By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website
Apple Computer has one of the strongest brands in the world. But are reported problems with some of its newest products in danger of damaging that reputation?
Apple has released a new line-up of laptop computers
Dave Verwer is a technology professional in the UK who made the decision to switch to Apple Macs after years of using machines which run Microsoft Windows.
He spent in excess of £1,000 to buy a MacBook Pro from the US, the latest laptop released by Apple, but after three months he encountered unexpected problems.
"It is an expensive product and I did not make the choice to buy it lightly.
"I knew that new products have teething problems and friends had warned me that Apple's first revision hardware have had some problems in the past."
He said: "I noticed my MacBook Pro would get down to 30% battery left and then shut off without warning.
"It had done this for a couple of weeks before I noticed that the battery case was swollen and coming away from the laptop casing."
A search online reveals that the swollen battery problem is not unique to Mr Verwer.
Other users have similar issues - there are also complaints about the heat generated by Apple's new range of laptops, a whining noise emitted by the early models and stains appearing on the MacBook - as opposed to the MacBook Pro - laptops.
"It seems to be affecting a very small percentage of products," said Nate Elliott, a digital home analyst with Jupiter Research.
"Apple has always done things so well and asked customers to pay more for products that work well. Any problems that do exist are going to be reported."
While news of problems has leapt across blogs, online forums and even pictures posted online to Flickr, the photo sharing site, the scale of the problem is not known.
Apple was asked about the problems by BBC News and said in a statement that it was "aware of this input and is looking into it".
The statement added: "If a customer has any technical issues, they should contact AppleCare."
Experienced Apple watcher Leander Kahney, who runs the Cult of Mac blog and writes for Wired, said the issues were most likely teething problems.
"There is something of an echo chamber quality about the internet," he said.
"For individual consumers the customer experience is always good."
Graham Barlow, editor of Mac Format magazine, agreed: "Every time Apple produces a new product there is always going to be teething problems.
"They push the boundaries. Inevitably some of the first products to market need a bit of tweaking."
But with the internet arguably distorting the scale of the problem, what impact could this have on Apple's brand?
"The reports of problems do not seem to have affected Apple's brand so far," said Mr Elliott.
"Apple are a victim of their own success. Everything they do is reported," said Mr Barlow.
Mr Verwer's battery was lifting out of the case
He added: "But a lot of people do not have these problems. With the internet we do not know if these are problems experienced by a lot of people or whether this is out of proportion."
Apple is in the process of replacing its line-up of computers that used IBM chips with ones made with Intel chips. As the new machines are rolled out the company is also taking the opportunity to re-design many of the machines with new hardware and features.
Apple may be the dominant force in the digital music world but in terms of computer hardware sales it remains a modest player.
The firm sold around 1.2m Macs in each of the last four quarters while a PC manufacturer like Dell can sell around 37 million in a year.
Mr Kahney said: "There have been a few problems with the move to Intel. But there could have been a lot more.
"When they have completed the switch and ironed out the problems they will be looking for big increases in market share."
Mr Elliott believes that the reported problems will not have an impact in the medium to long term.
"I suspect that if you ask Apple users who have experienced problems whether they would continue to buy Apple products the answer will be a resounding yes," he said.
But what of Mr Verwer? has the experienced affected his impression of Apple?
"I would buy another Apple product. But I might not buy it so closely to it coming out, however."
Have you had any problems with your new Apple MacBook or MacBook Pro? Is the Apple brand suffering from the internet reports about problems? Your comments:
Having used Apple products for the past six (6) years, I have observed sporadic quality issues, however Apple has been very responsive in addressing them. Regardless, Apple should revisit the manufacturers they employ to ensure that the quality of their design is reflected in the quality of the product.
Moin Haque, New York City, USA
I have a BlackMac, the new and more expensive of the MacBook line. It failed the first time I used it. Apple replaced it. Then, the RAM failed, and Apple replaced that. I hear tell of paint problems even on the Blackmacs but as yet, have not had the problem. Generally speaking, the unit operates as advertised. I cannot remain angry, although I was at first. That said, I cannot recall a computer on either side of the "OS fence" that was entirely trouble-free. At some level, they all stink. Much the same could be said for cell phones and automobiles I suppose. One makes the best, most well informed purchase decision one can make, and then muddles through. I remain a loyal Apple customer not because they replace repeatedly defective machines, but because they seem to always push the envelope in my direction as a user.
Joe Russo, Reno, Nevada, USA
BBC be fair enough to give the same bad headlines to other computer manufacturers and stop knocking the Apple brand.
Brian, Bournemouth UK
This is a big issue for users who have bought very early Macbook Pro's (from Feb-March 2006). Both myself and many others have been having major power issues since Apple deployed a firmware update at the start of June, all centering around the battery.
