Friday, May 18, 2012

Apple: Viruses, Bugs And A Shrinking Reputation

They might be the biggest company in the world, but a raft of problems with new products are in danger of spoling the near-flawless reputation Apple has built for itself
With a mini iPad and a large screen, ‘liquid metal’ iPhone out this year, one could easily conclude that Apple – now the world’s largest company – is unstoppable.  But chinks in Apple’s armour are starting to appear and Apple’s customers are getting upset.  Their reputation for innovative design is unmatched but, like Microsoft in the nineties, Apple is now releasing software with bugs in it, hardware that’s faulty and customer service that leaves a lot to be desired.
I bought a new iPhone 4S recently worth £600 (Apple sells the most expensive smartphones) and immediately noticed signal issues.  Sure enough, when I walked around with an older iPhone on the same network side by side,  the signal bars on my new phone were lagging behind.  I was pretty shocked it didn’t work perfectly straight out of the box – given the furore over Apple’s previous iPhone 4 antennae issues and given that the newer phone uniquely actually has twin antennae.
Without a software update just a few days old, the iPhone 4S always favours a 3G signal, even in areas where that signal is sparse (its US centric virtual assistant, Siri, needs 3G to operate).   That’s seven months after the phone was released.   Before that, it was even worse.   For the first five months users were much more likely to get ‘No Service‘ as they couldn’t switch off 3G at all.   Even the Vodafone guy who sold it to me admitted after I returned to the shop, “The iPhone’s great – just not great as a phone.”
That’s not the only reason the iPhone 4S doesn’t always work straight out of the box.  To the consternation of most international travellers who buy local sims and swap them into different phones, Apple decided to introduce the ‘micro-sim’ in its iPhone 4 and 4S.  Unfortunately, the world’s mobile companies haven’t kept pace.  Sims come in 128k, 64k, 32k varieties and global telecom networks are not all using the same system.  iPhone customers with China Mobile are still waiting for a software patch to make their sim cards compatible with the iPhone 4S.  And China Mobile is the world’s largest telecoms company with 650 million subscribers.
Even the Vodafone guy who sold it to me admitted after I returned to the shop, “The iPhone’s great – just not great as a phone.”
China Mobile is too big for Apple to ignore though it has ignored plenty of customers in other countries. In fact, remaining silent is becoming a very common complaint about Apple.
Customers who have recently bought the new iPad are complaining that the device overheats, that the the battery status is not accurate and, most significantly of all, that it continually loses Wifi connectivity.  The Apple internet forums are jammed with complaints – and these forums tend to be where customers find out what’s really going on with Apple products.
Sometimes Apple’s silence can really have a devastated effect.  In April, 600,000 Macs were infected with the Flashback virus, designed to steal their bank passwords. I have a Mac and I get plenty of emails from Apple about their products.  But Apple support advised me not to get anti-virus protection as ‘Macs don’t get viruses’.  Why weren’t all Mac users emailed about this one?  In fact, Apple’s slow response to the virus has angered many IT professionals and almost certainly exacerbated global infection rates, leaving large swathes of users more vulnerable than they should have been.  Expect some lawsuits soon (on top of that just brought by the US government for ebook price fixing).
All this makes the minor bugs look… well, minor.  But when you experience them, it’s very frustrating.  iOS 5 for the iPhone came with a bug affecting battery life (after a long history of iPhone battery issues).  After the latest iPad software update, many users – myself included – had trouble retrieving IMAP emails.  After much internet searching I found that if I manually exit and restart the iPad Mail app it will work again for a while – hardly a great solution.   I have always used my Macbook Pro in clamshell mode (i.e. closed) when plugged into an external monitor.  The latest update prevents it.  And these bugs are not getting fixed or responded to.  Users generally have to wait months for new software updates in the hope that if enough people jam the message boards and forums with complaints, Apple will release the fix.
in a world where reputation is all,  you ignore customers at your peril.
This is all especially bad because Apple built its reputation not just on fine design but also on great customer service, stuff that just works straight out of the box and elegant, bug-free software.  That is no longer the case and in a world where reputation is all,  you ignore customers at your peril.
Finally, what of Apple’s flagship service – the iCloud?  Apple’s vision is a world where all your data, music, film, work etc is no longer on any physical machine.  It’s all stored in the iCloud – accessible as and when you need it – on any device.  Soon that is going to get critical mass and Apple is predicting a post PC world.  But what’s going to happen when something goes wrong.. when the unthinkable happens?  What happens when a virus gets into the iCloud and shuts it down?  If Apple’s flagship service sinks in a titanic global data earthquake, their much vaunted and vital customer loyalty would vanish.  This colossus of a company might well go down for good.


