Apple’s Balance Between Quality and Speed

When someone purchases an Apple product they expect a certain level of quality; however, recently, this expected standard of quality has not been met  for many customers. Many of you probably had software issues this Fall where “I” changed to “A {?]” or more recently “it” changed to “I.T.”, and the list of recent glitches does not end there. These bugs are a huge issue that has created a burden for Apple users and has been a PR nightmare for Apple. Furthermore, Apple has had to pay external failure costs to have their employees work around the clock to fix these problems.

The cause of these glitches is Apple’s engineers trying to create innovative improvements at an exceptionally fast pace without the necessary amount of time to fix any issues. Apple’s business model is to release updates every Fall meant to “wow the faithful [Apple users] and make rivals seem slow-footed” (Bloomberg). In comparison, their biggest competitor, Android, does not have any set release schedule and release updates on their own time. These two differing update schedules has created a huge variation in update rates between the two companies. Data shows that 90% of Apple users currently use one of the two most recent iOS updates; whereas, only 30% of Android users have downloaded the latest two versions of Google’s mobile OS. The high rate of Apple downloads is due in part to users’ expectation that the new iOS update will be a higher quality than the one they are currently using. But, when the update comes packed with glitches that expectation is unfulfilled and customers’ perception of quality diminishes.

Because of this, Apple is refocusing their strategy to prioritize quality over the number of features in an update. They are redesigning their update schedule to be one a two-year cycle instead of one year. Furthermore, they are allowing their engineers to have more “discretion” and allowing them to suggest delays to the release of features that are not completely perfect and glitch-free. This is all an effort to improve the quality of Apple’s product. An example of this is their planned release for next Fall. They have decided to delay their launch of new home screens for the iPhone and iPad as well as updates to the Photos and CarPlay apps. Instead they will be focusing on the updates for seamless use of apps across devices, a new Digital Health tool, and improvements to Animojis. The Bloomberg article states, “the renewed focus on quality is designed to make sure the company can fulfill promises made each summer at the annual developers’ conference and that the new features work reliable as advertised”. They are prioritizing releases an ensuring a level of quality that they might not have before.

At this point, it is not realistic for Apple to be able to release updates that have a full roster of improvements at the speed they used to. App developer, Steven Troughton-Smith states “Apple’s smaller scale helped it build better-quality software than the rest of the market, but with its newfound size it has been seemingly unable to find the right balance.” However, with this new schedule it seems like they are making the appropriate steps between speed and quality.

Sources:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-12/how-apple-plans-to-root-out-bugs-revamp-iphone-software

https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/2/16727238/apple-macos-ios-software-problems-updates

9 thoughts on “Apple’s Balance Between Quality and Speed

  • February 15, 2018 at 7:40 am
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    Caroline –

    I really enjoyed your piece. It is commonplace when reading an article about Apple, to see them regarded in a positive light. I am, as many of us, an Apple-user, but I still critique Apple as a company regularly. After all my years of being an Apple consumer (~7 years), I typically find myself unhappy with the company for one reason or another. Why do I remain a customer of Apple? I think their products and technology are the most advanced and applicable to the world we are living in today. This is ultimately my order qualifier that trumps all. However, as Dr. Youngblood has said in class before, you don’t go to a restaurant just because the food is good – you go for the entire experience.
    I think the ‘entire experience’ is something Apple should really begin to focus on. Their brand is undeniably omnipotent. Where they are lacking is in the field of customer quality. One prominent example of this is with their iPhone chargers. I would say, on average, I purchase a new iPhone charger every 4-5 months. The charger is not user-friendly due to its low-quality make. If Apple made higher quality chargers that only needed to be replaced every 2 years or so when we upgrade our phones, the company would lose a significant portion of their revenue.
    Additionally, the update that removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, is in no way user friendly. I use my headphones nearly every day, but not the Apple ones. I think they are uncomfortable due to the fact that they are too big for my ears. However, if I want to use my own headphones, I need to remember my small converter to allow me to even plug my headphones into my phone. There was a span of time last year where I had to go to Walmart three times within a month to buy a new converter. It is small, and it gets lost easily. To me it seemed that Apple didn’t even consider the customer when they made this decision. An easy fix for them would be to even offer a wider variety of affordable headphones with different ear grips and so on.
    As you mentioned in your article, Apple is honing in on the quality of their updates. Maybe their next priority will be the quality to the consumer on the topic of add-on products. It will be interesting to see, now that Apple has a market majority, how will they handle being a leader? Can they truly turn their focus to the customer and remain successful?

