The Canuck iPhone: Apple doesn’t care

Just for the record, I think the Rogers data plans for the new Canadian version of the iPhone are crap, and I’ve said so a number of times. I’m not here to apologize for the company, or anything like that, and I would love it if someone could wave a magic wand and produce a better plan. But at the same time, I think the idea that Apple cares enough to step in and threaten Rogers by promising to delay shipments of iPhones or send them elsewhere is… well, ridiculous. Do I know for sure whether the report at Smithereens is true or not? No. But I just find it hard to believe that Apple cares much what Rogers charges for the iPhone at this point.

Does Apple care what providers charge for the Jesus phone? Sure it does, because it wants to generate as much demand for the handsets as possible. That’s why it negotiated so hard with AT&T before the launch in the U.S., and no doubt negotiated pretty firmly with Rogers as well, in advance of the Canadian launch. But don’t you think the two companies would have come to an agreement about what Rogers would charge? The two sides have reportedly been negotiating for months. (Update: A Rogers spokesperson says inventory levels haven’t changed).

For Apple to start yanking shipments at this point would be a bizarre move for the company to make, and would likely open the company up to legal claims by Rogers, depending on the terms of their agreement. I know that the popular mythos about Apple is that Steve Jobs gets to do whatever he wants, and strides around the globe dispensing goodies — or lumps of coal — at his whim, like Santa Claus in a black turtleneck, but I just don’t think that’s how things really work. At this point, I think that would-be Canadian iPhone users are on their own.

Rogers iPhone: Get a second mortgage

Whoever leaked the supposed memo with Rogers’ pricing for the Canadian iPhone played a cruel joke on their fellow Canucks: instead of the much-hoped-for $30 unlimited data plan — like AT&T users in the U.S. have — we get a series of plans that start at twice that amount, and the cheapest plan comes with a pathetic 400 megabytes of data and a paltry 75 text messages. If you want 200 text messages (which many U.S. plans come with) and a gigabyte of data per month, you have to spend a whopping $100 — oh yeah, and that’s without the ridiculous “system access fee” that gets tacked on, and call display is extra too.

The most common response to the plans so far, at least to judge by a Twitter search and a blog search, is virtually unprintable — as was the original domain name of this website, which is collecting names on a petition to send to the Competition Bureau (as of Sunday morning, the site had accumulated more than 10,000 names). There are some detailed responses here, and also here, and serial tech entrepreneur Albert Lai has a response to the plans here. Former Tory candidate Stephen Taylor calls it “a rip-off.”

As my friend Mark Evans notes on his blog, Rogers is clearly going for the cash grab here. I wish I could say that I was surprised, but this is pretty much what I was expecting. I think Rogers knows that Apple devotion and early-adopter syndrome will drive plenty of people to buy an iPhone regardless of the plans, and they will make boatloads of money on them, and everyone else can get stuffed. It’s a shame that Canada’s cellphone market is such fertile ground for plundering.

Update:

A Rogers account representative emailed me some additional info (which she also sent to Tris Hussey of Maple Leaf 2.0). In a nutshell, she says that you can choose one of the new data plans and add a voice plan, or you can add a data plan to your existing voice plan (but not one of the iPhone bundles). Upgrading to the iPhone from your existing phone and plan starts at $199.

“Rogers customers … can select from the new data pricing (ranging from $30 for 300MB to $100 for 6GB or $50 Flex Rate plan) and add a voice plan, or they can choose a combined voice and data plan to best suit their individual needs. Customers are not required to take the value packs, and can order most other features a la carte, such as $7 for Caller ID.

Existing customers can keep their existing voice service plan and pick a separate data plan (not in the iPhone 3G bundle) to meet their needs. They will need to check their upgrade eligibility, but any customer with a monthly service fee that is over $30 can upgrade to an iPhone 3G at $199 (for the 8GB model).”

Update 2:

Jevon at Wirelessnorth.ca points out some fine print in the Rogers contract that could jack up your costs for the iPhone even further — to the tune of $1,100 or more, thanks to a mammoth “break fee” that you will be charged if you try to escape from your three-year contract early.

Symbian: Android for the rest of us?

Nokia’s announcement this morning that it is acquiring the rest of the Symbian mobile operating system it doesn’t already own (about 52 per cent) and turning it into an open-source OS that anyone can contribute to and use seems like an arrow aimed straight at the heart of Android, the Google mobile effort that is still in its infancy but promises great things. Nokia is clearly threatened by the giant Web company’s plans, and has been bulking up in all sorts of ways.

Despite Google’s geek cred and the iPhone’s cool factor and the BlackBerry’s popularity in the corporate market, Symbian is still by far the biggest mobile player. It would be unwise to count the company out as a competitive threat — not because it’s going to create something as cool as the iPhone or as useful as the BlackBerry, but because having something like 200 million handsets out there running your operating system is a powerful force, and it is going to draw developers in just because of its sheer mass and size.

Imagine what might happen if Microsoft went open source — this is kind of like that, but for the mobile market. Of course, Google likely saw this coming (or at least it should have).

Shifd: A solution looking for a problem?

I have to say, I think it is very cool that a couple of Web developers who work for the New York Times came up with Shifd, a mobile app that lets you store links, notes and maps that are accessible from your regular browser or from a mobile device. That said, however, I still don’t see why I would use it (although to be fair, I’ve only played around with it a bit). To me, it looks like a solution in search of a problem.

The idea behind Shifd.com is that you sign up for the app, which uses Adobe’s AIR platform, and then you can store links to sites or news stories you want to visit or read later, and you can store notes, and you can send yourself maps or location-type information. Like Erick Schonfeld, I’m wondering why I wouldn’t just do those things either inside a mobile browser — using a bookmarking service such as del.icio.us, for example — or through a mobile app like Google Maps.

The other alternative, of course, as mentioned by a number of commenters at TechCrunch and elsewhere, is to just email yourself the link or the note. I regularly send myself emails that have certain keywords in them, knowing that I can search through Gmail quickly and find them. All I really need is a way to aggregate those easily based on keyword and feed them into something like Remember The Milk. And this looks like a cool example of what can be done with tags and del.icio.us.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Wagstaff of Loose Wire has some thoughts about how something like Shifd could be used by newspapers and others as an information delivery and/or storage mechanism. Maybe it does have its uses after all. It wouldn’t be the first app that was designed for one thing and wound up being used for something else.

Microsoft buys Danger, renames it Safety

It’s been awhile since Microsoft did anything really game-changing in the mobile space. Windows Mobile devices, and they work fine most of the time, but they are about as exciting as dry toast (of course, if you’re British, dry toast is pretty exciting). Now, Microbeast seems to want to step up its game, with the purchase of Danger Inc., maker of the Sidekick. But will it bring any life to Microsoft’s mobile efforts?

Like my recuperating friend Om Malik at GigaOm, I’ve been following Danger from the early days, when Andy Rubin started the company and got backing from some senior VC types to shake things up in the mobile space. And the Sidekick handset did that — even the first version, which was kind of clunky, was a pleasure to use, with its flip-out swivelling screen and keypad, and the focus on instant messaging and text messaging.

The mobile industry is a pretty vicious place, though, and Danger was arguably underfunded from the beginning. It was also (as Om notes) a closed system, and so didn’t get a lot of juice from downloadable apps or plugins. And Andy Rubin has since left the company and is now running Google’s mobile Android project. I see the Microsoft acquisition going one of two ways: Danger could bring some creativity into Microsoft, or the beast from Redmond could crush all the life out of the tiny startup. I’ll leave you to guess which of the two is more likely.