Sprint drops iPhone price to $150

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Sprint has slashed the price of its iPhones by $50 in what a company spokeswoman called a “back to school promotion.” It has also waived its $36 activation fee on the device.

It’s noteworthy anytime a carrier cuts the price of the iPhone, since Apple is typically rigid about its pricing. Yet when a price cut comes in the late summer, it generally means one thing: A new iPhone is coming soon.

In previous years, Walmart and some other retailers have knocked a few bucks off the iPhone in the weeks before the next-generation device was set to go on sale. But $50 is pretty extraordinary, especially from a carrier that is losing money each quarter.

With its roughly $15 billion, five-year iPhone sales commitment to Apple, Sprint may be looking to clear away some inventory to boost its sales numbers. Sales haven’t been bad, averaging about 1.5 million iPhone each quarter, but they’re nowhere near the levels its bigger rivals Verizon and AT&T are selling. -David

Did Verizon just leak the fact that the iPhone 5 will be LTE?

In a press release sent around to reporters that cover the wireless sector today, Verizon Wireless announced a new technology called “Viewdini.”

The 4G-LTE-only service “brings the power of Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network to the screen by streamlining access to videos from a wide range of content providers, including cable operators, websites and other popular video sources,” the company said.

Then it said something curious: “Viewdini is available to Verizon Wireless customers with 4G LTE-enabled Android™ devices, with support for other operating systems coming soon.”

What other operating systems would that be, exactly? 

It could possibly be Windows Phone, but Verizon’s not expected to support Microsoft’s OS until the WP8/Apollo update in the fall. It could be talking about BlackBerry, but… okay, it’s not talking about BlackBerry.

So you heard it here first (okay, that’s not remotely true): The next iPhone will be LTE-capable. Cool! -David

What the carriers have to say about CarrierCompare

Here are the carriers’ responses to SwayMarkets’ CarrierCompare iPhone app data.

AT&T: “While we haven’t reviewed the data, there are always puts and takes in these types of surveys. AT&T is the only wireless provider offering a 4G experience based on deployment of HSPA+ technology and new LTE services in many markets, which gives our customers access to the nation’s largest 4G network covering more than 260 million people.”

Sprint: “Sprint values this kind of customer-centric third-party speed testing and we are not surprised to see that Sprint’s speeds are the most consistent in the industry. Sprint understands that peak speeds are fun, but consistently fast speeds mean a better overall experience. While we know speed matters to customers, we also know they value the overall experience they get from their carrier: a combination of speed, consistent network quality, customer experience and value for the price they pay, and Sprint continues to invest in all aspects of the wireless experience. 

"We recognize, too, that as more and more customers embrace all the capabilities of wireless devices, data speeds will increase in importance and Sprint is deploying a brand new network to meet that demand now and into the future. The deployment is well underway and expected to be largely complete by the end of next year. The result will be not only the addition of 4G LTE but also improved 3G service: even better coverage, call quality and data speeds. Cell sites with the new equipment are popping up across the country now and will continue to come on air over the next 24 months covering the entire CDMA footprint."

Verizon: “Our own internal studies and other, major third-party surveys agree that the Verizon Wireless 3G outperforms competitors’ networks (whether they are called 3G or 4G)  in terms of reliability, consistent speeds, coverage, responsiveness and overall customer experience. We have a long-standing commitment to providing our customers an outstanding network experience, and it shows not only in our 3G network, which was tested here, but in our 4G LTE network as well.  The Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network is the nation’s largest and most advanced 4G LTE network.” 

 

How SwayMarkets compared the 3G network data

Our story on the best iPhone carrier relied heavily on data generated by users of CarrierCompare, an app developed by Boston-based startup SwayMarkets. Here’s what co-founder Amos Epstein had to say about the methodology behind the statistics: 

"SwayMarkets collected & analyzed between 15,000 and 40,000 data points across each city, with care taken to ensure representative sampling over both location & time. As opposed to more conventional drive testing or sponsored surveys, all our data is crowdsourced. Our results are more indicative of customers’ actual experience with their phones."

Update: Turns out not everyone has an iPhone

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Apple fanboys are some of the most humorless people on the planet. Turns out they also are responsible for a lot of the crap that appears in tech blogs.

NPD and comScore released their latest smartphone market share figures yesterday, revealing that Android still maintains a sizable lead on Apple. Old news, right?

But blog posts questioning the validity of comScore and NPD’s survey results popped up all around the Internets yesterday and today, making the same basic argument: If half of Verizon, two-thirds of Sprint and three-quarters of AT&T’s smartphone sales were iPhone sales last quarter, how could comScore and NPD’s numbers possibly be true?

They then continue their logic this way: Verizon, Sprint and AT&T are by far the most dominant players in wireless. So clearly something funky is up with comScore and NPD, right?

Wrong. What the bloggers forget is that there’s this whole other segment of the market called “prepaid,” and it’s growing fast — way, way faster than “postpaid” (customers under contract). Those prepaid customers are growing increasingly interested in smartphones, but there’s one that’s not available to them: the iPhone.

Also, T-Mobile, the fourth national carrier, doesn’t sell the iPhone, and only two regional carriers sell it.

Even MG “I don’t blog anymore, except I still do” Siegler (my BFF!) kinda sorta conceded this on TechCrunch today, for crying out loud.

Of course, when comScore and NPD wrote back explaining why the posts were wrong, the bloggers just added an “update” section at the bottom, explaining why everything above it was a load of B.S. Thanks for that clarification, guys.

Oh, and by the way, I have an iPhone, in case you’re wondering. -David

XCom Global - Thumb (drive) up!

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Just wanted to give a belated shout out to XCom Global for saving me the headache of scrambling for a connection at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

At an event with 70,000 attendees, you could imagine that connectivity is an issue — ironic, at a conference about connectivity. Wi-Fi is worthless and mobile download speeds are pretty dreadful.

Last year, filing stories went a little bit like this: Listen to a keynote, book it back to the press room (about a mile away) and fight off the weakest-looking reporter for one of 17 wired connections.

This year, I could file the story from my seat. Much easier, and it saved me from going all Lane Pryce on the Peter Campbells in the room (if you haven’t seen last week’s Mad Men, go watch it — like, now).

I used XCom’s USB dongle in my laptop and the Mi-Fi device (above) for my smartphone. Both worked very well. The user interface was intuitive and set-up was easy.

Next year, hopefully I’ll get to try it out again. Otherwise it’s back to broken knuckles. -David

Who needs Siri? Waze’s voice control app is genius

Voice control of smartphones is improving, but it still requires the user to pay a lot of attention to the phone: Users have to hit the right button or icon to activate voice recognition, and often people will have to look at the screen to see if the phone understood the voice input correctly. 

It’s a necessary evil as the technology improves. But in the car, it can be dangerous to interact with your phone.

Enter Waze, the free, crowd-sourced GPS navigation app. An update to the popular iPhone application on Thursday came with an innovative — genius, really — way to control the app while driving. 

By tapping into the device’s proximity sensor, drivers can now hold their hand in front of the phone to activate voice control. Users don’t need to hit any buttons or even glance at the screen. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?

For now, there are just a limited set of instructions that drivers can input with voice (“drive home,” “report accident,” “stop navigation,” etc.) You can’t navigate anywhere other than home or work, but the Waze team hinted that feature will come in a future update.

Tests of the app were impressive. Commands have to be pretty exact (saying “exit navigation” won’t work, but “stop navigation” will). But the proximity sensor worked every time, and the correct commands were almost always understood.

The iPhone update is available now, and an Android update is coming soon, the Waze team said. Here’s a demo of the new app in action. -David