Apple’s five biggest blunders of the decade

Excerpted from the Verge’s “The 84 biggest flops, fails and dead dreams of the decade in tech“:

82. Apple Watch Edition: To no one’s surprise, we would later learn that the high-luxury watch was a passion project of Jony Ive. But not many people could be convinced to spend up to $17,000 on a wearable that would be obsolete in a handful of years — compared to the timelessness of something like a Rolex…

48. AirPower: Apple is usually associated with some of the best engineering and design in the technology world. Usually. AirPower, on the other hand, might be the biggest failure Apple’s had in recent memory, resulting in a product that was reportedly so bad, it never shipped at all…

42. Antennagate: Apple doesn’t screw things up often, but when it does make mistakes, they tend to go big. And none were as big as “Antennagate,” a problem with the iPhone 4 that saw signal strength drop when the external antennas were blocked by simply holding the phone… Antennagate would come to define a classic Apple scandal: deny the problem, issue a software update, and then eventually, reluctantly make amends with customers…

14. Apple Maps: Tired of defaulting to its competitor, Google, for its mapping services, Apple decided to launch its own version in 2012 alongside iOS 6. It was an ambitious feat given how much of the mapping market Google already had, and it turned out, well, utterly embarrassing for Apple… Seven years later, Apple Maps has been rebuilt from the ground up. Yet as of September 2019, detailed transit directions are only offered in 10 cities globally while Google has sent Street View expeditions to space. Good luck catching up with that…

10. Apple’s Butterfly Keyboard: Apple eventually released four generations of the butterfly keyboard, each one slightly modified to try to improve reliability, and in 2018 it introduced an extended warranty program that provided four years of repair coverage from the purchase date. In late 2019, Apple finally released a new 16-inch MacBook Pro that returned to the scissor switch design that has longer key travel, less noise, and better reliability, though as of this publish, the company continues to sell the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro that still use the ill-fated butterfly keyboard…

My take: Considering what Apple got right in the decade, five out of 84 ain’t bad.


  1. David Emery said:
    IF you believe Home Automation is a key market, then I’d put “Apple abandoning its network hardware” in the collection (and I’d replace “Apple Maps” with this one.)

    Maps was premature, but has matured nicely. But ceding the networking part of home networking strikes me as inconsistent with Apple’s notion of ‘controlling the primary experience.’ And in particular, the growing vulnerabilities for Internet of Things devices coupled with the poor state of home networking security strikes me as A Big Deal.

    December 22, 2019
    • Jamie McDaniel said:
      Re: Apple abandoning its network hardware.
      Last week I finally replaced my Apple AirPort Extreme with a single Gryphon in the middle of our two story house. It works well, but I would have purchased an Apple product if it existed. I needed to be able to pause the internet per child and label all the devices on the network. Unfortunately, AirPort Utility doesn’t offer that.

      December 22, 2019
  2. Gianfranco Pedron said:
    82. “But not many people could be convinced to spend up to $17,000 ..”

    Money can’t buy the amount of “free” media coverage Apple got for its newly introduced Watch because of the “outrageous” price of the Watch Edition. Not to mention that the Watch Edition single handedly place the Apple Watch in the fashion accessory category in addition to being a tech accessory, something nobody else has been able to do with any amount of success.

    48. “… a product that was reportedly so bad, it never shipped at all…”

    Compared to shipping a product that catches fire or fails in pre-release reviewer’s hands, not such a bad blunder.

    42. ” … And none were as big as “Antennagate,” a problem with the iPhone 4 …”

    See # 48.

    14. “It was an ambitious feat given how much of the mapping market Google already had, and it turned out, well, utterly embarrassing for Apple…”

    Hey, you gotta start somewhere. Keeping Apple user information out of sight from Google’s spyware and getting out from its dependance on Google for a watered down version of its map services … priceless.

    10. Apple’s Butterfly Keyboard.

    Well, that one sucked for some people.

    All in all, a pretty darned good decade.

    Thank you, Apple.

