Cingular Reveals Details On iPhone at CES

Cingular revealed surprising details at a press luncheon yesterday at CES. These details include the beginnings of the iPhone, the choice to further the relationship with Cingular made by Steve Jobs and more. Read More for the full story.

At a CES luncheon hosted by Greg Laurie, the President of Cingular’s National Sales Distribution, he began to unravel the mystery of the iPhone. The biggest details are the fact that Apple had been testing Cingular’s ability to retain confidential information without leaks for two years prior, and the fact that Cingular board members had to approve the project without seeing any hardware. Before the Keynote, only three people from Cingular had seen the actual device, and Apple was completely in control of hardware design and development. From the design of the case, price, user interface, to software and what wireless data access it would have was all in Apple’s court.

This explains the decision to not support 3G access of any kind, as well as the decision to not support user installable 3rd party applications or SDK’s. This also explains the lack of physical AT&T/Cingular branding, instead relying on a visual readout to the right of the signal strength indicator, showing that this is indeed Apple’s project and that Cingular was selected to merely provide cellular and data service. Also expected was the device to be locked to the Cingular network with Laurie jokingly stating that Apple engineers were working on ways to keep the device locked.

The biggest detail confirmed by Laurie was the fact that the device will only be sold with a 2 year contract or extension, possibly to prevent people from unlocking the device and using it on another carrier. (Which seems strange since the device includes a quadband radio.) The fact that both Cingular and Apple want people to buy the device bundled with service means it wouldn’t be ruled out as a possibility. The timeline for a June release was not confirmed as it was stated that Apple was in control of the issue if any delays were announced.

Also stated was the possibility of the iPhone being offered with a 1 year warranty by providing services from cross-trained Cingular reps and Apple providing higher level support if necessary. One claim that seemed highly dubious was the statement that Laurie justified the $499 price by claiming the iPhone was more of an iPod than a smartphone, (which is confusing since it runs OSX, and supports J2ME) also stating so far as to say it will never function like a smartphone.

Another statement made is that all media must be loaded to the device using a PC or Mac, and that the iPhone will not support over the air music downloads, possibly to keep it in line with current iPods. Steve Jobs called the iPhone “The best iPod ever.” With how things are turning out currently on the trademark side, it remains to be seen whether the iPhone can live up to that claim.