There is a running dialog across a number of analysts that seems to circulate around the idea that Apple is doing an experiment on how gullible, or stupid, people are.
With each cycle of their Macs, iPhone and iPod (and likely iPad) they get tons of folks to line up and then trivialize problems or make statements about short comings that observers should be able to see are BS, but largely don’t.
Recall that they said that video was stupid on an iPod, or that Flash based music players were “me-to” products they would never build, that PowerPC was the future and that Intel couldn’t compete (while they were actively moving to Pentium), and that the reason not to use the most prominent multi-media technology on the web, Flash, was because it was buggy not because it gave up control to Adobe.
Granted, Flash is kind of buggy but so are a lot of things Apple does support.
But the latest, a series of problems with the iPhone 4 some of which have clearly been tied to the placement of the antenna being passed off as a signal strength problem seems to push the envelope again.
Now several lawsuits have popped up suggesting that some see opportunity here and a quick poll over at rethink-wireless has 47% of respondents (at the time of this writing so it may change) voting for Apple to recall and fix the phone.
This suggests that Apple may have crossed the line and that we, as a group, simply aren’t as stupid as Apple currently thinks. That somehow makes me feel better.
This got me thinking about the fact there are some informal rules in terms of dealing with Apple, some often apply to other vendors (and many politicians) as well.
5 Apple Rules
1. Don’t believe Apple PR or Jobs: Here in Silicon Valley this is one of two ongoing major and nearly unbreakable rules when dealing with Apple. This is different than saying they consistently lie because they often don’t, it’s just that few can tell the difference so it is best to take what either party says as theater, entertaining, but not to be relied upon. There are three ways to get people to do what you want: Manipulation, Coercion, and Domination. Apple is expert at the first being aware of that can make you more willing to ask critical questions before you buy one of their products.
2. Avoid partnering with Apple: The second common rule in the Valley is that people almost never partner with Apple twice. It isn’t a question of whether you will be screwed but when and Apple will not respect you in the morning. This is different than saying don’t buy from Apple, it generally tied to Apple vendors and a practice where Apple will seem to be very agreeable at the front end but is anything but when the contract is in place and watch the small print. Apple is the only OEM that has been tied to a large number of suicides. Dwell on that a moment.
3. Don’t badmouth Apple: Here is a rule I rarely follow but it comes with a rather impressive cost. Apple fans tend to be very vindictive and if you even drift a little from being a total Fanboy they will make your life miserable. Even Walt Mossberg has learned this the hard way. It generally is not worth making a negative comment in an Apple focused forum and, if you are going to do that, do it in areas heavily populated by folks who aren’t Apple fans.
4. Use the Apple support network: Those folks that are used to using other vendors are used to using support lines. With Apple products you are often generally better off using other Apple users for help. In companies IT often is clueless about Apple offerings (Apple doesn’t seem to believe IT exists) and Apple often isn’t up front about known problems, but as long as you don’t bad mouth Apple, other Apple users often are very helpful and the vast majority is actually rather patent.
5. Reset Expectations: Apple uses manipulation very effectively and that means that folks often buy an Apple product thinking it will change their lives. The products are good, they aren’t that good, and often they have very real problems. So if the offering is brand new, a new design, or has significant changes just realize that initially, like most any other product, it will have issues and if you don’t want those issues wait 3 months to a year for them to get worked out. If you want to be one of the first to use a new offering anticipate and accept that it won’t be perfect. You’ll enjoy the product more and complain less.
Apple is having more issues with the latest version of the iPhone then we have seen for a while. Given how much of this phone is new and basically experimental that shouldn’t be a surprise and, I’ll bet we haven’t heard all of them yet either.
Currently, they include connectivity (antenna), short battery life, and application unreliability. A year from now Apple likely will have settled the lawsuits and we’ll be looking at the more reliable maintenance release of this latest platform.
What you shouldn’t forget is that there are 5 rules when dealing with Apple, the 2nd I hope you never have to remember, but I’ll bet there are those out there that will still learn that one the hard way.
Apple is a unique vendor but they really don’t sell magic and you have a choice about whether they are effective at manipulating you. It is fun to be excited about a new product, just don’t lose track of the fact it really is only a product and the rest is mostly smoke and mirrors, done very well, but smoke and mirrors none-the-less.
The 4th generation iPhone is actually one of the best phones on the market, it isn’t perfect however, and AT&T truly does suck. Recognizing all of that before you buy an iPhone 4, regardless of whether you actually do buy it, should result in a better experience.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.