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AppAdvice International: Carrier Takeovers, Phablet Demand And iTunes Radio

AppAdvice International: Carrier Takeovers, Phablet Demand And iTunes Radio

January 28, 2014

This week, we’re going to be talking about how international demand for a phablet-style iPhone could influence the design of the iPhone 6, and we’ll be checking on whether iTunes Radio is any closer to launching overseas. But first, let’s talk about AT&T’s interest in British carrier Vodafone.

AT&T and Vodafone

AT&T has long been expected to place a bid for British carrier Vodafone, following the news of Vodafone’s sale of a 45 percent stake in U.S. carrier Verizon. Chief executive officer Randall Stephenson even said that he saw Vodafone as offering a “huge opportunity” to invest in mobile broadband in Europe. However, following pressure from the U.K. Takeover Panel, AT&T was forced yesterday to publish a statement in which it denied having any plans of making a bid for Vodafone.

The statement was issued to the London Stock Exchange, and read: “AT&T notes the recent speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Vodafone Group Plc. At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone.”

Our article continued to note:

Vodafone’s resultant market valuation stands at £107 billion ($177 billion), and according to one industry analyst – Robert Grindle with Espírito Santo – it could be AT&T “had realized Europe was still too tough a region to buy into, with fierce competition driving down prices,” Reuters explains.

The publication adds that Vodafone is the second-largest mobile operator in the world, and its assets range from Europe to India and Africa. The carrier is in the process of selling off its 45 percent stake in the United States’ Verizon, and analysts have proposed that once complete, a Vodafone takeover could become more of a likely possibility.

Vodafone’s sale of Verizon’s 45 percent stake is expected to be completed in February, and once the deal is done analysts anticipate that a Vodafone acquisition could become more of a likely possibility. But until then, it looks like AT&T’s interest in the carrier, at least, has waned.

International love for iTunes Radio?

It seems iTunes Radio, Apple’s free music streaming service, is about to get some international love. Because if a handful of reports from the last week are to be believed, the service - which is so far available in the United States only - could soon launch in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

We said earlier this week:

The news reached us from AppleInsider, which notes that out of the three countries, users in the United Kingdom are having the most luck with iTunes Radio. It’s “active and streaming in the region,” according to the publication, and though some user interface (UI) elements aren’t functioning as they should, certain British users are actually able to stream iTunes Radio over a cellular data network (as in the below image).

In addition, users in Canada and Australia were having limited success accessing iTunes Radio, which had been appearing sporadically in their Music application. But that’s not all, though. Because soon after our original article was published, a number of AppAdvice’s international readers contacted us using Twitter (@AppAdvice) and noted that iTunes Radio had launched in their home territory, too. Britain seems to be having the most success with with Apple’s incoming music streaming service:

Apple first announced iTunes Radio during WWDC 2013, and the service launched soon after. In October, a Bloomberg report argued that the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand would be able to access iTunes Radio from “early 2014,” and around the same time Apple started hiring programmers in Canada, in a move that appeared to back up Bloomberg’s report. Eddy Cue subsequently said in an interview that he wants iTunes Radio to be available in “more than 100 countries,” and he specifically mentioned the United Kingdom - which hosts Apple’s annual iTunes Festival event - as being one important location.

Could Britain, Canada, and Australia be on track to receive iTunes Radio soon? We’ll keep you updated.

The East is driving phablet demand

Phablet shipments are expected to climb up to 120 million annual units in just four years, according to a recent report. Most interesting, though, is that the analysis in question cites Apple’s anticipated entry into this market as arriving in response to demand from international locations - and particularly China.

The news reached us from Boy Genius Report, which draws attention to the findings from Juniper Research. Though phablet sales stood at the more meagre (but nevertheless sizable) 20 million units in 2013, the firm believes that a growing interest in larger smartphones will see this figure increase by around 600 percent. For Juniper Research, this drive in phablet sales will gravitate around East Asia and China, where customers are more interested in owning a larger smartphone for on-the-go content consumption.

Indeed, if another firm’s research is well founded, China’s mobile subscribers aren’t expected to fully adopt the iPhone until Apple increases the smartphone’s size; despite the Cupertino, Calif. company’s recent deal with China Mobile, Garter analyst Sandy Shen believes that Apple’s lack of a phablet offering is partly responsible for Apple’s less impressive share of China’s massive smartphone market.

Apple might be facing phablet demand from the east, but how do our readers living in North America and Europe feel about the larger-sized handsets - would you pick up a phablet iPhone 6, if Apple launches one later this year?

Gender options for Siri

Finally this week, in iOS 7 beta 3 and beta 4, it’s been noticed that for select international users, the option to configure Siri’s gender is now available. In particular, for British and Australian iDevice users it’s possible to choose whether you’d like Siri to speak with a male or female voice, as of the prerelease software.

The change first appeared in iOS 7.1 beta 3, which launched a couple of weeks ago. More importantly, however, gender options for Siri have remained in the more recent iOS 7 beta 4, signaling that the options could indeed remain in the final release of iOS 7.1. You can access the feature in the Siri section of the built-in Settings application, and as we noted in our original article, male and female voice options for Siri aren’t available for international users in iOS 7.0.4.

Apple is expected to release iOS 7.1 in March, and the software update has suffered a delay that’s purportedly due to iOS in the Car. Here’s hoping gender options for Siri remain for international users in iOS 7.1!

That’s it for this week’s edition of AppAdvice International. Check back with us next week at the same time (10 a.m. GMT) for another helping of international Apple-related news.

In the meantime, see: The Mongols Are Coming! Samurai Siege Updated With First Epic Saga And More, Parallels Access Updated With New Features Along With New Subscription Options, and AppAdvice’s Top Paid Jailbreak Tweaks For iOS 7 Devices.