No company is perfect, but did Apple stop trying to be?

By , Nov 1, 2016

Apple AirPods

About a week ago, Apple did something not entirely unprecedented yet rare enough to make big waves across the tech world. Without warning and seemingly off-the-cuff, they backtracked on the AirPod release date, postponing indefinitely a product they had massively built up themselves in September.

It is by no means the first time Apple is somewhat behind schedule in rolling out a product (take the Mac Pro, the iMac Retina 27”, or watchOS 2 in 2015), but it is for the first time pertaining to the product accounting for Apple’s biggest following and largest share of revenue: the iPhone.

While this might help explain the sheer scope of reactions to the announcement this time around, one cannot help but wonder if an increasingly unfavourable public perception of Apple’s standards also plays into the response. To be clear: in a world where billion dollar companies ship spontaneously combusting devices it’s a hiccup that must not be dramatised. With that said, Apple have once again given ammunition to critics who like to point at an expanding trail of imperfections. Could Apple be slacking off?

In view of the (badly communicated) AirPod situation, it’s a question Apple must be willing to stomach without taking offence. Regardless of their response, which without a shadow of a doubt would be a resounding rebuttal, it is astounding to observe how Apple needlessly set themselves up for failure in this instance.

Notwithstanding the fact that it looks at least a little unwise to release the first flagship iPhone embracing wireless audio and its designated wireless AirPods months apart, the pathos (#courage) and determination put on display when a late October arrival was promised to the public really seemed to jinx it from the off.

Does setting yourself a deadline for an obviously unfinished product mean slacking off? Of course not – if anything it means the opposite. But what do we find on the other end of the scale? Imprudence for one, possibly paired with overzealousness, two nouns we were not used to associate with the Cupertino-based company until recently.

Taking a step back from the self-inflicted AirPod situation, it is not too much of a challenge to recount other incidents where Apple appeared to throw their ‘it’s not done until it ships’ mantra under the bus.

People are quick to pick at the first generation Apple Watch in this context, however I would not call that a very strong case. It has become quite evident in the software department though and Apple’s sudden willingness to roll out beta functions on devices running final version software: iCloud Photo Library in iOS 8, Apple Music Beta on Android, iCloud.com, the new Portrait camera mode on iOS10 just to give you a few examples.

For us users, some of these introductions definitely hit the ground running, while others did not. What matters is that Apple clearly started feeling the heat of the market and at some point made the decision to provide quicker access to certain innovations, even if it comes at the cost of a conceivably unpolished product. This is a conscious decision driven by eagerness if you are the glass-half-full kind of person, haste if it’s glass-half-empty for you. In that sense the motivations described above are pretty similar to the AirPod scenario.

iCloud Beta (Home, web screenshot 001)

Let’s flick the switch back to the other end of the scale for a second. The reasons for sluggish software or delayed hardware output can of course just as much lie in a company’s complacency. Said complacency might inadvertently creep into a venture that simply knocked it out of the park a couple times too many, or it can become the byproduct of extensive business diversification.

In other words, is Apple guilty of sacrificing their vehemence and focus on the little things for the prospect of for example competing in the high-margin car business? Did Apple really believe they could nab a piece of the upscale jewellery market with their original $17,000 Apple Watch Edition?

This seems uncoordinated at best and while it is well within the company’s rights to experiment, throwing ideas at a wall and seeing what sticks is a method kind of running counter to the ideals of the company that used to think different.

The AirPod example is also reminiscent of the 2013 Mac Pro mishap, when early customers were promised shipping by December but eventually Apple had to back paddle on that too. Disgruntled customers aside, this went down on the back of the now famous ‘can’t innovate my ass’ line by Phil Schiller, a sentence that accurately sums up the gist of the previous paragraphs: almost inexplicably (considering their financial prowess), Apple can act like they are on the back-foot, as though they have to prove that they are still on top of their game.

Not only on top actually, but also blazingly fast at it. Unfortunately, a cocktail of the two is bound to have them run into recurring trouble and upset customers along the way. Just like with the AirPods.

