A Case Study in External Communication
Jenny Lee Ian McCarthy Andrew Nguyen Robbie Reid
Dr. Robyn Walker Faculty Advisor Center for Management Communication
Case Study Initiative Center for Management Communication
INTRODUCTION As soon as the news of the Apple iPhone surfaced, David and Mary Jones eagerly bought two and switched their wireless phone carrier to AT&T Wireless, the iPhone’s exclusive wireless carrier in the United States. Several weeks later, after a hectic morning in the office, David Jones drove home to meet his wife, Mary, during his lunch break. “Hey, David, I wasn’t expecting you to be home for lunch today. How’s ...view middle of the document...
Jones, the problem you are experiencing with your iPhone is also being experienced by other customers with smart phones. However, you can prevent calls from dropping by getting a case for your iPhone.” Astonished by the customer service representative’s comment, David asked, “How would a phone case prevent my calls from being dropped?” Bill continued, “Like all phones, iPhones have antennas. The antenna is located on the lower left corner of the iPhone. It is sensitive when tightly gripped, and a case prevents that area from being grasped. You may also return the phone, but there will be a 10% restocking fee.” David couldn’t contain himself. “So, my phone will drop calls when I hold it like any normal wireless phone? The iPhone has a defective design. You sold me this defective phone. And, now you expect me to pay a restocking fee? This is ridiculous! Apple intentionally misrepresented the iPhone. Why would I want a phone that drops my calls unless it is held in an awkward manner?”
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DISCUSSION OF THE PROBLEM Apple experienced retaliation from the public once the iPhone 4 was released. Shortly after the product launch on June 25, 2010, customers reported antenna issues with the phone. They said that if they touched the antenna located on the outside of the phone in two places when in use, the phone’s reception would drop significantly.1 They also reported that the phone would drop four or five signal bars when tightly held in a particular way: covering the back strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. Although smart phone antennas have proven to fluctuate in signal strength, it is evident that hardware designers at Apple failed to take this into consideration when drafting design plans for the iPhone 4. The problem was featured on many blogs and on proprietary iPhone online forums.1 Given that the bottom-line purpose of a phone is to make calls, Apple was faced with a communication challenge moving forward. To further understand the weight of Apple’s situation, the demand for the iPhone 4 prior to and after its release must be considered. Apple launched the iPhone 4 into a highly demanding environment on June 25, 2010. Prior to the product’s actual unveiling at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco2, there was widespread speculation about Apple’s new phone. Two prototypes of iPhone 4s were “leaked” to the news, garnering much public attention and media mentions, resulting in widespread anticipation of the phone’s release.3,4 On the pre-order launch date on June 15, 2010, Apple and partner carriers received more than 600,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4 within the first 24 hours, which was the largest number of pre-orders that Apple had ever received on a single day.5,6 By the end of June, Apple had sold more than 1.7 million iPhone 4s. Given this environment of high expectations from consumers and high sales volume, Apple could have expected much scrutiny from the customers once the product was...