APPLE yesterday freshened its products for the Christmas rush, and released an operating system upgrade to users free of charge.(I would think that OS upgrades are always free, but not Apple)
But not all Apple developments come without a significant price.
The Cupertino-based company is also renowned for being prickly, for locking users into its systems, and for using geographic barriers as a reason to overcharge customers. Below are some examples of Apple’s worst behaviour.
Australian hardware prices.
Apple’s local hardware pricing is often similar to its US pricing, but not always. Take the Mac Pro announced yesterday. In the US, the machine will cost you $US2999 or $3090 in Australian dollars. In Australia, that same machine will set you back $3999. Even if you add GST to the US figure, there’s $600 unaccounted for and a lot of extra money coming out of Australian pockets.
Singing iTunes’ song.
Want to buy the same song as an American user? If it’s available in the Australian iTunes Store, it will probably cost more Down Under. Katy Perry’s song Roar? It’ll cost you $2.19 in Australia and $US1.29 in the States. The “Deluxe” version of her album will cost $20.99 in Australia, but just $US14.99 in the States. The songs sound the same.
Want to use a smartphone? You’ll need an active Micro SIM card. Except with Apple, of course. Apple introduced the Nano SIM with the iPhone 5, a format no other phone uses. The act forced users to ask their carriers for a new SIM card, and effectively locked users into the brand unless they bought and used an adequate adaptor for other phones. Use that adaptor incorrectly, and you could tear the SIM contacts on your other phone.
Since the invention of the iPod, Apple used a 30-pin connector to connect its devices to others. This 30-pin adaptor spread far and wide, from stereo docks to car radios, and the cables snaked through offices everywhere. Then, last year, Apple swapped this cable for a smaller, Lightning connector, rendering all 30-pin connections cumbersome, at least, and obsolete at worst. The company also initially refused to let other manufacturers make the cable, forcing customers to pay $25 for a spare charging cable.
Software updates forever.
Unlike other manufacturers, Apple ensures once you upgrade your software, there’s no going back. Even if the new software slows your device or gives you motion sickness, you cannot return to the comfort of old iOS software. A Californian man this week launched legal action against Apple for that problem, filing a small claims action that calls the move “corporate thuggery”.
Locked into iTunes.
Once upon a time, customers who bought iTunes music could only play that music in Apple devices or within the iTunes program. Digital Rights Management software prevented its use elsewhere. While Apple has relaxed the requirement, after several lawsuits, the company will still only let users backup their device to one computer. Want to sync your iPod to a laptop and a desktop computer? Nope. Not allowed.
Locked out of your phone.
One new feature in Apple’s iOS 7 software can help prevent theft … or forever brick your device with no chance of appeal. It’s called Activation Lock. If your phone is reported lost using Find My iPhone, users must enter the original Apple ID used to activate the phone. If they cannot remember it, or cannot access it in the case of a second-hand phone, the phone will be forever bricked. Apple support will not help you recover a phone bricked in this way.
Think “start-up” is a common term? Apple doesn’t. In August it filed an application in Australia to trademark “start-up” for its exclusive use. The application follows similar filings by Apple in the US and China. And they follow Apple’s claim that “app store” should also be its trademark. Oh, and before you say, “there’s an app for that”, remember that’s an Apple trademark too.
Apple launched its iBooks application in 2010. The library-looking app let users download digital tomes to their iDevices and will, with Mavericks, allow the books to be read on Mac screens too. But the company recently lost a battle with the US Department of Justice, with a court finding Apple had artificially kept the price of digital books high by excluding competition. It recommended Apple allow the likes of Kindle, Kobo and Barnes & Noble to sell books within Apple’s ecosystem, and was awarded a $US162.25 million settlement. Apple is appealing the decision.
Closed app store.
There are benefits to having a closed app store, with apps carefully vetted for security. But Apple can go too far, banning apps for its own purposes. HMV’s app was this week booted from Apple’s app store for letting users listen to music, Apple previously rejected the Google Now app from its store, inspiring Google to file a lawsuit, and Apple recently banned apps that recommend other Apple apps to users, including popular French-made AppGratis.