Mac Pro (manufacture 001)

What matters at the end of the day is not necessarily if you believe Apple is overambitious or complacent. What matters more is that it has been a while since Apple released an absolute prestige product which exceeded everyone’s expectations. The new MacBook with Touch Bar could be a good start, but it is early days. What matters the most is for Apple to keep its word on the dates no one but themselves decide to put out to the public.

If I sound a little salty on this topic, it could be because I am – and that’s Apple’s biggest failure. The importance of strong customer relations is part and parcel of the marketing 101 and Apple need to do a better job at adhering to it by not messing with the customers’ expectations.

If you have something in the pipeline but do not want to be quoted on a release date, guess what – that’s fine too. However do refrain from imposing an unreasonable timeframe onto your project and if you just cannot resist, at least do not communicate it with the public.

This is not stick for refraining from putting out an unfinished product, it’s merely a note on intelligent customer communication. In that regard the Apple of late is slacking off, but the good news it’s nothing they cannot recover from.

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  • its Apple, the bar is too high! if they delay a product they are doomed! they have taken the wrong road! They are finished!

    if others ship a product early with problems so serious that will blow up your house its not a big deal! Even the media wont even make it a big deal.

    Hell I saw more media buzz for the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 than the exploding note 7 fiasco!

    Go figure!

    • Amid Abdul

      You have a point, but I think the worst part about this is not that its going to be delayed, but the communication. They didnt even said a word about the AirPods at the MacBook keynote and didnt give us an official explanation. Thats why I’m dissapointed.

      • Well they said it was delayed, but didnt really say if this was going to be a 1 week delay or a month delay or 2 month delay.

        Honestly I prefer to buy a rock solid product rather than a rushed product with issues! surely there are always issues but I trust apple is making sure they don’t disappoint their customers with an issue they discovered last minute!

    • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

      They’re not finished bc only stupid ppl will spend $160 on shitty in-ear wireless headphones with worse audio than the $30 wired ones smart people will spend $300 on solo3s they’re bigger better better battery life better bass and are available in colors (I’m getting violet) and are harder to lose

      • Amid Abdul

        So you are comparing those big @ss earphones (double price) to two tiny earpice as an alternative. You are a special kind of stupid

      • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

        Im not stupid I don’t see why people would spend $160 on shitty in ear headphones which have worse audio than $30 wired ones and u get way more material for the $300 u pay for solo3s u get colors u get good bass and better battery life and better audio overall

      • Amid Abdul

        U still dont get it right? Maybe not everybody wants to run around with those huge earphones? How do you know about sound quality? Have you tried both? By the way the Airpods are not in-ear…

      • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

        Early reviews say airpods have worse audio than earpods also for the kind of music I listen to beats are good bc I only listen to rap and beats are bass heavy

      • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

        I also have no reason to buy in ear headphones I don’t work out or anything

      • lekwame

        the powerbeats 3 wireless will be better than the wireless earpods

      • Amid Abdul

        Again, you shouldnt compare true wireless earbuds to wired ones.

      • lekwame

        im comparing wireless to wireless. the powerbeats aren’t wired.

      • Docservlet

        They have a wire in between the two earpieces.

      • lekwame

        the headphones are still wireless. how many headphones have no wires in between them ? exactly apple owns beats so how can’t you compare them ?

      • Docservlet

        There are roughly 10 models that I’ve that are truly wireless between earbuds. The applications the AirPods and Powerbeats are completely different in my opinion.

      • lekwame

        pretty sure they aren’t but lets say they are. How many of these models have you bought and used ?

      • Docservlet

        I have not used any. I am still using my sennheiser presence single ear device. I also own the older powerbeats and think that the new ones are really great considering the battery life and distance of Class 1 BT but they are not as portable as the AirPods and subsequently won’t quite meet my needs.

      • lekwame

        Just get a Bluetooth then. Once one goes missing that’s 160$ down the drain.

      • Amid Abdul

        Once the wire breaks between the 2 piece, its 200$ down the drain.

      • lekwame

        That wire is stronger than the iPhone charging cables. I’ve had the powerbeats wireless and never had a problem with the wire.

      • Amid Abdul

        Maybe you shouldnt compare them because theyre not the same? In terms of the technology being used in the true wireless ones…

      • lekwame

        I can compare them because regardless of the technology they are both labeled as “WIRELESS”. Also the airpods don’t even have buttons. So you can’t descretely turn on/off music that’s the only reason I won’t buy them.

