German tech magazine Computer Bild accused Apple of blacklisting the publication in retaliation for an iPhone 6 Plus bend test video. According to an open letter to Tim Cook, Apple's German PR office called Computer Bild the day after it posted a video to YouTube where the magazine's editors bent an iPhone 6 Plus. In that phone, Apple reportedly said the magazine would no longer get review units of Apple products and would no longer be invited to media events.
If true—and I have no reason to believe otherwise—Apple's phone call to the magazine was a mistake, hamfisted, at best, and dodgy at worst. Especially when you see the video. It's no hit job on Apple. It's a bend test. Like many other bend tests. Computer Bild's strongman even bent it back. Here's the video:
From the open letter:
[W]e bought an iPhone 6 Plus, just to find out whether it was a singular problem or some kind of hoax. The test was quite simple, so we could easily record it on video. Just to prove that what happens is nothing but the truth.
To be honest: We were shocked about how easy it was to bend the device. And so were around 200.000 viewers who watched the video up until now. We can imagine that you and your colleagues must have been shocked, too. This might have been the reason why we got a call from one of your German colleagues the next morning. He was upset, and it was a rather short conversation. 'From now on,' he said, 'you won’t get any devices for testing purposes and you will not be invited to Apple events in the future.'
Editor in Chief Axel Telzerow went on to ask Mr. Cook if this is, "really how your company wants to deal with media that provide your customers with profound tests of your products?" He also said that his publication wouldn't compromise its principles and objectivity, and he accused Apple of fearing Computer Bild's independent judgement.
The letter has been slowly gaining media attention (Google Translation) since it was first published on September 29th, and the YouTube version of the magazine's live bend test has increased to 601,000 views. As one would expect, Apple doubters and haters are trumpeting the open letter as proof of something-something-lame-Apple-blah-blah, while Apple's ardent fans are criticizing Computer Bild's decision to even test the device.
Next: Legit Tests and Jerky Knees
Page 2 - Legit Tests
From my perspective, these video tests are quite legitimate. What conclusions one draws from them are much more subjective. For instance, I concluded that if I were to get an iPhone 6 Plus, it would live in a protective case. The end.
Others have concluded that there is a design flaw in the device, but I think that's vastly overstating the situation. While not all phablets bend, several models do. Large device, malleable and lightweight metal. Bend. Duh.
Screenshot from Computer Bild's Video
But what about Apple's handling of the situation? The company was quick to point out it had only received nine complaints from customers over bent iPhones in the first week of availability. As I pointed out in earlier coverage of the issue, that's an in-the-wild failure rate of some 0.00009 percent just on the opening weekend sales—let alone sales between that weekend and the day Apple made the announcement—which isn't even a statistical blip.
To be fair, though, lots of videos have shown people bending these things in their hands—this is a real thing.
In any event, Apple also brought some journos to its testing facility to show how the company tests its products. Both the announcement and the tour were great ideas and very proactive for a company not known for reaching out in the face of criticisms. Apple then slathered some icing on its cake by offering to replace devices that haven't been intentionally bent.
So, really, Apple has done a great job of addressing this head on.
At the Same Time
This German thing, though; that's less good. The truth is it would be very Apple-like to blacklist a publication or journalist because it didn't care for some particular action, but such moves are usually made quietly and without direct acknowledgement.
One day a journalist is simply wondering why they no longer get invites, and then there's a discussion amongst some editors along the lines of, "Hey, do you think it's because of that one article that time?" Yeah, it probably was, and good luck getting to the bottom of it.
To call Computer Bild and tell them they're kaput? I don't like it. I don't like it as a tiny Apple shareholder, I don't like it as a fan of Apple's products, and I don't like as a journalist.
The thing about Apple is that its products are held to a ridiculously high standard. Usually that works out well for everyone concerned. Sometimes it means that Apple gets singled out for something other companies get a pass on (for instance, those phablets from other companies that also bend).
When something like Bendgate happens, we all just want to understand it, to test it for ourselves. Sure, some of those folks might be hit-whores, but publications are in the right to find out for their readers.
Hopefully this was a kneejerk decision by a local PR manager, and not a decision from on high. Also hopefully, a correction will be or already has been mandated from on high.
Bendgate (I still like Bendghazi, but Bendgate seems to have won the day) will blow over, sooner, if not later. There's no need for threats to magazines for testing this stuff out, and there's no need for bad blood. This was a needless black eye for Apple, in my opinion, but this, too, shall blow over.