While I normally don’t call out companies in my posts here, I can’t help but comment when a company completely falls all over itself trying to correct an issue. As many know, the recent iPhone 4 debacle involves poor antenna reception when the phone is held normally in a person’s left hand while making a call. Apple’s response for awhile was, “Well, don’t hold the phone that way.” That’s like telling someone whose feet hurt, not to walk by using their feet. Apple’s latest trick is to find any competing phone (read: Android, which has already surpassed them in activated units) and knock it down several notches by claiming these phones, too, have issues with reception if you hold them a certain way.
Well OK then, Mr. Jobs, don’t hold the Android phones that way.
Apple’s handling of the reception issue is very much in line with the way Toyota handled their sudden acceleration problems or, going back a few years, the deadly consequences of Firestone tires on Ford Explorer SUVs. Same sequence of events: customers discover a problem, customers report problem, company downplays problem. More customers complain (or get hurt), company denies problem even more, and blames customers. Finally when bad press is at a peak, the company finally admits there is a problem and starts tatking steps to regain customer confidence.
Apple is just lashing out like a child at this point. Rather than try to genuinely fix the problem and redesign the hardware, they provide bandages like a plastic case, or tell customers not to “hold the phone that way,” or lash out at the competition (as though it is their fault the iPhone can’t keep a decent signal), or make up a lame excuse that their signal bars on previous devices have been wrong all these years.
Now that they have provided their temporary bandage, damage control comes into play. So far, there’s no word of a hardware redesign to fix the problem, although some speculate the white iPhone has been delayed for this reason. No, Apple’s latest: rather than perform the correct procedure to improve customer relations and regain trust, they’ve taken to finding any competitors’ phones and showing that signal strength drops when you hold the phones a certain way.
Well…OK. Let me tell everyone a secret: handheld cell phones, from day one, have done this. Even our little AM transistor radios from the 60s and 70s weren’t immune to signal fluctuations when we came near them.
So where does that leave us? Rather than fix the current hardware problem, Apple’s engineers would rather spend their time grabbing any other competing phone and try any ridiculous thing they can to make its signal drop. Numerous sites on the web (many with video) have been posting their own results, many unable to duplicate the signal decrease on their own phones, while the iPhone’s problem is easily duplicated. It is also an apples-to-oranges comparison: many I’ve known with AT&T have a bad signal to begin with; comparing completely different phones on cell carriers that have far better signals also isn’t a good comparison.
Now, Apple, you have disgruntled customers. They’ve spent a small fortune to buy a smartphone that, well, isn’t smart enough to live up to its own name and function properly as a phone. Apple’s handling of this has been a public relations disaster. And ultimately, it’s the customer who wins anyway, as they are the ones who can freely choose to buy a smartphone from a better company next time around and avoid Apple entirely. Or better yet, make Apple own up to their mistake, provide a real solution, and move past this fiasco. It’s not the reception problem that has upset many of us–it’s Apple’s (mis)handling of it.