/ Technology

Apple – has it all gone pear-shaped?

Apples and a pear

For decades Apple was the underdog. Now its following, which began almost as a cult, has made it the world’s largest tech company. But has Apple become a victim of its own success?

When I returned to my family last weekend even my mum knew about the iPhone 4’s reception saga – it was mainstream news. Would this have been the case if the issue had been detected on a Nokia handset?

Regardless, I doubt that ‘antennagate‘ will have a long-lasting impact on Apple. The pitch forks may stab around for a while, but soon they’ll be placed back in their respective sheds.

There’s a negative buzz around Apple

Importantly though, the Apple iPhone’s buzz score (a balance based on consumer’s positive and negative comments) has sunk from May’s 35.5 to a pitiful 2.2 in July. Even the number of people willing to recommend the handset has halved.

And it wasn’t the iPhone 4’s reported problems that really shook the brand – it was the way Apple dealt with them. Telling users to hold their phone in a different way and deleting negative comments from its forums began to turn Apple into the Big Brother company it once despised.

The company’s CEO, Steve Jobs, was seen as the Apple of so many eyes, but of late he’s come across as slightly defensive. Has the Apple turned sour? Sure, giving out free iPhone 4 bumper cases is a positive step, but it looks like the bigger Apple gets, the more villainous Jobs becomes.

Yet Apple’s profits haven’t changed – in fact they reached epic proportions in the company’s last quarter. And with the iPhone 4 being Apple’s most successful product launch, ‘hold it the wrong way’ comments will soon ripen into long lost fairy tales.

Love, hate, but never indifferent

There’s an old adage that says brands want to be loved, don’t mind being hated, but indifference spells disaster. Recent events might make some of us despise the brand, but at least we’re taking part. And although the iPhone assimilation may momentarily slow down, Apple’s loyal fans will always stand by.

At the iPad launch, Stephen Fry told me that the frenzy surrounding it was akin to a new album release from Lady Gaga. A duff single isn’t going to destroy the love affair – so I don’t doubt Apple’s recovery will be swift. Roll on the next Apple iPhone.

What's your opinion of Apple following its iPhone 4 issues?

I couldn't care less. (43%, 256 Votes)

I've always loved Apple and I still love it. (31%, 187 Votes)

I've always hated Apple and I still hate it. (15%, 91 Votes)

I used to love Apple, but now I hate it. (8%, 47 Votes)

I used to hate Apple, but now I love it. (3%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 599

Loading ... Loading ...
Paul Sangster says:
22 July 2010

From my limited experience (two ipod nanos, an iPhone 3GS and an iMac), Apple products are stand out because of their capability, packaging, reliability and style. That's what you pay a premium for over over brands. Hopefully, the recent issues with the iPhone 4 are exceptional and not a sign of things to come with the expansion of Apple as such a major part of the technology market.

Jon Barber says:
23 July 2010

I haven't had any problems with the new iPhone 4, far from it. It is a brilliant phone and a marked improvement over all the weak areas of the 3G. The screen is outstanding and the pictures and video taken with this phone are excellent, even at night. The flash is a welcome addition as is the additional camera. With respect to the "dodgy reception", I have had no problems. I am on O2 and now have less dropped calls than I did with my 3G. My only grumble is that the Voice Control, whilst it could be so useful, only correctly understands me about 1 in 5 times. I can live with that.

On the otherhand, my iTunes account was hacked the other day and it is impossible to speak to their support on the phone, only over email to Luxembourg. iTunes haven't really done anything to help with this – it was my bank that reimbursed me the £100 and stopped the fraudulent transactions by cancelling my card. It took 3 days for iTunes to reply and they haven't apologised at any point or provided an explanation to the breach. I was not impressed that iTunes could be hacked so easily and am reluctant to store my new card details in their store in the future. Their support's attitude may be a consequence of their success?

