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PR Experts Pounce on Apple Say Recall of iPhone 4 is Inevitable



PR experts are a dime a dozen. I know. I’ve been one. You guess right some of the time and you guess wrong as well. Tried and true strategies eventually become tired and stale as the public catches on to the game. New attempts at damage control work sometimes and don’t others. So much depends on the client’s willingness to  eat some crow. And that sell is usually harder than the one to the public. Witness any number of political scandals, Toyota, BP… you name it. History is filled with these kind of episodes.

In the wake of the Consumer Reports back pedal on recommending the iPhone 4 after more testing on the “Death Grip” issue, the PR experts quoted in this article are all lining up behind the tried and true strategy of get out front, admit your mistake, issue a product recall, and try to salvage your brand.

As much as that is what the playbook says, it will be a tricky maneuver any why you slice the fruit for Apple. There is much at risk. As work-arounds for the technology issue have been uncovered, I’ve been saying all along that the bigger risk to Apple is the PR disaster.  Technology issues can be solved. Perception issues can haunt you for much longer. Quite honestly, I think any future Mea Culpa may already be too late. Not because of the time that has elapsed since Apple released the crippled iPhone 4, but because of Apple’s  ham-handed response to the problem so far. If arrogance were underwear, Apple has shown it likes to wear long johns, and insulated long johns at that. Quite honestly, (to use Apple’s Claude Rains-like wording) I’m “stunned” at how bad the initial response was.

If Apple doesn’t act on this within a very short window of time, every future product launch will be tainted by a company that already has a legion of fans who, while rabidly crazy over new products, will wait until the kinks get worked out before plopping down their cash. Of course they have succeeded in creating larger legions that will purchase blindly on launch day and that’s the larger problem. Apple has now put the carefully cultivated circus that surrounds its product launches at risk. Just imagine if the iPhone 4 launch at preceded the iPad launch instead of the way it played out. I don’t think Apple would have had the same runaway success with the iPad it has on its hands currently.

Watching this story unfold is going to continue to prove very, very interesting.



  1. GTaylor

    07/13/2010 at 10:23 am

    Warner, this may be the exception and not the rule. The exception is what in image marketing is simply the cool factor. The greatest band, play, movie, beer, or pick up, is not the best, it is the coolest. You can spot it, it tells you “the coolest” right in the marketing. Whether it (the cool factor) has legions of stereotypically dressed owners standing in front of bow tie badged chrome grills or doing identically stylized finger dances on smudgy glass plates it still means the same thing “Don’t mess with my self worth!”
    I honestly cannot see one byte of difference between the Redneck Pick-up Cavalry and the Fan Boy Legion of Jobs.
    Once a group of people who decides that their personality can be defined by a mass manufactured product becomes large enough to support a company willing to exploit that niche then that group usually never dies, it lingers on at collector swap meets for decades, posing and arguing.

  2. ctitanic

    07/13/2010 at 10:31 am

    I fully agree with Warner. At this moment Jobs has became a clown, the target of everybody jokes. Consumer Reports statement will hunt Apple until they apologize and do a recall.

    The only thing that I found weird is that now that everything is well known and documented I have not seen nobody suing Apple yet.

  3. tivoboy

    07/13/2010 at 11:17 am

    once this images starts making all the rounds, it will be more difficult NOT to react for apple

  4. Roberto

    07/13/2010 at 4:35 pm

    You have to wonder about a company that uses the “fall of man” as their corporate logo.

  5. JHawk

    07/13/2010 at 4:36 pm

    “PR Experts Pounce on Apple Say Recall of iPhone 4 is Inevitable”

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    “If Apple doesn’t act on this within a very short window of time, every future product launch will be tainted by a company that already has a legion of fans who, while rabidly crazy over new products, will wait until the kinks get worked out before plopping down their cash.”

    I’ll believe it when I see it.


    It’s not that I disagree with where Warner’s coming from or anything. These ideas seem reasonable. But we’re not talking about reason from a spectator-turned-skeptic from all the news on iPhone 4 issues. This is about “Apple Fanboys”.

    This isn’t (hopefully) to bash the fanboys (and girls) either. This is to acknowledge a different perspective, one that may not get phased even by this.

    For example, I’ll quote Sumocat’s recent report from an Apple store a few days ago, where he saw that the iPads “were looking lonely on the floor next to the new hotness, the iPhone 4.” This sounds like enough people are still giving the iPhone 4 the lion’s share of the lovin’ and attention, despite the awareness of the issues the phone has.

    Also, if Jobs and Apple issue a recall, or even a confessionary statement, it will be quite the turnaround, being inconsistent with the stand they’ve taken more than once already.

    I know had challenges in seeing what the big deal was with the release of the iPhone 4 even before the issues came to the forefront, but I must admit that my mindset is more used to the philosophy for Microsoft products, where I may end up betting the farm on the product, but most likely not until SP1 is released. (There, I said it. Confession is good for the soul, isn’t it?)

    So I must ask those who had to have the iPhone 4 when they already owned a previous release (particularly if it was a recent one like the 3GS): What made you ‘have to have it’? Was it the increased resolution? (Please don’t say it was the new OS, since last time I checked you could update the previous hardware to the new OS). Was it some other major hardware upgrade that I missed? Or was it more that it was just the newest one out?

    For those whose answers lean more toward that last scenario, I say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    • Gavin Miller

      07/14/2010 at 12:54 am

      Better camera, better display resolution (stunning display btw), HD video, LED flash, increased memory for multi tasking, faster processor, facetime.

    • Joe

      07/14/2010 at 5:50 pm

      I agree with JHawk! I really have a hard time thinking that Apple will recall iphone 4. Just from their actions so far…..

      a) reports surface of antenna projects

      Apple denies problem

      b) additional reports of antenna problems

      Apple tells people it’s the way their holding the phone

      c) more reports of antenna problems

      Apple tells people that bumpers will help improve issue, but not to expect a free one from Apple

      d) more reports of antenna problems

      Blame it on software issues. You really didn’t have four bars to begin with, so when you hold the phone the “wrong” way and your call is dropped it’s not due to the phone, it’s the software. Patch promised to fix the # of bars so we can blame the problem on AT&T, they stink anyways, right?

      e) more reports of antenna problems

      It’s AT&T fault, their service is spotty

      f) Consumer reports says phone is bad

      Apple schedules press conference to hypnotize the masses and to teache everyone how to hold the phone the “correct” way. For those consumers that can’t handle holding the phone the “correct” way, Apple will give you a bumper case at a discount, but not for free.

      RECALL THE IPHONE, I’ll come back here on Friday morning and eat my own words

  6. Mark

    07/14/2010 at 7:34 pm

    Apple won’t recall anything simply because it will be an admission that they screwed up. Actually, I’m almost half expecting Jobs to address the press on friday and launch into a tirade about how this is such a minor thing and it wasn’t Apple’s fault to start with and blah blah blah…the usual condescending garbage Jobs is known for. He’ll blame AT&T for something or another and storm off without taking any questions. Classic Jobs. What a jackass.

  7. Tai-Pan

    07/15/2010 at 2:33 am

    No way they’ll recall… they’ll give out free new rubber bumpers that are specially colored… when requested… and make a donation to an associated charity.. . that matches the color of the bumper/charity you choose… and everyone will want to show them off on their phone.

    I’ve detailed it all here:


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