Apple’s Biggest Screw-Ups in Company History
Contrary to widespread belief, Apple is not perfect. Its products are widely purchased and have generated a massive following. As with any other company, however, not every product and experience coming from the popular tech giant delights its customers. Even the recently released, deluxe iPhone X has come under fire from early adopters for unexpected flaws. And Apple’s admitted practice of slowing down older iPhones (without telling users) created quite the recent controversy. With such headlines filling the daily news, let’s take a look at some of Apple’s biggest screw-ups and how it handled them. At times, the company offered a much-needed apology.
1. Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities
- January 2018
The jury’s still out on this one – quite literally – but we deemed it worth a mention. Apple was named in a class action lawsuit filed Jan. 8, 2018 regarding how it handled two serious security vulnerabilities. The suit alleges the company received word of the vulnerabilities in June 2017 yet neglected to tell the public about them for months. These CPU vulnerabilities, called “Meltdown” and “Spectre,” affect millions of computing devices globally. Apple has not yet publicly responded to the lawsuit’s claims. However, the company did release an update to address Meltdown on Dec. 6, 2017. As for Spectre, it will be addressed in the 10.13.3 release which is currently in beta testing.
Next: Intentional slowing of older phones
- December 2017
Apple admitted to intentionally slowing down older phones in December 2017 – something many frustrated users had long suspected. The company issued a statement admitting it had used software updates to limit the performance of older iPhones. Apple insisted its updates were intended to “smooth out” peak power demands, which would ultimately prolong the lifespan of batteries. However, slowdowns are slowdowns, and many users were left with a bad taste in their mouths. “Since Apple admits they slow down old iPhones I’ll admit I probably won’t buy a new iPhone,” one disgruntled iPhone user tweeted.
Next: Neglecting its biggest assets
3. Neglecting important assets
- August 1997
Upon Apple founder Steve Jobs’ 1997 return to the company after being fired 12 years earlier, he appeared at Macworld Expo and spoke to the crowd. Apple had suffered $1 billion in losses in the past year, putting the company on the brink of bankruptcy. Jobs admitted a drop in sales by $4 billion to $7 billion over two years was the “fundamental problem.” He told the crowd the company’s greatest asset was its devoted users who believe “Macintosh is still the best product in the world.”
Next: A patch that needed a patch?
4. High Sierra bug
- November 2017
In an amateur-like move, Apple rushed out a patch for a newly-found security hole in MacOS High Sierra in November 2017. While the vulnerability was bad enough — letting people take over your computer without the password — the rushed fix was almost worse. Apparently, as soon as some users made the hurriedly-released update, the vulnerability came right back. Apple responded by pointing out users needed to reboot in order for the fix to kick in. However, without knowing that, many users could have gone for months without rebooting, as people sometimes do.
Next: Updates five years in the making
5. Mac Pro design flaws
- April 2017
At an unveiling event in 2013, Apple’s marketing chief, Phil Schiller, famously said of his company, “Can’t innovate anymore, my [butt].” Well, four years later, Schiller found himself apologizing for the lack of innovation in the Mac Pro desktop computer. He addressed a group of journalists in April 2017 to tell them a new Mac Pro would finally be coming, hopefully in 2018. Schiller admitted the desktop machine (which hasn’t been updated since 2013) “was constrained thermally, and it restricted our ability to upgrade it … we’ve asked the team to go and rearchitect and design something great for the future.” About 20% of Apple’s Mac sales are still desktops.
Next: Racism caught on video
6. Racist Apple Store employees
- November 2015
Apple publicly apologized after one of its employees in an Australian store told a group of young black schoolboys to leave, in what was branded a racist incident. A video of the encounter at Melbourne’s Highpoint shopping center went viral on Facebook. An employee standing next to security guards can be heard saying, “These guys are just a little worried about your presence in our store. They are just worried you might steal something. I need to ask you to leave our store.” Both the store manager and Apple issued statements of apology. “We believe in equality for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” Apple’s statement read. One of the boys involved said on Facebook that he was satisfied with Apple’s response. “They apologized, so we’re chilling, no need to take it further,” he wrote.
Next: A bungled update meant no connectivity.
