Today's gonna be a rough day for Apple's PR department

Today's gonna be a rough day for Apple's PR department

Summary: If I was working over at Apple's PR department, I think I'd call in sick today. In fact, I think I'd fake something really serious like Ebola or bird flu and try to get the week off, because the brown stuff has hit the fan head on over the bricked iPhones and cleaning up this mess is going to be tricky.


If I was working over at Apple's PR department, I think I'd call in sick today.  In fact, I think I'd fake something really serious like Ebola or bird flu and try to get the week off, because the brown stuff has hit the fan head on over the bricked iPhones and cleaning up this mess is going to be tricky. 

Today's gonna be a rough day for Apple's PR departmentAs far as PR goes, Apple's enjoyed a long lucky streak.  When I look at Apple I see just another multi-billion dollar company who's prime objective is to add more dollars to the pile, something which Apple's been very good at lately.  Sure, Apple comes out with tech that has a high level of sex appeal, which in turn drives gadget lust and that in turn keeps the dollars flowing in, but it's the dollars that matter.  Others see Apple in a very different light.  Some don't see a corporation with billions of dollars, but instead see an underdog fighting against the oppressive regimes imposed on the poor, defenseless users of technology by other companies.  To these people, Steve Jobs isn't a CEO, but instead a freedom fighter, and a few times a year he and his band of guerrillas come out of hiding to take a stand against "the man" before sinking back into the shadows.

But this iPhone bricking issue is likely to change how some people view Apple.  Of crucial importance to Apple is how many people change their view of Apple.  It doesn't matter whether you agree with Apple's decision to brick unlocked iPhone's (let's forget about those bricked iPhones that haven't been tampered with) or not, you can't escape the fact that it's a hugely unpopular move.  Jon (DVD Jon) Lech Johansen sums it up well:

Did Sony ever brick PSPs over homebrew software? Did Microsoft ever overwrite someone’s BIOS with garbage because they detected an illegitimate Windows installation?

In light of other things Apple has done lately, such as adding an encrypted hash to the iPod database to lock out non-Apple software and disabling TV-out on the iPod unless the 3rd party accessory you’re using has an Apple authentication chip, it’s evident that Apple is well on its way to become one of the most consumer hostile tech companies.

When Steve Jobs claimed the iPhone was 5 years ahead of every other phone, was he talking about the iPhone’s revolutionary handcuffs?

I just wonder how shiny did Apple executive think the company's halo was and how much did they think they could get away with?   No matter how you try to spin the problem, pushing an update that trashes your own product is not a good move.  A far better solution would have been to push an update that just wouldn't install onto unlocked iPhones.  That would have been the right thing to do.  Bricking them is wrong.  Apple could have done this easily.  It didn't and instead chose to stamp on the little guy. 

I'm also surprised and dismayed by Apple's response so far.  This quote is by Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock:

If the damage was due to use of an unauthorized software application, voiding their warranty, they should purchase a new iPhone

I guess Apple's never heard of the old phrase "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice ..."

And word of the bricking has spread to folks who've never seen an iPhone:

On Saturday I was going to a party at an apartment building. The buzzer wasn't working, and I took out my shiny new iphone to call and get in. As I was dialing, a few young teenagers were coming out. They wanted to see the iPhone, and so I demo'd it in exchange for entry to the building. (Mmm, security.) As I was heading in, one of them turned back to me to say "Be careful! The updates are bricking those things!"

I found that really interesting--they hadn't ever touched the phone, but they'd heard about and remembered the risks of patching them and wanted to share.

In the words of the Mastercard ads, that sort of publicity is priceless.

Even the technophiles at Gizmodo have changed their iPhone verdict from a "wait" to "don't buy" because of the stance that Apple has taken to third party developers:

It's understandable for Apple to wage a war on unlocking the iPhone, since the company shares revenue from fees with AT&T. But the truth is, if cellphone service was awesome, like it is on iTunes, there wouldn't be a need to unlock the iPhone. Secondly, bricking these things is totally uncool, and apparently, malicious—according to some early code investigations by the independent iPhone Dev Team, Apple could have avoided this entirely.


