Is the bubble bursting for Apple?

For nearly as long as I have been in technology Apple have been the golden child, each product they bestowed upon us was like a blessing from above. Sure there were grumbles, I’ve always had a love hate relationship with them; but you can’t deny the fact they are amongst the best of the best when it came to product design.

Then the unthinkable happened Apple released a product with a blatant fault. The iPhone 4 has an aerial design flaw that means that if you hold it in a specific way it loses signal and can drop calls.

Unfortunately this wasn’t Apple’s only mistake, first they claimed that there wasn’t a fault, then they claimed that it was a software issue and in fact there was no hardware fault, then they finally admitted that there was a fault, but it wasn’t as serious as everyone was making out (which is partly true) and that all mobile phones have the problem.

Apple has now setup a dedicated page detailing the issue, and demonstrating that it affects many different types of phone.

It’s just not cricket, how can you go from a statement of

“This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/25/iphone4_antenna/

to;

“we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong”

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/07/02appleletter.html

to;

“In our tests, iPhone 4 dropped from 3 bars to 1 bar when held in a way that attenuated the signal.”

http://www.apple.com/antenna/

then point out that you have spent $100 million testing your aerials, and that all phones suffer from some kind of signal degradation.

It also hasn’t placated all the critics, the tests Apple claim to have completed cannot be independently verified. O2 has extended its refund policy on iPhone4 so if you want to swap it still you can and Apple has embarked on a $180 million giveaway of protective bumpers to reduce interference.

It’s not that Apple have shipped a product that is below the high standard they have set themselves that has done the damage, it’s the way they have chosen to handle the situation that has brought them so much scorn.

Countless blogs mock them, even Apple-philes are turning; one of the most notable is the ‘Secret Diary of Steve Jobs’. A growing number of wolves have been circling Apple in the last few years looking for a chink in the armour, and now Apple has given them it with spades.

Apple may have to join the rest of the world and start looking at ways to deal with bad reviews. I predicted at the beginning of the year that the iPhone market share would peak around October. I think I was 2 months too late on that one; with Android quadrupling its market share since the beginning of the year and Apple losing 10%, the years of ‘the golden child’ of tech may be drawing to an end. I certainly don’t think Apple will join the ranks of Acer, and they firmly remain a premium product. Maybe though, it’s beginning to ‘be ok’ to point out that a product actually isn’t that great without risking threats on your life.

Lucidica specialises in supporting and advising small businesses of 1-50 people on anything technological.

by Thomas Jeffs

Jeffs

Thomas Jeffs is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Lucidica.

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