U2, Bendygate and iOS 8.0.1: Apple's banana skins

iPhone and iPhone 6 Plus Image copyright Reuters

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in Apple's PR department over the last week. A company that is legendary for obsessive control over its message has watched helplessly as things have spun out of its grasp.

First, there was the kerfuffle over the stunt which saw U2's new album given away free to every iTunes user whether they wanted it or not. That provoked a wave of anger and derision from people who saw the provision of a free download as a massive assault on their freedom and an insult to their taste in music. (For U2, it was a massive success, earning them a reputed $100m from Apple and sending older albums back into the charts). Unusually, Apple felt obliged to respond by offering a U2 removal tool.

Then came "Bendygate" with reports emerging that the iPhone 6 Plus, with its "dramatically thin anodised aluminium design", could warp after being placed in a pocket for some time. Now this looks to be the very definition of a "first world problem" - who, but a very sad hipster, would stuff a huge phone into his impossibly tight jeans and sit on it? But, as with all Apple stories it quickly went viral, with the first video showing the apparent problem, hitting 18 million views by this morning.

Finally, and far more seriously, came the botched update to the iPhone and iPad operating system iOS 8.0. There had been a few annoying bugs in last week's release - notably a problem integrating apps with the new Health Kit - so the moment the update was released many users rushed to download it.

And within minutes iPhone 6 users found that it introduced a whole new set of bugs, including preventing their phone from connecting to a mobile network. Now while actually making calls is a relatively minor feature for some modern smartphone users, this caused an instant wave of anger and panic. Providing millions of users with software which effectively turns their phone into a brick is hardly a good PR move.

And Apple, which has said nothing about Bendygate, was forced to respond to the botched software update. Even more unusually it actually said sorry: "We apologize for the great inconvenience experienced by users, and are working around the clock to prepare iOS 8.0.2 with a fix for the issue, and will release it as soon as it is ready in the next few days." Under Steve Jobs, iPhone 4 users were told they were "holding it wrong" when they complained of poor connections. It seems Tim Cook is at least bringing a rather more tactful approach to customer relations.

Now, in the longer term none of these events will do much harm to the company which sold 10 million new iPhones in just three days. A few bendy iPhones will probably be quietly replaced, and iOS 8.0.2 will no doubt sort out the bugs - heaven help the team behind it if it doesn't. All the stories may even help boost interest in the new phones as they are introduced in more countries.

But Apple has looked surprisingly accident-prone over recent days. The company is adept at building expectations before a launch, and at trumpeting the brilliance of its products in polished presentations and adverts. It has never been as good at dealing with problems - indeed, it has been arrogant about the need to engage with its consumers and the media. When did you last see an Apple executive coming on TV to explain why something has gone wrong? Maybe that approach will now have to change.

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