You can always tell when the launch of a new iPhone is approaching. Stories about Apple that would be considered trivial under normal circumstances suddenly become big news. People start to pay attention to every tiny piece of information that comes out of the company’s head office, and sometimes they even try to read between the lines and see things that aren’t there. Every iPhone launch comes with rumors. Some of them turn out to be accurate, and others turn out to be false. Even with all of that being said, though, the launch of a new iPhone is generally a positive experience for both the company and its millions of admirers.
That might not be the case this time around.
Courting Bad Press
We understand the desire to keep information close to your chest when you have a new product or service to launch, but Apple has said very little about what the iPhone 12 may or may not be able to do ahead of its launch, and also refused to confirm or deny some of the things that people have been saying about it. In that total absence of solid or dependable news, people have begun to make up stories – including one which paints the company in a negative, cash-grabbing light.
If experienced and influential Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is to be believed, the phone won’t come with Ear Pods. That would be a huge mistake. For all of the past decade, every major smartphone created by every major producer has come with headphones. Apple is big in the headphones market. They make AirPods, and they charge a premium for AirPods. Given the cost of a new iPhone, there’s no legitimate reason for not including a set of AirPods (or at least EarPods) in the box as part of a purchase. If Apple hasn’t done this, as Kuo suspects, then it’s a cynical move designed to push customers toward paying even more money for AirPods in a separate purchase.
If these reports are true, this would be the first iPhone in history to launch without a means of listening to music without irritating the people around you. Given the fact that AirPods generally cost somewhere around $200, and factoring in the anticipated $700-$800 cost of a new iPhone, you’re approaching a four-figure spend if you want both the handset and the earbuds. Many people will feel that’s too high a price to pay.
Still Behaving Badly
If the only piece of bad press about Apple that had come out during the past few days concerned its policy on earphones, it wouldn’t be a major issue. Unfortunately for Apple, there’s also a far less pleasant story currently in circulation. You might recall a scandal breaking in 2019 (doesn’t that seem like a long time ago now?), in which it was revealed that Apple was hiring people to listen to recordings obtained by Siri. It quickly transpired that many of these recordings had been acquired without the explicit knowledge or consent of users, and included accidentally-recorded discussions on sensitive topics, and even some clips of people engaged in romantic interludes. Apple quickly owned up to the problem, and promised that they would fix the issue and change their behavior.
Most people accepted the apology and moved on. Unfortunately, it now seems that Apple hasn’t changed its behavior at all. They paid lip service to the idea of doing so, but then just carried on doing exactly what they were doing previously. Thomas le Bonniec, who was once employed by Apple to listen to recordings like these, has now made a formal complaint to data protection regulators in various countries stating that Apple is deliberately and illegally scraping and storing private data about its customers from recorded conversations. It’s important to note that Apple will have the opportunity to defend itself if these allegations ever result in a formal investigation, but Apple’s own past statements seem to confirm that the company intended to continue monitoring Siri recordings after the release of iOS 13.2.
Anybody who has concerns about what Apple may or may not be listening to has the ability to stop any such recordings reaching the company in the first place. You’ll find the option to turn off Siri recording storage under your ‘Settings’ menu, where it’s under ‘Privacy,’ ‘Analytics & Improvement,’ and then ‘Improve Siri & Dictation.’ Once that’s done, head back into ‘Settings,’ look for ‘Siri & Search,’ open ‘Siri History,’ and press the delete option. The depth at which the settings are buried within menus could be taken as an indication of how keen Apple is to obtain the information in the first place.
These two news items leaking at the same time threaten to cast a cloud over the launch of the new iPhone. The headphones issue is annoying. The eavesdropping issue, if correct, is very worrying indeed. Releasing a new iPhone used to be a license to print money for Apple. Now, it’s probably fairer to call it a game of online sports. It’s a fair comparison to make – the company has its Apple Arcade now, and so it knows a thing or two about the online gaming business. People enjoy spending money at roseslots, but they don’t necessarily feel compelled to. They’ll only spend so long as they’re happy with both the rewards and the risks. If they feel like they’re backing a loser, they’ll log off the sporting website and go and spend their money somewhere else.
Apple still has a lot of goodwill. It’s the world’s favorite technology company, and there’s a global audience of millions of people who love their products and are willing to queue overnight to be among the first to get hold of them. Even so, Apple shouldn’t make the mistake of taking that audience for granted. If they keep giving them reasons to look elsewhere, they will eventually do so. In this instance, we’re not asking for a lot. Give us a way of listening to music when we spend hundreds of dollars buying a phone from you, and please don’t listen to our private conversations when we haven’t given you permission to. Is that too much to ask?