Apple’s coming shitstorm

If you weren’t immediately struck by the patronising ‘Listen with Mother’ tone of Apple’s initial response to the iPhone 4 antenna problem, then have another look. Are you sitting comfortably?

The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Appleā€™s history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

Eh? No wonder Dave Winer thought it had been written by a comedian:

When I read their first public response on July 2, the one that said the problem was the meter measuring the strength of AT&T’s signal, I couldn’t believe this was meant to be taken seriously. It’s the kind of story The Onion might have written on a bad day. Or Jon Stewart. That a corporate PR team wrote this says how unseasoned their people are. That they thought this answer was going to satisfy anyone says how out of touch they are with the world they are in.

Dave’s point is that instead of just being a Plucky Little Company Apple is now just Another Big Corporation. Like Microsoft. Like Google. Like BP.

The Reality Distortion Field bubble is about to burst. Their run as the Exceptional Company is about to end. And they’re going to be the last ones to figure it out. And it’s going to be the ugliest shitstorm you’ve ever seen.

Why will it be so ugly? Because Apple’s hype has been steadily inflating since 1997 when Steve Jobs returned, and it’s never taken a dip. They’ve risen from being written off to being worth more than Microsoft.

It’s also going to get ugly because we’re fed up with corporations. It was remarkable that there were no ads for oil companies on the World Cup broadcasts (at least the ones I watched). Can you imagine listening to a pitch from Exxon or BP saying they are working for our energy independence, or to clean up the planet or all the other lies they were telling us while they were taking huge unnecessary risks with the ecology of the oceans? They’re smart enough to know now is not the time to be spouting bullshit at us.

It will be ugly because Apple is going to let it get ugly. Because unlike the oil companies they have no experience with PR disasters… Apple has no concept of what’s it like to be disbelieved, untrusted, seen as an American corporation and nothing more.

Apple’s free ride by the mainstream media is also long overdue for termination. What I found surprising, nay borderline nauseating, was the soft treatment Steve Jobs received at his press conference about the iPhone 4 antenna problem last Friday. Any half-sentient reporter ought at least to have called him out on his disgraceful ploy of claiming that, hey, all smartphones have reception problems. Apart from the intellectual shoddiness of this, it also contradicts the First Axiom of the Reality Distortion Field: Apple is Different. Not any more, it isn’t. It’s just another big corporation.