So we now know that Apple without Steve Jobs produces half-baked products, clumsy messaging and complex apps. The company must still prove that it can deliver ground-breaking innovation best described by Jobs: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
But there’s a more ominous issue looming: lack of trust.
Apple announced version iOS 5.1 yesterday, and so I dutifully upgraded my iPhone 4S. Lo and behold, my iPhone 4S miraculously sprouted 4G chipsets and began connecting to AT&T’s super-fast LTE network – just like the new iPad. At least, that’s what I saw across the top bar, 4G instead of 3G.
Before anyone gets too excited, it’s probably just a bug. Or perhaps AT&T has finally convinced Apple to cave in and mislead consumers into thinking AT&T’s HSPA+ data network is 4G, which it really isn’t; AT&T has been changing the indicator to 4G on other phones. The iPhone 4S does not support 4G, confirms Kyle Wiens of iFixit, whose team cracks open and looks at the components of nearly every popular tech gadget on the market.
But is it just a bug? Apple consumers thinking their iPhone 4S is now 4G capable is a convenient mistake.
Truth is, people trusted Steve Jobs even when he was wrong. They sided with him during his tirade against the media for the antenna problems with the iPhone 4, dubbed Antennagate. They spew hateful comments whenever anyone criticizes him.
Why? Because Jobs earned their trust. During major Apple events, Jobs would always speak truthfully to consumers. He’d explain reasons why Apple did certain things.
Yet the same truthful speaking didn’t show up when Apple unveiled the new iPad yesterday. Apple called it “the new iPad,” and everyone was left wondering why. The question hung over the entire event.
Whether or not the move away from model numbers is good or bad doesn’t really matter. We needed an explanation, someone like Jobs to tell us, “Technology products have relied on crazy model numbers. It’s confusing. So we at Apple decided to make things simple. This is the new iPad.”
Trust is built in this way.
While the visible 4G bug might just be a technical mistake, not a conspiracy theorist’s marketing ploy, it doesn’t bode well for Apple in the post-Jobs era. Apple must earn consumer trust all over again.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.