I think it’s fair to say that the launch of the iPhone 4 has been problematic, at best. First, Gizmodo gets its hands on a stolen prototype weeks before the official unveiling and leaks just about everything Apple wouldn’t want the public to know about their newest iDevice. Next, Jobs officially unveils the iPhone at WWDC 2010 and suffers WiFi issues while demoing new features. Then, when it finally goes on sale, AT&T provides yet another example of its incompetence by being unprepared for the server load as 600,000 people rush to pre-order. Now that its actually in the hands of (presumably, 600,000) early adopters, a host of issues have cropped up including yellow splotches on the Retina Display, reception issues depending on how you hold the phone, and questions about screen durability.
With all that said, it’s just as fair to say that the number of iPhone 4s sold is nothing short of amazing. There’s really no other way to look at this than as a massive success for Apple, bad PR aside.
Still, how much of the early negative reaction is rooted more in Apple’s rise to prominence in the smart phone industry than in anything that actually sets Apple apart from the competition? Microsoft continues to deal with this sort of knee-jerk reactionism as a result of the Windows anti-trust debacle, and now Apple is in a position where every move they make is scrutinized by bloggers first and then mainstream outlets as they catch wind of emerging issues and—more and more—Federal anti-trust regulators.
Greenpeace’s crusade against Apple is fairly well documented as is the view that the target they’ve placed on Apple’s back is as much about publicity as it is about anything that Apple is doing wrong or worse than other corporations—in fact, Apple has been far more proactive than most when it comes to environmental issues—but lately, this sort of thinking has expanded into other areas:
The blog-o-net is winding up a day or so of examination into an issue in which the iPhone 4 seems to lose reception when held in the left hand. Steve Jobs, becoming infamous for his one-liner emails, provides a doozy in response to a customer asking about the problem:
Just avoid holding it in that way.
C’mon. It’s kind of funny, right? Right? Apparently not. Gizmodo (as expected) and Engadget and just about every other tech blog on the planet has gotten in on the game of expressing incredulity that Steve Jobs would ever be so dismissive of what appears to be a pretty frustrating problem for (what appears to be) a small percentage of new iPhone owners.
Much like the Tea Party’s anger towards the Obama Administration, one wonders where all this pent up anger was before it was Apple offering such advice:
These issues with the signal may also be causing some of the battery issues as well. Until then, yes, you will most likely have to adjust how you are holding the phone or possibly use a Bluetooth headset to allow you to place the phone in a holster that may not cover the antenna.
Sounds familiar, right? This time, though, it’s not coming from Steve Jobs. It’s a “high up” HTC Customer Service representative, offering advice about dealing with the exact same issue, affecting the HTC Droid Incredible. Interestingly enough, if you visit Gizmodo (especially) or Engadget and read the comment threads surrounding the iPhone 4 reception issue, you’ll see multiple examples of people who are “fed up” with Apple’s disdain for its customers who are (allegedly) going to vote with their wallets by purchasing an HTC smart phone. (It’s worth noting that the Nexus One also suffers from similar reception problems.) In either case, you most likely didn’t know that, because the issues weren’t covered in the way the iPhone issue has been covered. By my unofficial count, Gizmodo has posted 1500 iPhone 4 articles in the past two days, 1498 of which have been negative and 2 of which were articles about Google which went ahead and discussed Apple anyway…negatively.
Advising customers that they have to learn a new way to hold their smart phones is an unsatisfying and problematic response, in both instances. Apple just happens to be a bigger target, these days.
Apple’s misguided attempts to censor certain types of apps which appear in their
walled garden App Store are practically legendary. To date, they’ve culled entire categories of “sexy” and “goofy” apps and have endured mockery (rightly so) for refusing to approve an app by a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist. When it came to light that Apple reserved the right to engage a “kill switch” that would remotely remove apps from iPhones—without permission—the pundits went wild.
Because bloggers and pundits are incredibly clever, many references were made to Big Brother. Others were quick to recall Apple’s famous 1984-esque advertisement while sadly remarking how far the mighty have fallen. Apple, believe it or not, is now becoming “evil”. You know. Evil like the systematic murder of millions of Jews is evil. Or, perhaps, evil in some other, less evil, way.
But effectively invading one’s phone is different than removing something from their virtual store shelves. If they ever use this exceptional—maybe egregious—power, Apple would have to explain why. The standard silence simply wouldn’t cut it.
The following blurb was pushed out this week when that power was finally—maybe egregiously—utilized to remotely wipe some apps:
In cases where users may have installed a malicious application that poses a threat, we’ve also developed technologies and processes to remotely remove an installed application from devices. If an application is removed in this way, users will receive a notification on their phone.
Pretty evil, right? Except, this wasn’t Apple. It’s Google. The company that promises to do no evil. (To be fair, Google has never, to my knowledge, promised to “do nothing egregious”.) I wonder what Gizmodo has to say about this one?
Isn’t it funny that when Apple removes apps from the App Store, a major ruckus rears its head—but when Google removes apps from people’s phones, just a few quiet grumblings are heard.
Oh, that’s what they have to say. The author goes on to explain why this is different than what we’ve seen from Apple, but let’s be honest: The ability to kill malicious apps (even without permission) is a good thing, and the rare exercise of that power, no matter which company is doing it, is perfectly understandable. Still, read through the comments on each of the posts: The sentiment seems to be that Apple is evil for just having the option to remotely wipe apps, whereas Google is protecting its users by actually flipping the switch.
(Isn’t it about time for Gizmodo to begin appending a disclosure at the end of all their content about Apple? Something to the effect of: “We should note that we are currently involved in an investigation surrounding the theft and purchase of an early iPhone 4 prototype, an investigation which may or may not result in felony charges being filed against Jason Chen.” Yes? No?)
To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.
Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe “Find My iPhone” feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.
Worth noting, before I go any further: Apple requires every single app which utilizes location information to request permission before accessing or transmitting the data. Even if a user opts in, he or she can retroactively manage the use of location data on a per app basis via the iOS settings app. In short, no app can access this information without the explicit permission of the user. Thank you, walled garden!
Even so, Reps Edward Markey and Joe Barton feel that Apple owes them answers to eight questions which can all be answered by anyone who has ever touched an iPhone, or with a modicum of internet-based research.
If you use location-enabled products and services, such as Google Maps for mobile, you may be sending us location information. This information may reveal your actual location, such as GPS data, or it may not, such as when you submit a partial address to look at a map of the area.
That’s without even going into Google’s recent privacy missteps.
Gizmodo’s article on the subject, with the following headline:
Apple Now Storing and Sharing Your Location With Others
Pretty damning. Eight paragraphs of fear mongering. Comments which leap to wild conclusions. More anger and promises of boycotts and switches to Android. More examples of people who didn’t bother to read beyond the headline, and certainly not to the last paragraph:
Changing platforms is not an option, however, as Google and Android have exactly the same problem. In other words: Nowhere to run, baby. It’s OK. Don’t worry. You have been happily and carelessly giving away every single shred of privacy to your favorite corporations, but at least you can be the major of your local Starbucks while you caress your shiny phone.
Yet, Gizmodo didn’t publish an article about smart phone privacy issues in general. They published an article about Apple, headlined to indicate it’s an Apple-specific issue, illustrated with a goofy picture of Steve Jobs as though he’s listening in on your conversations. (“And oh, by the way. It’s not a big deal really, but…all those things we said? They apply to pretty much everyone.”)
Ah, the rotten perils of sweet success.