  1. Apple is becoming a bigger target every day.

  2. Don't forget you can always get back to Linux or even Win7 whenever you feel like. Just like I did.

  3. My 8 year old XP laptop was working perfectly until it got accidentally destroyed by my roommate. I have been using his Macbook pro and I have to say, it sucks. It's slow and I get lots of applications that "quit unexpectedly". He said it's completely updated but it acts up all the time. My XP Alienware laptop never had any problems like this and it was oooooold. The repair costs will be too high so I'll be buying new. Clearly Mac is not all it's cracked up to be. Maybe he has a virus but he would never admit it. I'm gonna get a brand new W7 laptop for at least half the price of a crappy Mac. >like<

    1. I bought a refurbed 15" MacBook Pro, spent over $2200. Within 24 hours of fedex delivery the optical drive failed and the system froze up upon reboot.

      BTW about my mac said "early 2011", so this unit was ~1 1/2 yr old?!

      I spent 3 hours on the phone. 1st tech tells me "take it to apple store and they can swap out the dvd drive"

      I was not thrilled that I am doing their QC work for them testing their supposedly refurbed systems, but called the store to make sure they had drive in stock, per techs recommendation.

      I resent the term "genius" being used so freely. I reserve it for people like Einstein or Hawking, not some tool who may not have even graduated high school.

      I called the store and get a recording then a 'specialist', who was in a call center in another state tells me I have to use a code word to get someone at the actual store, or to press 0, neither of which option the recording gave me when I called store directly.

      I call back a 3rd time, was told I can take it to the store and if they did not have the drive in stock I would need to go again.

      Its ridiculous that I should even need to go the store. I ask if they Qcheck refurbs or if Apple makes their customers do their work for them. Was offered to replace my unit with another refubed exact same configuration. Who knows what will be wrong with that one!

      I found it highly doubtful that with the $$ they are charging for these machines that their profit margins are so slim that they cannot offer me a discount.

      BTW I could have used my student discount and got a new unit but I am soo happy I did not.

      Next day phone call w/another young sounding 'tech' transferred to a Canadian sounding 'specialist' who had to transfer me to someone else to deal with this.

      "I need to talk to another person about this at your company" What a joke.

      Process the cancellation and will email me fedex labels but I had to ask about returning it directly to the apple store. I went the same day.

      When I called them to cancel and they see I was serious they offer to 'email me a coupon that I can use on the online store'

      Too little too late lady. Someone at their company dropped the ball.

      I will NEVER buy another apple product in my entire life. That was my first and last apple product purchase.

      In person return process at the store was quick, probably bc they want unhappy customers out as fast as possible.

  4. Apps that quit unexpectedly are NOT a normal Mac occurrence. There are some third party "software enhancements" for the Mac that can create conflicts with each other and the OS itself. Perhaps your roommate went a little nuts installing junk on his Mac. Updating to a recent version of the OS can't fix (and often exacerbates) those types of problems. Has he really insured that ALL his apps are spec'd for use with the OS version he's running? Is he running low on disk space?

    I suspect your roommate hasn't maintained his Mac any better than the PC he destroyed.

    This sample of one is not representative of the Mac experience. If it was typical, Apple wouldn't have the high user satisfaction stats that it does.

  5. To tell you the truth he doesn't really have that much on there. Safari, MS Word and Photoshop are what I was primarily trying to use but I found it wouldn't stay stable for more than 15 minutes. He brought it to the Apple store to insure he had all the recent patches and the dopes there couldn't figure anything out so their suggestion was to start fresh with a new OS install. The thing is 8 months old and he has oodles of disk space. That's retarded. It seems like most of the people that release customer satisfaction surveys are Apple fans, so there you go. Either way, my superior W7 Gaming Acer laptop comes in on Tuesday. Cost me 1/3 of a similarly priced crapbook.

  6. Safari never quits unexpectedly on me but I'll agree that it certainly seems to have performance issues, some of which are particularly exacerbated by Adobe's Flash Plug-in. In general, I find Adobe and Microsoft software to be the worst performing of all the apps on my Mac, so I'm not surprised these are the trouble makers. I use alternatives (and there are plenty) wherever possible.

    I still think there is something else going on with that Mac (after all, others seem to get things done with MS Word and Photoshop on the Mac). As I said, there may third-party software utilities like menu and UI enhancements running in the background that are further aggravating things. One "haxie" can cause a lot of problems. Unlike iOS, OS X is open, and does not prevent a user from installing arbitrary crap on their system. The Apple tech probably didn't do a forensic analysis beyond insuring that the OS was up to date. Starting clean would certainly be one way to isolate the problem.

    Regarding user satisfaction surveys, I doubt that professional market research firms like JD Power and Associates could be considered "Apple fans".

    And I've always agreed that for certain uses, particularly hard-core gaming, PCs are a better choice than Macs. Yet they call Macs "toys".

  7. Ah, the old "blame it on third-party software" routine. If those applications work fine on most other Macs, that pretty much proves that the Mac itself is the actual culprit.