  • February 14, 2018 at 11:01 pm
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    Caroline,
    It is interesting to hear about the glitches and problems Apple has had over the last couple of months. Although the company is known for its highly innovative products, I do believe Android is a very strong competitor.
    I had been an Android user ever since I got my first smartphone back in 2012. I’ve had several and and I came to like the system. This being said, last January I switched to an Iphone. Although I was excited about it, it was my parents who enjoy Apple products better than I do that convinced me to get one. And after little over a month of using it, I find nothing about the software to be more special than Android.
    The interesting thing about Android is that there is no need to buy a specific brand in order to get the operating system like you would have to do if you wanted IOS. Instead, Android can be found in a variety of brands and at very different price ranges. This being said, a lot of Android’s quality comes from the capacities of the phone itself such as how much storage the device has or how many megapixels the camera has. If a poor quality phone with an Android OS is in use two costs of poor quality arise: defects and external failure cost. These two are tied together since defects is when the process fails to satisfy the product and external failure costs arise when a defect is found. Even though this is highly unlikely to happen to an Apple product, this is exactly what has happened with IOS’s last update.

  • February 14, 2018 at 10:53 pm
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    Caroline,

    I really enjoyed reading about this topic because it is very relevant to our generation, as many of us have the iPhone. One of the things that sparked my interest while reading your post was the idea of quality behind the iPhone. In my business ethics class while I was abroad, we discussed the faulty batteries that iPhone admitted to releasing. They, in turn, made a recall of their batteries because they were affecting the performance of the phone, which is of course the right thing to do if your product is not performing the way you are promised when you bought the item.

    There is also a rumor that has been circulating for several years that iPhone updates can potentially slow down the speed of your phone as well, prompting you to upgrade to a new iPhone. If this is true, then that is seriously unethical and should be corrected. I am concerned that the iPhone is not truly as high quality as we think it is. If one was to think back to when all everyone had was flip-phones, they would realize that they could use that phone for years without ever having to take it to get repaired. Now, iPhones are practically expected to need repair after just a year and a half of using it. Hopefully, something can change in iPhones to get back to its old ways.

  • February 14, 2018 at 8:18 pm
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    Caroline,

    I agree with your assessment that quality management is something that Apple has exceled at in the past, and top quality is something that defines their brand. Unfortunately, because of their rapid growth and ascension to top-tier technology company status, Apple has struggled to maintain its reputation. The speed at which the company churns out updates for their different platforms and devices seems to have caught up with them and is adversely affecting their consistency of quality. As we know from our class discussions and readings, quality has two major components: degree of quality and consistency of quality. While Apple still boasts top-tier quality, the consistency of their quality has begun to waver in the form of annoying bugs and glitches that tend to frustrate users who have become accustomed to Apple’s excellent Quality Management. To understand how big of a problem this is for Apple, I suggest reading this article on Seeking Alpha that underlines just how important quality is to Apple’s brand.

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/2475125-apples-quality-is-a-competitive-advantage

    Thanks for your insightful post.

  • February 14, 2018 at 6:09 pm
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    Apple has had many problems and they have been frustrating to me as well. In addition to these update issues, they have has significant problems in other parts of their business as well. To start, they made a public apology to their customers for slowing down their processing speed on older iPhones as well as over charging customers for battery replacement. In January apple slowed their production of the iPhone X after demand for the new and “revolutionary” product was less than anticipated. And now, Apple is struggling to compete with Amazon Alexa with their new HomePod. It launched this past week despite arriving almost three years after Amazon Echo and costing far more ($350 vs. $100). The biggest thing that Apple consumers is the ability to integrate their in-home smart device with the apple ecosystem of products and a superior sound system. However, with shortcomings in software in addition to Siri leaving a lot to be desired, it will be difficult for Apple to get at the approximate 70% share that Amazon holds in the market. I am interested to see the reaction of consumers to this new introduction and how they may be able to use it to offset much of the negative press they have gotten over the past few months.

