This week we take a look back at what made Tim Cook tweet, Ozzy Osbourne swear, and Brisbanians cheer, clap, and hand free T-shirts out to one another. Grab a drink and take a seat - it’s AppAdvice International.
The Big One
First this week, let’s talk about Apple and China Mobile. The big news is that after several years of on and off negotiations, Apple has been able to sign its iPhone up with the largest carrier in the world, and is now offering both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c to China Mobile’s 760 million subscribers.
Before launch day, however, a report noted that preorders for the iPhone 5s alone had already climbed to 1.4 million. Our original report explained:
Gartner analyst Sandy Shen explained that average monthly iPhone sales in China among all of the country’s carriers are around 2 million. As such, 1.4 million sales from China Mobile alone should help Apple’s share of China’s smartphone market – which has seen recent growth – expand further.
During the first three quarters of 2013, Gartner estimates that Apple sold 18.5 million iPhones – a figure that’s up 28 percent from the previous year. However, increasing competition has seen Apple’s growth rate in China slow year-over-year.
One major tonic for Apple’s ailing share of China’s smartphone market is of course expected to come from China Mobile, but if Sandy Shen has it right, China is also holding out for a larger iPhone handset, too. Shen explained: “We have seen fading enthusiasm for iPhones compared with the past few years as we have more choices in China now. There has been no dramatic change to the iPhone and consumers want a larger screen size.”
It could be that Chinese smartphone users get what they’re hoping for later this year, when Apple unveils its next-generation iPhone handsets. If a handful of recent reports have it right, we should expect both the mid- and high-end smartphones to get a size hike, perhaps as big as to 5.7-inches.
The size of Apple’s 4-inch current-generation iPhones didn’t stop China Mobile subscribers from flocking to stores on Friday, and picking up one of the TD-LTE-enabled handsets. Plus, as a special surprise, Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook called in on a Beijing China Mobile store on Jan. 17 in order to meet and greet staff and shoppers.
He signed the first 10 iPhone handsets sold from the Beijing store, and also commented on Apple’s new relationship with China Mobile, saying:
Today is just the beginning of China Mobile and Apple coming together to deliver the best experience in the world.
Cook wasn’t so talkative when asked about the potential of a larger sized iPhone coming from Apple later this year, however. When questioned, he answered: “We never talk about future things. We have great things we are working on but we want to keep them secret. That way you will be so much happier when you see it.”
Having fun in Beijing at the iPhone launch with China Mobile! pic.twitter.com/AqoqLbbeO7— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) January 17, 2014
G’day, Apple Store
Brisbane got its anticipated flagship Apple Retail Store on Friday, as the new location celebrated its Grand Opening with claps, cheers, and free T-shirts. Apple fans queued for more than 15 hours beforehand until 10 a.m. local time, when the doors at the MacArthur Chambers building opened to the public for the first time.
The MacArthur Chambers building dates to 1934, and Apple has made every effort to preserve elements of the historic location while at the same time modernizing others, as the Brisbane Apple Retail Store’s leader, Jonny Walker, explained:
We are so proud of this store at Apple, it’s got a stunning space now and we’re really extremely proud to call it our home. When we took over the store a lot of the original historic elements were missing or in disrepair. What we’ve done is we’ve painstakingly restored it to its original glory.
Below, we’ve included a handful of images taken from within the new Brisbane Apple Retail Store (some of which actually appeared online before the store officially opened).
Apple adds 3-D coverage to Cape Town and more
Apple is continuing to improve its Maps app’s 3-D flyover feature, and this week saw the Cupertino, Calif. company add support for a number of new international locations, including Cape Town in South Africa, Helsinki in Finland, and Marseille in France.
As our report explained at the time, last year Apple added countless new international locations, including Paris, France, Cologne, Germany, and Vancouver, British Columbia to its Maps app’s 3-D flyover mode. The feature allows iDevice users to view cities and towns in 3-D, with buildings and environments being rendered in real time. For some locations, the effect is quite realistic; others, however, have found the Maps app to be both disappointing and dangerous.
It’s great to see Maps further improve, especially with support for international locations. But of course, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Personally, an offline mode (one limited to the local area or country) would encourage me to use the Maps app - including its built-in turn-by-turn feature - a lot more. Of course, this would require an additional download and would come at the expense of internal storage, but it’d be a trade off worth making, for some, at least (the same could be said of an offline mode for Siri, too).
How are you finding the Maps app?
Iron Man reaches iTunes
Finally, this week Black Sabbath launched a selection of its 1970s albums in the iTunes Store. Though the band’s later studio material has long been available in both online stores and through music streaming platforms, earlier albums including “Paranoid” (1970) and “Master of Reality” (1971) were previously unavailable.
For frontman Ozzy Osborne, Black Sabbath’s complete move to the iTunes Store is “about time” - he added one extra word into that statement which we can’t reproduce here - and for guitarist Tony Iommi, it had “been a long time trying to explain to fans why the music wasn’t available.”
Although Mr. Iommi didn’t elaborate, it has been well known in the music business that the delay was the result of longstanding squabbling between Warner and the band. Representatives of Black Sabbath and the label did not respond to requests for further comment.
Each one of Black Sabbath’s 1970s studio albums carries a price tag of $9.99. Remaining iTunes Store holdouts include Garth Brooks, Tool, and a selection of Bob Seger’s work.
That’s all for this week’s edition of AppAdvice International - check back with us next week at the same time (Tuesday, 10 a.m. GMT) for another selection of news concerning Apple’s work outside of the United States.
In the meantime, see: Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List Goes 4.0 With iOS 7 Redesign And More, Pandora, Spotify, Rdio And iTunes Radio Competitor Beats Music Now Available On iOS, and Vio Vocal Processing App Goes Freemium As It Goes 2.0 With iOS 7 Redesign And More.