Why Apple Needs to Pay More Attention to Product Reliability

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-08-20
 
 
 

Why Apple Needs to Pay More Attention to Product Reliability


Exploding iPhones, overheating, Bluetooth problems, hard drive noises. What is going on at Apple? The company that provides a premium product at a premium price has experienced so many hardware issues over the past few weeks that it's becoming a real concern.

The iPhone 3GS is becoming a problem child for Apple. Multiple iPhone 3GS explosions have been reported around Europe, though Apple claims those explosions are isolated events. The iPhone 3GS is also overheating, causing discoloration. Even worse, its battery life isn't living up to Apple's promises.

Apple's troubles don't end there. On Aug. 19, Apple announced several fixes for its MacBook Pro. The Bluetooth Firmware Update 2.0.1 improves Bluetooth functionality for users who have experienced interaction issues between peripherals and their Macs. The Hard Drive Firmware Update 2.0 reduces the noise users have heard from the MacBook Pro's data storage disk. Apple said the noises were "infrequent" and they didn't cause harm. That said, the company did admit that the noises were annoying and needed to be addressed.

Although it's nice to see Apple addressing all these problems, it's difficult to see why users were forced to experience them in the first place. Apple provides premium products. It offers those premium products at a premium price. When users go to the store to buy a MacBook Pro or an iPhone, they expect a superb product for the amount of cash they need to lay out. They don't expect to deal with the various hardware issues that have cropped up during the past few weeks.

Admittedly, Apple isn't alone. Early adopters are all too aware of the perils that come with new hardware. When tech companies release products on the open market, those products sometimes haven't been tested as well as they could have been. Issues that the company missed stay in the final product. They're only witnessed when users start getting their hands on the respective devices. It's a common issue in the tech space. Apple isn't unique.

But exploding and overheating iPhones are serious problems. They're not simple design issues. They're not battery problems that can be easily fixed. They're not even loud hard drives. Explosions shouldn't happen once, let alone multiple times. And overheating can be extremely dangerous to the person holding the iPhone.

Fans Defend Apples Reputation


However, it's doubtful that this is the beginning of the end for the Apple brand. A few exploding iPhones and overheating problems aren't enough to make the company lose its position as a dominant force in the tech industry. Those incidents aren't ideal, for sure, but they're not so widespread that people will think twice about buying the iPhone or the MacBook Pro.

If Apple were any other company in the market, that might not be true. Dell and Sony dealt with public outcry when the batteries in their notebooks caused explosions. Any company that has experienced overheating troubles scrambles to fix the problem before it loses revenue.

But Apple is a different entity altogether. It's highly respected by consumers. It has, arguably, the "coolest" products on the market. And although it's easy for some to discount the impact Steve Jobs has had on the tech industry, he's a celebrity that the average non-geek knows. Those factors all help the company generate sales, regardless of the problems its devices might be experiencing.

Loyal fans

There is another factor helping Apple: its loyal fan base. Apple fans are rabid. They love Apple and everything it offers. Exploding iPhones or not, they stand by their company and their leader, Steve Jobs. More importantly, they support and defend Apple until the bitter end. No matter the problem, Apple is, in their minds, still the best and brightest company in the tech space.

That's a major advantage for Apple to have. Apple knows that it can rely on fans to quell the unrest, talk about the company's virtues and, hopefully, make it all go away.

So as we consider how these recent troubles will impact Apple and its brand, perhaps it's important to remember that this isn't the biggest problem Apple has faced. And thanks to a loyal following, the fallout probably won't be so bad.

But that doesn't make it right.

Apple needs to start improving its offerings. These might be isolated events, but overheating and exploding iPhones are unacceptable. And if these problems become more widespread and consistent, even Apple may not be able to avoid damage to its reputation for quality and reliability.

It's as simple as that.

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