Screw the unlock for a second. Let's talk about the those third-party apps. While my 4GB iPhone is a brick, and the 8GB phone, which I kept on a totally legit AT&T contract, is now stripped down. Programs like the faux-GPS, IM clients, Flickr Upload, and NES emulator—what did they ever do but make the iPhone far better than the stock original? They made it far more competitive with open-platform superphones like the Nokia N95, to which I will now be switching.

We also have the obligatory iPhone protest video and calls for a class action lawsuit.

It's going to be a tough week for the folks at Apple's PR department.


Topics: Apple, CXO, iPhone, Mobility, IT Employment

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  • Switching to Nokia N95

    Very good idea to switch to the N95 (Nokia flag waving cuz I work there). People thought Apple was gonna be a part of the wireless Internet. They will need to have some additional offerings then. Let's hope they bring their boundless creativity and style to the open market too.
    • Talk about a brick

      This latest generation from Nokia may be powerful, but it is too clumsy for general use. And, Nokia went through several generation to get to it. I have an N80, which I gave up carrying around, because it felt like a brick.
  • RE: Today's gonna be a rough day for Apple's PR department

    For those of us who have lived through this process a few times, Apple's behavior is not surprising or difficult to predict. Owners of proprietary products whose product is very good struggle to retain control from those who would make it better without streaming those revenues to the original developer. Just think back to IBM circa 1985. They had a great product (Mainframes and their OS), but they struggled mightily through legal and less than legal ways to keep it totally proprietary for fear they'd be relegated to the role of "hardware provider" instead of "solution provider".

    Turn the clock forward and you Microsoft haters will realize that MS has the more "open" OS, with thousands of add-ins, and far more capable because of it than MAC OS. Similarly the Nokia phones.

    It's a very difficult line to walk and survive, but MS has actually been pretty good at it. Apple has been relegated to its moribund Macs and small potatoes iPhones. Even its iPods are modest revenue streams. One false move, and Apple will falter seriously. By contrast, MS has made a number of false moves and still does well. It's a lesson to learn.
    Jim from Indy
    • RE:MS has made a number of false moves and still does well.

      Yeah since it has a strangle hold on PC Manufactures, customers have been denied choice when buying their PC's and this goes back to the days of DOS and DRDOS.

      NOTE: With Apple's current treatment of their iPhone customers, I have opted to no longer be an Apple Customer(No great loss for Apple), I had plans for Xmas purchase's of (Ipod Touch/Apple TV/Leopard(assuming it is released before xmas). Those plans are canceled.
      • What is this "treatment" that you talk of?

        Pagan jim
        • Simple....

          knowingly and deliberately deleting people's 3rd party apps with their update and making where they can not just re install them, plus the threat of bricking the iPhone if it has been unlocked. This defines their feeling's about their customers.

          Note: These are people who paid lots of money for the product, and wanted to enhance it with 3rd party apps, that Apple said they would not supply, so no one was taking money from Apple or AT&T.

          As for the unlocking of the iPhone, if you bought the iPhone from a pawn shop(NO Contract requirements) why cant the iPhone be unlocked ??? AT&T Claims that Apple has the unlock codes and has not provided them to AT&T(Not sure I buy that story).
          • I believe Apple warned it might brick their altered iPhones

            not that it would. As for third party apps perhaps again this is a function of where
            Apple plans on using specific area's of memory and such and has every intention of
            keeping said area's clear for future upgrades....again just guessing on this one.

            Pagan jim
          • Lets see if I can make it clearer...

            Apple States it will brick the phone, on this we agree ???

            My Issue Apple should have said, wait we know this will screw up our customers phones if they added 3rd party apps and since we know what was changed we should do the right thing by our customer and prevent the install all together not just issue a press release.

            It's a fine point, but a telling one.
          • I believe the statement I read prior to this was "may"

            or "might" but I did not read it WILL. As for the other issues see my reply to you

            Pagan jim
        • hey.. its jim again

          always ready to defend a mac complaint...

          • What can I say it's my nature....

            Even when I fight I don't start it..... but I never back down. I don't do offense I'm a
            counter puncher.