    December 22, 2019
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    82. Apple Watch Edition: A $17,000 Apple Watch Edition tech wearable with a useful lifespan of several years had an early demise because common folk understanding of reality speaks volumes. “Income inequality” in America has become an embarrassment and was no better denoted than in Joe Burrow’s (an exceptional young man matured far beyond his chronological years) Heisman trophy speech that went viral resulting in his home county receiving overnight approximately one half million dollars in its food pantry. Geaux Joe Burreaux and Geaux LSU! Louisiana loves you and we love our sister state Ohio.

    48. AirPower: Apple did what it does best. If Apple can’t deliver the world’s most amazing product, then it will collapse the project until such time it can meet its high standards.

    42. Antennagate: Don’t you miss Steve Jobs! I know that he must be smiling down from above over Apple’s accomplishments.

    14. Apple Maps: I never have broke the umbilical cord from Google maps. You learn why quickly, when orienteering in foreign countries using Apple Maps only to switch to Google Maps to get the correct landmarks.

    10. Apple’s Butterfly Keyboard: Another Jony Ive’s aspiration that had major consumer blowback and manifested the absence of Steve Jobs perpetual influence of backing Jony’s industrial design team over Apple’s engineering team. Jony loses in-house influence with Jobs gone and the engineering team prevails as Jony exits the building.

    1. Ajit Pai: One man did not kill ”Net Neutrality.” The rich and powerful using their political influence on American politics killed it. That the “rich and powerful” have the most influence on American politics is hardly news. As George Orwell put it: “…. money makes some people more equal than others.” By and large, the majority of those who are less equal accept some corruption of the democratic idea of “one person, one vote” as inevitable in this less than perfect world.

    December 22, 2019
  4. Joe Murphy said:
    My take: the Verge is well experienced at Apple clickbait. This is nothing more than that.

    82. Apple Watch Edition
    It’s standard practice for companies make signature product editions. Ford’s primary market are their family cars, yet they also make Ford GT.

    42. Antennagate
    Apple was hardly the only company with this issue, it was an acknowledged problem with cell phones at that time.

    For my money, Steve Jobs nailed it when he said don’t hold it that way.
    An email”
    So, um, just got my iPhone 4. It’s lovely and all, but this ‘bridge the two antennae to kill your reception’ thing seems to be a bit serious. If I bridge them with my hand or with a piece of metal the bars slowly drop to ‘Searching…’ and then ‘No Service’.

    It’s kind of a worry. Is it possible this is a design flaw?
    Regards – Rory Sinclair

    Steve’s reply:
    Nope. Just don’t hold it that way.

    Rory pressed the issue once more, got the same response, and pressed it again, saying “Normally there aren’t limits to how you hold a phone” — finally getting this response from Steve:

    Sure there are — every phone has these areas of sensitivity, depending on the location of the antenna. Some phones even ship with labels warning customers to not cover certain areas with their hands.

    A common sense answer providing an easy solution that became a PR hullabaloo because it was Apple. Clickbait making money. Even respected Consumer Reports got more attention by focusing it on Apple.

    10. Apple’s Butterfly Keyboard
    Sure, it presented a problem for a small group of users, but not most users. We all have preferences and nothing is the best fit for everyone.

    PED, beyond question, you and most, if not all, subscribers have likely commented on how Apple is frequently used in clickbait. The hullabaloo is because it’s Apple, and it grabs readers attention.

    December 22, 2019
    • S Lawton said:
      ” My take: the Verge is well experienced at Apple clickbait. This is nothing more than that. ”
      Considering that this is the end of one decade and the start of another, the media is looking back. As the title does not mention Apple in its tools and Google is listed more than twice as often as Apple, you may be the one fixated on Apple as cl ickbait

      December 22, 2019
  5. Grady Campbell said:
    re iPhone4: I bought it new (2010) and still have it, now as a backup phone; I “replaced” it with an iPhone5 in 2012 (then 6s and Xs later) and moved my landline number onto it. I’m still using it in 2019 for that purpose (on a very cheap TMobile plan); it mostly just gets texts and incoming voice mails but only needs charging every 3 days. Over 9 years being in use, not bad for such a terrible mistake of a design. (never had any problem with dropped calls on it myself; I guess I just held it “right” from the start.)

    December 22, 2019
  6. Gregg Thurman said:
    If this is all the Verge can come up with they have nothing of import to write about.

    How about pointing out that these relatively minor issues were eclipsed by Samsung’s exploding cell phones.

    December 22, 2019

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