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Apple iPhone 4 fiasco: Can you hear us now?

o Robert X. Cringely
14.07.2010 kl 21:25 | InfoWorld (US)

The inevitable anti-Apple backlash has begun. And I have to say it's been mighty fun to watch.


The inevitable anti-Apple backlash has begun. And I have to say it's been mighty fun to watch.

Earlier this week, Consumer Reports pulled its recommendation of the iPhone 4 after its tests determined there is indeed a problem with the phone's external antenna. Even better, it's called for Apple to recall all 3 million iPhone 4s out there and fix the problem -- a solution that could cost between $900 million and $1.5 billion, depending on whose estimates you believe.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Cringely wonders who will get the last laugh in "Apple's iPhone 4: The joke's on us." | Stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

So Steve Jobs was right: You were holding it wrong. (Also, you're using your mouse the wrong way. And they don't like that tie you're wearing, please change it.)

Instead of sucking it up, admitting there was a reception problem, and offering to make amends, Apple tried to pull a stupid PR trick by claiming the problem was in how the phone displayed signal strength -- because, apparently, Apple believes we are all nitwits.

Honestly -- what would it cost Apple to mail out free rubber "bumpers" to all its iPhone customers? About $45 million, per RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky -- or a lot less than what it's costing in bad PR right now. If Apple had done that from the get go, we'd all be talking about something more interesting right now, like Lindsay Lohan or those Russian spies.

Of course, if you have a little duct tape, just slap it on the lower-left corner of the handset and you're good to go. Or you could take this alternate route to a solution by dumping your Jesus Phone into the nearest circular receptacle and getting an Android model.

InfoWorld's Galen Grumman says the iPhone 4 reception problems could be Apple's Waterloo, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about the ABBA song. Now everyone else is piling on.

Once the golden boy of Wall Street, Apple share prices are dropping. Several lawsuits have been filed, alleging that Apple is selling a defective product.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 4 vs HTC Evo video is climbing the YouTube charts, with 4.5 million views as I write this. This is a mock NSFW conversation between a big-box employee and a dim-witted customer who just wants an iPhone and doesn't know why. (For equal time, the same guys at Tinywatch Productions made an equally NSFW video about a stupid HTC Evo owner trying to get his phone fixed at an Apple Store.)

The videos get pretty raunchy, languagewise (and the first one is about a minute too long), but they also cut to the heart of Apple's success: They've made people crave their stuff without giving them a good reason why they really need it.

Call that the Apple mystique. Call the iPhone 4 the Apple mistake.

There's still time for Apple to recover its reputation, but it's going to be expensive. And it will require something more painful than money: Apple will have to publicly admit it's wrong.

Now that would make for a fascinating "special event."

Did Apple really screw up big time, or is this much ado over nothing? E-mail me:

Keywords: Consumer Electronics  
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