Apple has achieved what might once have seemed impossible: it has made the iPhone a bigger joke than Microsoft Bob. The iPhone 4’s defective antenna design has now featured on the BBC’s Top Gear programme, and been the subject of a David Letterman “Top 10” list.
It has also inspired lots of cartoons and humorous photos, including a wooden iHand, for holding the iPhone, and a new Apple slogan: Hold Different.
Perhaps my favourite from the compilation of iPhone joke photos assembled by OS X Daily is the first one. It’s based on the standard routine where Steve Jobs is chatting with Bill Gates. Jobs says: “Hey, have you tested out the new iPhone?” Gates says “No” and Jobs delivers the punchline: “Me neither.” Ho ho.
It’s pretty shocking that Apple managed to ship millions of phones without the design flaw being found and dealt with, but that does seem to be the case. And I’d guess the reason is that, due to Apple’s culture of extreme secrecy, the phones were “tested” inside different cases, like the one mislaid in a bar. Either way, it has tarnished Apple’s reputation for good design.
Verizon has been making fun of AT&T and Apple’s iPhone in its US television advertising, and Apple has also been ridiculed by Google, but both of those companies are out to make a buck. Being mocked by Jeremy Clarkson and David Letterman on popular TV programmes is another matter.
In fact, the whole market may be turning against Apple. Dave Winer, a long-time Mac user and developer, and the man behind RSS, says: “I don't think the problem is with the iPhone 4. I think what we're seeing is Apple's charm wearing off. The Reality Distortion Field bubble is about to burst. Their run as the Exceptional Company is about to end.”
He adds: “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.”
Anybody with a working brain has always known that Apple is just another multi-national capitalist corporation, and the most unusual things about it are (a) that it manages to charge far higher prices (and make bigger margins) than the Taiwanese and Chinese corporations who actually make Apple kit; and (b) that it has a small but vocal pseudo-religious following of happy-clappy people who will think whatever His Holiness Steve Jobs tells them to think, even when he does one of his famous U-turns.
In the past decade, Apple’s business has grown far, far larger than its fanboy following, and it’s no longer a beleaguered underdog at risk of going bust. In fact, it’s extremely rich. As Winer says, it’s now The Man. And it’s The Man who is now being laughed at over the iPhone 4.
Update: Apple is holding an iPhone press conference on Friday July 16, which has prompted many more jokes on Twitter. Examples include "Apple is holding a press conference on Friday, but will they hold it the right way?" (@GlennF) and "It is completely untrue that left-handed people will get a bad reception at the Apple iPhone 4 press conference on Friday" (@charlesarthur).
David Letterman's “Top 10” list