      • Amid Abdul

        No. One is wireless, the other is TRUE wireless. 😉 Each Airpod has a motion sensor, we shall see if you can pause the music by tapping it. We know that you can answer phone calls and trigger Siri, hope Apple will implement music controls too.

      • lekwame

        I’m with you man I really hope they do some kind of double tap system but also I won’t buy any until they make a black version to math my jet black phone.

      • Amid Abdul

        It could be easily done, If they dont make it I wont buy it either… Yeah a black one would be dope, but I dont think its going to happen :S

      • lekwame

        Yep the probably won’t make a black version. But if they do I will buy them just because lol

      • isitjustme

        Let him win the conversation, he is shifting the goalpost all the time.

      • Docservlet

        What is wrong with you? I’ve seen you make this insane comment before and you sound just as crazy as last time.

      • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

        I’M the crazy one? No people who spend $160 on shitty earbuds with worse audio than the $30 wired ones are the crazy ones

      • Docservlet

        Are you kidding? Have you heard them? Used them? Do you even know what you’re talking about? Many review sites have rated them quite well. On top of that, AirPods are priced appropriately compared to the Sennheiser presence and Bose BT and other premium noise cancelling earpieces that come in ONLY one earpiece.

        Your assessment is baffling.

      • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

        How is it appropriate when they’re $160 and some say they have worse audio than $30 wired ones plus in-ear will always have worse low-end than on- or over-ear

      • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

        Airpods are just an overpriced piece of junk: fact

      • Docservlet

        LOL….can’t agree with you. You seem to have some kind of insane bias and obsession.

      • Amid Abdul

        Just let her go. Shes either a 12 year old kid, or insanely stupid. If I had to guess, its both

      • Docservlet

        You’re definitely right….

      • isitjustme

        Since when a hater is without ” insane bias and obsession.”lol

      • burge

        I’ll ask you again. So you’ve tried them then ?

        If you answer no how can you justify what your saying you have no first hand experience them.

        Talk about judging a book by its cover.

      • Galaxy_Surfer_007

        Plus, using crude, sweeping language to describe the earbuds reflects on the poster, not the product!

      • Jordan

        You’re asking why people are willing to spend more for wireless headphones? They’re just easier to use. Often, Was happens is I’ll be running and then all of a sudden my arm as its swaying will push or pull the cord, which makes the headphones come out of my ears or just over time eventually the cord gets damaged and then I need to buy a new one or sometimes even new set of headphones all together. 300 dollars is significantly different than 160, almost double the price, most people don’t have 300 to pay for headphones, but they might have 160.

      • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

        I understand why people would pay more for wireless headphones but I don’t understand why people would pay $160 for airpods bc Frankly they’re trash I understand why you’d spend $300 for solo3s tho and I’m getting them in violet

      • Docservlet

        Sennheiser single earpiece – $140
        Jaybird F5 – $150
        Jabra Eclipse single earpiece – $90
        ELWN Fit True wireless dual earpiece – $149

        Your assessment is insane.

      • YaBoyLilMayo

        U know dudes on here will cry the second U say an apple product isn’t that good especially when it really isn’t good

      • Rowan09

        So you’ve used the Airpods and anything for people who lose things is easy to lose. Remember all those Bluetooth headset where smaller than these airpods.

    • Anonomous.TECH.man

      Idk man my YouTube feed was full of note 7 BS.

    • :D
    • isitjustme

      Good point.

      Just imagine Apple introduced a touchscreen MacBook Pro all the pundits will howled in laughter and bring up the meme that Apple is doomed and aping the competition. Is the Touch Bar better I don’t know like some writers who seemed to know better without touching the product. Or the many who whined about how lame the MacBook Pro without trying it out.

      The internet is a wonderful thing which let all of us to voice our biased opinions.

