The Apple iOS debacle and PR consequences

iOS 8.0.1 downloading

Whether you’re an iPhone user or not, you can’t have missed the headlines in recent days reporting on the fiasco resulting from Apple’s botched operating system update 8.0.1 for iPhones and iPads, released on September 24.

For the first time in some years, I have an iPhone courtesy of Arena Media, mobile operator Three UK‘s media agency, who sent me an iPhone 6 for review (that review is coming soon) which arrived on the 24th – the day of the 8.0.1 software update.

And so I did: allowed the iPhone to install the update. And, as you do, I tweeted that.

In pretty short order, I started getting tweets from Twitter friends about the problems with the update.

Sure enough, the iPhone 6 had lost its ability to make or receive phone calls and text messages, the problem at the heart of the matter, one that seemed to  affect only the two newest iPhones, the 6 and 6 Plus.

So for the past 36 hours or so, along with thousands of other iPhone 6 users, I’ve had a smartphone with no ability to use it as a phone. Luckily, in my case, it isn’t my primary phone and it otherwise functioned just fine including connectivity via wifi. And so I was able to kick its tyres, as it were, during the Simply SMiLE conference in London yesterday, using many of its features.

And what about fixing the botched update? How hard was Apple on the case?

I imagine this was being treated with the utmost importance by Apple. I visualized their engineers working round the clock to get a fix done in the shortest time possible.  And I guess the shortest time possible was the 36 hours or so from 8.0.1 to the 8.0.2 fix that I saw appear in my iPhone 6 early this morning UK time.

ios802update

iOS 8.0.2 Learn More

And once the installation reached a successful completion, the iPhone 6 had its cellular capability restored and the fixes mentioned in the ‘Learn More’ text applied.

iOS 8.0.2 up to date

And all’s well that ends well, right? Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. No doubt by this time next week, all this will be just a bad memory, a little one at that (although #BendGate is still ‘an issue’).

And what of Apple the company, one that is the maker of probably the most desirable tech gadgets on the mass market today? Has something gone a bit wrong there where we’ve seen a succession of missteps in recent months: the current issues with the iOS fiasco, for example, and celebrity nude pics in the iCloud a month or so ago?

I expect Apple will continue to feature high up in lists of the world’s best brands. I imagine the rosy glow of success will continue to embrace the company once more news and information emerge about Apple Watch and its launch next year.

So events such as I’ve mentioned may be just a blip on the PR radar to Apple, ones relatively easy to consider and address purely as issues to manage.

Yet I think such events have tarnished Apple’s reputation somewhat. The share price has fallen. The gloss has dimmed a bit on a company which has often in the past said that they make technology that just works.

Not this time, Mr Cook!

I believe there is a cumulative effect over time where things like this add up to a negative sum when it comes to trust and reputation. And, eventually, that will impact you, your products and services and your market position. Not to mention shareholder value.

Not a good place to be, Apple.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Sean Ahern (@syrinxsean)

    Apple’s stock price is disproportionately volatile compared to the industry as a whole. As a longtime shareholder, I’ve learned that negligible problems like this cause a drop of a few percentage points (yesterday’s 3.8% drop) followed by calmer minds recognizing the problems have no bearing on the strength of the company, thus restoring the price within a short period of time.

    • Neville Hobson

      I tend to agree with you, Sean, hence my comment about next week things will be back to normal. Yet there is that cumulative effect over time I mentioned that will cause a customer or a shareholder to pause when it comes to doing something related to their device or their shareholding. That could be deciding whether to upgrade to the next model, reinvest share earnings rather than taking the money, etc.

      It’s the pause that’s the issue where before it would have been a given that the customer would upgrade and the shareholder would reinvest. But next time, there’s a pause. And the time after that?

  2. Claire Thompson

    When the iphone first launched, there was little to rival it, and even ‘antenna-gate’ didn’t dent its popularity. There is now a slew of equally good phones. The company has lost it’s heart (Steve Jobs) and found no-one as charismatic to pick up the mantle. It still has some goodwill from all of the above, but Apple hasn’t always had a great PR machine (Bite turned it around in many ways, but they are no longer retained, I believe). It doesn’t ‘do’ social. It’s Genius bars are hard to book and not always convenient to get to. It’s been able to maintain a level of ‘arrogance’ on the basis of its style and design credentials, and ‘first mover’ advantage, but as it loses it’s edge, it needs to maintain customer loyalty. This balls up is another in a line that will make many question whether it’s products – the phone ones at least – are now a triumph of style over substance, and start to move to pastures new. Sadly, I suspect Apple’s future as smartphone leader is less in their hands and more in the ability of other companies to trump them. Because a strong, viable alternative looks more and more appealing as time goes by.

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