AirPods: MIA for the holidays; delayed product damages Apple’s credibility, stokes customer frustration

“Cole Kinnard has been pining for Apple Inc.’s wireless AirPod headphones since September, but the college sophomore recently scratched them off his Christmas list,” Tripp Mickle reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Three months after trumpeting the AirPods as a breakthrough technology, Apple still hasn’t made them available. It says it needs time before they’re ready for consumers. ‘I’m truly disappointed,’ said Mr. Kinnard, of St. Charles, Mo. He recently told his parents he wanted wireless headphones from Germany’s Bragi GmbH instead.”

“AirPods have become a rare public misstep for Apple. In September, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller hailed the earbuds as the entree to a wireless future, with seamless connection to an iPhone and a five-hour battery life,” Mickle reports. “At the September event, Mr. Schiller said the $159 headphones would begin shipping in October. Late that month, Apple said shipment was delayed. It hasn’t provided an update on when the devices might be available or given a reason for the wait.”

iPhone 7 with Apple's AirPods
iPhone 7 with Apple’s AirPods (shipping date TBD)

“Barclays in November said that production is expected to start this month, but Apple only plans to make 10 to 15 million units initially. By comparison, Apple shipped nearly 75 million phones in the final three months of 2015,” Mickle reports. “the delay has damaged Apple’s credibility and stoked frustration among consumers who can’t charge their iPhone 7 while listening to music or conducting a call, says Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. ‘It is an absolute black eye that they missed the holidays,’ Mr. Moorhead said… Apple’s problem ‘has to be something fairly major because they’ve missed the Christmas market with what had the potential to be a really sexy product,’ Nick Hunn, a Bluetooth expert and chief technologist with U.K.-based WiFore Wireless Consulting, said. ‘It’s something that’s blindsided them.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The article very charitably calls this a “rare” misstep on Apple’s part, but how rare is it, exactly?

Off the top of our heads:

• John Browett
• Apple Maps
• No iMacs for Christmas 2012
• Massive undersupply of Apple Watch at launch, basically killing all momentum
• Massive undersupply of Apple Pencils and Smart Keyboards on hand for the iPad Pro launch
• No updated Mac Pro for three years
• No updated Apple TV for Christmas 2016 (A 4K-capable Apple TV would have been so easy, it’s inexplicable and unforgivable not to have this on the market right now)
• No Apple skinny bundle(s) for Apple TV while other companies ink deals and announce launches – these customers will be tough for Apple to get back once lost, if they ever get the deals signed. (Perhaps, Tim, you need to hire better negotiator(s) who can get the ink? Or make an acquisition that reshapes the industry, causing them to line up to work with you?)
• No compatible Remote app for Apple TV at launch
• No Apple Music capability in Siri on Apple TV at launch
• Apple TV remote looks to have been “designed” by Steve Ballmer himself (If Steve wasn’t already dead, the Apple TV Remote would have killed him; he would’ve had an aneurysm the second the mockup was handed to him)*
• Flagship iPhone launches without its flagship feature (Portrait mode) and is currently still only in “beta” (seriously?)
• No new iPads for Christmas 2016 (Even simply “refreshed” with current A-series processors would have created more sales)
• No updated iMacs for Christmas 2016
• No updated Mac mini for 2+ years
• No AirPods for Christmas 2016

Answer: The fact is, sadly, that at the post-Steve Jobs Apple, missteps really aren’t that rare at all.

*With the Siri Remote, users can’t tell which end is up in a darkened room due to uniform rectangular shape. The remote is still too small, so it gets lost easily. All buttons are the same size and similarly smooth. Only the Siri button attempts to be different, but the slightness of its concavity is too subtle to matter; a raised dot on the button would have been much easier for users to feel. The tactile difference between the bottom of the remote vs. the upper Glass Touch surface is too subtle as well; this also leads to not being able to tell which end is up. A remote with a simple wedge shape (slightly thicker in depth at the bottom vs. the top), as opposed to a uniform slab, would have instantly communicated the proper orientation to the user.

Lazy Apple. It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last four years?’ – December 9, 2016
Tim Cook: Apple will begin to ship AirPods over the next few weeks – December 1, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook still hasn’t introduced a mega-hit and investors are growing impatient – November 23, 2016


    1. There is no such thing as a perfect product.

      And that would be okay if Apple just kept their product lines updated and competitive with the rest of the industry.

      Perhaps Apple should focus on delivering what people are asking for instead of distracting itself with extracurricular activities. Apple is now known for pink fashion accessories, architectural excesses, gold watches, vaporware cars, decorating UK hotel christmas trees, scrapbooks, and pride rallies. It is no longer regarded as a technology innovator and it certainly isn’t using its resources effectively to change the world for the better.

      To the excellent MDN list we could add:
      – Final Cut X mess
      – Aperture death
      – iOSification of Pages and Numbers for the Mac
      – iTunes software clusterfuck
      – Siri stupidity
      – not a single iPod update in 513 days and counting
      – zero credible Server products left
      – total lack of product management for the formerly great Apple display
      – Airport & Time Capsule disinterest/stagnation
      – no mid-range standalone desktop Mac
      – 5400 rpm drives in a underspecced Mac Mini
      – no Mac with internal expansion
      – no Mac with NVIDIA GPU options

      1. true and painful!

