What has Apple stuffed up this time around? Well let's try this for starters:
- They offered to keep us informed about the launch of the iPhone 4 if we registered our email address. I'd expect that they would email me to tell me about the upcoming launch and to tell me how to get my iPhone 4...if I wanted one. Instead they emailed me at 20:30 on 30 July...that's about 20 and a half hours after they "released" it. That's early notification isn't it Apple? And the email told me nothing useful.
- Right through the day that Apple say they released the iPhone 4 the Apple website said "coming soon". Was it released or wasn't it? Only at about the same time as the email did it change.
- When the Apple website changed to show it had been released the pathway that it sent you on to determine where to buy said iPhone petered out, with no actual advice on buying it.
- The Apple retail stores wouldn't talk to you on the phone about the iPhone 4, even after it had been "released" so you had no idea whether they had stock or not. As it happens it was largely "not".
- Attempting to order an iPhone 4 online led to the information that one would be available about 23 August...not 30 July.
What is apparent is that the iPhone 4 was available through the telco partners on the day of release, and it appears to have continued to be available there...but only on a plan. Some few were also available from the Apple stores on 30 July, but that seemed to be for show.
What appears to have happened is that Apple has left about a month for their telco partners to sell the phone on a plan, before they "really release" it to the general public.
Now you can be sure that Apple don't really care what you or I think about this. They are probably more concerned with the traffic jam in Cupertino, caused by the trucks bringing in all the money that the company is making! Whether you or I think they behaved badly is of no concern to them.
The thing is that the buying public have long memories. When Apple's long line of product successes deserts them, as it will at some future point, then the buying public will take the opportunity to twist the knife. What might otherwise have been a minor hiccup could well turn into a mass desertion. Why's that? I think that the reason is that Apple is progressively squandering the very strong base of consumer support that they have enjoyed. They are treating their consumers, their customers, carelessly and disdainfully. It will come back to bite them.
What should they have done? Two easy things would have kept me happy:
- For all those people who registered to receive an email: send them an email around 26 July saying: The iPhone 4 will be available in very limited quantities from Apple retail stores from Midnight 29 July, it will be available in greater quantities on telco plans from the same time. Apple recommends that you order your iPhone now, through our online store. We expect full stock levels from around 25 August;
- Place the same clear and simple message, prominently on their website 24 hours later;
- Allow the pre-registered people to order from 26 July through the on-line store for later delivery.
Problem solved, I'm not in receipt of instant gratification but I know where I stand.
Underlying all of this is another more interesting issue: Apple doesn't seem to have its supply chain in order. Not only can it not supply iPhone, it can't supply simple things. The new Magic Trackpad is reportedly "released" as well. The problem is I can't find anywhere in Melbourne with stock, including Apple's own shops. I'm not ringing all around Melbourne to find one, but the inquiries I have made in the logical places have drawn a blank.
So the consumer happiness issue would go away if Apple sorted out its apparent supply chain issues. If you release a product on 30 July then make sure you have stock and intend to make it generally available. The better alternative would be to announce a real release date and make sure you have sufficient stock to supply demand. It's not like you haven't had a chance to see the stock implications of iPhone and other new items. And as for no stock of a simple thing like the Magic Trackpad...really Apple that's just silly.