Apple’s iPhone non-apology apology

Steve Jobs offers new cases and refunds, and tells the media to stop making such a big deal of reception problems

Topics: Apple,

Apple's iPhone non-apology apologyApple CEO Steve Jobs talks about the Apple iPhone 4 at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Friday, July 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)(Credit: AP)

UPDATED

Here, in a nutshell, is Apple’s defense in the so-called AntennaGate affair:

Our customers love the iPhone4, and everyone else has the same problem, so shut up already, media. But because we’re so generous and customer-focused, we’re giving all iPhone4 buyers a free “bumper” case (and a software update) that makes everything hunky-dory.

OK, that’s a bit oversimplified. But not by much.

Apple brought a small group of selected journalists (given what I’ve said about Apple lately I was, unsurprisingly, not invited) to Apple’s Cupertino headquarters for an event that is unlike any I can remember in the company’s history: an attempt to slow if not halt the deluge of bad press the iPhone4 has been getting over the reception problems buyers of the new device have discovered in the real world.

Apple has been taking enormous heat — sometimes fairly and sometimes not — for the iPhone’s flaws. Based on the amount of coverage it’s received, you might imagine that the iPhone is about an order of magnitude more important than, say, the financial “reform” law that has made its way through Congress. (The New York Times’ Nick Bilton wrote, “It’s Just a Phone,” but that, too, was part of the massive coverage, right?)

On the Apple stage Friday morning, CEO Steve Jobs tried to make a case that a) the problem isn’t bad in the first place; b) it’s a common one in the industry; and c) we should all just stop talking about it.

Regarding the first point, for example, Jobs said half of 1 percent of new buyers called to complain about the reception problem. I’d call that a huge percentage. Most people don’t call support in the first place. And the early adopters of the iPhone are surely predisposed to wanting to be happy with their decision.



I’m more inclined to cut Apple a bit of slack on the second point. There is clearly an industrywide issue with reception, but I’m not persuaded at all — especially after the Consumer Reports testing — that the iPhone4 experience is typical. I’d like to see a much broader research effort by Consumer Reports and other unbiased testing agencies on this, so we really understand what’s happening.

But Jobs was admitting, at the same time, though he didn’t put it this way, that Apple didn’t do sufficient testing of the new phones. (So, by the way, was Consumer Reports admitting that it didn’t do sufficient reporting when it first recommended the phone, only to unrecommend it later.) This is an inevitable consequence of maintaining a corporate culture of such secrecy and paranoia — wanting to spring new products on the world with the maximum amount of hype, an Apple phenomenon that journalists serve so well with their long-standing adoration, only now being tested.

Give Jobs some style points for unintended irony in calling Apple “totally transparent.” But was he taking a subtle jab at AT&T to mention that the carrier keeps dropped-calls data a secret? Pot, meet kettle.

Apple’s insistence that the media are blowing the situation out of proportion is a matter of opinion, of course. I tend to agree that the antenna issue is not exactly earthshaking, but Apple’s claims of near-perfection — its new devices are magical, remember? — leave the company more open to the perception of failure than would otherwise be the case.

 The entire affair reminds me of the Intel “Pentium Bug” fiasco back in the 1990s, when Pentium chips were found to have small flaws in the way they handled certain calculations. Intel executives believed the flaws were not important enough to matter, but public concern snowballed and the company — doing the right thing belatedly — did an expensive recall.

Perhaps, given its industry-leading position these days — a long, long way from its earlier days as an underdog — Apple is beginning to realize that it has to be more forthcoming than it’s been in the past. That would be a wise realization, though an unlikely one as long as Jobs is in charge.

Meanwhile, it’s updates and bumpers for all! Well, for some, anyway.

A longtime participant in the tech and media worlds, Dan Gillmor is director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurshipat Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass CommunicationFollow Dan on Twitter. More about Dan here.

A longtime participant in the tech and media worlds, Dan Gillmor is director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. Follow Dan on Twitter: @dangillmor. More about Dan here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>