Bendgate, Antennagate, and why Apple doesn’t care about bad news
Apple is undoubtedly the hottest story in technology. No matter what time of the year, writing a story about Apple is guaranteed pageviews, particularly if you force a controversial and preferably critical take on the company. And, if you want to maximise traffic, claiming Apple is doomed is the best way to do it.
This isn’t new. In 2006, tech journalist legend John Dvorak explained his formula for trolling Apple users for maximum page views: write something semi-controversial; when you get complaints, up the ante with something even more outlandish, attracting a billion comments; and eventually admit you were wrong, attracting even more comments from people who think you were right in the first place.
This predictable behavior means Apple attracts “controversies” like no other company. If there’s a tech issue that affects many manufacturers, sites lead with an Apple angle – because leading with any of the other affected companies halves your page impressions. If it’s a genuine but minor issue, it gets blown out of all proportion and becomes a disaster that the world’s biggest tech company will never recover from.
Derived, of course, from Watergate and applied ever-more liberally to virtually any kind of “scandal”, the “-gate” suffix is tired – but that hasn’t stopped pundits declaring two episodes in Apple history as “-gates”.
Holy moley! It turns out that Apple can’t prevent the laws of physics applying! Who knew?
Yes, it seems that if you apply enough pressure to an iPhone 6, the aluminium bends. How much pressure? Enough, in the video below, for someone’s hands to start shaking as if they were bench pressing 250lbs. Cue “Bendgate”, one of the most hilariously overwrought news stories of the year.
Apple later released a statement claiming that of the 10 million phones sold over the opening weekend, it had a grand total of nine customers complain that their phone bent. Meanwhile, despite jumping on the bandwagon and producing some cheeky ads, it turns out that Samsung phones bend as well, given enough force.
How much of a disaster is this? It’s certainly given the public image of the iPhone 6 a knock, although given the 10 million sold on the first day and the endless queues to get the phone, Apple is probably laughing all the way to the bank. However, the first time I got my iPhone 6 Plus out in our local Starbucks, the first question out of the mouth of the barista were “oh, iPhone 6! Is it bent yet?”
Bendgate may be baloney, but when the word spreads that fast and that far it’s going to have some impact on sales.
June 24th 2010: Apple releases the iPhone 4, its latest flagship device. Within days, users were complaining that, when you gripped the phone in a certain way, it would lose signal and in some cases drop calls (this was back in the days when people used mobile phones to talk to each other – quaint, I know).
Antennagate, as it was dubbed, very definitely existed. Hold the phone with your finger bridging the gap between the two metal bands on the edge and you would visibly see the signal drop. How many users were affected? Enough that by July, Apple was holding a press conference about Antennagate and announcing everyone who wanted would get a bumper case, free.
However, did Antennagate really hurt Apple? Despite predictions it would, the iPhone 4 and 4s continued to sell well for another three years. Even in the immediate aftermath of Antennagate, it was still in hot demand – when it was released on Verizon in September 2010, it broke the company’s record for sales of a single device.
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