Blog Post

Apple's Image May Be Cracking

ScreenshotBetween the iPhone and MobileMe, we’re starting to see some complaints about Apple quality and support – widely regarded as the cornerstones of the company’s reputation. Twitter is full of complaints about MobileMe, and the company has gone so far as to add another 60 days of free service for suffering subscribers. Some prominent bloggers have also weighed in on the issue of Apple quality recently, with negative views.

And yet…despite some high-profile complaints, the bulk of Apple users still seem to be satisfied. A survey at our parent blog GigaOM is finding most respondents to be satisfied, and the just-released American Customer Satisfaction Index scores put Apple ahead of all other computer manufacturers for Q2. So despite some stumbles, it looks like Apple hasn’t yet lost its shine.

What’s your take on the state of Apple products?

18 Responses to “Apple's Image May Be Cracking”

  1. Hey, if you can’t argue with facts, then calling anyone who has a different opinion a ‘fanboy’ is a great start. That aside, I think Apple has definitely over-extended itself, but not so far that it has devalued quality. The entire next release of OS-X is focussed on stability and performance improvements, rather than feature releases. MS would *never* have the confidence to make such a statement.

    But don’t listen to me. Instead, check out how effectively the fanboys took over a 3rd party survey:

    Let me grab the money quote for you: “We haven’t seen anything like this before, where a company scores 10 points over its nearest rival,” said Claes Fornell, the head of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), conducted quarterly by the University of Michigan.

    Those fanboys – what a bunch of crazy kids.

  2. I held off a year on the iPhone because I didn’t know what was going to happen with it — not because Apple puts out bad products, but greatness takes time to perfect.

    When I saw that Mobileme was coming out I had a feeling it would be hammered right away, so I temporarily avoided that. Though I’m still thinking about joining it, but I haven’t made up my mind yet.

    NoteScribe: notes software

  3. Wouldn’t class myself as a fanboy and if I had problems I’d probably bitch and moan along with everyone else (and rightfully so) but I’ve been using Apple products since the late 80s and the only time I’ve ever needed support was when my iBook’s logic board died. I can’t include the time I spilled coffee all over my iBook keyboard, that was my fault ;).

    My purchase history extends from ancient products to new, including some of those things people have had recent complaints about: the aluminum 24″ iMac, iPhone 3G, Macbook Pro, MobileMe, etc. I haven’t had a problem.

    That’s just luck, of course. We all know MobileMe’s problems are Apple’s fault. But no, their image is still intact for me as long as my stuff keeps working, even if everyone else’s stuff is breaking down ;).

  4. Mike Gale

    I only have Apple products on a Windows machine so this is a special case. (I mainly want Safari, for testing.) They seem not to have a clue about what I expect.

    1) Downloading things I don’t want, with no way to switch that off, and no response at all when I asked if I was missing something. (I tried everything I could think of including looking at registry settings.)

    2) An installer that upgrades a product by actually uninstalling it from the custom place where I put it then installing it in the place some bozo thought was better. I can’t describe how annoying that attitude is.

  5. Happy? I was finally able to make an appointment at my Chicago/Skokie Old Orchard Apple store (I won’t complain about hold time–)waited 15 minutes past my appointment time (again, I am a patient person) only to be told by the Genius that I needed to turn my 3G off, if I didn’t want dropped call and he went on to mentioned that his friend did not have connection problems in Arizona. I am a first time Apple buyer–I should have remembered my fairy tales and said NO to the Apple.

  6. Fanboys unite! Sorry couldn’t resist. But honestly folks, if any other company encountered the same issues Apple has with the 3g launch as well as the failure of reliability with Mobile Me they would be absolutely crucified by the web minions.

    Imagine if the company behind these snafus happened to be from Redmond, WA.

    I think another great way to gauge the response to these issues is to take a look at Wall Street’s response to the issues above.

    Myself, I’m fine with the Apple Products and support… I just find it interesting how quickly on the inter web are so quick to defend Steve & Co.

  7. @Keeshia (and whoever else might find this useful) –

    Don’t forget that surge protectors are single-use items; the surge protector protects from surges by virtue of a single fuse not unlike the ones that were common in residential wiring until 30 years ago. Any shoddiness in a building’s wiring, or a nearby lightning strike (not even on the building’s ground discharge vane) might well burn out that fuse without warning of any kind.

    Better surge protectors will have an LED that goes dark when that fuse burns out.

    If you live in an area prone to lightning strikes, either get a UPS, or get into the habit of unplugging everything when a thunderstorm comes.

  8. MobileMe? What? Oh, wait, I’m not a fanboy.

    Soyeah. Macbooks encased in plastic poorly suited to real use (I haven’t had a smudge-free display but for about two hours total since I took the thing out of the box last December). And there’s the stripping in the l/r corner below the keyboard. Yummy. Why, Apple, do you design something so pretty and then make its outsides from cheap-assed plastic that attracts crud, hmm?

    I’m hard on keyboards, so the day I get the machine, I call the nearest Apple Store. Trying to budget, right? “How much will it cost me to replace the keyboard as a matter of course, and can I schedule the service in advance so that I can do it in a single trip?” The answers: “We won’t tell you until you come in, and no.” Bastards. Your ass-covering, I do not need it. That by itself made me instantly hostile to Apple at a level I’d never experienced before, especially since the auth’d svc. ctr. that’s local to me is run by first-rate grifters.

