Apple’s having a tough time. Its annual one-two punch of an iPhone launch plus an iOS upgrade—usually a time for celebration—has been followed this year by a compounding series of embarrassments. Forget that the company sold 10 million phones in three days and moved half of its installed base to a new version of its mobile operating system: it’s still been a rough week for Tim Cook and company.
First, an iOS 8 bug prevented any of the health and fitness apps that were ready to launch with HealthKit integration from hitting the App Store. Health is a major initiative for Apple, so the hiccup was a big one. Then, once the iPhone 6 Plus began shipping, some buyers reported their phones were bending when put under pressure. Now, that isn’t so strange: thin aluminum bends. But the complaints spawned a meme (#Bendghazi or #Bendgate, depending on where you look), and other brands were quick to capitalize on Apple’s predicament with their own ads.
And let's not forget Wednesday’s catastrophic iOS 8.0.1 update, which wiped out cellular connectivity and Touch ID for many iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners.
Even before the new phones and iOS 8 were announced, the build-up to the event was fraught with tension. The celebrity iCloud hack, iPhone event livestream foul-up, iPhone preorder disaster—at this point, Apple employees must be singing, “Wake me up when September ends.”
But here’s the thing: Apple will recover. It always does.
A more responsive Apple
Unlike Facebook, which no one loves but everyone uses, Apple inspires adoration and hatred in equal measure. The same people who wait in line for days to buy the latest iPhone later throw themselves prostrate on the ground in agony when an iOS update renders Touch ID completely useless. Few other companies, if any, break sales records one minute, then become the target of Internet ridicule the next.
Apple may have created its own prison—a sophisticated glass cube emblazoned with an Apple logo, of course—by holding itself to impossibly high standards of perfection. First there’s the legacy of Steve Jobs, a stickler for detail if ever there was one. Then there’s the established schedule of annual software and hardware upgrades that are expected to be released simultaneously. Samsung releases a slew of devices every year (OK, every month), but it’s not beholden to Android’s schedule, because there’s never a mass Android upgrade. You get the latest version when you get it.
But if Apple deviates from its traditional schedule, that would be widely interpreted to mean there’s something wrong—a device isn’t ready, the software has problems. That would send investors running for the hills. And so the company proceeds, with pressure from all sides to be absolutely perfect, and pleases almost no one in the process. Then the world reacts with both glee and horror when there’s a glitch in the software or a design flaw in the hardware.
Apple doesn’t usually respond to issues like this, but the company has been more communicative lately than in the past. CEO Tim Cook personally responded to security concerns surrounding the iCloud hack, and the company moved swiftly to pull iOS 8.0.1 and offer a fix when the connectivity and Touch ID issues were reported.
Apple has survived mistakes just as bad, if not worse, than the ones it made this week. All we remember of the iPhone 4 Antennagate is the famous phrase, "You're holding it wrong." Apple Maps still messes up even the simplest directions, and yet few complain.
As for #Bendgate: Apparently just nine people reported bent phones to the company since the 6 Plus was released last week.
“With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare,” an Apple spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Meanwhile, more than 20 million people have watched a guy on YouTube purposefully damage his new iPhone 6 Plus. Does the Internet turn nothing into something? All the time. Is it possible to sell 10 million new phones and move most of your customers to a new OS without a hitch? Probably not. Apple will emerge from this week a little scuffed but mostly unscathed. But we’ll never forget #Bendgate.