The Crucible: A Sobering Look At Apple

The opinion column that follows doesn't live up to the proud tradition and our best intentions for BYTE.

Demetrius Mandzych, Contributor

July 10, 2011

6 Min Read

Editor's Note, 7/15/2011

The opinion column that follows doesn't live up to the proud tradition and our best intentions for BYTE. It not only lacks the deep and authoritative technical content that we want BYTE to be known for, but it also doesn't reflect the community's views on Apple. Although there are plenty of people who don't like Apple products, and some who have had bad experiences with Apple, those are the exception, not the rule.

As you see from our heavy coverage of Apple – in particular our aggressive coverage of OS X Lion -- we consider Apple and its products to be important topics for news, reviews, how tos, tips, and debate. BYTE strives for authority above all, in keeping with the highest journalistic standards. That standard was not met here.

Because the Internet has a lasting memory, and in the spirit of transparency, we've decided to keep this column up, strike through its content (as seen below), and issue this mea culpa. We want to own up to our mistake, but not try to cover our tracks.

By doing so, we are acknowledging the feedback from the community (see the comments at the end of the post). We agree with the community that publishing this story was an error in judgment, exacerbated by the fact that it appeared during the first day of BYTE's re-launch.

Even in our "beta" mode, we will redouble our efforts to employ even tighter controls in our editing content before it gets published. We hope you find the rest of our content up to the standards you expect from BYTE, and that you will continue to provide us with feedback. We're listening.

BYTE -- In all honesty, I don't know why people buy products from Apple. Apple assures everyone its products "just work," that specs don't matter and that its products are like finely-tuned German roadsters.

The reverse is actually the case.

The genius of Apple is that it has fooled its customers into going along with this rap. Customers then justify their purchases of average to below-average products.

Allow me to explain. The following is a public service announcement. Be advised.

I submit to you: Antennagate. That was a word on everyone's lips for awhile. Like spitting nails.

Coined by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the term Antennagate echoed through news outlets and among the digerati in the midst of that giant controversy. The word diverted people from what was a real problem. Apple and its fans want you to forget, but try to remember.

After this nonsense, Apple announced a program to remedy the problem by giving their "bumper" cases to those customers affected by the antenna problem. Interestingly enough, this was the first time that Apple had produced its own case for the product. It suddenly appeared.

Funny. It is like they knew it was going to happen or could happen. Apple, ever prepared for the worst and always conscious of its appearance, had a solution immediately ready.

Ask yourself. If Apple knew, why didn't it change the design from the get-go? Beyond the fact that it is another means to make a profit off of case sales, the root of this problem--as well as the problem with the company as a whole--is it values form over function.

We want a smooth stainless steel band wrapped around the shiny glass front and back with a revolutionary integrated antenna that is exposed to the air in key locations.

Brilliant! Such is the price you pay for beauty. Unfortunately, everyone fell for this -- as they seem to every time with this company.

And what about the the glass on Apple mobile products? Despite its claims of using strengthened glass -- aluminosilicate, to be exact -- Apple did customers a huge disservice when it opted for that over Corning's ever-tough Gorilla Glass.

Gorilla Glass, Corning's reincarnated implementation of strengthened glass, isn't indestructible. But it is a lot more durable than the selection Apple made for the iPhone.

Numerous reports online point to shattered back plates on the iPhone 4 from seemingly normal use. Nothing extreme. Nothing out of the ordinary. Yet Apple’s iPhone warranty states that: "Service may not be available if your iPhone has been damaged due to accident or abuse."

If you beg a genius at a retail store though, he or she maybe, just maybe, might repair it for free. You do have to beg.

This is not how a company treats a customer of a premium product. Along with paying top dollar for your device of choice, customers pay for a greater degree of support. With Apple, customers aren't getting it.

Customers -- and the tech press at large -- needs to stop accepting failure as a matter of course from Apple. Stop acting like you're lucky to be a part of the failure.

Apple is an enterprise, a public company and an industry leader with an obligation to its loyal yet hypnotized customerbase. It's making billions of dollars each year, yet it fails to grasp the essence of standing behind the product it is selling.

Now consider the issue of cameras. Apple wants you to forget, but try to remember. The first iPad lacked a camera of any sort. People accepted this and even rationalized it by saying no one would a tablet camera and so on.

Then Apple releases the iPad 2 with a rear and front facing camera. Suddenly it is pandemonium, fanfare from the rafters, bliss.

Not mentioning how apparently fickle the market is regarding features, the poor quality of said cameras was immediately evident. This was not the caliber of camera that even the the iPhone offers.

Fact is, the quality of the still image from the rear camera is less than a megapixel at 0.7MP, while the FFC is VGA (640x480) for both video and still shots. For a premium product launched in 2011, this is simply unacceptable.

As consumers, this econo-class choice of camera should register as a slap in the face. Yet fans still excuse it because it comes from their beloved company in Cupertino.


I'm sure the iPad 3 will include better cameras and the world will again sing Apple's praises, as if Apple invented the very idea of a camera, forgetting or excusing all past decisions.

Consumers need a wakeup call. So does the press. Stop giving Apple or any other company a free pass. Companies are beholden to shareholders, not customers. They care only about the money they make this quarter, this year, what have you. They are for-profit enterprises, after all.

Make Apple earn your loyalty, respect, and hard-earned cash with excellent products and service. Otherwise, what is average to sub-average performance will only get worse. Like a spoiled child, Apple will do exactly what you let it get away with. Vote with your dollars.

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