Why there won’t be an iPhone 4 recall

Wed, Jul 14, 2010

Analysis, News

For a company so keen on controlling the narrative of their products, the past few weeks have been a public relations nightmare for Apple. Despite record breaking sales and growing demand, the discussion surrounding the iPhone 4 has largely centered on the device’s much publicized antenna issues.

Most recently, Consumer Reports retracted its “Recommended” rating for the iPhone 4, a move which inexplicably prompted pundits and some members of the tech press to react as if Apple was about to be swallowed up by the gates of hell and cease to exist. Some pundits might even have you believe that Apple’s share price is bound to plummet.

Notwithstanding the fact that Consumer Reports still rates the iPhone as the best smartphone on the market, folks still can’t get over the iPhone 4’s signal issues. And that’s not to say that the issue isn’t affecting anyone. It is. The reality, however, is that this reception issue was identified literally hours after the iPhone went on sale, and unsatisfied users have 30 days to return the device for free. No restocking free. No nothing.

Nevertheless, talking heads continue to do what they do best, which is talk and spew nonsense. That said, Cult of Mac recently spoke to a number of PR experts who all believe that an iPhone 4 recall is inevitable.

Professor Matthew Seeger, an expert in crisis communication (whatever that is), writes: “Apple will be forced to do a recall of this product. It’s critically important. The brand image is the most important thing Apple has. This is potentially devastating.”

Meanwhile, political consultant Chris Lehane compares the iPhone 4 reception issues to a “Toyota-style PR crisis for Apple.” Not too long ago, Toyota was forced to recall about 10 million vehicles worldwide due to widespread safety concerns. Hmm, last we checked, the iPhone 4 presents no safety issues whatsoever. A weak analogy if we’ve ever seen one. And unless we’re mistaken, iPhone 4 users don’t appear to be returning the device in droves, but hey, why let facts get in the way of sensationalist product recall headlines.

Also beating the drum is Dr. Larry Barton, who previously served as the VP of Crisis Management at Motorola. Barton writes, “Apple needs to put this fire out now. There has to be a military-like response to this issue. And we have not seen this kind of urgency.”

All these pundits seem wholly unaware that product recalls are primarily enacted to protect consumers from potentially dangerous items. And as for Apple’s image, it may take a hit temporarily, but the continued interest in the iPhone 4 speaks volumes about Apple’s ability to weather this current “crisis.”

Moreover, all these PR gurus who concern themselves with analyzing Apple’s brand image seemingly ignore that impulsively issuing a product recall would actually do more harm to Apple’s image than a somewhat contradictory review in Consumer Reports (i.e the iPhone 4 isn’t recommended, but is still rated as the best smartphone on the market).

That little quirk aside, the larger issue is that this is ultimately a non-issue that anti-Apple folks want to keep in the news for as long as possible. Why is this a non-issue? For starters, signal attenuation issues only arise in areas where signal strength is already suspect. Second, adjusting how you hold the phone or putting the iPhone 4 in a case alleviates the problem. Third, and most importantly, users have 30 days to return the device to Apple at no extra cost.

Are you systematically experiencing dropped calls? No sweat, simply return your iPhone 4 and you’re right back where you started from. Are you brimming with anger at the fact that Steve Jobs wants to tell you how you should hold your own phone? No worries, return your iPhone 4 within 30 days for a full refund.

It’s astonishing to read the level of narcissism and self-entitlement some people exhibit these days when things don’t go their way. We unfortunately live in litigious society where a product that doesn’t live up to expectations is reason enough to file a class-action lawsuit. We live in a society where tech geeks act as if they’re owed something if their user experience isn’t as smooth as they initially expected.

Here’s the bottom line – If you can’t use the iPhone 4, return it. If you’re scared off by signal issues, then don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that. No one’s getting shafted, no one’s getting hoodwinked. If anything, Apple should be glad that this antenna issue reared its ugly head so soon after the iPhone 4 launched.

Ultimately, notions of a product recall are utterly ridiculous.



5 Comments For This Post

  1. Grasshopper Says:

    Excellent post, sums it up nicely. However, what if there is a hardware change that alleviates the problem? Should Apple offer free exchanges, or bumpers? Remember the iPhone price drop back in 2007? There is precedent for doing something to compensate customers just as a matter of goodwill.

  2. Macfusiongirl Says:

    “free exchanges or bumpers”? They have a 1 year warranty, if your iPhone has any issues you should take it in. They will fix it or replace it, it’s that simple. Since not everyone is affected by these problems and there are no safety issues in question people screaming for a recall is ridiculous. Also offering free bumpers would be taken advantage of, people that weren’t experiencing issues would be lining up screaming me too.

    People who are having problems will be taken care of. There is a reason why Apple is rated #1 in customer service.

  3. AndrewK Says:

    Apple compares well to Toyota. Toyota never experienced any significant backlash outside of rhetoric and neither will Apple. Take a look at the the XBox 360 as well. If these signal issues are an iPhone killer then by logic Microsoft should be out of the console market.

  4. CapnVan Says:

    I, too, like the Toyota comparison – their cars were f%cking *killing* people!

  5. Tony Says:

    Apple users do tend to express ‘elitism’ more then others. I think Apple’s move to offer free Bumpers is the smartest thing they could have done. Curiously, i didn’t hear of anyone complaining about ‘dropped calls’, only the common bar loss…

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