Apple’s iPhone 4 Press Conference

I’m a big fan of Apple. Almost everything about the company is noteworthy. Steve Jobs is the consummate CEO for a tech company. Their products are second to none. Their approach to packaging and product design is revolutionary. They’re consistently ranked in the top 3 of every consumer satisfaction survey (including Consumer Reports). The iPhone is the coolest phone ever made. In short, Apple is awesome.

That’s my opinion, and that’s been my experience. For some people however, Apple is a company to hate. They don’t like Apple as a company, they don’t like Apple’s products, and they don’t like it when Apple succeeds. This has always confounded me. I don’t understand why one person wants to interfere with another person’s happiness with a product. Who cares, really? If I go to Target and buy a Cuisinart Toaster, are there Cuisinart haters who can’t stand to see me buy it, and don’t want me to be happy with my purchase? Probably not, so why do some people despise Apple? It’s completely illogical, and it’s awfully judgmental.

If I go to Target and buy a Cuisinart Toaster, are there Cuisinart haters who can’t stand to see me buy it, and don’t want me to be happy with my purchase?

A few weeks ago, right after the release of the iPhone 4—which is apparently Apple’s best-selling product in their entire history—Apple decided they’d heard enough of the complaints in the media about problems with the iPhone (I emphasize “in the media” because Apple says the actual complaints from their customers in real life haven’t noticeably increased). So they held a press conference to address the issue.

In one sense, they could have ignored the hype it because it was unfounded. However, in another sense, if they ignored it, it could have festered and eventually scared off enough people from buying them, so perhaps it was a smart move after all. (I myself at least paused long enough to see the press conference before buying one).

During the conference, Steve Jobs played a Youtube video of a silly, low-budget, homemade movie with a guy singing about the new iPhone. The lyrics explain:

“…if you don’t want an iPhone 4, don’t buy it.

If you bought one and you don’t like it, bring it back…”

How much simpler could that be? That’s the heart of the matter. If you don’t want one, don’t get one. As I watched the press conference, I was impressed. Again, besides the fact that it was unnecessary, it was informational, cordial and accomplished everything it should have. Steve Jobs explained some history behind smartphones in general, that aren’t unique to Apple, and shared some statistics. Facts. Numbers. The cold, hard truth.

There was no bashing of the competition, and several times Steve even said that RIM, Samsung, and HTC all make “fine phones.” He then showed a very simple video of what happens when you hold several different phones with the unnatural death-grip that kills the phone signal (even though nobody actually holds a phone like that). As I said, I was impressed by his presentation, and satisfied with the statistics.

Some people, it seems, weren’t so impressed. All I can figure is that they hate to see Apple succeed. This piece, in particular, is extremely inflammatory and contentious. I still don’t see the need, and it really shows that the authors of these reviews weren’t even listening. The whole point of the press conference was to explain that it’s an industry-wide problem. …and it certainly is.

I’ve worked as an IT Manager in the corporate world before, overseeing a fleet of phones. And you know the hardest part about deploying new technology in a company? Teaching employees how to use technology. They don’t know how to hold phones. They don’t know how to recharge them. The don’t know how to treat them properly. They abuse them, don’t recharge them, leave them in hot cars, drop them, leave them on the counter in a steamy bathroom while taking a shower, install unauthorized third-party programs, bend or break off the external antenna, and then complain that their phone “doesn’t work.” User error my friend—user error. All technology takes some finesse. Get used to it.

All technology takes some finesse. Get used to it.

The carrier my company was with at first was Sprint. The phone reception was so miserable that we paid $1,800 to be released from our contracts to go to another carrier. I test-ran Verizon, and had miserable results. Verizon’s performance was just as bad as Sprint’s. So I test-ran AT&T. And had fabulous results, so we went with AT&T. Our dropped-call rate went down by double-digits, and we saved over 40% on our monthly bill. So believe me when I say I’m familiar with this topic, and I understand the frustration with phone reception. This is hard to explain to end-users sometimes, though.

What surprised me the most in the responses to the conference, wasn’t the fact that some people still complained even after Jobs explained the challenges thoroughly—but the responses by a few of the manufacturers of the products used in the example.

RIM: “Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable.”

Motorola:In our own testing we have found that Droid X performs much better than iPhone 4 when held by consumers.”

HTC: “We have had very few complaints about signal or antenna problems on the Eris.

Motorola’s statement is awfully convenient…. “in our own testing“? Please. HTC’s statement is polite and at least relevant. But RIM’s response is outrageous. Why do they think they can steal the thunder from the iPhone by throwing Apple under the bus? It’s pointless. To counter RIM’s ridiculous statement—it is perfectly acceptable to compare Apple’s phone with RIM’s phone. It’s logical, it’s honest, and it’s exactly what RIM would do if they were in the same spot. It’s also what most consumers would do if given the chance. “Does your phone drop calls when you hold it this way?” “Hmm, I don’t know… let’s try it and see.” Note: Nokia responded to Apple’s press release, even though they weren’t a part of the comparison. And it actually discussed the core issue at hand, instead of just tossing mud.

RIM’s caustic response is probably just soreness that the iPhone has surpassed the Blackberry in almost every aspect, even though it was first released a mere 3 years ago. The Blackberry has nearly had a corner on the smartphone market since it was released in 2002—8 years ago. It took Apple only one year to surpass Blackberry sales in Q4 2008, when RIM had, by that point, over 6 years to perfect their product. Stiff competition, eh?

This is all especially interesting to me because I have owned phones made by RIM, Motorola and Nokia. And guess what? They all have issues. All of them drop calls. All of them have reception issues. I tossed my Blackberry as fast as I possibly could after the iPhone 3G came out, because it was a 98lb weakling in the face of a 500lb Gorilla. And I’ve never looked back. You know why? Because the iPhone is great. It’s the coolest consumer product I’ve ever owned. And it is legions ahead of even the most advanced Blackberry. Heck, I even saved $10/mo by upgrading to the iPhone. It was cheaper than a Blackberry.

Seems to me that RIM is a sore loser. Their phone lost it’s leading edge 4 years ago, and they feel that in order to keep up with the cut-throat smartphone industry, they’ll have to smear the competition, instead of just making better products. Which is awfully similar to a political campaign, if you think about it. Republicans and Democrats throw sludge at each other, thinking they can get elected if they can just destroy the credibility of their opponent, instead of simply running on their own credentials and platforms. And like an election, people are carefully watching the responses.

As I’ve said for years, “buy whatever product you want. If you like Apple products, buy one. If don’t don’t—don’t buy one.” It’s all about personal preference. And if someone else has bought a product you don’t like—let them. It’s their choice. That’s the heart of the matter for the iPhone 4.

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