For the first time in years, Apple got real grief from the public. Problems with the iPhone 4 antenna design has made it look incompetent and uncaring. So how does Steve Jobs respond? By giving out free accessories, as expected – and saying Apple's phones are just like everybody else's. Huh?
Apple chief Steve Jobs did a couple of unusual things on Friday night (SA time) in trying to defend his company from the ridicule and pockets of anger it has, unusually, come in for in recent weeks. He provided some insight into the testing environment Apple has created for its phones; limited insight, but more detail than the company has ever made public. But in a completely unexpected move, he did something we never thought possible: Steve Jobs said that Apple makes imperfect products, likened them to those made by competitors, and implied that his customers should stop acting all hysterical.
And he wasn’t oblique either. Jobs rolled out a video of a BlackBerry to show that “every smartphone has this problem”, referring to a sudden drop in signal strength depending on how the phone is held and positioned. Then he did the same with HTC and Samsung handsets. “We’re not perfect. Our phones aren’t perfect,” the screen behind him read at one point.
Well no, Apple isn’t perfect. But we’ve grown used to a pretty haughty attitude from the company, at best.
Photo: Apple (L-R) COO Tim Cook, CEO Steve Jobs and Robert Mansfield, senior vice president, Mac Hardware Engineering appear onstage during Q&A period at news conference on antenna problems with the iPhone 4 at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, July 16, 2010. REUTERS/Kim White
Which is why it was almost a relief when Jobs reverted to a more expected script, and told his customers to stop being such whiny-babies. Complaints to Apple’s support people were rare, he insisted, dropped call rates on the iPhone 4 aren’t anything special and returns of bought handsets are at quite acceptable levels.
Still, as expected, Apple will be giving away free accessories to ameliorate the problem, and refunding those who already bought their own cases. Though with more than three million handsets in circulation, the company says it wasn’t able to keep up with manufacturing those accessories in the first place, so there may be a bit of a wait.
If you can’t wait, fine, be like that; Apple will give you a free refund for your iPhone 4.
That’s a better response than we would have expected from many of its competitors, and the three week interval while it figured out this course of action isn’t too bad. But such a show of weakness can only embolden the critics that have caused Apple so much grief during those three weeks. At least some of its early adopters have discovered their voices, and even if it is a small percentage, Apple has been put on notice. Maybe it’s exactly the kind of reality check it needed.
By Phillip de Wet
Main photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks about antenna flaws in the iPhone 4 during a press conference at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, July 16, 2010. Jobs said that Apple is addressing antenna and reception issues with the iPhone 4, saying “we are not perfect” and “we want to make all our users happy.” REUTERS/Kimberly White