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Apple Inc reported on Monday that it sold four million iPhone 4S in the new smartphone’s first three days on the market, setting up a strong December quarter for the world’s largest technology company. Helped by availability in more countries and on more telecommunications carrier networks, the iPhone 4S, which went on sale on Friday, October 14, managed to outshine the iPhone 4, which sold 1.7 million over its first three days.

Unveiled just a day before Apple Chairman Steve Jobs died, it was initially dubbed a disappointment, partly because it looked identical to its predecessor. But anticipation of its “Siri” voice software helped it set an online record in pre-orders on October 7. Strange how the first reaction of disappointment turned out to be so wide of the mark.

It launched in seven countries – Japan, Australia, France, UK, Germany, Canada and the United States – versus five for the iPhone 4. In the United States, it launched with all three major U.S. carriers — Verizon Communications Inc’s and Vodafone Group Plc’s Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, and Sprint Nextel Corp — rather than just one for Apple’s previous smartphone.

Christopher Macgowan
twitter: chrismacgowan

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Am I missing something here?

Some years ago the then Labour government was threatening to heap even more legislation on the UK motor industry if it did not clean up its act and reduce the number of consumer complaints coming mostly from bad experiences when having cars serviced or repaired.  The National Consumer Council was on the case and it had in its gift the power to recommend legislation if there was no improvement. In 2008 the NCC morphed itself into a body called Consumer Focus  but by this time the industry had launched and established its own Motor Codes operation headed up by Chris Mason.

This initiative had support and active participation from across the industry notwithstanding some other codes which also had popped up – notably one backed by BSI  – for servicing and bodyshop repairs. The public face for the BSI code is that well known motor character Quentin Willson who sees himself these days as the consumers’ champion on all matters car.

Meantime Motor Codes was signing up members on a very successful basis; car manufacturers were nudging their own dealership chains to join and many enlightened independent garages were doing the same.

Car servicing continues to be a consumer concern and recently was raised as such in the House of Commons. So how bizarre that at the very time Motor Codes is achieving a critical mass of membership (6500 members to be precise), at the very time the new coalition government might be looking for non-legislative industry leadership and solutions, the industry’s Retail Motor Industry Federation  decides to throw its toys out and go off and launch yet another code – having been part of Motor Codes from day one.

I think if I was the Minister of Transport I would spot an own goal here.

I can only hope the industry does not repent at leisure.

Christopher Macgowan

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Wi-Fi on the London underground.

Brilliant! The Mayor of London is rolling out more wi-fi starting with a test run on the London underground. The move to get mobile phones working on the tube moved a step closer as BT announced wi-fi trials at Charing Cross underground station. The six month trial will bring wi-fi connectivity to the ticket hall and both the Bakerloo and Northern line platforms. It will be free for BT broadband customers and for mobile users with free wi-fi minutes.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson wants to see widespread mobile coverage. Indeed as the Olympics approach he is keen to see wi-fi points on lamp posts all over London to give London really dense coverage – the City of London got there some time ago and Boris wants to see that replicated across more of the capital.

The Charing Cross trial begins on 1 November.

Christopher Macgowan

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One or two companies are starting to voice opinions on the electric car revolution which at first sight might appear negative but which are probably no more than a healthy dose of common sense.

The latest is JD Power which says demand for electric cars “may be overhyped”.  A new study predicts that global sales of electric and plug-in hybrid cars would reach 5.2m units in 2020, or just 7.3 per cent of an estimated 70.9m passenger vehicles. Extensive surveying in the US, Europe and China forces the company to conclude that it would be difficult to persuade large numbers of consumers to switch from conventional vehicles to electric and rechargeable hybrid petrol-electric cars because of issues surrounding their design, performance and price.

This is in rather stark contrast with Carlos Ghosn who talks bigger figures – and in my view even Toyota has a rather long term and measured approach which certainly does not include hype anywhere.

There are a couple of facts which should not be forgotten in all the excitement. First is that private buyers need to fall in love with the car they plan to buy. Second is that for many households the car is the second biggest purchase in the budget. Neither of these facts allow for too much uncertainty to creep in around price, performance, infrastructure and resale value and in there lies the very real doubt.

The question is whether the new technologies represent another significant step along the way to real alternative power trains – and important though that is, it remains just a step and no more than that. Or whether the revolution is upon us and the game has changed totally.

Everything tells me this is a step and not a revolution.

Christopher Macgowan

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