Apple Engineers "Totally Wrong", Nintendo Misjudged Excitement And Other Great Corporate Excuses

This morning iPhone owners woke to a very unusual thing: an apology letter from Apple.

Everything about the letter, from its opening line of "Dear iPhone 4 Users", to its unusual use of phrases like "totally wrong", is cringe-inducing, but Apple isn't the only company that doesn't know how to come clean when they screw up.

Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony have each had their share of non-apology, apologies. Here's a breakdown of our favourites.

Microsoft

The Claim

The original design for the Xbox 360 led to overheating and a higher than usual number of broken Xbox 360's. The death of the console was signified by a red ring.

The Official Response

In a move to benefit customers, Microsoft Corp. announced today that it will change the Xbox 360 warranty from 90 days to one year from the date of purchase in the United States and Canada. Microsoft extended the warranty in these territories to be consistent with the standard one-year Xbox 360 warranty that is available throughout most of the world. The news is reason to celebrate this holiday season; it applies to both would-be purchasers and those who already have Xbox 360 and are still within their first year of ownership.

Effective today, the one-year warranty is now the standard for the Xbox 360 console. Customers who experience hardware issues with their Xbox 360 within one year of purchase can have their consoles repaired at no cost. Moreover, the new warranty policy is retroactive, so consumers who may have already paid for an out-of-warranty Xbox 360 repair within one year of purchase will be eligible for reimbursement of their console repair charges.

"Customer satisfaction is a central focus and priority for the Xbox 360 system," said Jeff Bell, corporate vice president of Global Marketing for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "In addition to jaw-dropping features such as high-definition graphics, an amazing catalog of over 160 games, and social online and entertainment experiences on Xbox Live, the Xbox 360 system now offers this extended warranty upgrade. It is truly the industry's most compelling home entertainment offering."

Customers who have already paid out-of-warranty repair charges within their first year of ownership can expect reimbursement checks for the amount of their console repair in approximately 10 weeks. Reimbursements will be automatically distributed, so customers need not contact Microsoft. Customers who have questions regarding this policy change or experience any hardware issues should visit http://www.xbox.com/en-US/support/contact where they can check their warranty status, find troubleshooting information for common issues and find Xbox support contact information.

Our Favourite Line

"In addition to jaw-dropping features such as high-definition graphics, an amazing catalog of over 160 games, and social online and entertainment experiences on Xbox Live, the Xbox 360 system now offers this extended warranty upgrade."

Reality Check

Microsoft managed to lump in an extended warranty spurred by faulty design with the console's other "jaw-dropping features".

Nintendo

The Claim

The straps included with the Wii Remote were too thin, causing them to snap sometimes when a player's grip on the controller slipped while playing a game. This lead to several documented cases of injuries and damages. The Official Response

Nintendo has a long tradition of delivering high-quality products and excellent customer service. The Wii Remote is meant to be gripped, and the wrist straps are a secondary measure. We have found that some consumers get more excited playing Wii Sports than we could have imagined. This resulted in a very small number of wrist straps breaking. We have replaced the broken wrist straps and continue to reinforce with consumers the safe and fun use of our products. Through its voluntary wrist strap replacement program, Nintendo is offering a stronger wrist strap free of charge to consumers by calling 800-859-4519 or by visiting support.nintendo.com.

Our Favourite Line

"We have found that some consumers get more excited playing Wii Sports than we could have imagined."

Reality Check

Nintendo ended up blaming overly excitable gamers for issues caused by poor design decisions.

Sony

The Claim

The original design of the Playstation Portable included a square button that didn't respond or would stick.

The Official Response

Following complaints by consumers in Japan, Sony Computer Entertainment officially announced that it will repair any PSP suffering from a defective square button.

Our Favourite Line

"The button's location is [architectured]on purpose. It's according to specifications. This is something that we've created, and this is our specification. There was a clear purpose to it, and it wasn't a mistake." - Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi talking to Japanese press a month before offering to repair the faulty buttons.

Reality Check

Sony denied there was a problem, instead blaming the user... right up until they had to repair the product.

Apple

The claim

The iPhone 4's new antenna design, which wraps around the phone, is faulty, causing a dramatic drop in the phone's reception if held wrong. The Official Response

Dear iPhone 4 Users,

The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple's history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

To fix this, we are adopting AT&T's recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone's bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same - the iPhone 4's wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologise for any anxiety we may have caused.

As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Apple

Our Favourite Line

"Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong."

Reality Check

Sure, Apple accepts responsibility for a phone that lies about how strong your signal strength is, but that's not the issue, that's just a sign of the problem. When it comes to the real problem, the the bad reception, Apple continues to say it's an AT&T reception issue, not a design flaw.


Comments

    Yeah exactly, kind of skirts the issue of the reception. 'Someone got the display wrong, it's all good1!'... er, no, not really. If this is presumably the best reception they claim to have so far, what's that saying for the previous phones?

    There needs to be a better way for us consumers to beat down these corporations when they pull nonsense like this.

    It's so infuriating and yet the majority of people will just take it like the fools they are.

      @boc There is a way, return or don't purchase their products. I understand it is "after the fact" but if you arn't happy with it then don't use it.

    I have never dropped a controller in my life. This is not counting me intentionally and lightly throwing my controllers onto the couch next to me when I'm done for the night. They have been known to bounce right off.

    That being said I never broke a wrist strap on my Wii or lost my grip on the controller. I knew a guy, he hated losing in games back on the original NES, if you beat him or he lost that controller would be hurled with great force across the room, the damn things never broke.

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