richard gorrie says:
23 July 2010

i pray at the altar of no Tech Gods, be it Apple, Microsoft, BMW or Moulinex but…at 50 years of age i've realized that what matters isn't if a product breaks down or not – they ALL DO sooner or later,it's only a question of when… – what REALLY matters is how the company responds & takes care of it : takes care of YOU, the paying customer, the very reason for their existence/their profits, etc…
now, amongst many other brands in my life, i've a couple of Apple products :
an iPhone 3gs – simple to use, a screen i can see in daylight, nice multitouch interface, etc…
& a 27'' iMac i7 – more computing power than i'll ever need, super high quality display, again simple to use, etc…
& my experience about Apple's customer /after sales service is this :
i had a faulty wireless alu keyboard, one year old – took it back where i bought it & got a new one 3 days later + full warranty on it
had a 2 year old 17'' white intel iMac fry during a thunderstorm – one week later they gave me a check for the full amount & of course i went across the shop floor to the Apple counter & bought a better spec alu 20'' iMac for 40€ less right there & then…
so my conclusion is : i'm pretty happy with my Apple stuff & not at all afraid it breaks down. can we honestly say that about most manufacturers ?…hum….
products being designed /manufactured by humans, not GODS & humans being flawed, means that no matter what measures are taken, flaws WILL inevitably be passed onto those products. that's life & the only way to avoid it is to buy nothing….

Completely agree. My conversion to Apple came with the 1st generation iPod, followed a few years later with an iMac. Only ever experienced one problem – very minor, with the remote control – which they just swapped in store. No filling out forms, or sending for repair.

Most products do indeed break down. And they tend to break down in the most awkward of places.

Fine, if you’re in a big city and you’re prepared to pay the prices demanded by Apple for fixing. However, in the UK there are many locations hundreds of miles away from an Apple store and independent repairers don’t normally want to touch Macs, not least because of spare parts availability problems.

On the other hand, you’ll find it difficult to be much more than fifty miles from someone who can sort out a PC.

I’ve been using computers since the 1960s. All sorts of hardware and all sorts of software. And I do from time to time have to use Macs. To me, a computer is a work-tool. I want it to be built and configured to MY requirements. I want to be able to select software from as wide a range as possible — the wider the range available, the better the chance that someone has produced a program to meet my specific needs. I want to be able to get any problems, hardware or software, resolved as quickly and simply as possible. I want a system that’s as open as possible. I want as wide a range of peripherals as possible to be available and to interface as easily as possible. At this point in time, those parameters mean that it’s got to be PCs that I use.

Apple seems to me to major on image and cult status.Fine if the object of your exercise is to project a particular image and you’re well-heeled and you don’t have work collaboratively with the rest of the world and you live in a city. Otherwise, join the more mundane real world in which PCs predominate. And the same sort of principles apply with mobile phones — which for some of us, believe it or not, are used principally for receiving and making phone calls, often in locations around the world where reception is poor.

Grant says:
23 July 2010

I've had an iPhone 3GS, iPad and had the iPhone 4 before trading it in for an HTC Desire because of the antenna reception problem. The HTC is light years ahead of the iPhone 4 – faster, easier (more intuitive) and I can change the battery! The iPhone is good but Apple were asleep at the wheel when HTC launched the Desire. Apple – be afraid.

Alan Carmichael says:
23 July 2010

Poor "fusspot". My experience with the MacBook Pro has been quite the reverse.
My introduction to my Apple MacBook has been one of the best things that has happened to this 74 year old. I find it a fantastic product and so innovative. So far I have had 4 "One to One" sessions as well as 2 Workshops, all at my local Apple Store, and cannot speak highly enough of the help and support provided. It has been good fun into the bargain. My initial introduction was last year when I decided to buy an iPhone 3G which has been another excellent Apple product, and it was my experience with this which prompted me to buy a MacBook Pro.

James says:
23 July 2010

Why does this poll only give you the choice of love, hate, or complete indifference? I admire Apple for what they have achieved, and on the whole like their products, but I don't love them, let alone in the unconditional way implied by your poll.

The iPhone 4 antenna problem, while not insignificant has been massively over egged to the point of hysteria. Just as there used to be ridiculous bad tempered Mac vs PC online arguments, iPhone vs Android seems now to have become the focus of these absurd online religious wars.

The bottom line is that most (though not all) people find that the new iPhone works better as a 'phone than the previous model. It is new, and like most new models also has some teething problems. That's all.

