iPhone case study.
iPhone case study Paper instructions: these are the criteria that are needed: Analyze the case Answer the questions Identify the key issues, and key stakeholders, and key issues Propose recommendation Structure is important Having a clear thesis statement, preferably in the first paragraph Quantity over quality APPLE, INC. A Case Study in External Communication Written by: Jenny Lee Ian McCarthy Andrew Nguyen Robbie Reid Dr. Robyn Walker Faculty Advisor Center for Management Communication Prepared for: Case Study Initiative Center for Management Communication 2013 Page 2 of 7 INTRODUCTION As soon as the news of the Apple iPhone surfaced, David and Mary Jones eagerly bought two and switched their wireless phone carrier to AT&T Wireless, the iPhone’s exclusive wireless carrier in the United States. Several weeks later, after a hectic morning in the office, David Jones drove home to meet his wife, Mary, during his lunch break. œHey, David, I wasn’t expecting you to be home for lunch today. How’s work? Mary warmly greeted her husband and proceeded to set the dining table. œIt’s fine”mundane as usual, David replied. œIt’s not the project Mr. Owens just assigned that’s stressing me out; my iPhone keeps dropping calls. My calls have dropped multiple times during important conference calls, David sighed as he immediately went to the couch and took his shoes off to relax. Mary had not experienced any problems with her own iPhone and wondered if David had somehow received a defective phone. She placed a plate of pasta on the dining table and responded, œI’m sorry to hear that; we should take care of that. I haven’t had any problems with my iPhone. You should give AT&T a call and we’ll get it figured out. David called AT&T and was connected to a customer service representative who said, œWe have been receiving a large number of calls regarding the reception issue with the iPhone. The problem is with the iPhone and not AT&T, but I apologize for the inconvenience. David called Apple Customer Service next. œHello, I am having problems with my new iPhone. My calls keep dropping and I keep getting disconnected. This is a recurrent problem. Bill, a customer service representative, responded, œHello Mr. Jones, the problem you are experiencing with your iPhone is also being experienced by other customers with smart phones. However, you can prevent calls from dropping by getting a case for your iPhone. Astonished by the customer service representative’s comment, David asked, œHow would a phone case prevent my calls from being dropped? Bill continued, œLike all phones, iPhones have antennas. The antenna is located on the lower left corner of the iPhone. It is sensitive when tightly gripped, and a case prevents that area from being grasped. You may also return the phone, but there will be a 10% restocking fee. David couldn’t contain himself. œSo, my phone will drop calls when I hold it like any normal wireless phone? The iPhone has a defective design. You sold me this defective phone. And, now you expect me to pay a restocking fee? This is ridiculous! Apple intentionally misrepresented the iPhone. Why would I want a phone that drops my calls unless it is held in an awkward manner? Page 3 of 7 DISCUSSION OF THE PROBLEM Apple experienced retaliation from the public once the iPhone 4 was released. Shortly after the product launch on June 25, 2010, customers reported antenna issues with the phone. They said that if they touched the antenna located on the outside of the phone in two places when in use, the phone’s reception would drop significantly. 1 They also reported that the phone would drop four or five signal bars when tightly held in a particular way: covering the back strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. Although smart phone antennas have proven to fluctuate in signal strength, it is evident that hardware designers at Apple failed to take this into consideration when drafting design plans for the iPhone 4. The problem was featured on many blogs and on proprietary iPhone online forums. 1 Given that the bottom-line purpose of a phone is to make calls, Apple was faced with a communication challenge moving forward. To further understand the weight of Apple’s situation, the demand for the iPhone 4 prior to and after its release must be considered. Apple launched the iPhone 4 into a highly demanding environment on June 25, 2010. Prior to the product’s actual unveiling at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco 2 , there was widespread speculation about Apple’s new phone. Two prototypes of iPhone 4s were œleaked to the news, garnering much public attention and media mentions, resulting in widespread anticipation of the phone’s release. 