iPhone Brick Debate Is About Consumer Rights And Smartphone Freedom
Many Over The Air readers do not seem to understand what is at stake in the debate over Apple and the iPhone bricks. This isn't an argument about contracts and Terms of Service. This isn't a debate about personal responsibility. This is about consumers' rights and, specifically, consumers' rights to control their own computing devices.
Many Over The Air readers do not seem to understand what is at stake in the debate over Apple and the iPhone bricks. This isn't an argument about contracts and Terms of Service. This isn't a debate about personal responsibility. This is about consumers' rights and, specifically, consumers' rights to control their own computing devices.This issue has clearly stirred our readers to their core. Besides the hundreds of comments my post generated, I have received scores of e-mails, with the tally split at about 60 percent defending Apple and 40 percent blaming them.
In a follow-up post, I think my colleague, Eric Zeman, began to express the issue at hand:
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I have experienced a couple of hiccups myself over the last few years. After one firmware update, my G5's fan began to whir at high speed constantly. It wasn't long before Apple issued another patch and the whirring went away. Each of the problems was fixable, though. Before the iPhone, these user issues caused little fuss in the press.
"Bricking" a $600 device, whether by design or by accident, seems to be an altogether different issue. (Nevermind that my G5 system cost way more than $600.)
This debate isn't about a technical glitch or a mess-up. This is about Apple choosing to push software and firmware updates it knew would render altered iPhones into bricks. Imagine if Microsoft did something similar with the latest PCs and Vista or with Windows Mobile and the HTC Touch? Techies would be calling for Steve Ballmer's head on a pike. But when Apple renders thousands of devices into over-priced door stops, we're supposed to applaud Steve Jobs for defending Apple's brand.
One reader, Shocked, really nailed the issue:
You buy an iPhone and Apple decides to break it because they don't like the way you use it. How would most feel if they bought a MacBook Pro for $2700 and Apple decided to just flat out kill your system if you decided to use a third party program that they didn't approve of? Would you continue on with your rants about how it's our faults for purchasing a MacBook? Or would things clear up a little about how Apple now treats their customers?
Apple would not get away with this if they did this to a MacBook. And I bet all the Apple fans who chimed in on the last post would never defend Apple for bricking a MacBook that belonged to someone who just happened to download third party software on it.
As I pointed out yesterday, the iPhone is a smartphone. That means it's a mobile computing device, just like a MacBook or any other laptop. I bet just about everyone who is reading this thinks that users have the right to add software that they chose to their laptops. So why don't people have the same right to add software to their iPhone?
Apple sees the iPhone as an iPod with a phone, and that's the problem. The iPhone is not just an iPod with a phone, it's a mini-Mac. It's a small, highly mobile computer. And as such, it has to be more open to software from outside providers. It's obvious that hundreds of thousands of users saw it that way. That's why they downloaded software on their iPhones.
Frankly, I was amazed at the level of some of our reader feedback. Of all of the heated exchanges, this one from macPinche really amazed me:
Modifying the software in the iPhone is explicitly prohibited in the license agreement. A warning was also displayed prior to the firmware upgrade. If you choose to repeatedly ignore the manufacture's warnings (do not use hair dryer in the shower!), the consequences of your actions are no one's fault but your own.
When someone veers into your lane and plasters you all over the road, will you sue the auto manufacturer for failing to account for the possibility that the driver might be drunk? Or will you hold the driver accountable for their actions? It's exactly the same.
Shame, shame, shame on you, Stephen Wellman, for trying to put the blame on Apple. It's people like you who are the reason our great country ain't so great anymore. You're eroding the moral fabric of our society by encouraging the blatantly false idea that no one has to be responsible for their actions.
So how on earth is defending the rights of users to download the applications as they see fit on their own smartphones responsible for "eroding the moral fabric of our society?" If this isn't pure reductio ad absurdum, I don't know what is. MacPinche, shame on you.
I have to say, macPinche, that your analogy is way off base. Comparing someone who chose to download software on their smartphone with someone who actually ran into another driver on the highway is like comparing apples to Holstein cows. Give. Me. A. Break.
I am curious to know why so many of our readers are so sympathetic to Apple and so unsympathetic to the users who spent their hard-earned dollars on a device. Whatever happened to the customer is always right?
Again, I invite Apple fans to chime in here with another defense of Apple. Why is Apple not to blame for the bricks? And why is this solely the fault of the users?