How Apple’s iPhone 4 Issue Could Impact Their Corporate Image

I should really be writing about this stuff sooner, but that’s beside the point right now.

If you’re not familiar with the issues Apple has been having with it’s iPhone 4 reception issues by now then you need to be caught up. There’s been enough written on it already that I’m not going to rehash here, but rather want to focus on how I believe this event can be a fulcrum in Apple’s success.

For the last couple of years Apple has enjoyed rock-star status in the computer industry. The iPod pulled them out of obscurity, and made them a major player in the electronics market. Since then, Apple has started using Intel in their computers, jolted the cell phone market out of its apathetic stupor, and has created a tablet computer that is rocking another industry. Prior to this they were catering to an exclusive market of die-hard fans who loved the product, but the company was not seeing any significant growth or making a serious impact in the computer world.

I switched to Mac in 2005 with the purchase of a 13″ iBook. While it took a couple of weeks to get a feel for, I fell in love with the hardware and software experience so much that it changed the way I perceived technology (much to my wife’s chagrin) and got me interested in learning how computers work. I believe this is the same thing that has happened to people all over the world as they’ve taken hold of Apple’s panache and zeal for perfection.

Enter iPhone 4; Apple’s ultimate creation of industrial design for a mobile phone. Once again they’ve shocked the industry into catching up with the best innovator in the land—except when it comes to reception… and this it seems could be the company’s Achilles heel when it comes to how they deal with the problem.

Apple holds tight control over its public image and doesn’t like to be seen in a negative light. All of the attention they’ve been receiving over the new iPhone’s reception problems have not been settling well with them. From a “you’re holding it wrong” email from Jobs, to “it’s a software problem” acknowledgement, to finally outright deleting message board thread on their support site, Apple is not handling the problem with dignity, but rather showing themselves to be rather immature and childlike.

Look, every company goes through a crisis at one time or another. It’s just the way the world works. When it happens, this gives the company the opportunity to really show what it believes and how it truly feels about its customers. So far, Apple isn’t showing much love. Apple enjoys a high margin on its hardware and software and works hard to deserve its position as a high-quality product.

In the 80s, IBM entered the PC market and Apple welcomed its competitor with open arms. That mentality nearly caused its ruin. In the mid-90s Steve Jobs came back to a company that was on the verge of closing its doors. Instead of being lackadaisical, Apple got aggressive and slowly turned the ship around, steering it not only to safer, but more enjoyable waters. The past several years Apple has been the example of technology and customer service. Now is Apple’s time to shine again, acknowledging the problem with iPhone 4, and doing what’s right for its customers. It’s only going to succeed by showing the same passion and flair for excellence in this minor mistake (it’s only a cellphone after all), and not being lackadaisical in its customer service at this critical juncture.

In conclusion, it’s my perception that the way Apple handles this problem is a turning point in it’s success. If Apple steps up and does the right thing for its consumers then it will continue to see exceptional growth and popularity. If it continues to hide the elephant in the room saying “nothing’s wrong and I don’t know what you’re talking about”, then I think the bubble will be burst. All of the people hypnotized by its beautiful products and services will suddenly see they’re just like any other company that is ultimately out to make a buck and in the long run doesn’t care much for the consumer… at least not more than is necessary to remain profitable and make the shareholders happy.

So come on, Apple, Steve, step up and be a man about this. Acknowledge the flaw, fix the problem, and move on. Tell people what’s really going on with your product. Keep showing that you’re better than every other computer company out there and make us proud. We still have choices. Don’t forget that.

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