iPhone improvements for the UK and Japan

El Reg is reporting that O2 has been told by Apple not to release sales figures until Apple say so.

UK carrier O2 has confirmed that Apple has placed it under a gagging order to prevent it from publicly revealing how many iPhone handsets it’s sold to date.

The company’s head of media relations, Simon Lloyd, told Register Hardware that it’s a stipulation within the company’s sales agreement with Apple that O2 can’t release any such details until the Mac maker says so.

Lloyd would only say that O2’s UK iPhone sales in the two weeks up to Christmas period were “in line” with its expectations.

This is because the iPhone is completely bombing in the UK. Being in a University environment (where students always like tech gadgets), the only iPhone I have seen in the wild is an unlocked hacked-to-bits US model. The iPod Touch is undoubtedly a sound investment at just shy of £200 if you want a taste of “next gen” touchscreen interfaces and you are far better off buying an iPod Touch for the fancy new iPod bits and getting a free phone on a cheaper contract. You would have to be a complete mug (or rich fashionista) to buy an iPhone at £269 and be locked into an 18-month contract with O2 at £35 a month.

If the iPhone actually did half the things standard UK mobiles have done for years, it would maybe be an acceptable high-end phone model, but its not. The US mobile industry is a couple of years behind ours (people import our Nokia N95s for instance) so the iPhone looks like a fantastic bit of kit in the US.

The funniest thing is that the iPhone will be on DoCoMo in Japan soon – and it will need a complete feature overhaul to be even classed as a ケイタイ (keitai, mobile phone) out there, let alone here. To work in the Japanese market, Apple need to add:

  • 3G support. GSM/EDGE/GPRS do not exist there.
  • MMS support for their mobile email with emoticons (絵文字, emoji). Without emoticons, users will get gibberish when recieving mails from “proper” mobile phones in Japan.
  • Java application downloads for iAppli
  • Flash Lite for the on-demand games that are springing up on the Japanese mobile internet
  • QR barcodes. Apple should be pioneering these in the rest of the world already with their clout, but aren’t. The possibility is enormous here – in a music magazine, a QR code could be next to a new album review: the user scans it and can buy it from iTunes immediately over the air, no text input required. This happens in Japan already for all sorts of mobile content – Apple could be making this popular everywhere.

The Japanese text input is already programmed and is damn good on the iPod Touch, so that doesn’t need doing. Stuff like IC chips aren’t required, so its only those five points that I cannot see Apple surviving without. Windows Mobile phones released in Japan on Softbank now get an application for MMS with emoticons because the original models were seen as pretty basic without it.

Sort it out Apple!

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