  • Valinor

    “it has been a while since Apple released an absolute prestige product which exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
    Thats exactly the problem. Its all small upgrades and when they do intregrate something new that grabs your attention, the prices go up like crazy.
    Iphones: 4.7 inch iphone has zero innovation. Its the plus model that gets the gimmicks.
    New macbook: finally a good upgrade with a nice touchbar add-on. The prices fly through the roof.
    No Macbook Air update, no 12 inch macbook update.
    Apple keeps creating newer devices at higher price points (like with the ipad pro, the ipad air 2 is damn old) but meanwhile their other devices get minimal upgrades and are running behind with their competition.
    And its not a bad thing to create new devices at higher price points but then you REALLY have to have something innovative. And you must not forget about the old devices and their upgrades.

    • A@E

      What gimmick does the Plus sized phone have ? OIS was first introduced with the Plus and OIS is definitely not a gimmick. The dual camera on this years Plus model is definitely not a gimmick. It is actually quite impressive and a feature I imagine most other companies will eventually try to copy.

      • Valinor

        Yeah sorry wrong choice of words. What I meant was ‘features’.

  • JeanMeanMacHine

    I am an apple fan, I have been for over 30 years with my first Apple IIe. If you exclude the dark years without SJ, Apple always had an attractive edge, something nobody was thinking of. We were always buying something different.
    Over the last 5 years I have gradually lost all interest, and this should be an alarm bell to all at Apple. I am their perfect target, a tech enthusiast who always embraced the Apple vision. But that vision has disappeared, their products do not excite me anymore. When I had to upgrade my MacBook Pro 2008 to 2013, it was purely because my work required more memory. But not one feature of that lineup was otherwise going to convince me to upgrade. Same with my iPad2, still does most of what my friend’s new Air does, 5 years later. What are they thinking, sitting on that much cash and failing to generate any excitement within their fan base?

    • Tariq

      Couldn’t have said it better. I was an Apple convert ten years ago and eventually brought my entire family over but have been less than motivated to buy any new devices or services in past 3 years at least. My 2011 MacBook Pro and 2012 iMac are probably the last generation of Apple computers I will ever buy and I only upgraded to the iPhone 7 because inexplicably my 6plus started having problems a month before the 7 release and AT&T offered $650 to trade up. But honestly no other compelling reason to spend money on an “upgrade” that was only marginally so. I see these android phones competing with bleeding edge tech (less than desirable OS though) and some of the new windows laptops are amazing at affordable prices and know Apple will have to do something innovative to win me back.

      • Amid Abdul

        What bleeding edge tech android phones have? And dont mention the 128 cores and 16gb rams, because thats nonsense.

      • Tariq

        Android phones have frequently had tech before Apple has adopted such as NFC, fingerprint scanner (Motorola Mobility Atrix 4G in 2011), AMOLED displays. Because manufacturers of android devices had to push the envelop, not only were they competing for market share but they were competing against other android vendors. Apple has no competitor in iOS devices and only has to compete with android because windows phones aren’t even a factor. Just because the features you named aren’t important to you personally doesn’t negate that they are innovations just like many aren’t fond of Apple’s newest developments. I am still very much a fan of the iOS and MacOS software, I just wish I could run them on different hardwares at times.

      • Amid Abdul

        Well Apple was never about being the first, but being the best, and most usable.

      • Tariq

        I’m not disagreeing with you about that, but I was explaining the bleeding edge reference. I have always explained the slower adoption of tech by Apple the same way as they wait to see what works and perfect it. But as the title of the article states many are questioning have they stopped trying to perfect stuff? I can’t say as I don’t know any the design team personally and can only say that at the current time I am not as excited to upgrade hardware as I was years ago. There’s no Apple vs Android fanboyism at play just muddied feeling of meh at today’s offerings.

      • Docservlet

        This is the mistake. Technology for technology’s sake. Mobile payments – Many could say that Google was first to mobile payments but it’s mobile payments were insecure and completely rejected by credit card companies.
        Fingerprint scanner – A biometric device that works 25% of the time and was universally trashed is not a great milestone. What is the point of being first when it means releasing junk?
        “Manufacturers of android devices had to push the envelop” – It’s been APPLE pushing the envelope. Retina displays, mobile payments solutions that WORK, the best graphics performance, the FASTEST SoC on the planet with desktop class storage using NVMe controllers. Technology is about compromises. When Samsung was pushing AMOLED with all it’s inherent faults and miserable graphics performance because of overly high resolutions, Apple was more interested in the user experience.

