Some will look at Apple’s response today to well-publicized concerns over antenna design in the new iPhone 4G as tempering an overblown non-issue. Others will see it as a company with a relatively unblemished track record in product launches taking the “rock star” approach and pointing fingers at the rest of the mobile device industry. Is the company still an innovator or has it become relegated to merely part of the flock now?
Apple chief Steve Jobs is quoted today as saying, “0.55% of all iPhone customers have called AppleCare with an antenna issue,” and, “So this doesn't really jive with what you read about this problem.” Is the concern about all iPhones? No. Only the iPhone 4. Should anyone expect 3+ million people with iPhone 4 worldwide to call AppleCare if virtually every media outlet is reporting a widespread trend? No. How many sticking accelerator pedals reports did it take Toyota to issue a voluntary recall on its Prius vehicle line in the US? Not very many for a similarly “rare” occurring issue!
Should Apple be treated like other mobile device vendors when the company prides itself on being different and unique? If antenna signal strength changes are a common industry issue when gripping a smartphone (as Apple reported from its own in-house testing of RIM, HTC and Samsung, among others), why hasn’t Apple used its 18 Ph.D. scientists and engineers, and $100 million investment to provide a better experience that surpasses the rest of the industry? This is the expectation that Apple has created.
The unfortunate analogy to Apple’s dilemma is the same as athletic superstars and scandalous celebrities. These individuals and businesses have elevated themselves to “rock star” status and will not be able to remain on that pedestal forever; in the eyes of the media or fans of the brand.
The image that each (Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan, and Apple, for example) has built requires superhuman performance. Any slip-ups (whether real or perceived) throw their heroics into question. Should the media and consumers be held responsible for these false expectations of Apple? No, the company’s excellent marketing and branding campaigns have created it.
While pleased that Apple made a public response to concerns over iPhone 4 performance, they could have taken the “high road” and not tried throwing the mobile handset industry “under the bus” in the process. Instead, the company should have admitted that the fourth generation handset has a problem and announced plans to take the same course of action that celebrities and athletes alike pursue these days. Enter rehab!
Is this the beginning of the end for Apple? No.
Does it give Apple’s track record a black eye? Absolutely.