        WAKE UP AND LISTEN APPLE !!! or has your collective ego grown so freaking overinflated that you are floating somewhere between LALA LAND and THE CLOUDS

    2. Apple’s model under Jobs was to take the time to create great products, and THEN announce/release them.

      Jobs was known to knife a project that stagnated, couldn’t make good on its mandate, got beat to market, etc. They have the capital.

      Underpromise, overdeliver was the order of the day. Now it’s quite the opposite.

      1. interesting u wrote that…… couple days ago i sent this thought to Apple .. along many other thoughs…

        Apple Before
        Under-promise, Over-deliver, …….and then one More thing. 😀

        Apple lately
        Over-promise, Under-deliver……..and then then one Less thing.😒

    3. Chris, based on the article and Gruber’s comments the product works FINE. The problem is that they don’t know how make millions of them. It’s not the product it’s the process, an inexcusable situation for “operations genius” Cook.

  1. I’ve lost a lot of fervor about Apple. I still find iOS 10 maddening. The experience begins every time I try to open my phone (by the way, Apple, how about allowing the code screen to swipe to reveal the camera, just like the normal screen, because I’ve missed more shots than I can count by pressing that damn button and swiping and getting the code screen instead.)

    Whatever. I’m post-Apple. I come here much less often now, just to see if there’s any wow left. Sadly, not much. (That’s a swipe at Apple, not MDN, which I quite admire.)

      1. ButtT:
        I get the impression, ou don’t get it. It’s the non-Mac mindset that’s ok with one more step, one more process standing in the way of the user’s goal. User friendly and intuitive processes have been Apple’s mantra. Such things are sliding away/eroding. Maybe small and insignificant, but people are noticing and such thing accumulate. We already have Windows.

  2. It’s Cook’s apple now. Expect low quality and no product updates. Bottom line, he has no vision and no good ideas until the competition comes up with it so he can copy it.

    He’s living on Job’s fumes and those fumes have long gone.

    1. Love him or hate him, it’s not the point of this message. Rush Limbaugh has a huge audience he also happens to be a fairly astute and passionate Mac user. He voiced many of the same concerns of late and in this post about Apple’s numerous dropped balls. That is a very good thing. I wish there were more like voices exclaiming same.

  3. A different article claims the issue was with ensuring that sound is received separately by each Airpod, and they’re running into issues ensuring they’re properly synced so one doesn’t lag the other.

    So on top of the existing Bluetooth transmission delay, there may now be an additional delay to sync between the Pods. That’ll make watching videos a joy.

    Should’ve just made these wired together, like other BT earphones. This time their obsession with form over function reached too far and it bit them in the ass, hard.

    1. Apple doesn’t only aim for the easy options. If you’re making wireless earbuds, having a wire joining the two of them together isn’t such a great idea.

      Apple is completely right to delay shipping until the product is right. It’s very unfortunate that they will miss the 2016 holiday sales, but that’s massively better than shipping a flawed product.

      Very small timing differences between left and right will manifest themselves as enormous stereo imaging errors. There’s no way that Apple could ship a product with a problem like that, we would never hear the end of it from Apple’s critics.

    2. The Beats X are wired together. If the synced issue is true,
      why won’t Apple sell the X now? I would buy them right
      now and not bother with the airpods in the future, if ever!

    1. Sparkling comment. Thought similarly. If not MDN, someone with sway to pull “the cover” of revenue/profit to expose Apple’s concrete/material and REAL devolution.

    2. Unfortunately, the best answer we could expect would be “we have a very strong pipeline”, “Apple is constantly delivering our best products ever” and “our commitment to (insert product name here) is as strong as ever”. :/

  4. “Rare public missteps ”
    Recently its not so unlike apple to announce and delay .
    If a fundamental technical issue of a product is not resolved ..why announce it!

    Consequently it makes me real concerned about Apples bigger picture … i thought they would be years ahead in R&D…. and whats cooking in the pipeline… this to me is an indicatetion to the contrary .

      1. As if that would matter. Most people here can’t see beyond their own reality. And for some reason, Apple not getting AirPods out the door means lost sales.

        The W1 chip is surely in tight supply. Why put “Apple” branding in front of “Beats” branding during the holiday season. 99.9% of the world will look at Beats over Apple when it comes to buying a set of headphones.

        Apple is OBVIOUSLY making sure they maintain the Beats brand. This is why we’re seeing Beats released before Apple.

        So I stand by what I said, “bunch of fucking morons here”

  5. Unfortunately or fortunately Apple has a tradition of not listening to what customers want. SJ used to say they don’t know what they want until you show it to them, which was true because he was presenting impressive, innovative things. Now they just don’t give a frunk because the money’s rolling in anyway.

  6. Apple releases products when they feel they are ready and feels no market pressure. Better to get it right and make a contribution. Similarly, they upgrade products when they can make a significant contribution, not based on how long since the last upgrade. Don’t like it by from the others who upgrade regularly.

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