Clyde Millard says:
23 July 2010

I think Ben Stevens' article is fair comment, the iPhone 4 is a great product, I don't own one but have handled one. Because recent Apple products have attracted so much hype it's inevitable that any problems are going to be blown out of all proportion, schadenfreude I think it is called! It's pathetic how other manufacturers have just copied the iPhone, none of them as good! To declare my interest: I've used Apple Macs now for 24 years, great products and I've always found Apple a great company to deal with.

haggis says:
23 July 2010

The problem is not Apple, the problem is the press. As one leading blog pointed out… "this whole debacle demonstrates the power of the Internet to report in the wrong way". They go on to say … "Unfortunately, the solution is an impossible one. This is because the solution is discretion. Discretion and restraint are things that have more or less disappeared, since the benefits of being first and wrong (when reporting) outweigh the benefits of being late and right."

Apple took the time to research the problem, get the facts then try to make customers happy. Try getting RIM, Nokia, etc to do that!

I first bought an apple product in 1999 or thereabouts. It was an imac,a nice blue colour. No towers,no wires all over the place and most important -goodbye to the crashes on my custom built pc.
It still works, although on at least one occasion it was the victim of a desk collapse.
Now in my household we have ipods, an iphone4,an imac a macbook and a windows laptop. Apple has produced attractive,reliable products which do more and more ,and are easy to use-on the whole. That is why we use them. I don’t "love" Apple,but I appreciate an innovative company with good design sense.
It won’t last. Companies don’t lead the field forever,the energy may disappear. Big companies become also rans.
However the iphone fuss was exaggerated,a media frolic. Personally I can’t afford one. Use an ipod touch and an old phone on a £10month contract.
That was a bit long..

Their products used to be high quality, tested and reliable but a little pricey.
Now their products a produced very cheaply for them in china and quite often problematic, but instead of prices dropping, Apple now make huge profits with their prices having rocketed into outer orbit. Of course as we have just seen with the iphone 4, apple have cut back on research and development. I would regard the reception fault as incredible negligence by apple for not having tested and spotting this fault at a very early design stage, long before going into full scale production.
These are the type of design faults you would normaly expect to find on very cheap unheard of smart phone brands, selling all singing all dancing touch screen phones from china on ebay for about £40. Certainly not when you are forking out well £1000 on a long contract to get a top flight phone from Apple!

Geoff March says:
23 July 2010

I have just upgraded my iPhone from a 3G to a 4.
I have no allegiance to Apple and I consider myself impartial.
The iPhone 4, in my opinion is a superb piece of technology.
It does more than I could expect with ease and with speed. I have no complaints and would not be without it now!

Lorne Bell says:
24 July 2010

If you order an iPad on line don’t order the case with it. That currently more than doubles the wait to over 4 weeks. Order the i-pad, delivery 10-14 days then the case, delivery 4 weeks

George Allen says:
27 July 2010

iPad/ iPad case… sure, the delivery /says/ the case will take weeks longer; but mine was delivered at the same time as the iPad (which was sooner than the 10-14 days they’d said!)

Pete Massingham says:
25 July 2010

Overall, I have had a great if expensive (comparatively speaking) relationship with Apple products. I have not owned an iphone because I think it is an expense I cannot justify or additional technology that I do not need. I much prefer the layout, functionality, and design of apple products, and have usually found the service very good in the States, but less affable in the UK. They are much more concerned with pushing a new product here in the UK than with sound advice. I suspect quality issues will become more regular given the size and scale of their operations now, and the fact that components are being built in places like Chine – not exactly the bastion of best workmanship. There are too many developments that add to a throw away mentality – something I find objectionable. Technology products should have a life span of more than a year or two.

Grant says:
25 July 2010

What is interesting in this thread (as James points out) is that most people tend to either love, hate or are completely indifferent to the iPhone 4 (or other Apple product in question). It is quite clear that those who have experienced only iPhone (either 3G, 3GS or 4) think it’s great without any current reference point, e.g. another equivalent smartphone such as HTC Desire. That is, they don’t know any better. Before you can say something is great, try the alternative. Only then can you truly say with conviction that it’s great.

