It’s a little too easy to love Apple.The company consistently puts out game-changing products. The business itself is an awe-inspiring model for profitability.
And Apple’s backstory is too good not to love—growing from a tiny operation in a garage to become one of the most successful tech companies, only to fall from grace and fight its way back to the top. It’s the classic American story.
However, you don’t get to be the biggest company in the world without making a few controversial decisions—and in Apple’s case, there have been more than a few.
Apple is certainly not the only company that relies on Asian contract manufacturers like Foxconn to make its products more cheaply and efficiently, despite the many criticisms labour groups have about working conditions there. And to its credit, Apple has taken steps to improve the situation. Apple has reportedly offered to foot some of the costs of improving contractors' plants. CEO Tim Cook even visited Foxconn earlier this year--something late cofounder Steve Jobs never did.
The reason Apple's partnership with Foxconn is so frustrating is because it goes so completely against its brand: the smooth integration of everything under one roof. Apple bills itself as an American company. The back of every product notes that it was 'Designed by Apple in California.' But Apple outsources the production overseas.
Either Apple needs to fix the problems with its production process, or it needs to stop sugarcoating the fact that it doesn't have that much control over how its designs get turned into gadgets.
Apple will do pretty much anything to guarantee that details about its products don't leak before launch. Fortune's Adam Lashinsky has detailed the many tricks the company uses to keep its secrets, including building literal walls and installing special locks to block off certain projects, and keeping employees in the dark about the details of a project they don't need to know, even if it's for a project they're working on.
In the event that something does leak, the company goes on lockdown. The company's security team will confiscate employee mobile phones and computers to find the mole. And if a prototype leaks, well, the company's security may just show up at an employee's house dressed as actual cops.
Lawsuits and patent disputes come with the territory for Apple, but it's still upsetting to hear that the company handed over at least a dozen patents to Digitude Innovations, a patent troll that uses its portfolio of patents to go after tech companies.
As TechCrunch reported in December, it's possible that Apple only handed over the patents as part of a settlement with the firm. 'But even if Digitude shot first, so to speak, it's still hard to see Apple in a positive light here,' TechCrunch wrote. 'This is Apple we're talking about. The idea that the company didn't have any options other than handing over valuable patents to a patent troll--knowing full well that it would then use those patents to sue other tech companies--seems ludicrous.'
Companies owe it to shareholders to maximise profits. But Apple has come up with an incredibly complex system to avoid paying its fair share of taxes in the United States. This includes collecting and managing its cash in Nevada rather than its headquarters in California because the former state has no corporate tax. It also routes royalties and profits through subsidiaries in countries with lower tax rates.
The net effect is that Apple managed to cut its federal tax bill by more than $2 billion in 2011, at a time when federal and local governments are strapped for cash. What's more, Apple has come up with a tax strategy so effective that other companies have followed its lead. That's not the kind of innovation we want to hear about.
Anytime Apple comes under fire for a new product or business decision, the company usually takes one of three approaches, all wrong: ignore it, tell customers why they're wrong, or just get defensive. When the iPhone 4 antennae problems first started popping up in 2010, Steve Jobs initially responded by telling a customer to hold the phone differently. When some customers complained earlier this year that the new iPad was overheating, Apple responded with a stock comment about how beautiful the display is. And when The New York Times published a feature on Apple's tax strategies, the company responded with a long rant about how many jobs it creates. The company may have mastered marketing electronics, but its crisis PR needs a lot of work.
In an effort to improve its image after heavy criticism about its manufacturing plants abroad earlier this year, Apple released a very generous estimate about the number of jobs it helped create in the US. The company included anyone loosely tied to its operations, including employees who work for UPS and FedEx delivering Apple packages. By this same logic, one could make a case that Apple has destroyed nearly as many jobs as it has created. So let's call a spade a spade. Apple has absolutely created jobs in the US, but it could have created many more if it didn't outsource its manufacturing overseas.
Siri sounded nice in theory, and it may become a really useful app down the road, but as of right now it just doesn't work as intended. There's nothing wrong with a product that gets better over time. The reason we hate Siri, though, is because Apple is desperately trying to promote its voice-recognition software in one commercial after another as a product that's ready for prime time. It's not.
In fact, some of these commercials are actually misleading--as Jason Gilbert at The Huffington Post showed brilliantly--because Siri doesn't perform nearly as well in real life as it does on screen.
Furthermore, Zooey Deschanel.
Apple forces you to use their proprietary apps for the iPhone and iPad - no matter how useless they may be.
Business Insider's Steve Kovach recently complained about how the iPhone and iPad lock you into Apple's proprietary apps like Safari and Mail for Web browsing and email. Yes, you can download other browsers and mail clients, but Apple doesn't allow you to make them the default. It may be your device, but at the end of the day, Apple makes it clear who controls it.
There's no doubt that browsing through Apple's App Store is a better experience than the Google Play store for Android. That's in part because all the apps Apple sells must go through an approval process before appearing in the store.
But Apple isn't perfect. Its reviewers have occasionally gone too far and blocked or removed apps for questionable reasons, including offerings from WikiLeaks and Playboy. Perhaps the most infamous example is when Apple rejected a satirical app called NewsToons because it 'ridicules public figures,' only to reverse itself after the cartoonist behind the app won a Pulitzer.