Apple's (AAPL) stock has been on a rollercoaster in recent days as problems have surfaced regarding the Sept. 9 introduction of the iPhone 6 and iOS 8. While Apple works hard to counter criticism and fix issues as they arise, questions linger about whether more shoes will drop and if the company has lost its operational edge.
On Thursday, shares were down nearly 3 percent after two problems. One was the botched release of iOS 8.0.1, the latest version of the software that runs the iPhone and iPad. It was supposed to fix problems with the initial iOS 8 but it introduced major new ones instead. The other problem was reports that the iPhone 6 could permanently bend.
Friday morning, though, shares were up almost 2 percent, after a quick public relations offensive by Apple that tried to counter the bending issue. Statements sent to media outlets, including CBS MoneyWatch, claimed that the company had heard from only nine customers who had the problem and emphasized the "sturdy" nature and engineering of the phone.
Apple also took the unusual step of inviting select media to see its testing facility, where representatives said that the company had tested 30,000 iPhone 6 units.
In addition, Apple pulled the iOS 8.0.1 release, which caused many iPhone users to lose service, as well as the Touch ID feature for iPhones equipped with the feature, and provided an automated way to rollback the changes. The irony is that the 8.0.1 release was supposed to fix previous problems, including bad battery life, degraded Wi-Fi performance, and incompatibility with HealthKit, a new tool from Apple that lets users monitor their health and fitness.
Despite the stock bounce, eradicating investor and customer concerns in the long run may be more difficult than in some previous cases where Apple products faced widely publicized problems. For example, the iPhone 4 was known for reception problems when people held the device in a normal grip, bridging a gap between two external antennas. Back then, Apple also brought select press to a normally off-limits facility, for wireless testing.
Apple has had a series of missteps and issues that have come in quick succession:
- Hackers broke into the iCloud accounts of celebrities including actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton and stole and posted nude photos. Apple initially claimed to have no responsibility but quickly patched a security gap that could have aided the unauthorized access. And a new report claims that Apple knew of a major security weakness months before the attacks.
- Apple's $100 million promotion with U2 to celebrate iOS 8 was a mocked flop, with only 6.7 percent of all iTunes customers listening at all.
- The Apple Store website crashed with the volume of people looking to purchase an iPhone 6, even though Apple has repeatedly faced similar problems in the past.
- The iOS 8.0.1 release to fix Wi-Fi and battery performance issues made some phones incapable of placing or receiving calls at all. According to a new report, the person in charge of catching problems was the one overseeing quality of the original Apple Maps, which was widely mocked for its many inaccuracies and flaws.
- Videos from iPhone Plus owners showed how the device could literally bend. In some cases, the bend was not immediately visible.
Taken together, the litany of recent mistakes suggests that Apple may have lost critical control over product engineering and quality. Even though the company's PR team has been able to temporarily beat back some of the criticism, investors must be asking themselves what might happen next, and whether publicity efforts, even with the sophistication Apple can bring to bear, can ultimately be enough in an ever more competitive marketplace.