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Even more iPhone 3G questions

CNET's cell phone editor tackles your questions about the upcoming Apple iPhone 3G.

After last week's column, it's clear that CNET readers have an endless amount of questions about the iPhone 3G,which Apple and AT&T are releasing on Friday. In this special edition of On Call, I'll answer as many as of those questions I can. If you don't see your question listed, be sure to check if a reader posed a similar query.

Do you want a piece of me? Apple

Q: If I were to buy and use the upcoming iPhone 3G and later decided to add a family member to my plan, will I be allowed to add that family member if they don't use an iPhone?
- Neil

A: According to Mark Siegel, AT&T's executive director of media relations, iPhone 3G buyers will be able to add additional iPhones as a family plan. Also, you will be able to combine an iPhone with other AT&T phones to create a family plan. For more on iPhone family plans, visit AT&T's Web site.

Q: I canceled my service with Verizon Wireless and changed it to AT&T for the iPhone 3G. Besides this being more expensive, I am wondering if this is the wisest of choices. Is the iPhone 3G worth the hassle?
- Jay

A: I can't say yet whether the iPhone 3G will be worth all the hassle. I'm not one of the lucky ones who got it early, so I'll have to tell you on Friday when I receive my review unit. Though I didn't think the first iPhone was worth the mammoth hype (what would be?), the addition of 3G, GPS and Exchange server support does fix a lot (but not nearly all) of the original handset's flaws. So if you've wanted the iPhone, but haven't yet made the plunge, now is the time. But whether it's the hassle and the money remains to be seen. And in the end, it's up to you.

Q: Will I need the AT&T business data plan ($45) to sync with my exchange server and Outlook at work or can I do that with the personal data plan ($30)?
- Henry

A: According to AT&T, a business data plan is required "when using iPhone to access corporate e-mail, company intranet sites, and/or other business solutions/applications."

On the other hand, the personal data plan is applicable for "access to personal e-mail, Web browsing, or consumer applications such as games." I'm sure there are some gray areas, and it will be interesting to see how Apple enforces this, but for now it looks as if the business data plan is required to get Exchange server e-mail on the iPhone 3G.

Yet this brings up an important point. Though the original iPhone will get Exchange server support with the 2.0 software update, AT&T hasn't said that users will have to change their data plans accordingly.

Q: I'm strongly considering the iPhone, but I have a major issue! The iPhone (along with its music playing capabilities) does not support stereo Bluetooth. Could Apple fix this with a software update?
- Rafael

A: Apple certainly could add a stereo Bluetooth profile with a software update, and I'm very hopeful they do so. I'm not so confident at this point but Apple could surprise us. We'll have to wait and see.

Q: Does the iPhone 3G have true GPS just like the car GPS devices? In other words, can it replace the GPS device in a car, with the voice prompts, et all? Also, since the iPhone's GPS feature uses cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots to help triangulate position, does that mean that you'll using data when you're using the GPS? I'm in Canada, so data usage is a sensitive issue since the iPhone 3G plans from Rogers don't offer unlimited data.
- Gurjeet

A: The iPhone 3G will connect with satellites, so it is "true GPS" as you might find in an in-car system. And as you say, it will also find your position through nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers when satellite reception isn't available (that's called assisted GPS). So in most circumstances you'll be able to see where you are on a map and find where you'd like to go.

Yet at this point it's not enough to completely replace an in-car system. Though you can get point-to-point directions with Google Maps, the iPhone 3G will not support turn-by-turn directions in real time, and it is unclear whether that capability will come later from third-party applications. Apple's SDK prohibits location-based service "designed or marketed for real-time route guidance" but that doesn't mean we'll never see them. TomTom has said it's working with Apple on such a solution, but we know nothing for sure. In his review of the iPhone 3G David Pogue of the New York Times said Apple told him that "the Phone's GPS antenna is much too small to emulate the turn-by-turn navigation of a GPS unit for a vehicle." I'm not sure what that means exactly, but it sounds like will see that capability at some point. But of course, for turn-by-turn directions to really be useful, the directions would have to be audible.

On the upside, you won't be using data minutes to connect to hotspots and cell towers for GPS, so there's no need to worry about using up your data balance. As a Canadian who's subject to Rogers' awful plans I can imagine why that's a sore spot. Fortunately, Rogers has relented a little.

