi plans REQUIRE the purchase of iPhones from SingTel; if that is not one's intention, there are very similar counterparts like the 3G Flexi plans. Note: iFlexi plans have free incoming calls, at least, if you subscribe before the end of this year. The caller-ID charge of $5 is also INcluded in the plan's subscription fees.

A & B are paying ~$26 for their iOne+ monthly subscriptions while C is paying ~$21 for Classic100 monthly. As C’s BBoM (1Mbps) contract has expired, the attractive rate of $11.20 has begun to revert back to $22.42 monthly. Though BBoM is C’s sole internet access, C’s monthly usage fluctuates around 1GB. On the other hand, although switching to a data plan is not even a consideration for A, finishing up the 12GB bundled with any of the iFlexi plans or 3G Flexi plans is rather impossible. The proposed solution is:

Re-contract C’s Classic100 to ensure A can purchase the iPhone 4 at a “decent” subsidised price. Change A’s iOne+ to have a data plan either by:

  1. upgrading it to 1 of the 3G Flexi plans (if A is not getting an iPhone, A is unable to change to an “iFlexi type” plan; though the specifications of both categories of plans are quite similar), OR
  2. subscribing to a data value-added service (VAS) that latches onto A’s iOne+ plan

Have confirmed time & again that the data bundled with SingTel's push mail services CAN be used for "normal" 3G surfing on-the-go as while. The only downside is the fairly low "allowance". However, if one wishes to retain a voice-only plan (for rebates reasons?), MobileMail is the cheapest data VAS to add on

Finally, regardless of the previous step, A has to subscribe to the multi-SIM VAS to obtain a second SIM card to pass to C (possesses a Huawei E169 USB broadband modem) so that C can consume the data bundle off A’s mobile account (both SIM cards can be used to access 3G data connections simultaneously). If A chooses the 3G Flexi Lite, monthly subscription will jump from ~$26 to $39 with a data bundle of 12GB. If A subscribe to the MobileMail+ VAS, monthly subscription will jump from ~$26 to ~$36 with a data bundle of 2GB. Either way, both A & C will be enjoying 3G speeds of up to 7.2Mbps. The multi-SIM service costs $5.35 per month (with a one-time costs of $42.80). C can pay A a nominal sum of $10 – $18 depending on which data plan A choses & whether A wishes to pass the multi-SIM subscription fees to C (it is expected that A bears the one-time administration charges for the multi-SIM application).

Monthly subscription to multi-SIM is very cheap but the one-time administration charges are obscene! Nonetheless, the main concern here is whether moving forward, are subscribers able to have mixture of micro- & normal-sized SIM cards issued?

Complications? A & C have to decide whether the constraint of 2GB is worth the savings in $4 per month ($48 over 2years). Since A will be using the iPhone, A may have to pay another one-time fee to change his SIM card to micro-SIM (alternatively, A can either this, or when C re-contracts and receives a micro-SIM {SingTel has to give C a micro-SIM since C is purchasing an iPhone 4}, negotiate with SingTel to see if the micro-SIM can be keyed to A’s mobile number instead. However, when A applies for multi-SIM, that’s another story, because as of now, SingTel does NOT issue the pair of SIM cards in “1-micro-SIM + 1 normal SIM” combination. Having both SIM cards of normal size means A can’t use one in the iPhone 4; having both being micro-SIM means C can’t use it in a Huawei modem. Come to think of it, the micro-SIM-cutter option seems very attractive now (because it comes with adapter when A uses non-camera phones that accepts normal-SIM card), except that A must change his current SIM card to a 3G one (yes, A’s current SIM card is still only 2G-capable). As a side-note, local SingTel data plan subscribers report no problem with trimming their normal SIM to use on iPad 3G.

With the advent of the iPad 3G, SG owners have given micr0-SIM cutters a marketing opportunity. Note: some deals even come with micro-to-normal SIM adapters. This is useful when one needs to use back an older cellphone model during reservist sessions.

As a matter of fact, the above plan(s) may fall apart if SingTel decides to re-coup its “losses” from World Cup 2010 non-subscriptions & jack up the price of iPhone 4 substantially. But then again, if SingTel continues to be so ridiculous, people may simply switch telco providers (number-porting). Forum speculation is already placing a $1.3k price tag on a no-contract iPhone 4 32GB model. Maybe if SingTel is extremely generous, it can offer micro-SIM adapters, free exchange of normal SIM to micro-SIM, etc? But would one expect them to be so kind? Every figure is just speculation (after all, I’m basing things on current iPhone 3Gs prices & current SingTel data plan rates) but I would really like iPhone 4 to be launched locally ASAP, otherwise C would have to incur the full monthly rate of $22.40 for the entry-level 1Mbps BBoM & my $50 EpiCentre 3rd-party accessories vouchers will expire by August.


My friend, Kunal, likes the new Jaguar XF. I like the iPhone/iPod Touch. What gives!

Apple had a huge success lately with its products, especially the iPhone (I think I just got over my iPhone allergy, because there was a time when everyone just looked like it lost its mind with the iPhone), so, in an interesting marketing move, Jaguar decided to take advantage of Apple’s recent boom and lanched jxfphone.com, which is a magazine created exclusive for Apple’s touchscreen devices (that includes the iPhone or the iPod Touch).

The website, which can also be viewed by MAC and PC users, offer a ton of images, videos and a lot of marketing info regarding the Jaguar XF. As I said, I like Jaguar’s marketing approach, especially that Apple’s touchscreen devices offer quite an attractive experience, and Jaguar might really succeed with this magazine.

P.S. Can’t wait for K to return from his Ireland hiking trip…he just might have something from Mercedes Benz for me … 😉