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
    • Incredible spin paints MS as innocent (courts disagree)

      Microosft has made all manner of illegal deals to keep you on on their platform.
      They have rather boldly shut out any and all competition. Apple and it's users
      receive a great deal of this treatment which is why they don't particularly like MS.
      In the old days it was tactics such as 'DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run'.
      Nowadays it things such as the new Office format (to shut out open source
      solutions), Outlook only being available on Windows and heavily promoted
      exchange servers to corporate IT depts., and last but not least, a very non-
      standard I.E. browser, no longer even available in a non-functional version for
      other platforms. Embrace and extend--ever heard of that? If you have, you
      obviously don't udnerstand it.

      Apple has done nothing even remotely comparable to these tactics. And they
      aren't 'bricking' anyone's phone, at least not anyone who is following the license
      • Don't forget

        Remember, Apple and AT&T's license agreement prohibits installation of third party apps, and I don't know any warranty that does or should cover physical alteration of the equipment. So users who buy the phone at a pawn shop or anywhere else have a choice of NOT accepting any future software updates from Apple (who is under no obligation to provide them...), and NOT signing the phone up on AT&T's network (who certainly has the right to restrict usage of AT&T's network....) Voila! Case closed.

        Where am I wrong here?
        Jim from Indy
      • You seem to be suffering...

        ...from the same misconceptions that far too many others are, that being that MS remains successful because they are monopolistic and ruthless. The simple truth is, they remain successful because of add-on software. The vast majority of business software works on Windows, and Windows only. The vast majority of consumer software, particularly games, works on Windows, and Windows only.

        I said six months ago that Linux would be ready to mount a real challenge to Windows within two years, and I'm sticking by that statement. I believe that within the next year and a half, the various Windows synth tools on Linux will be mature enough, and easy enough to configure and use, that many enterprises will be able to move away from the Windows platform, while still being able to use their locked in software. When that happens, the employees will begin to follow suit at home. When Linux has the ability to play Windows games at full bore, the home users will be able to move away from Windows.

        Add in the discontent with MS caused by WPA, and the other anti-consumer moves by MS, and the trickle will become a stampede.

        MS will survive, they're too smart not to, but they'll lose their absolute dominance and will be forced to compete in the real world, not the current world of their making.
        Dr. John
        • I think,

          you need to look back out how they got to this position. Is this not what the DOJ and
          EU went and are going after them about? I suggest you find out the history of how MS
          got to where they are, the real history.
        • I agree with you

          You're right.
          Jim from Indy
      • whatever...

        there are so many third party apps that run on windows...

        there actually might be one million by now.

        for real.

        your point is laughable.
      • And forgetting Microsoft's latest secret update

        Don't forget Microsoft just pushed an update to all XP users which you could not block, and which prevents you from updating your machine if you have to repair the OS. Truly innocent, Microsoft.
  • Makes me glad I have no interest in an iPhone

    I'll never understand the dweebs that do things like camp out overnight just to be the first to buy some new techno-gadget. Even worse, they didn't need to in this case <g>.

    The iPhone simply is not that exciting when looked at logically. Then of course there is the high price tag for the phone. The monthly fees will eclipse the cost of the phone rather quickly as well.

    I suppose if you jumped at the chance to be held prisoner by AT&T, you deserve what you get. If you don't like the rules, don't play the game.
    • I have no interest in the iPhone either, BUT...

      Apple's actions are quite disturbing to say the least. I have no blind fealty to Apple or its culture of gadget enthusiasts even though I have bought a MacBook Pro. I bought it for what it was, a great computer. I don't have any other Apple trappings like iPods, iTunes or iPhones and could care less.

      But I am concerned that Apple is as cavalier and potentially dangerous to their customers as Microsoft is and perhaps even more. I left the MS hegemony because I felt that I could not trust them anymore. With WGA false positives, pushing updates when updates are turned off, and licensing issues like activation and "reduced functionality mode," MS seemed way too controlling of my hardware for my tastes. Apple's behavior eclipses these concerns by a great margin.

      If I scratch both MS and Apple off the list of acceptable OS vendors, then I am left with only Linux. Fortunately, Linux works well enough for most needs.

      I just wish we had more than three choices for a desktop OS. It's too bad that competition is so stifled in the computer OS market that one cannot find any suitable vendor.