Friday Slide: Face Up To Mistakes, Apple

Even if you’re not a regular reader of Chris Onstad’s webcomic “Achewood,” you’ve probably seen his anti-Comic Sans sentiments (as screamed through his cast of adorable cast of kitties and bears) at least once. And if you haven’t, be warned that it’s sightly not safe for work.

There’s a panel in the comic wherein the inventor of the hated Comic Sans font is fleeing through tunnels Fugitive-style, and Onstad’s animals are in close pursuit. One of them shouts, “What do you think you’re running from? The disease is inside of you!”

Achewood may be far removed from Apple and Steve Jobs, but that particular comic strip keeps coming to mind whenever I read something about the iPhone 4′s reception problems (which are so bad that Consumer Reports retracted its recommendation for the phone), the criticism of said problems, and Apple’s subsequent attempts to shut down said criticism.

This is the Internet. A minute after you’ve said something, someone else has screencapped it and twenty others have copypasta’d the text for future archival on another message board, or Twitter, or Facebook. How can a company as prolific as Apple possibly hide from its critics?

Moreover, with a screw-up as wide as the iPhone 4′s reception problems , Apple shouldn’t hide. It should take its lumps and fix the issue. It might have already come across half a solution: Consumer Reports tested out Apple’s iPhone 4 cases and found out they eliminate the phone’s reception problem because the casing prevents the user from touching the antenna gap on the lower left side of the phone.

Mistakes happen. Bad design decisions happen, even to Apple. It was Steve Jobs who decided to build the Apple III without adequate ventilation or fans, and most folks who bought the computer experienced their own little nuclear meltdown in their living rooms. The real test of a company comes with its reaction to a miniature crisis like the iPhone 4′s reception snafu. So far, Apple isn’t testing so well. Again, how could it possibly manage to keep the situation away from tech bloggers’ daily chitterings just by deleting some forum threads?

There’s no real point in hiding, anyway. Nobody wants to see Apple throw up half-formed defenses; they just want the problem fixed. A recall might not even be necessary. If the aforementioned iPhone 4 cases fix the reception issue, then Apple should make them available to each iPhone 4 owner for free, instead of forcing them to cough up thirty bucks a pop.

This is a vital time for Apple. Either it’ll acknowledge its mistake and treat its supporters right, or it’ll go on deleting forum posts and blaming iPhone users for being left handed. It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out; we live in an era where competition between smartphones is high, and patience towards bad customer service is rapidly dwindling.