Opinion: Apple’s Apology Isn’t

Opinion: Apple’s Apology Isn’t

When my grandchildren ask me what news I remember most vividly, my answer won’t have anything to do with wars, tsunamis or alien invasions  — I’ll tell them about the day Apple admitted they made…a mistake.

Fine, that may be somewhat hyperbolic; but I don’t recall Apple ever kneeling in the past about anything, let alone about what amounts to their killer product — and even managing to look sheepish in the process. Of course, there’s good reason for that lack of kneeling; keeping one’s mouth shut makes perfect sense for any entity, as an admission of guilt is a fatal move in the arena of liability — and in Apple’s case here, may leave it vulnerable to all sorts of nasty lawsuits.


And since the first — and likely not the last — legal challenger has already entered the ring and called for blood, Apple probably needs to artfully dodge the issue while addressing it at the same time to prevent what already appears to be a public-relations headache spiraling into a nightmare. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Let’s take a look at the message from Cupertino today: Apple says that it has “discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars,” then explains the problem is that those little signal-strength bars aren’t very accurate, and in many instances, actually make the phone look as if it has much better reception than it really does, resulting in a dramatic-looking drop in bars when you and the phone travel through “areas with weak signal strength.” They go on to explain that the problem has been around since the dawn of time (for the iPhone, anyway), that, hey, AT&T just happen to have recently alerted them to this embarrassing misstep, and they’ll fix the whole thing with a software update faster than you can say “full refund.” Or a few weeks, whichever comes first.

And because the fix will make all iPhones’ signal strength suddenly seem comparatively, well, limp, Apple is going to viagra-ize the first three bars to make them appear larger. Which is sort of like telling a person boarding a plane with no wings that their seat cushion may be used as a flotation device.

Right — in case you missed the sleight-of-hand, Apple admitted to a problem (there are occasions when a significant drop in bars is experienced) that’s somewhat related, yet not actually the real issue at all (that the phone loses a significant amount of signal strength when held, specifically because there might be a fault with the antenna’s design).

But just to let you know they’re not ignoring you completely, antenna-complainers, Apple suggests your problem is your location:

“Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.”

So there you go. You’re not only holding it wrong, you’re standing in the wrong place while you’re holding it wrong.

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About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

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Posted in Apple, iPhone 4, Opinions, Top stories |