7. Flawed iOS update
- September 2014
This one was a doozy. In September 2014, the tech giant released its first update to then-new iOS 8. Apple pre-installed the mobile operating system, which launched a week prior, on all new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones. A fiasco quickly ensued when the update inadvertently prevented iPhones from connecting to their users’ cellular networks. Apple hurriedly pulled the update, but nevertheless, thousands who had already downloaded it were furious. “My shiny new iPhone 6 was essentially turned into a very expensive iTouch today. Apple FAILED today. Miserably,” one frustrated user lamented.
Next: Apple never copped to Bendgate.
8. Bendgate controversy
- September 2014
The same month as the botched iOS update, some customers and bloggers pointed out their larger-sized, iPhone 6 Plus was bending. At least 180 complaints were allegedly made. Apple responded to the controversy to say only nine complaints had been made, adding that bending is “extremely rare” during normal use. The company stated it performs a number of strength and durability tests before it ships new devices. Ultimately, Apple never copped to this problem.
Next: Apple apologizes to China.
9. China warranty policies
- April 2013
In 2013, the Chinese media criticized Apple for its policy of only giving a one-year warranty for its iPhones sold in the country. Reports pointed out the Chinese warranty law provides two years. After much outcry in the Chinese media on the matter, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology statement in Chinese. He cited the perception of Apple not caring or valuing customers’ feedback. “We sincerely apologize for any concern or misunderstanding this has brought to the customers,” Cook wrote.
Next: One wrong turn could truly spell disaster.
10. Apple Maps problems
- September 2012
If you wanted to find your way somewhere in 2012, chances are Apple’s Maps app wouldn’t have helped. Soon after it launched, users realized it wasn’t always accurate. The company had recently replaced Google Maps with iOS 6. Mishaps were aplenty, and a Tumblr blog emerged, devoted to them. Some of the glaring errors: Big cities disappeared from the map, buildings ceased to exist, and incorrect location information was displayed for the entire country of Japan. At the time, Apple realized its errors and recommended users go with Google Maps instead.
Fast forward several years, and Apple Maps is said to be nearly rivaling Google Maps with its features and quality.
Next: A half-apology for Antennagate
11. Antennagate problems
- July 2010
A major controversy erupted over the iPhone 4’s antenna in July 2010, which Steve Jobs went on to dub “antennagate.” Initial users had complained of dropped calls. As a result, Consumer Reports would not recommend the phone. An investigation determined the cause of the problem to be the positioning of the phone’s antenna, which was on the outside of the phone. As a result, users’ fingers touching the phone’s rim interfered with the signal. In his response to the problem, some criticized Jobs for sounding defensive and arrogant. He insisted the company couldn’t duplicated the problem in its labs. “For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused,” Jobs wrote.
Next: Early adopters overpaid by $200.
12. A poorly-timed price cut
- September 2007
Those who rushed out to purchase the new iPhone for $600 in June 2007 reacted with dismay when Apple decided to lower the price to $400 just three months later. Angry reactions went viral online. In a concession, CEO Steve Jobs reacted by extending a $100 store credit to the early buyers. “Our customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these,” Jobs wrote in an official statement.
Next: Backdating stock options
13. Stock option backdating
- October 2006
As was notably reported in his 2011 obituary, Apple founder Steve Jobs was involved in a stock option controversy in which he did not pay tax on $20 million earned. A 2006 inquiry found the grant was not properly recorded, yet Jobs was exonerated over the matter. It was said he was “unaware of the accounting implications.” An internal investigation, however, did find Jobs had been aware of the company’s practice of backdating employee stock options.
Next: Apple learns from a past mistake.
14. iMac shipment delays
- July 2004
It was Groundhog Day all over again in 2004 when Apple complained its chip supplier, IBM, wasn’t able to provide enough CPUs, thus delaying its third-generation iMac. This stall was reminiscent of a quite similar situation in 1999, when Motorola was the chip supplier in question. Ironically, Apple had switched over to IBM precisely because of the problem with Motorola. In learning from its past mistake (more on that next), Apple decided this time to delay the new iMac’s introduction. This avoided the need to handle pre-orders which would have been delayed.
Next: The mistake that Apple learned from
15. Power Mac G4 shipment delays
- October 1999
In 1999, many people who had ordered and paid for the new Power Mac G4 were left waiting for it to arrive. Apple blamed the delay on its chip supplier – Motorola – not being able to provide enough CPUs. Apple went on to try to cancel some orders and encourage its customers to buy more expensive versions instead. The company blamed the delay with the G4 chips on problems occurring when they ran at high speeds.
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