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Yet Another Commentary About Wacky Apple Critics

We’re just a few days away from the arrival of the iPad at your favorite Apple dealer or Best Buy electronics store. So the crazy critics of Apple are out in force telling you what’s wrong about a product that the vast majority of them have never actually seen, let along touched. All they know about the iPad what Apple has said about the product, plus the speculation, about which they strive to be expert.

No, I’m not going to attempt to guesstimate the number of iPads that will be sold the very first week. The estimates are all over the map, and I don’t claim any expertise in doing surveys, so I’ll avoid the issue and let the facts have their say.

What is worth commenting on, for example, is Apple’s battery replacement policy for the iPad. At $99 plus tax, the price of admission seems sensible enough. Remember that the battery will probably last three or four years under normal use before you need to order up a replacement; if it breaks prematurely, it’ll likely happen soon enough for the warranty to handle the repair. But the main criticism is that Apple requires dealer or factory replacement. You can’t do it yourself — or at least not easily.

All right, that’s one part of the equation. But the fact of the matter is that Apple isn’t just replacing your iPad’s battery. They are replacing your iPad, with a new or refurbished unit having the same specs as the original. Now consider that you’ve beaten and battered your iPad for several years and the battery suddenly won’t sustain a charge. Instead of installing a new battery in your worn out product, the whole widget is replaced. The scratches on the case and screen are gone, and any damage you’ve inflicted internally from too many drops is also history. How many consumer electronics gadgets get similar treatment — complete replacement for the cost of a new battery?

That, to me, is a good thing. Apple should be praised for having such a forward-looking policy. Instead, the critics want you to believe that there’s something wrong with it. All right, maybe it would be more convenient to be able to carry a second battery for special situations and swap it on the spot. On the long-haul, however, Apple’s methodology delivers greater value to most people. The critics are going to have to live with it!

Now Apple’s App Store regularly gets its share of criticism. With over 170,000 apps, however, and billions of downloads, clearly customers don’t fret over alleged arbitrary rejections of certain apps or the questionable handling of so-called “explicit” versions. While I have already said I know nothing about conducting surveys, I’m willing to suggest that a scientific poll of a representative cross-section of iPhone and iPod touch users will show that a good 99.5% of them are perfectly satisfied with the current setup.

The critics forget that the first Mac was touted as “the computer for the rest of us,” meaning the vast majority of regular people who don’t want to be bothered with the geek stuff, and Apple’s consumer electronics gear pretty much continues in that tradition. So long as they are hugely successful with this marketing plan, it’s not apt to change.

If you speak geek, Google’s Android OS and Windows may appeal to you more, but Mac OS X’s Terminal also presents a rich selection of possibilities with which to customize your computer, so long as you’re willing to accept the risks if you do something wrong and it ends up being destructive.

As the iPad reaches more and more customers, there will no doubt be lots of opportunities to criticize the way features work and why some just aren’t there. Front and center is multitasking, and it’s an open question whether Apple plans to somehow extend that capability to third-party apps for iPhone 4.0. The tech pundit scuttlebutt has it that Apple has found a workable solution and that you’ll see it this summer. If that holds true, Apple will demonstrate that superior solution and then that particular criticism can be pushed to the side. Once again, though, I really wonder just how many people even care about the lack of this feature, and remember it does work for Apple’s own apps.

Returning to the iPhone, just this week, the chatter about an alleged version for Verizon Wireless has reared its ugly head. This isn’t to say Apple wouldn’t build one, although handling a phone call and checking your email at the same time clearly presents a problem on the Verizon CDMA network. After all, isn’t that what those Apple and AT&T ads have been saying?

Unfortunately, nobody outside of Apple and AT&T knows the fine details of their contract. It may not expire until 2011, at which time Verizon Wireless will be busy deploying its fourth generation network, as will AT&T. Since they will both be using LTE, Apple could then build one phone and have it compatible with both networks. Then the doors open for Verizon, but maybe not before.