The Forbidden Fruit: A Look Inside of Apple’s Business Practices

Sometimes your best hope of getting your Apple products to work is praying for help from the divine. Photo of Myles Garcia by Emilio Mejia

Apple was recently in the news for obliterating or altering 11 of the 17 most popular apps people use to control the amount of time they or their children spend in front of a screen.

Apple is insanely successful – it recently hit a $1 trillion market value – but some of its business practices have critics complaining the success is due to business practices that, even if legal, are dodgy or short-sighted. Yet, people are dependent on Apple products: A recent poll from 2012 revealed that 64 percent of American households have at least one Apple product, with the average household harboring 2.6 Apple products.

Is our love affair with Apple masochistic? Evidence is adding up that our relationship with the company producing our must-have products is at best a one-sided.

Slowing Down the iPhone

Photo by Neil Soni on Unsplash

In 2017, Apple confirmed what many had suspected: A recent software update was slowing down older iPhone models. The company apologized for not telling consumers it was throttling the phone’s function, attributed the poor performance to aging batteries, and claimed the “fix” was necessary to prevent sudden shut downs in older models. But many users have long contended the slug bug was intentional and designed to nudge consumers into purchasing newer phones. Apple offered to replace the batteries on older models for only $29 – but that deal ended December 31, 2018.

Frustrating Repair Policy

Photo Courtesy of Axelle B

For years, Apple insisted that all phone repairs be done in house, finally allowing a few authorized cell phone repairers to deal with Apple phones in 2016.

Even authorized repair shops are only authorized to do select phone repairs. If a customer comes in with other easily fixable problems, the repair shop must ship the phone to Apple.

For a store to be authorized in performing repairs, the business must pay a subscription fee, purchase certified Apple parts, and employees must go through official Apple training.

Mediocre Charging Cables

Photo by Emilio Mejia

The iPhone charging cables have an average of two stars in reviews on Apple’s website. The 0.5 m Apple cord (1.64 feet) costs $19. Some suggest that Apple purposely makes this product sub-par so that its customers will replace their chargers every few months. These chords are notorious for fraying after normal use, Alternatively, Amazon offers charging cables twice the length of Apple’s for less than $10 – but customers trying to use superior cables that cost less are always at risk of discovering that their unapproved, non-Apple cable is found “incompatible with this device” when plugged into an Apple product.

Gouging Customers

A stunning exposé released by Canada’s public newscast “The National” last year revealed that “genius bar” employees told customers that minor repairs were not worth fixing (may as well buy a new laptop!) when the problems could in fact be fixed cheaply within minutes. Apple denied systematically overestimating repair costs, but one Mac-friendly repair person in NYC said he saw customers similarly victimized at least 10 to 30 times a day.

Lobbying for the wrong things

Apple goes to great lengths to discourage third-party repair people, threatening them with legal action if they share repair info online, changing parts so they cannot be easily replicated and seventeen states have introduced “right to repair” legislation to allow consumers and repair people to get their devices fixed more easily and inexpensively and to outlaw “software locks” that prevent third-party repairs. The legislation would not only allow repair people to make money and consumers to save money, but slow down the river of toxic tech waste going to landfills. Yet, Apple retains a lobbyist to fight against this legislation and anything else Apple deems not to be in its interest.

Escalating iPhone Prices

iPhone Prices on Release Date. Graphic by Emilio Mejia

The original iPhone (released in 2007) was priced at $499. Ten years later, Apple broke the $800 barrier on the price of the iPhone with the release of the iPhone 8 plus. Two weeks later, the iPhone X was released for over $1,000. When Apple originally released their iPhone to the public, the company had a completely different business model in mind: groundbreaking technology for an affordable price. That no longer seems to be the guiding principle: The new Apple XS Max runs between $1,099 and $1,499, depending on GBs.

This is in part due to the increasing price of Apple products: The first iPhones released in 2007 cost $399 for 4G and $599 for 8G before Apple discontinued the 4G model and then lowered the price of the 8G device to $399.

Apple did not respond to any of the complaints addressed in this article.

Emilio Mejia

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