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Apple iPhone 4 reputation irrevocably damaged?

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Now my headline is based on a small number of direct samples. But I think it’s a useful barometer to consider.

Although Apple have hitherto sold a whopping 3 million iPhones in the 20-something days since the official device launch, I wonder how much sales are going to be hit by the recent antennagate fiasco?

I think iPhone 4 is now considered a broken phone by the Great Unwashed, thanks to mainstream media reporting of the issue last week.

Here’s a case in point — and I’m sure you’ve had similar experience in recent days.

Over the weekend my sister-in-law was considering whether to take a day’s worth of work she’d been offered during her holiday. It paid something like £400 for the day. But it was a lot of hassle. Lot of travel. Lot of sweat. She was wavering on whether to bother.

As she stood there, I noticed her white iPhone 3G in her hand.

“Why don’t you do the day’s work and then blow the money on a new iPhone 4?”

I thought it was a brilliantly conceived suggestion. She’s been using an iPhone 3G as, until recently, she’s been in contract and unable to upgrade to the 3GS. The 3G is now getting a bit slow for her so she is most definitely in the market for a new device.

Her response to my suggestion?

“No, the iPhone 4 is broken, isn’t it?”

“Err, no, it’s fine now!” I said. Now I know that isn’t entirely true per se, but, you know, stick on a plastic cover and you should be fine, right? I wondered how she’d react to my immediate ‘it’s fine’ retort.

No.

She wasn’t buying it.

Not at all.

She’s been told by the mainstream media that it’s broken so she won’t be going there.

I’m mystified as to what she’s going to do.

Will she upgrade to the 3GS?

Will she leave it a few months and then buy the iPhone 4? It’s a big, big decision for your standard consumer, especially given most will be considering the device on a 24-month deal.

I really don’t know.

She was *definitely* going to upgrade — until the antennagate news erupted. While the mainstream media did a good job of telling her that the iPhone 4 ‘was broken’, it’s failed to reach her with the solution.

I wonder how many other consumers have been totally put off the iPhone 4? And for how long?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

5 replies on “Apple iPhone 4 reputation irrevocably damaged?”

If people that have the cognitive abilities of a drunken sheep, then they deserve what they get. Generally speaking yeah most people I have spoken to are mindless peons that asked me what was wrong with the iphone 4. I have shifted 30+ of them and not one problem. SO…. a) given the AT&T 3G is soso at best the signal issues are just not present in most of the UK, or even for that matter outer mongolia :). The media really got their hate on for Apple this time around, yeah whatever, at least Apple was smart enough to fight back and give away a freebie 🙂 Bumper Anyone ?

Why buy a phone that is defective when you can have proper phones cheaper? That's the real question. IPhone is more hype than substance. Facetime? Retinal display? Gimme a break.

Steve Jobs…just admit that Apple made a design error with the antenna and fix it. A bumper or a cover is not a fix. Making an antenna that doesn't short circuit itself when you put your finger in it, and get detuned in the process, is a fix. You call it a PHONE so it's main feature (as default) should be working antenna for making phone calls. Though the antenna error affects also the data transfer since all wireless communication depends on antennas.

But what do I know. I'm just a stupid consumer that isn't getting the greatness of iPhone 4.

This article hits the million dollar question, how deep is the cut? My brother lives in one of the 17 countries where they are rolling out the iPhone 4 today and he had the exact same reaction. He doesn't follow any blogs or anything like that, but he had heard from mainstream media that it was broken.

I've followed the Apple stock for a while and I'm surprised over the reaction from Apple. First an extremely clumsy letter where they used phrases like 'stunned' and 'to our surprise' which gave the impression of daycare level PR department. Then the give-away of bumpers that in effect admits the problem after making a spectacle of how the competitors have the same issue and gives a duct tape solution. I'm actually a bit stunned myself over this unprofessional response, where they put themselves in a spot they can't win, by arguing the phone doesn't have a problem and then offer a solution. If it was me I would have had the same press conference, stating that this is a natural side effect that affects other phones as well without naming any, and saying that Apple stands behind their product and that time will tell but if anyone is for any reason unhappy we'll give you 30 days refund. In other words everything they did except for the bumper, which now complicates the problem further as the delivery time for it is longer than the 30 days of open refund.

But back to your question. I actually do believe this will blow over. I have an iPhone 4 myself as well as multiple people at my office and the product is indeed solid. The screen is from another world and once you get used to it it will be hard to go back. Most other features as complementary that others offers as well, but it is a well rounded phone where you won't miss anything. It is also very solid physically compared to earlier models and certainly the Blackberry used to carry. I'm convinced that they will take a hit short term, but in the long run I think word of mouth will carry it. Right now there is kind of an Edsel halo over it and that is not fun for new users, but for existing upgraders it's a no-brainer, it's that good. Apple obviously has a strong brand and the eco system around iTunes, Ipads and what else they will come up with (TV perhaps) makes it a very attractive proposition to most users. Let's face it, their 'don't but if you don't like it' attitude isn't new, and I for one think it's a healthy one. In fact, I think it absurd that many media pundits insist that they should apologize for a less effective antenna. What is that, are we suddenly in Japan?

Now I'm really ranting, but much have been written about the way Android is killing the iPhone the way Windows killed Macs. Ironically I'm not a Mac user myself, but I wonder if really has to be a race with only one winner, especially on something as generic as phones. The Mac market share is continuously growing and healthier than ever, I read that they now have over 10% volume share and around 25% of the dollar share with a 91% share of the market above $1,000. If they make more money at higher margin than most PC manufacturers, then what does it matter if Windows is bigger? Android vs iPhone is the feature vs user experience war all over again, but this time there is as much software and momentum behind the Apple product, and as long as they keep innovating I think it will stay that way.

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