        User experience wins every time in my book and not just technology for the sake of pumping out technology. There has to be thought and purpose put into a product.

      • Amid Abdul

        Plus a lot of amoled displays were burnt back then…

      • actually the bleeding edge android phones are 50% slower than your shiny new iPhone 7. now if you just read numbers and think 4gb or ram and 8 cores makes a phone faster than a phone with 2gb or ram and 2 cores processor thats not apples problem thats a problem with your reality distortion field!

    • A@E

      I wonder if some of your lost interest in due to that fact that companies now have to come out with new/better/innovative products every year. It didn’t use to be this way. Even operating systems are getting yearly updates. Well, it is hard to come out with something ground breaking, different and innovative every single year. This is what I think is the main issue. Everybody wants the impossible every single year.

      • JeanMeanMacHine

        On the contrary, I am looking back 10 years and found little that excites me. The Macbook unibody was great as was the first or second iPhone. Since then it’s really been lacklustre.

  • Chloe Elizabeth Wade

    They are terrible anyway

    • burge

      So you’ve tried them then.

    • DT

      Just stop talking

  • Cameron

    Think this is looking back on the past with rose-tinted glasses. Just off the top of my head:
    – Jobs said OS X Leopard would release late 2006 or early 2007, before delaying it to the end of 2007
    – The white iPhone 4 was originally scheduled to launch with the black one, then Jobs announced on stage that it would be available at the end of July at the antenna press conference – it didn’t ship until January
    – The first iPad was delayed multiple times with its international launch, first late April, then May, then late May.

    I’m sure there are other examples I’ve missed too. This is nothing new with Apple or any other company, and it seems a little childish to try and say this is a new phenomena and a sign of Apple’s impending demise.

    • Steffen Reich

      some fair points here, although I did sprinkle numerous examples of previous mishaps to make sure this does not come across like another ‘if Steve was still alive’ rant. More than anything this was supposed to highlight a (perceived) change in Apple’s communications + aspirations.
      Impending demise would be silly talk, that’s hopefully no one’s takeaway.

      • James G

        First thought in my mind was white iPhone 4 as well.

  • Charlie

    Bravo on writing this article as you do know there are many loyal Apple fan boys who would do and say whatever to defend Apple, no matter what.

    The truth is they are making awuful lot of mistakes. Releasing a new patch every few days to weeks was nothing like what they were before, Steve Jobs said iOS just works, yes it was but not anymore. Bugs everywhere and some were unacceptable ones, no one from Apple ever apologise for those.

    Ditching all USB 3 ports for thunderbolt because they want it to be the new standard but how can you force everyone to move there before the market was mature? All these bold decisions were brave but also very arrogant, I love Apple from the bottom of my heart but they are failing me more and more now.

    • burge

      Totally agree but unless someone goes first no one will follow or change what they already do and someone has to be first. But they should keep one USB.

      • Two* lol. You know, just in case

      • Amid Abdul

        Or at least give a little box which has usb3, sd card reader, ethernet port and hdmi 😛

    • Jon20

      I agree with you 100%. I’m a pretty big Apple fan (as much as my wallet can allow me) but there are many things I’m not really liking about them recently. I like the fact that this article shows that Apple does have flaws because sometimes I feel that Apple is being praised so much when they are clearly doing things that are not satisfactory to the customers. For example the headphone jack. If they had so much “COURAGE” to get rid of it on the phone and make it seem like it was an ancient technology, why would they put it on the brand new lineup of MacBook Pros. I understand the need to plug in certain equipment but if you’re going to have the courage to make this change, it should be across all platform. What they did is just hypocritical.

      • Amid Abdul

        Im glad some one else thinks the same about the jack. They just spitted on themselves that they included it… And also I think that they should have switched the lightning port to type c, so that you could use your headphones all across a lot of devices including the MacBook

  • n0ahcruz3

    Ive been an avid apple user but when they make a “mistake”… hell i’ll surely criticize them only in comments sections tho lol

  • Toon

    its simple.. just stop focus on Apple products.. or any products.. just wait and see and buy or not when its available