Will New iPhone Drama Gives Apple’s Reputation A Test?

If you look at the history of Apple you will see a roller coaster ride of starts and stops, triumphs and tragedies and virtually everything in between. As it is in life, you are really only as good as your last at bat and in the past few years Apple has just been hitting a ton of home runs. Good products have a tendency to help people forget the troubles of the past.

The question today though is just how far has Apple entered the pantheon of companies that come off as bulletproof with regard to reputation. Everyone expects Steve Jobs to be opinionated and to toss grenades over many fences (just ask Adobe). While it can come off as a bit arrogant and aggressive it doesn’t hurt sales any. In fact, it may just add to the company’s and his own personal iconic stature as well as the bottom line. It depends on your point of view.

Now, there is the new iPhone 4 great antenna debate. So you are aware, I don’t own an iPhone. If they ever come to the Verizon network (check out the latest rumors here) I would probably scoop one up as soon as possible. At home, I use an iPod Touch to get my e-mail etc because my current phone is just lame (sorry BlackBerry … your Storm is just a drizzle at best).

I have read and been told both sides of this story. There is the “OMG! I can’t believe Apple would release something with this major flaw! Next stop, Armageddon!” to the “I haven’t had any problems.” set. All I can say is there is already a lawyer cooking up a class action suit so this must be real ;-).

Now, there is a report that Steve Jobs’ assessment of this ‘trouble’ which is to say “There is nothing wrong just hold the phone correctly” is possibly the official stance of the company. I say possibly because of a report coming from the Boy Genius Report. He has ‘obtained’ a memo that shows how Apple CSR’s are supposed to handle these complaints and servicing the phone is not part of the equation. Please note there have been false reports in the past of memos with regard to the original iPhone so you have to ALWAYS allow for that possibility. Here is the content of that memo to Apple employees.

1. Keep all of the positioning statements in the BN handy – your tone when delivering this information is important.

a. The iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. Our testing shows that iPhone 4’s overall antenna performance is better than iPhone 3GS.

b. Gripping almost any mobile phone in certain places will reduce its reception. This is true of the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and many other phones we have tested. It is a fact of life in the wireless world.

c. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 3GS, avoid covering the bottom-right side with your hand.

d. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 4, avoid covering the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band.

e. The use of a case or Bumper that is made out of rubber or plastic may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly covering these areas.

2. Do not perform warranty service. Use the positioning above for any customer questions or concerns.

3. Don’t forget YOU STILL NEED to probe and troubleshoot. If a customer calls about their reception while the phone is sitting on a table (not being held) it is not the metal band.

4. ONLY escalate if the issue exists when the phone is not held AND you cannot resolve it.

5. We ARE NOT appeasing customers with free bumpers – DON’T promise a free bumper to customers.

This is not exactly a customer friendly approach but will that even matter? It is kind of ironic that Apple is looking for antenna engineers for the iPad and iPhone but maybe that’s just a coincidence ;-)?

Which gets back to the original question of whether Apple is doing such a great job with their products that they can play the “act as if it’s not a problem” game and come away unscathed? I don’t know. Whenever you talk about Apple products there is such intensity on both sides of the fence that it may just mean that around this issue the haters hate more and the fanboys love more. As for me and my house, I don’t really care other than watching it play out from a business perspective.

So what are your thoughts? By not offering an official statement and letting the market run riot with this concern are they creating more trouble than its worth? How should they address this situation? Is what they are doing the best way?

So many questions and so many opinions. Is your online reputation management and monitoring antenna up over this whole thing?