Q: I am a new customer to AT&T. I signed my contract on June 23 and I have 30 days to switch in my Palm Centro for a different phone. The Centro is fine, but I'd rather have a 3G, Wi-Fi device like the iPhone 3G. Would I be able to trade in my new Palm Centro on July 11 without going through credit approval again, and would I receive the $199 price tag?
- Brian

A: The $199 and $299 prices are available to new AT&T customers and current customers who are eligible for an upgrade. AT&T hasn't clearly detailed its eligibility criteria; instead you'll have to sign into your AT&T account online to see if you qualify or if you'll have to pay the higher $399 or $499 prices. As for your Centro, you will get a refund if you return it, and you'll pay the difference for whichever iPhone you buy. Just remember that you'll have to sign a new contract.

Q: Is it possible that the iPhone 3G could be ready for AT&T's Mobile TV service? Or would it need something like an external antenna?
- Aaron

A: The iPhone wouldn't need a new antenna to get AT&T Mobile TV, but it would need software inside the handset. I doubt we'll see that added, though, as I imagine Apple would like to keep iTunes as the sole access point for media content.

Q: I plan on selling my friend my old iPhone. He already uses a Motorola Razr V3 with AT&T and his contract ended a year ago. Can he just continue his AT&T subscription and use my iPhone without signing a new contract?
- Mark

A: No, he'll need to sign a new contract if he wants to use your old iPhone. Fortunately, he can activate the handset and secure a contract through the iTunes online activation process, but the new service is necessary. He might also need a new SIM card, particularly if his current SIM is 3 years old, so he should check with AT&T.

Q: It's finally time for me to upgrade from my old stone tablet phone to something of modern times. I am an Apple fanboy and I love the iPhone, but being a student there is no way I can afford a $70-a-month plan. I have access to Wi-Fi at my house and just about everywhere I frequent, and my city does not have 3G in any case. Can I buy an iPhone without a data plan?
- Kevin

A: AT&T is insisting that a new iPhone 3G will require data as part of a service plan. Unfortunately, that means you'll have to shell out $70 per month for the cheapest plan plus $5 per month for the cheapest texting plan.

Q: Will the iPhone 3G rates for international roaming be reasonable? What are the data pricing plans while traveling outside of the United States?
- Ed

A: AT&T hasn't announced any changes to the international roaming plans for the iPhone. At present, two packages are available. For $24.99 per month you'll get 20MB of free data in 41 countries, while $59.99 per month will get you 50MB of data. See the international roaming page AT&T's Web site for the full details including a list of the 41 covered countries and any overage charges.

A data plan and an international calling plan are imperative if you are a globe-trotter, as you'll save a bit of sticker shock on your monthly bill. Of course, you can always save 3G data use by using the iPhone's Wi-Fi and keeping the e-mail "auto-check" function off. You can track your usage with a meter on the iPhone but it's difficult to say exactly how much data you'll get from 20MB. But in a rough estimate that should be about 390 Web pages and about 170 e-mails with attached photos.

Q: I was wondering if I bought the first iPhone the first month it came out if I would get some kind of rebate on the iPhone 3G?
- Nick A: As stated in our iPhone FAQ, only customers who bought the original iPhone after May 27 of this year will be eligible for a refund on the purchase price between their original iPhone and the iPhone 3G.

Q: What's the deal with activation of the new phone" I hear that you can't buy it unless you are due an upgrade?
- Charles

A: Anyone can buy the iPhone, but as stated above your purchase price will depend on if you're a new AT&T customer or an AT&T customer eligible for an upgrade. Check with AT&T to see if you're eligible.

Q: As a very satisfied customer of US Cellular, changing to AT&T with its dubious reputation for service and inability to port my number is a daunting proposition. What are the chances of Apple producing a CDMA version of the handset, similar to what Motorola did with the Razr?
- Craig

A: Unfortunately, I'd say the chances of a CDMA iPhone 3G are slim to none.

Q: I heard Hong Kong is going to sell a unlocked iPhone 3G. Will it work in every country that will get the iPhone? Would AT&T provide service for it? Thanks!
- Henry

A: It's difficult to say at this point. While technically, you should be able to use an unlocked iPhone 3G in any country where you ave a SIM card from a local carrier, some iPhone 3G carriers have said they won't support prepaid service. AT&T won't, for example, so you wouldn't be able to use it here. I would do my homework before packing my suitcase.

Q: Do you happen to know if the new iPhone 3G plans will be eligible for corporate discounts?
- Matthew

A: That will depend on your company and its relationship with AT&T.

