So whenever there’s a problem with an Apple product or service, or something unexpected is released, the world must end. Or at least that’s what the critics say. This happens every so often, and each time there’s some sort of media outcry. It dies down over time, as Apple manages to overcome the problem, or at the very least does better than expected.
When it comes to an unexpected product release, do you remember what the critics said when the iPhone arrived in 2007? Apple didn’t know a thing about making mobile handsets, so this product was doomed to failure. A touchscreen for a keyboard? Real smartphone users owned a BlackBerry or an imitation with those silly physical keys shoehorned into a tiny space. When Steve Jobs said that Apple would be only too happy to have a 1% share of the market by the end of 2008, they laughed.
A typical reaction came from Microsoft’s then-CEO Steve Ballmer about the iPhone, that it would never sell because it was too expensive. But that was before Apple worked with its carriers to support the standard subsidy pricing.
Despite lower sales this past year, the iPhone was a stellar success, and Microsoft’s efforts to sell premium smartphones went exactly nowhere. These days, Microsoft is trying to rain on Apple’s parade by selling Surface tablets and notebooks, plus a $3,000 all-in-one dubbed Surface Studio, all with mixed results.
When Tim Cook officially replaced Jobs as CEO, the very first product introduced was the iPhone 4s. It was regarded as a pretty lame upgrade to the iPhone 4, but it wasn’t. In addition to rejiggering the antenna layout so it was more difficult to lose the signal if you held it the “wrong way,” Siri debuted. Despite being imperfect — and it was labeled beta at the time — Siri became a cultural icon. Even though Amazon, Google and Microsoft got into the personal digital assistant act — and arguably are in some respects better — it’s still very much about Siri.
But did the media forget Antennagate a year earlier? When iPhone 4 users put up YouTube videos showing how easy it was to kill the signal by holding it a certain way, and customers complained, Apple held a press conference. Some reporters were shown the company’s multimillion dollar antenna development and test facility, heretofore secret. Jobs offered free bumper cases for those still having the problem for a few months. For a time, Apple posted videos showing just how easy it was to duplicate the problem with other smartphones. It was about the laws of physics, he said. At least till Apple found better ways to reduce the symptoms.
In 2012, Cook got a lesson in humility, but demonstrated a knack for proper damage control. The first version of Apple Maps — designed to replace Google Maps — was a buggy mess. In addition to 3D images where landmarks seemed to be melting, directions were sometimes wrong. In practice, accuracy wasn’t altogether worse than Google, but the areas where Apple Maps failed were easy to illustrate.
Cook apologized, promised to fix the problem and suggested iPhone users just download mapping software from other companies, even Google. Oh, and iOS executive Scott Forstall was given his walking papers, in part because he refused to sign the apology for Mapgate.
Although people still remember the map problem, it’s much better nowadays, and it hasn’t messed up directions for me in a while. But Google Maps garbled the location of my wife’s new family doctor last week, so we were late for her first appointment.
Two years ago, an iOS 8.0.1 update bricked the fancy new iPhone 6. Apple pulled the update in about an hour, and released a fix, 8.0.2, the very next day. But this problem garnered headlines. Ignored was the fact that Microsoft is notorious for releasing buggy patches that sometimes cause PCs to fail to boot. That isn’t important, I suppose, because you expect a Windows update to sometimes fail. Apple is supposed to be perfect.
New product decisions from Apple have also garnered their share of complaints. The 2015 MacBook came without the desirable MagSafe power connector, and only one USB-C port. Why not a second? Why does the keyboard have such little travel? The skeptics missed the fact that this MacBook was meant to be a harbinger of the future, where notebooks are meant to exist in a mostly wireless environment. So why would you need more ports anyway? The controversial keyboard is spreading to other Apple products. The $99 Magic Keyboard has a similar style keyboard, but I tried it briefly and I actually like it. An enhanced version appears in the 2016 MacBook Pro.
Speaking of which, the negative chatter about the new MacBook Pro is never-ending. How dare Apple not have 32GB of RAM, something they’ve never done on a notebook? What’s that Touch Bar good for anyway? But that complaint comes from some of the very people who rarely used the function keys, which it replaced.
What about the high price? Well, the first MacBook Pro with Retina display also cost more, but prices came down over the next four years of production, so you expect the same thing will happen with the new model over the next year or two. It won’t be long before the complaints about such things as pricing, memory, not to mention the exclusive use of USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, will be history. It’s usually thus with Apple.
And I won’t bother to mention the iPhone 7 and the loss of the headphone jack. That is so yesterday.