  • February 14, 2018 at 12:29 pm
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    Caroline,

    It is interesting that you brought this up. Apple is a company that is founded upon its innovativeness and the ability to provide the customers with what they want before they know what they want. I have been frustrated for years with the quality of my Apple products. I get annoyed with the almost constant software updates and glitches. Also constantly acquainting myself with new interfaces and appearances and dealing with the slow fixing of issues. As you said, I would much rather have them have flawless products that are simpler than have all sorts of gimmicky additions that don’t work. I’m glad that Apple is focusing on their quality management to improve customer satisfaction. For a while, Apple could get away with mistakes because they were so innovative but now that they’re the giant that they are, customer satisfaction is becoming a lot more important.

  • February 14, 2018 at 10:52 am
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    Caroline,

    From observations in the classroom and in the library, the majority of students at Richmond have Mac computers and everywhere you go it appears that everyone has an iPhone. Apple is known to have top quality products that have a long life compared to its competitors. One of the largest selling points for Mac computers and laptops is its longevity. Furthermore, Apple has high brand equity, which is a result of the trust it has built with consumers. Apple prides itself as a company that develops innovative high-quality products that are reliable and known to last with the latest technology.

    Recently, Apple has had negative press regarding its software updates that as you mentioned in your post along with poor battery-life performance on older iPhone models (https://www.apple.com/iphone-battery-and-performance/). As a result of this negative press, Apple has had to release public statements in attempts to regain their customers’ trust. This negative press has resulted in Apple suffering numerous costs that could be classified as poor quality. These costs can be classified as defects and external failure costs. However, now Apple is incurring prevention costs with refocusing their quality strategy in order to achieve their customers’ standards.

    Apple realizes that customer stratification and trust is important in developing successful products and upholding its high brand equity. It is especially important in maintaining the top highest quality Apple is known for. Quality is a term used by customers to describe their general satisfaction with a product. As we discussed in class, quality is in the eyes of the beholder. Therefore, the customers have a large role in determining if a product’s quality is up to their standards. In regards to the battery performance issues Apple customers were experiencing, Apple released a statement that reiterated that customer trust means everything to them. Apple continued by saying: “We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.” Here, Apple recognizes the importance of its customers’ opinion. This also serves as an example of how customer involvement can have disadvantages and advantages. If customers are satisfied with a product’s quality than customer involvement is a plus however, if customers are not satisfied than customer involvement is a negative.

  • February 13, 2018 at 11:23 am
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    Caroline,

    I definitely remember the update issue this Fall that changed “I” to “A {?]” and “it” changed to “I.T.” Because of this, I try to avoid the updates as much as I can because I fear what will happen to the layout of my phone. In fact, I know I am not the only one that doesn’t like updates because I hear my friends complain on a monthly basis about certain app updates. A couple months ago, the Instagram update scrambled the order of the posts, which generated a lot of animosity from my friend group. Recently, Snapchat administered an update and it is awful. I don’t think I have heard one positive thing about it. According to an article I read, people don’t like change for a variety of reasons. 1) Change interferes with our sense of autonomy. By changing the structure of something, we feel like we have lost control over something we own. 2) Concerns about self-confidence. Any change, no matter how small, can psychologically make somebody doubt their ability to do something. Even if they do not even realize it. 3) Change creates more work because we have to devote time into discovering how to operate new style. Below is the link to the article if you want to read more.

    https://hbr.org/2012/09/ten-reasons-people-resist-chang

    Therefore, changes as minor as the layout of our phone can create a variety of negative psychological consequences. So why would Apple want to administer updates on a very quick schedule that will constantly change how people use their phone? Personally, I am glad that they are starting to increase the amount of time in between each update because most of the time, I do not like the change that comes with most updates. Thanks for your post!

    • February 14, 2018 at 9:38 am
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      Daniel, I definitely try to avoid the Apple updates as much as I can or I wait until the “kinks” have been worked out until I update my phone. For some of my friends the update this fall that changed “I” to “A {?]” and “it” changed to “I.T.” still hasn’t resolved itself and this issue still persists. I think that at the core of the issue is that users are unaware of what changes will be made to the layout or functions of the phone with each update. Users mindlessly and automatically update their phone without knowing what truly will change and if they are ok with the changes that will be made. Instead, Apple should provide a brief paragraph summary of what changes the update will bring in simple, understandable terms so users are aware of what they are getting into. If they don’t like the changes, then they don’t have to download the update. Thanks for your comment!

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