At least two Chinese companies have created some very special accessories for owners of an iPod Touch who can’t afford an iPhone: cases that turn their handheld into a smartphone.
Two new iPod Touch cases — the Apple Peel 520 and the tPhone — are both being touted as offering capabilities for voice calling and texting while also giving physical protection to the handheld computer.
Priced at just $57, the Apple Peel is made of rubber. The more expensive tPhone costs anywhere from $100 to $150, but includes a hard plastic cover. A jailbroken iPod Touch is required to use either.
A few weeks ago, the FCC seemed to have outed a third such device by posting a photo showing a product that looked a lot like the Apple Peel and tPhone. The picture made a reference to Sprint, too. However, the U.S. federal agency has since taken down the photo and most of the related documents from its site, apparently at the request of ZTE Corp., a Chinese company which had made an FCC filing for U.S. product approval.
The Apple Peel
If you think an iPhone is expensive in the US, it’s even more so in China. In an instant messaging (IM) conversation with CNN, the Apple Peel’s inventor gave economics as his inspiration for coming up with the unique rubber cover for the Touch.
In China, an iPhone is priced at anywhere between $588 and $730, whereas the iPod Touch goes for a mere $230, according to the Apple Peel inventor, who would identify himself only as Maxpy.
The Apple Peel includes a battery and dock connector, plus a SIM card slot for enabling voice calling. Yoison Technology, a start-up company founded by Maxpy, also provides software with the case to give the iPod Touch its iPhone functionality and to enable texting.
Those who are interested in buying the Apple Peel will probably have a wait on their hands: Maxpy told CNN that mass production of the product is on hold until Yoison determines whether the Peel violates any intellectual privacy (IP) rights. So far, Yoison has only pre-sold about 150 of the iPod Touch covers on the Chinese e-commerce site Taobao.com.
If you live in the U.S., the costlier tPhone might not be worth the money, even if you can figure out how and where to buy one. In this country, you can buy a new iPhone 4 for $200 plus a two-year contract with AT&T, while the cost of an iPod touch and tPhone is significantly higher than that.
The tPhone reportedly comes with a SIM card slot, so it would be usable with carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile.
It also has a 1,200 mAh battery, audio jack, and minUSB port.
Brighthand hasn’t yet found any English-language sites providing information about how and where to buy a tPhone.
However, with translation assistance from Google, we found both the tPhone and the Apple Peel advertised on the Chinese-language site Taobao.com, each with photos.
The ZTE ‘Peel’?
Meanwhile, about two weeks ago, a picture of a product referenced in an FCC filing by ZTE bore a striking resemblance to the Apple Peel and tPhone appeared on the Web. The photo showed a “Sprint” logo and a “Peel” trademark on the top of the cover.
It isn’t clear that the “Skin” pictured on the FCC’s site — also referred to in some places as the “ZTE3200 3G router” — is meant to work with an iPod, or that Sprint is associated with the proposed product.
However, the details of this accessory have been removed from the FCC site at ZTE’s request.
The four ZTE3200 documents still on the site include a request for confidentiality around several other documents in the filing: a block diagram, schematics, a parts list, and documents about operation and tune up procedures.
These materials “contain trade secrets and proprietary information not customarily released to the public,” contended ZTE’s David Gong. “The public disclosure of these materials may be harmful to the applicant and provide unjustified benefits to its competitors.”
Other documents were more mysteriously worded. In one of them, Wong wrote: “This device is acting as slave and operating in the 2.4 GHz (2412 – 2462 MHz) band. Ad Hoc function is not supported and not able to operate on non-U.S. frequencies.”
In another document – a “request for dismissal” — ZTE’s Royce Wang wrote: “This device, model name: ZTE3200, will not sell to the market at the right moment and we would like to request FCC to withdraw the FCC ID:Q78-ZTE3200 from the FCC [Web site].”