Apple is not without faults, nor should it pretend to be

Phil GoldsteinI've been ruminating about the press conference Apple CEO Steve Jobs presided over Friday. I guess I wasn't surprised that Jobs appeared puzzled that members of the assembled media were skeptical of Apple's defense of the iPhone 4 and the company's response to the whole antenna imbroglio. Perhaps Apple has become too comfortable with its relationship with gadget bloggers and technology journalists.

There is no other company--or at least no other technology company--that gets as much free (and mostly fawning) publicity from the media as Apple. No other company's product launches are greeted with the kind of hysteria and minute-by-minute coverage that is usually associated with a presidential election or the selection of a new pope.

I believe Apple has created an incredible product in the iPhone, and I would challenge any wireless industry veteran to name another device that has so quickly revolutionized the way we think about our connection to technology, the style and design of phones and the structure and management of wireless networks in general.

But this does not mean that Apple is without faults. As Slate's Farhad Manjoo pointed out in his reaction piece to the press conference, Jobs' defense of the iPhone 4's problems has a few holes. Yes, the iPhone 4's return rate is 1.7 percent--far lower than the iPhone 3GS' 6 percent return rate--but that does not mean there isn't a problem some users are tolerating. Yes, 80 percent of iPhone 3GS owners left stores with a case, while only 20 percent of iPhone 4 owners got one. But if you need a case to mask or fix an antenna problem, doesn't that mean there is a design flaw with the device?

Do you think Apple's decision to issue of a free bumper case to iPhone 4 customers will resolve the antenna controversy?  -Apple did the right thing by offering free cases to customers, and Jobs did the right thing by personally apologizing to customers who have experienced problems. Jobs knows that maintaining a solid relationship with Apple's loyal customer base its critical to the company's long-term success--any CEO worth his or her $3,000 suit (or jeans and black turtleneck, as the case may be) should know that.

Yet Jobs, who has always taken a measured--some would say deliberately standoffish--approach to how he interacts with media, seemed to feel as if it was a pain to even have to explain all of this. "I don't know how we could be working any harder to get to the real root cause of the matter," Jobs said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Maybe it's human nature--when you're doing well, people want to tear you down. I see it happening with Google, people trying to tear them down," Jobs said, according to Engadget. "We've been around for 34 years ... haven't we earned the credibility and the trust of the press? I think we have that from our users. I didn't see it exhibited by some of the press as this was blown so far out of proportion."

But as the creator of the iPhone, shouldn't Apple be held to this type of scrutiny? The company should not pretend that there are not problems with its products when plainly there are. It cannot silence every critic with its own wall of silence. --Phil

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