Q: I am planning on buying an unlocked iPhone 3G in Spain and using it with my T-Mobile SIM card. I understand that I will not have access to EDGE and will lose the visual voice mail feature as well. Would I lose anything else, and will I still be able to use the 3G overseas?
- Dr. Jazz

A: If you use an unlocked iPhone with T-Mobile in the Unites States you won't lose EDGE access, but you will be unable to use the phone's 3G features. As you said, you'll lose visual voice mail as well, but otherwise the phone will work fine otherwise. Your 3G coverage overseas will depend on the local carrier, so you'll need to do some research before you go.

Q: I am from India and currently I am using a prepaid AT&T Go phone. I do not have credit history in the United States, so can I buy the iPhone 3G? Also, since I'm in the United States only until December, will I have to pay an early termination fee if I end my contract when I leave? Could I then use the phone in India? And can I still buy the original iPhone?
- Upneet

A: Unfortunately, AT&T will not support the iPhone 3G on its Go phone prepaid service, so you will have to sign a contract to get it. With no credit history, that may be a little tricky for you, but I imagine that you'll be able to work it out. But if you're successful in securing a phone, you will have to pay an early termination fee if you cancel your contract in December. That part is not negotiable.

After you leave the United States, you'll be able to use it with an Indian carrier only if you unlock it from AT&T. That shouldn't be hard to do, but you'll also have to get an Indian carrier to support it. I'm not aware of the exact policies there. And lastly, AT&T and Apple have stopped selling the original iPhone. You can buy it, however, on eBay and from other third-party sources.

Q: I bought an original iPhone on launch day last year, and I plan on buying the new 3G iPhone. I have service through AT&T, but I sold my original iPhone in order to have some money to buy the new one. Am I eligible for the upgrade even if I don't have the original phone in my possession?
- Michael

A: If you became an AT&T customer a year ago, then I imagine that you would be eligible, but I suggest checking with AT&T just to make sure. Also, it shouldn't matter that you no longer have a phone in your possession, just as long as you've kept your contract active.

Q: What is the likelihood of T-Mobile carrying the iPhone without the added expense of having to buy it unlocked?
- Ryan

A: It is possible that T-Mobile could carry the phone here in the United States but it won't happen for a couple of years at least. Though it's largely believed that AT&T has a lock on the iPhone until 2012, other reports say its hold will end in 2010.

Q: My AT&T contract won't be up until October. Will I be able to get the new iPhone when it comes out or will I have to wait until my contract is up?
- Ben

A: It makes no difference. Either way you'll have to sign a new contract, so you might as well do it now. AT&T does not charge an early termination fee for current customers who end their contracts and start a new one.

Q: If you buy an iPhone 3G and (maybe after one month) terminate the AT&T contract, are you still able to use the GPS functionality?
- AJ

A: Maybe, but my question is why would you want to? You'd end up paying a lot of money (the price of the iPhone, plus a month of service and an early termination fee) for a GPS device that doesn't even give turn-by-turn directions.

Q: What is the major difference, in storage, between the 8GB and 16GB?
- Leigh

A: Actual storage capacity on the iPhone 3G will depend on a lot of things including what kind of files you've stored on the handset, the variety of file types and how much memory you've taken up with contacts, personal data and photos. Movies, of course, will take up a lot of room (about 1GB each) so your cinema time won't be expansive on either model. With music tracks, however, you'll have a lot more space. Though storage capacity will depend entirely on the bit rate of each song, a very rough estimate would be about 1,800 tracks on the 8GB iPhone. Then, working on that assumption, the 16GB model would hold about twice that amount.

Q: Will the iPhone 3G be able to support the Microsoft Exchange server at my college? We don't have 3G (I do get it home), but we have Wi-Fi. Would I still be able to get my Exchange e-mail through Wi-Fi?
- Brian

A: The iPhone 3G should work with any Exchange Server e-mail system, so I imagine that you'll have no trouble getting your college e-mail. Also, it's important to note that Exchange e-mail access isn't dependent on whether you have 3G or Wi-Fi. Rather, all you'll need is a normal cell phone signal. Of course, Wi-Fi and 3G will deliver your e-mail faster, but they're not necessary.

Kent German, CNET's cell phones guru, answers your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories and reports on the state of the industry. Send him a question!. For past columns, check out the columns in the On Call archive