    I will need to make that call again soon, and I estimate that it will take about sixty seconds before I need to escalate.

    Chapter The Second: I recommend an iMac to a teacher friend of mine for a long list of reasons that don’t need to be repeated here. She goes in to buy it, armed with the part number for the machine in question, since I knew that the CSR’s would do their level best to exploit any ambiguity in the situation. She buys it, puts it together, and two weeks later I start getting it properly configured…

    …Only to discover that the inline optical drive is a paperweight. So I need to pack it back up and she gets to expend an entire afternoon getting it replaced. To their credit, when she said “I’m walking out of this store with a computer that works, or none at all,” they blinked. She wasn’t bluffing.

    She was not-bluffing because when she first bought the machine she also intended to use the proffered discount toward a printer she’d picked out while still considering which computer to buy, only to discover that it was out of stock. When she asked when it would be back in stock, all she got were excuses.

    She got the printer at Fry’s instead, spending about $50. more than she would have at the Apple Store in light of the discount.

    I get that too many people are so narrow-minded and clueless you need to lead them, but generally speaking smart people despise being treated as if they should consider it a privilege to be someone else’s customer.

    How did Apple forget that?

  9. Oh, forgot… I did have the apparently normal problem of my Macbook Pro power cord eating itself near the plug, but it’s under $100 to fix and is a whole lot better than the problems I’ve had with PCs doing all but blowing up. (including having every single part die due to a lightning bolt and a shoddy power strip)

  10. I find it interesting that some people have such a hassle with they apple products. I personally own a Mac Pro, the 30″ HD monitor to accompany it, a 17″ Macbook Pro, 2 iPods, 1 2nd gen iPod nano, and I’ve not had a single problem with any of them that wasn’t my own fault.

    (The only two problems being 1) I spilt half a bowl of ramen into my Macbook Pro keyboard – which only cost me $150 to fix at the Apple store and only took a few days; and 2) I washed my iPod nano – I let it dry for quite a while before using it and my husband is still using it today, years later)

    I also agree with Chris, I’d rather people be holding Apple to standards that allow for disappointment than no standards at all like Microsoft *chuckle*

    I’ve never had to call corporate support as my local Apple store is extremely good at handling any and all questions, even though it never has less than 75-100 people in the store at any given time.

  11. Used many macs since the 1980s, haven’t called Apple support once.

    There are so many Apple products around, ipods alone are over 160 million, so even if there is a tiny percentage of problems there’s going to be thousands of people who might be unhappy but the percentages show the vast majority of people are happy with Apple. Also many Apple users are tech savvy and might tend to blog or post more so might skew sites like Twitter, some of the young people haven’t even tried using (struggling with) PCs before! I’ve had two PCs die horrible deaths in my home, makes me appreciate my macs more.

    Latest data:

    “The most recent results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index puts Apple ahead of all other computer manufacturers with a rating of 85 percent, a new high for the industry. The Cupertino company saw an improvement of 8 percent since the last measurement, putting it 10 full percentage points ahead of its nearest competitor in an industry where the general satisfaction rating has gone down for the second straight time. “

  12. @Genius: I’m increasingly finding Twitter to be a pretty good source for a quick pulse about how the leading-edge web community thinks. The key is not to look at just one’s own contacts, but to use search to take a look at trends across all public users of the service. Now, granted, those users are not representative of the public as a whole (which is why they weren’t my only source), but they are an important – and loud – constituency for many companies in our field.

  13. I haven’t had problems with the few Apple products I’ve had, but other peoples’ recent experiences have made me re-think buying more. When my brother-in-law got a Macbook recently, I made sure he didn’t get MobileMe, even though in the Apple store they insisted it was all fixed now. And although I can’t wait for the iPhone to come to Chile, part of me wonders about whether it’s really worth it for something that won’t even go the whole day on one charge.

    @Genius in a post like this Twitter is a relevant source. We’re talking about Apple’s image, which is defined as how the public sees Apple and its products. So if people are talking – even on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or any other place that wouldn’t work as a source for a research paper – then that’s the place to go for information.

  14. I have long believed that the true measure of a company’s products is how long you can go before needing their support. I’ve been using apple products now for over a year (iPod and iMac) and have never needed to call support or visit the Genius bar.

    With that said… if I were a MobileMe customer or an iPhone user and I had gotten wrapped up in all the issues they have been facing over the last few months I would be pissed! There is no excuse for a company the size of Apple to fumble things like new product roll outs and such. Especially after all the hype they build around their new products.

  15. Apple is definitely experiencing some growing pains. No question about it. However, the recent customer outrage regarding Apple’s slips shows me that they still “have it” – that customers still expect the best from Apple.

    Contrast this with Microsoft, where shoddy products that fail to innovate are received contentedly by its customers as simply the “status quo.”

    “Vista stinks even after its many delays? No big deal. We didn’t expect otherwise.”

    I’d rather be in Apple’s shoes.

  16. C’mon…Twitter? Really? Why would you even mention Twitter? Why didn’t you mention your MySpace comments, too? Let’s not reference Twitter as a source for any real information.