It was the analyst interview heard around the world. On Monday, crisis communication expert Mathew Seeger told the Cult of Mac tech blog that "Apple will be forced to do a recall" of the iPhone 4. "It’s critically important," he said. "The brand image is the most important thing Apple has. This is potentially devastating."
Also quoted in the post, PR experts Chris Lehane of the Clinton administration and Larry Barton, a crisis management expert, agreed. They compared Apple's antenna troubles to Toyota's recall fiasco, which was exacerbated by a slow response time. "Apple needs to put this fire out now," Barton insisted.
Naturally, the post spurred a debate about what Apple owes its customers. Those advocating a recall are up against industry analysts and pundits who argue a potential recall is neither plausible nor justified.
- iPhone 4 Recall? Get a Grip! writes John Paczkowski at All Things Digital: "Though the clamor over a design issue that can diminish the iPhone 4’s signal strength might drag on the company’s shares, as it is today, Apple probably isn’t going to issue a product recall." He quotes Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner: "We consider the probability of a recall to be very low given our view that the issue in question is not serious enough to warrant a recall. While bridging two portions of the antenna with one’s hand on the lower-left corner of the phone does cause signal degradation, it does not typically result in dropped calls unless the signal from the cell tower is already weak. Excluding this issue, overall signal reception on iPhone 4 seems at least as good, if not slightly better, than reception on the iPhone 3GS."
- Apple Owes a Recall to Customers, writes Molly Wood at CNET: "As Consumer Reports goes, so goes much of America. Apple should recall the iPhone 4 and start disseminating new phones with properly coated antennas--and I'm not talking duct tape or neon-colored rubber bands. A recall would give Apple major goodwill and prove its commitment to the impeccable quality and design principles it's always espoused. Yes, it would be expensive and unprecedented. But wow, would it win back some flagging hearts and minds. I know Apple's not used to having to work for the love of its consumers, but now might be a good time to start."
- Never Gonna Happen writes Dan Frommer at Business Insider: "The iPhone 4 antenna situation is a non-issue, and it's going to blow over without a massive product recall. Why? Because it's just not that big of a problem. Simply, the iPhone 4 works better than pretty much any other phone you can buy, and even Consumer Reports says so, calling it the best smartphone on the market. You can make calls, use the Internet, and do everything else you should be able to do on the iPhone 4 all of the time, or almost all of the time. And that's why you're buying it, right? I've owned the iPhone 4 from the first day it went on sale, and even though it still has the same crappy AT&T service and dropped calls that my last iPhone had, I still would never ever think of returning it. There's so much more to the iPhone 4 than a supposed antenna problem."
- They Risk Betraying Their Customers, says Larry Barton to Cult of Mac:
Dr. Barton said Apple should quickly issue a statement that either strongly refutes Consumer Reports‘ tests; or admit the issue and detail some kind of hardware fix. Saying the iPhone 4 has a problem calculating signal strength doesn’t cut it, Dr. Barton said.
“Their response has been lackluster,” he said. “It’s been borderline irresponsible. They are in danger of betraying customers’ trust and hurting the brand, which is infinitely more valuable than any one product.”