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Tuesday, August 12, 2008, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

iPhone reception; Australian Mac sales boom; 30% off Office 2008

AT&T is investigating reports from iPhone 3G users who claim their new phones can't maintain a solid 3G signal. Meanwhile, new figures show a huge jump in Apple's share of the Australian PC market. And Microsoft is offering students up to 30% off Office 2008 with the purchase of a new Mac.

iPhone 3G reception

Are some iPhone 3G's plagued by reception problems? Apple and its US wireless partner AT&T don't think so. However, those with a less than stellar experience have been congregating on Apple's discussion forums for over a month now, demanding the company take notice.

Among the various issues are an unusual number of dropped 3G voice calls, calls that don't properly downgrade from a 3G signal to an EDGE signal when 3G reception weakens, and poor overall 3G reception in areas where other 3G phones reflect good reception.

In a research note to clients Tuesday, Nomura analyst Richard Windsor speculated that an "immature" chipset solution from Infineon may be to blame for the sporadic issues.

"We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain Infineon is the 3G supplier," he wrote.

Windsor added that since he believes the problem to be embedded within the chipset itself, it's unlikely that Apple can rectify the issue through software updates.

While Apple has remained relatively mum on the subject, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said his firm is working with the iPhone maker to ensure that users have a great experience with the iPhone 3G, which he said has not been a source of tremendous complaints.

Siegel added the two companies are indeed investigating all customer complaints, but said it remains unclear whether the complaints are indicative of a widespread problem or the product of individual circumstances.

"How a device performs in individual situations depends on circumstances like where you are in the 3G coverage, how close you are to a cell site," he said. "Things like terrain and buildings all come into play. I'm not denying that people are having a less than satisfactory experience, but overall, the phone is doing great."

Australian Mac sales on the rise

Meanwhile, there's more good news for Apple's personal computer business coming out of Australia this week.

According to new figures released by market research firm Gartner, Apple's share of the local PC market rose to 5.3 percent in the second quarter of 2008, up from to 3.8 percent during the same period last year.

The firm estimate that Australians purchased approximately 1.2 million computers during the three months ended June, which would indicate sales of nearly 65,000 Macs — an increase of 20,000 units from the year-ago quarter. That suggests Mac sales grew at over 50 percent in the region compared to just 9 percent growth achieved by the rest of the industry.

Rival market research firm IDC also released its own results this week, which largely corroborated those from Gartner. It placed Apple's share of the Australian PC market even higher, however, at 6.2 percent.

Student savings on Office 2008 through Sept. 8th

Finally, Microsoft said Tuesday it has teamed with a select few Apple authorized resellers like Amazon.com to offer students up to 30 percent off its various Office 2008 productivity suites when they're purchased alongside a new Mac before September 8th.

The offer translates into $15 off Office 2008 Home and Student Edition, $80 off Office 2008 Standard Edition, and $150 off Office 2008 Special Media Edition..

Amazon is also offering between $50 and $200 rebates on Apple's entire Mac line through August 25th.

AppleInsider last year published its Road to Mac Office 2008 series covering the new suite and its roots in great detail.