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Apple tech-support chatter about Consumer Reports' iPhone snub vanishes

The saga of the iPhone 4's possible reception flaws -- the subject of a harsh Consumer Reports blog post yesterday -- has taken another, weirder turn. Users are complaining that after they post a comment or a query about CR's refusal to recommend the phone on Apple's tech-support forum, company representatives delete the thread.


The Unofficial Apple Weblog wrote about this development in an update this morning. Writer TJ Luoma counted six cases of discussion threads mysteriously vanishing, to be replaced by this vague notice: "Error: you do not have permission to view the requested forum or category." The Luoma post on the AOL-owned blog noted a parallel to the theme of Apple's most famous commercial:

Want some overwrought comparisons to Orwell's 1984? Apple seems to be begging for it.

You can, of course, still find discussions about the CR post -- one that began at 6:05 p.m. yesterday, seen in the screen grab at right, now spans eight pages. (Its second comment: "I'm sure this thread will be deleted soon lol..."). But it's easy to find other threads, beyond those cited in Luoma's post, that appear in a Web search but yield only that "you do not have permission" error when you click through.

Apple PR has yet to reply to my request for comment on the CR story, nor do they appear to have talked to anybody else.

It's important to keep some perspective. Apple is a for-profit company, not a public utility; it is within its rights to decide what appears on its Web site. And its discussion terms of service give it the right to remove offending posts that are not "a technical support question or a technical support answer" or that link to Web sites that don't answer another user's question.

(Yes, the Post has rules of its own about discussions on this site.)

But the issue here isn't what Apple can do, it's what the company should do. And going beyond its traditional silence to stop its customers from talking about coverage of a possible flaw in its product is arrogant and self-defeating.

I asked D.C.-based tech publicist Lisa Amore for comment on how Apple has played this (I've known her since she used to do PR for RealNetworks, which should have given her more than enough practice dealing with bad news). Amore - -a happy owner of an iPod touch who has shied away from buying an iPhone because of worries about AT&T's coverage -- sent a withering response that concluded:

Apple needs to step up to the plate, address the issue, and make amends to their customers. Hiding behind deleted posts and a lack of willingness to talk to the press (and hence their customers) is just plain cowardly.

You know, that whole talk-to-the-people-who-pay-your-salary thing.

The time is past for one-word replies from Steve Jobs to random correspondents; Apple needs to have a conversation with its customers. If the company can provide detailed and regularly updated reports on its environmental efforts, it can also document the performance of its products in sufficient detail to give customers confidence in what they're buying -- or reason to believe that Apple will fix whatever problem does exist.

(As an added bonus, I could then write about something else instead of revisiting this topic every other day.)

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 13, 2010; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , Gripes , Mobile  
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fan boy

Posted by: BMACattack | July 13, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Apple, Apple, Apple. What has happened to you? Just four weeks ago you were riding high on the iPad and the iPhone 4's pending launch. Then you let AT&T kill the unlimited data plan and gave us a phone that has lots of problems. You gave us a lame response from a petulant CEO and now you cannot even get the mea culpa right in iteration #3 or 4.

Read this awesome article that lays into Apple for its quasi apology. Very funny.

Posted by: eye95 | July 13, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Apple being Orwellian? Really, now is when you guys bring up the comparison? Where were you when Apple told people what they can and can't do with their phones? When Apple embarked on an anti-porn crusade in the app store? When Apple rejected apps because they duplicated upcoming-but-unimplemented features of the OS? Now you are shocked...

Posted by: tundey | July 13, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

So chat on MacWorld, MacNN, MacRumors, AppleInsider...

Posted by: JakeD3 | July 13, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Most of those comments are bellyaching. The support forum is for tech support. User to user, and sometimes employees get on as well. I don't need to wade through dozens of conspiracy theories from trolls. Keep them off.

Posted by: ObamasGulfResponseIsMuchWorseThanKatrina | July 13, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Evidently you need to be an old man to follow this debate. CR has been so wrong for so many years about so many Apple products that this latter-day wringing of hands should be viewed with suspicion. "Not Recommended"? Wowee! But those of us who would consider purchasing an iPhone should be expected to be the intelligent consumers Apple consumers have always been--Steve Jobs or no Steve Jobs. So if the company has given us another lemon--as it did by making a sweetheart deal with AT&T in the first place--there is nothing preventing us as consumers (or Verizon customers, for that matter) from sitting on the sidelines for yet another decade if necessary, and watching the lions and Christians noisily nibbling it out on the floor of the Colosseum. Apple has to earn its flying toasters every day--and that at least spells job insurance for Mr. Pegoraro (smile).

Posted by: DouglasReynolds | July 13, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I learned a long time ago (as a mac, ipod, iphone user) never to be a beta tester for apple (or any other tech company for that matter). It's fun to be an early adopter--I was an early mac laptop user, an early ipod user, a Sony ereader buyer, and I've participated in many frustrating software updates, hardware recalls, and the like. So I'm not surprised by this situation. I am Q'd up to buy iphone 4 but not until Apple fixes the problem. And, by the way, is it me or is iTunes completely out of control now?

Posted by: cbaer2 | July 13, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Man, apple is starting to become EXACTLY what they were making fun of in that 1984 style commercial. I think this dude is right "The End of Apple" Read here,641.0.html

Posted by: fakedude1 | July 13, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Apple is the most arrogant company in the USA. They also seem to be the one most thoroughly covered in Teflon.

Posted by: jmyers8888 | July 14, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

It is rare for any respectable company -- including the Washington Post -- to leave its forums unmoderated. This is a good thing.

Apple's support forum policy is clearly posted, and they keep the site clean and relevant. Apple has always policed its web forums, and it has every right to do so. I would expect the same from anyone if i went to their website posting the trash that is commonly posted in unmoderated forums of the web.

Posted by: roule | July 14, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Egg on the face or teflon no-stick? I like the idea of wrapping the girl in aluminum foil and grabbing the phone, as the antenna work-around fix. However i notice when I make the turn around the beltway zipping in and out of traffic the reception is crystal clear. How's that?

Posted by: CMVienna | July 14, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

This isn't new or even really news, but as noted, Apple is a for profit company and has rules on their suppport forums, where criticism isn't acceptable (been there myself). This applies to their other forums as well as an iPhone forum owned and/or operated by Apple in support of their customers. They're no different than any company or any forum for that matter, so it's more the old adage about the criticism, "Where's the beef?"

Posted by: wsrphoto | July 15, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

"a phone that has lots of problems"
The only problem I know of is an intermittent antenna reception problem, that they are rectifying. What in the world has this world come to when everyone expects perfection and you can jump on a company for a small production problem that is less than 3 weeks old. The 2M sales number in that 3 weeks should tell you something about how the public feels in general. It is still the best mobile device on the market, as stated by CR. CR hasn't been relevant since the 70's anyway, so I take everything they report with a grain of salt. I ordered my new white iPhone 4 ten minutes ago, and I'm selling my 3GS for $65 more than I paid for it. Try that with a Droid or whatever they're giving away on a 2-4-1 sale today. Nitpicking whiners.

Posted by: stoneage1 | July 16, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

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