Rotten Apples

The Apple press-conference today regarding the iPhone 4 antenna issue was ugly.  Not “Lebron James on prime time” ugly, but close.

I have great admiration for Steve Jobs and Apple and think that their elevation of the Apple brand as a premium, “Cool” maker of devices has been amazing.  That’s why I’m baffled that Jobs and Co. could do such a poor job at today’s press conference.

First, Jobs detailed how other devices from Motorola, RIM, and HTC have similar antenna problems when held a certain way.  That’s great and all, but the people who bought an iPhone 4 bought the device instead of the Motorola, RIM, and HTC devices because they believed (and were promised) that the iPhone 4 would be the best device available.  Jobs’ comparison was the first time I’ve ever seen him marginalize the APple brand.  Imagine if Ford released an Expedition and boasted that it got 20 miles per gallon.  A few months in, folks were complaining that it only got 17 mpg and would Ford care to offer an explanation.  And imagine that Ford said, “We’ve come to the conclusion that physics won’t allow us to make a vehicle this size that gets 20mph….but it’s no big deal since it’s basically the same gas mileage as a Chevy Tahoe.”  Ford would NEVER justify the attributes of its vehicle by saying they are equal to the competition, especially if they were “equally bad”.

Next, Jobs suggested that the problem with antenna reception was being blown out of proportion because fewer then .5% of iPhone 4 owners had called Apple Care to inquire about the problem.  Surely he isn’t so naive as to think that such a number represents all of the people experiencing frustration with the device.  Furthermore, the near-constant reporting on tech blogs and television has provided consumers with plenty of information that might disuade them from calling Apple Care, namely that Jobs had already issued an edict that there was nothing wrong with the phone and it should be held a different way.

Third, Jobs talked about how the iPhone 4 was dropping less then 1 call in 100 more then its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS.  So, after an announcement keynote that the iPhone 4 was going to “change everything” Jobs followed that up by admitting today that the iPhone 4 features an antenna that is NOT as good as the one it replaced.

I applaud Apple offering free cases to everyone.  I imagine that they’ll engineer a fix of some sort before September (when the “free case” deadline passes) and all will be forgotten.  But I think that things could have been handled substantially better from the outset.  Here is what i would have said:

“We realize that the antenna is not performing as well as is expected of an Apple product.  We take great pride in creating wonderful products and we take it very seriously that our customers and the market agree with us.   Even though our internal testing shows that our device’s performance falls within normal ranges of a cell phone, we do not think of the  iPhone as a “normal” device.  You expect more from us, as you should.  As a result, we will be offering a free case to anyone who has the iPhone 4, credit to anyone who has purchased a case already, and a “no questions asked” full cash return policy for anyone who would like to return their iPhone 4.  We remain confident that the iPhone 4 is the premier mobile device available and we are certain that we will permanently improve the antenna and reception quality in short order.  Thank you for choosing Apple.”

The end.  WOuldn’t have even needed Steve to fly back from Hawaii to say it.

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One Response

  1. Apple is fast approaching the un-cool status resulting from being too cool.

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