Now that the Bendgate uproar is subsiding (personally, I much prefer the name “Bendghazi”), I think it deserves a moment of calm reflection.
To me, the story isn’t that Apple created a sub-standard product. Because it didn’t.
The real story is that all these people were so quick to believe that Apple had screwed up in such a monumental way — and then joyfully helped blast this “news” into the public consciousness.
It all started with the notorious bending video.
Honestly, the first time I saw this, I thought it was pretty moronic. The guy’s hands are literally trembling from the force he exerts in his attempt to bend the thing.
I don’t doubt that one could bend an iPhone 6 Plus if he had a mind to. Just as I don’t doubt that one could bend tableware if properly motivated. But the idea of an iPhone bending in real life, in normal use, is no more likely than my fork bending during dinner.
Having received my iPhone 6 Plus on opening day, I was curious to at least give it the ol’ bend test myself, despite my distinct lack of muscle.
I didn’t get the slightest feeling that it could be bent at all. Certainly not in my everyday use. I’ve never worried about an iPhone bending before, and I found no reason to start worrying about it now.
But it did get me wondering. How on earth could this become a story in the first place? Why would any intelligent person look at that video and be even remotely concerned that the iPhone might somehow bend in their pocket?
Obviously, there are a large number of people who jump at any chance to “show Apple for what it really is.” In addition, there are a lot of people who just like to see the big guy get his nose bloodied.
And then there are all the world’s comedians, who live for stories like this because, well, they’re so damn funny. These are the kinds of things that people pass around, adding even more fuel to the fire.
It’s just a sad statement that the reflex reaction of so many people is to jump on the bandwagon, rather than see what is right under their nose — a badly presented case for a problem that barely exists.
None of this is to say that Apple hasn’t had some real problems — or that it isn’t perfectly capable of shooting itself in the foot.
The Maps fiasco was for real. The iOS 8.01 update fiasco was for real. (And utterly inexplicable.) These are things for which Apple was properly slammed, and has most likely learned from.
But Bendgate was a crisis in search of relevance.
We now know that only nine bending complaints have been registered at Apple after more than 10 million new iPhones were shipped. We’ve seen Apple’s testing labs, and the stress testing that was done on the new iPhones. Surprisingly, we’ve even seen Consumer Reports chime in that iPhones have no serious bending issues — even though that publication has in the past treated Apple unfairly.
While bending iPhones were on the public mind, we got to see a bit of Apple’s character in the way it responded. We also got to better understand the character of a particular Apple competitor.
Samsung tried to gain points by mocking Apple’s failure.
Samsung of all companies should have recognized the lack of substance to this story. They demeaned themselves by jumping on what at the time was highly unsubstantiated rumor. There’s an art to leveraging the news to propel one’s own product — but this wasn’t exactly art. It was more like ham-fisted arrogance.
If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about the importance Steve Jobs placed on getting customers to love Apple. He wanted every part of the customer experience to strengthen that love — from the advertising and in-store experience to unboxing, enjoying the product and getting support when needed.
By doing so, he would ensure that customers would (a) buy more stuff, (b) evangelize to others and (c) stick with Apple when unforeseen problems arise. He understood that such things were inevitable, even for a company like Apple.
History proves that Steve was 100% correct. Despite the intense media blasting, Apple customers did not defect because of Antennagate or Mapsgate. It’s pretty obvious that there will be even less damage from Bendgate.
Apple’s resilience isn’t a fluke, and it doesn’t result from some kind of mind control over sheeplike customers. It’s the result of a purposeful, wide-ranging effort that’s gone on for at least 15 years.
Building customer loyalty as Apple has done requires vision, talent, investment and determination.
For many companies, a Bendgate-style story could cause incalculable damage, whether or not it is based in fact.
Because it’s worked so hard to earn customers’ love, Apple has a built-in defense system. Stories like this may get millions of views — but they do virtually no long-term damage.
However, since human nature won’t change for a few million years, let’s be prepared for the controversy that will likely accompany Apple’s next big product.
Already there are reports that those Apple Watch bands will bend under pressure…