Clyde – you say it’s pathetic how other manufacturers have just copied the iPhone, none of them as good, but have you owned and used the equivalent alternatives/competitors?

Vix says:
25 July 2010

Is no one else having problems with the software upgrade on the 3G/3GS?

Sue stainer says:
27 July 2010

What problems are you having? We have a number of iPhones of different ages in the household and generally no problems though it has made the 3G a little slower to launch some applications.

No, update was seamless and everything works fine.

David Prime says:
27 July 2010

I converted to Apple products in 2006 after a life time of using and working with PCs. Part of my job was as a Network Officer, which meant I spent most of my time sorting out peoples PCs. I have nothing but praise for Apple and their products and would recommend them to anyone. Before a iphone I had both a Nokia, easy to use but very basic, and an enigmatic HTC phone (much too clever for most people including me). After a Moss (of the IT Crowd) incident where I dropped my iphone into a bowl of water, I was able to go into an Apple store and get a reduced price replacement immediately. The use of Apple networking products (Airport Extreme and Express) enabled me to set up a secure network quickly and effortlessly.
Initially on switching, I installed Vista on my Mac but discovered that all I did was to spend time updating virus checkers etc and hence I switched completely.
No one seems to have mentioned the great Apple software and the hundred thousands of useful apps available in the itunes store as an added incentive.

This mirrors my experience. I switched to Apple for computing and mobile phone in summer 2009 after one of those ‘nearly threw the PC out the window’ moments. Then I had my epiphany moment when an Apple demonstrator successfully convinced me that the 15 years of PC files I had backed up were easily read by a Mac. So I switched, and I estimate that from losing about 2 hours a week downtime in crashes, freezes, slow responses for some programmes, if I lose 15 mins a week downtime now I’d be exaggerating.

And as for mobiles, I used to be a Blackberry user but could never get the downloads to work on my PC to enable me to run my mobile office on my phone. So as part of my switch Apple I switched to an iPhone and bingo! I’ve never looked back. Everything seamlessly sychned between iPhone and MacBook and I have more control than ever over my business communications.

Couple the above with the fab 24" monitor I bought on eBay for a snip for my ‘desktop’ work, the great software, apps, etc. and I am a total Apple convert (but not enough to get an iPad – I’ll wait for iPad II)

I still have the unfortunate need to use a laptop PC occasionally, and I hate it. In a matter of months the system Windows and the PC environment seemed so alien. I can’t see me ever returning to a Windows PC system.

Sioux says:
27 July 2010

I have an iPhone 4 (bought to replace a 3G which is now being used by another family member) and have had NO issues with dropped calls/loss of signal or the proximity sensor. If I had I would just have returned it for a refund

John Price says:
28 July 2010

I bought a Macbook Pro in Hong Kong just over two years ago. Back in the UK the screen failed (black screen of death) owing to the NVidia graphics chip overheating (a known issue, apparently). Although out of warranty, the Apple store in Birmingham replaced the chip free of charge in three days and discovered an issue with the wireless card, which they also replaced free of charge. I got it back in just over a week. This is my fourth Apple since 1990 and the first time anything has gone wrong.

Andy Seal says:
28 July 2010

Apple just took themselves too seriously – it was apparent if you watched the video of their press conference about antennagate.
On the other hand, we benefit from their OCD approach to their products.
I’ll just add that some tech journalists took the issue too seriously too. Fine to critique the product but some acted like older brothers scolding an errant sibling. It’s just tech.

MarkXA says:
30 July 2010

My wife has an iPhone 3GS and I have one of the HTC Android phones. Now, she really loves the iPhone, but speaking as both the one who pays the bills and the one who has to sort things out when they go wrong (I’m looking at you, iTunes!) I have to say that not only does the HTC seem equal or better in all important respects apart from the number of apps available, it also blows the iPhone out of the water as regards value for money.

Also, going back to the original point of "is Apple’s image tarnished", while she had no particular opinion on Apple at first (having simply chosen the iPhone on the basis of playing with her friend’s one) she does view Apple as rather arrogant these days. Once her iPhone won’t hold a day’s charge any more and she has to replace it, she’s definitely considering switching.