3,4 On the pre-order launch date on June 15, 2010, Apple and partner carriers received more than 600,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4 within the first 24 hours, which was the largest number of pre-orders that Apple had ever received on a single day. 5,6 By the end of June, Apple had sold more than 1.7 million iPhone 4s. Given this environment of high expectations from consumers and high sales volume, Apple could have expected much scrutiny from the customers once the product was released. Many companies facing a similar situation would have taken extreme measures to ensure the product performed to their standards. What did Apple do? APPLE’S RESPONSE TO THE PROBLEM Customer loyalty was at risk for Apple if they did not meet expectations when resolving the issue for iPhone 4 users. Because Apple sold over 1.7 million faulty handsets, there was the potential of a high volume of customer backlash. This could have suppressed future Apple product purchases, because it is reasonable to conclude that a certain percentage of the faulty iPhone 4 customers would not purchase Apple products again. In addition, it is likely that a percentage of these customers would communicate their negative experiences to other prospective Apple customers. Given the high number of faulty handsets already sold at the time of this case, all of the iPhone 4 users could be considered unsatisfied customers. This high level of customer dissatisfaction posed a problem, especially for Apple”a player in an industry with many rivals. Page 4 of 7 Another consideration is customers’ perception that Apple is careless in its production and manufacturing process. At the time of the case, Apple was an industry leader that produced a line of many products (e.g., iPad, Macbook, Apple TV, iMac, etc.). Because the iPhone 4 received much speculative attention from the media prior to its launch, the public might have considered Apple’s production process inferior or considered Apple as a producer not attuned to the needs of the consumer. This would be especially true with Apple still releasing a product with hardware problems. Apple’s corporate goal was to ensure that it could sell its products in the future. The iPhone 4 is a part of many generations of phones from Apple, and all of Apple’s products are built on previous generations. The antenna problem could result in a negative perception of the brand “ that Apple debuts products that do not meet expectations. Apple was at the risk of possible public relations attacks from competitors. At the time of the case, the handheld, mobile phone industry was large, growing, and highly competitive with many players. 7 This meant that Apple’s high volume of iPhone 4 sales with antenna problems could have threatened its position in the cell phone market. Although Apple sold over 1.7 million handsets within a month “ signaling its market dominance at the time “ there was still an opportunity for the larger players in the industry to take a stab at Apple’s brand. Because Apple had a family of products to sell, there was a threat to its profitability. ACTIONS TAKEN TO ADDRESS THE PUBLIC Upon receiving reports of call and data strength-related problems, Apple acknowledged that holding the device in certain ways could diminish the signal but did not offer any solutions initially. The company told the public to œavoid gripping the phone in the lower left corner and œuse one of the many cases available for purchase. Apple CEO Steve Jobs insisted that antenna problems were common to all wireless phones. Additionally, Apple issued a press release that compared the iPhone’s reception to that of comparable smart phone devices, including RIM’s Blackberry. The press release mentioned that antenna problems were common and simply a œfact of life. However, it was evident that the antenna problem was caused solely by the way the phone was gripped, a problem unique to the Apple iPhone. Additionally, Apple announced a press conference, which led to speculation about a solution to the problem or even the possibility that phones would be replaced to satisfy customers and improve the company’s reputation. Instead, the company simply reiterated, œWe’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy. 8 The iPhone manufacturer also admitted that investigators were surprised to discover that the formula used to calculate the number of bars of signal strength to display on the phone was wrong. Page 5 of 7 For example, the phone displayed four bars when it should have been displaying only two. In response, Apple announced that it would adopt AT&T’s recommended formula to calculate the number of bars to be displayed. While the signal strength would remain the same, the iPhone’s bars would accurately report signal strength and provide users with a better indication of the reception they currently had in a given area. Consumer Reports then released information that indicated that an iPhone case could mitigate the antenna problem. 