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Apple’s iPhone 4 letter: is this really an apology?

Apple’s iPhone 4 letter: is this really an apology?

Apple’s ‘never apologise, never explain’ approach to complaints has finally been broken by the iPhone 4. An open letter, which landed in select inboxes last Friday, finally admitted that the much-touted phone, which the company describes as its best launch ever, was having an issue with mobile reception.

Compare iPhone 4 deals at Top10: iPhone 4 Deals

But rather than being a full and frank apology for the iPhone 4 coming with a major flaw, the letter was keen to suggest that this was down to calculations regarding the blower’s signal. Turns out, all iPhones have had the same problem since day one. It just took three years to work it out.

So now iPhone owners will get a software update to fix the problem. Except they'll still need to ‘just hold it right’ because the update will only show signal strength more accurately.

According to the letter, gripping "almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars". Strangely though, it’s hard to find another phone that drops signal completely when you slap it over your left ear using your left hand.

Of course, Apple does say sorry towards the end of its missive, when its tells its fanbase that it "apologises for any anxiety we may have caused.” But that’s not saying sorry for the iPhone 4 being sold with a major problem.

Yes, this phone can do it all. Except for one fundamental thing: making calls. Now, beyond email, Facebook, hassling mates on Twitter and downloading inordinate numbers of free apps, the most important thing a phone can do is make calls. It’s why everyone wants one. And if the iPhone 4 can’t do that almost perfectly, then Apple needs to be more upfront.

iphone 4 slant back

In releasing this letter, Apple has only gone halfway to assuaging concerns of loyal customers. In excess of two million own an iPhone 4. Last week’s AppleCare email suggesting customers “should not be appeased” with free bumpers for their new cell shows the kind of care we’re talking about here.

It seems Apple is incapable of issuing a full and frank apology. Owning up and saying they screwed up would show cojones and be the most un-Apple thing they could do. It would clear the air. It wouldn’t be admitting the iPhone 4 is a bad device: it’s not.

But this halfway house does nothing for Apple’s rep. Cryptic statements only serve to cause more irritation and help reinforce the belief amongst a growing number of consumers that the bottom line is Apple’s number one concern. Yes, they’re a business, but a business that has grown beyond recognition. This is the kind of behaviour Steve Jobs would have gleefully torn into had Microsoft been behind it back in the day.

So, the next move? A gushing apology? Doubtful. Yes, the iPhone 4 will continue to sell, but this debacle has given Apple the kind of publicity it could do without. Its approach to complaints has always been questioned by fanatics and tech watchers. Now the wider public is aware of how the company operates, surely Apple needs to take a long, hard look at its methods. Admitting mistakes is fine and it might even bring Cupertino some good publicity to boot.

Compare iPhone 4 deals at Top10: iPhone 4 Deals

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