9 At the end of the July 16, 2010 press conference in Cupertino “ rather than at the beginning, and rather grudgingly “ Apple offered free cases. Consumer Reports also indicated it did not think that that this solution amounted to a substantive offer from Apple, because the company was financially capable of providing a more reasonable solution. 9 According to Apple, a case œprevents skin-to-iPhone contact at the lower left of the phone, which can change the cellular antenna’s ability to receive and transmit signals. Lastly, consumers had the option to return their device if they were ultimately not satisfied. Although Apple customers had a 30-day period to return their newly purchased iPhones, Apple charged a 10% restocking fee. PUBLIC’S REACTION Apple received ferocious backlash from the general public in response to the antenna problem. Since the iPhone 4 was a highly anticipated, not to mention expensive product, people expected great performance from their new mobile device. However, within a day of its release, the iPhone 4 became a topic of serious controversy. Reactions in regards to the actual flaw in its early stages categorized iPhone customers into three groups: 1. People who were indifferent to the lack of reception 2. People who planned to postpone buying the iPhone 4 until the problem was fixed 3. People who cut ties all together with AT&T and Apple because of this malfunction Still, a large percentage of people did not waiver on their decision to immediately purchase the iPhone 4, even after being informed of problems related to the antenna and reception. Why would someone purchase an expensive device that does not operate to its promised potential? According to A. M. Sacconaghi, Jr., an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, they do so because, œIt’s iconic, it’s cool, it’s the it device and people want it. 10 The second group created by the iPhone antenna problem consists of those who still plan to buy the phone, but not until the flaw is fixed and the phone can fully function. This public reaction is somewhat negative, but not enough to fully deter one from buying the product. Page 6 of 7 Bruce Namerow, owner of a web consulting company in Washington says, œI’ll buy it the day Apple fixes it. I don’t see how they can sell a phone that you can’t hold any which way you want. That to me is unbelievable. 11 Although this group of people negatively affected the company in the short run, others reacted so negatively that they viewed the problem as significant enough to sever their allegiance to Apple, iPhone and AT&T. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What steps did Apple take to address the iPhone antenna problem? 2. How effective was Apple’s communication with the public? If it was ineffective, what would have been your recommendations? 3. How will Apple’s communication with the public ultimately affect its brand image and customer loyalty? 4. If Apple knew about the antenna problem beforehand, what would have been a better course of action: To postpone the release of the product, go ahead with its debut knowing the problem would surface, or some other course of action? Choose one and describe it in detail. Page 7 of 7 REFERENCES 1 Chen, Jason. œiPhone 4 Loses Reception When You Hold It By The Antenna Band?Gizmodo. Gizmodo.com, 24 June 2010.
. 2 Lowensohn, Josh. œWWDC 2010: What you need to know c|net. June 7, 2010. 3 Golijan, Rosa. œThe Tale of Apple’s Next iPhone. Gizmodo. Gizmodo.com, 4 June 2010.
. 4 Wolverton, Troy. œAnother Next-generation IPhone Surfaces, This One in Vietnam.MercuryNews.com. Mercury News, 23 May 2010.
. 5 Apple. œApple “ Press Info “ Statement by Apple on IPhone 4 Pre-Orders. Apple. Apple Media, 16 June 2010.
. 6 Apple. œApple “ Press Info “ IPhone 4 Sales Top 1.7 Million. Apple. Apple Media, 28 June 2010.
. 7 Parker, Philip M. The 2011-2016 World Outlook for Mobile Phone Handsets. Publication. ICON Group International, Inc., 20 Jan. 2011. 8 Slivka, Eric. œCoverage of Apple’s iPhone 4 Press Conference MacRumors.com, LLC. July 16, 2010. 9 œ Apple’s Bumper case alleviates the iPhone 4 signal-loss problem Jul 14, 2010. Consumers Union of U.S. consumer-reports-labs-quick-fix.html 10 Deutsch, Claudia. œAre iPhone customers modern-day lemmings? True/Slant. July 13, 2010. 11 Helft, Miguel, & Nick Bilton. œDesign Flaw in iPhone 4, Testers Say New York Times. July 12, 2010.