In essence, we now only get 5-10 mins of battery power before the laptop suddenyl shuts down. This means it will only work when it is plugged in. After numerous calls to Apple for a replacement, we were told that this is not a known problem and that it would have to be sent away for repair (anything from 4 days - 2 weeks), and not we couldn't have a replacement in the meantime as we should have bought ourselves a second laptop as a backup!
The Apple forums show many more people with this issue:
Philip Wilkinson, Wimbledon, London.
I think with most products whether cars, computers etc it is always very sensible to steer clear of fist runs of new products, don't get me started on my last VW Golf!
The problem with Apple evangelists is that their computers could blow up in their faces and they still would not blame Apple. There is a reason that Apple only hold 5% of the PC market... anyone remember iPods with non-replaceable rechargeable batteries..
A few years ago the ASA told Apple to pull an advert in which the claimed they had the fastest PC ever! This year Apple switch to the same chips they said were slower than the chips Apple were using.. hmmm...
Andy Bird, Lincoln, UK
What we must remeber is that the macbooks and macbook pro's have been rushed out early because of the demand from consumers for better machines. Apple needs to not release its products too early
As much as I hate to tempt fate, I bought a (white) MacBook a couple of weeks after the release and so far I have experienced no problems at all with it (although it certainly runs hot).
In response to Simon from King's Lynn saying: "The cable became so hot it melted the cord slightly and shorted out... Apple replaced it under warranty, but wanted the power cord back as "nothing like this had happened before"
This is electrical breakdown and can be a common occurance in many electrical products. Excessive heat causes the insulation around a cable to become conductive and can result in electrical shocks, severe injuries or even death depending on the current (rather than voltage.)
Mike Deere, Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan
I went out and bought a MacBook on the day they came out. The spec - 2GHz, dual-core, dual display, etc. - was just too good to resist. There is now some slight discolouration, and it does get a bit hot. Otherwise, what I'd hoped for is indeed what I've got.
It is perhaps disappointing that heat dissipation is still an issue. However, I'd rather have a slim and silent machine today than a cooler one tomorrow, even if this does cause the Apple brand to suffer.
Rob Dickens, Walsall, UK
Darren, is this the best 'story' you can come up with today?
A tiny percentage of a new product comes with a problem (which is more often than not fixed under warranty) and the BBC Technology Editor is happy to put his name to an article suggesting that the Apple reputation will suffer, blimey, you need a holiday or if you have just come back from one, a holiday to get over your holiday. Give your head a shake ....
Owen Robinson, Hartlepool UK
I think in a sense you've answered your own question as this article serves to highlight the media focus on Apple, more so that any other PC manufacturer. When was the last time you ran a similar piece on Dell? Does anyone care?!
Regarding the specific problems, I do not own a Macbook or Macbook Pro, but do own an iMac which I bought about 3 years ago - it's still as functional as the day I bought it, and I've had no problems at all with it. I also have an original 'vintage' ipod, which is still going strong.
With Apple's products the biggest problem for me is justifying the expense of an upgrade, as the quality of the originals is so good I don't want to move on.
I think for Apple the only barrier to increasing market share is being able to physically demonstrate the quality of their product range - the majority of people who have converted from a PC to a Mac (such as the gentlemane in your article) have little or no regrets.
Al, London, UK
I have had my MacBook Pro for around a month or so now and it has been absolutely fantastic. This is my first Apple computer product and other than a small annoyance of getting quite warm (which is bound to happen due to the immense computing power inside for a unit of their size) I am completely satisfied. Would I buy another Apple product after this one? Well i'm actually moving to the UK in around a year... and I plan to buy another when I arrive.
David, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I have been a Mac user for over twenty years and the last two computers I purchased a G5 and an Imac have had many problems. The Imac has overheated and burned up the power supply three times now. It was recalled, but I was never sent a notice of the recall. The G5 has been to the repair shop twice in the last two years and still has problems. They have lost what it was that made Mac great.
Michael Krouskop, Nashville, Tennessee USA
Strange that you have a piece detailing how amazing Windows Vista is going to be, which also refers to Mac users as smug, then we have this piece asking people to send in fault reports on Apple hardware? Why not do the same with Dell, HP, Sony etc and every other hardware manufacturers? You wouldn't want people accusing you of being biased would you?
Steven, Cambridge, England
If people are tired of Windows, and they dont want to spend thousands of dollars on a new system, maybe they should consider a switch to one of the fine Linux Distros. Check out a google search, and you will plesently suprised by the amount of free software available to you, as long as Many different versions of the OS...all Free
Eliasz Zurawka, Mississauga, Canada
I have Macintosh and other apple products since 2000. So far the only thing that presented problems was the ear buds from Ipod. That after I slept over it, sweat on it, step on it and even got tangled up on it. Compared to other products on the market, in my opinion, Apple has, by far, better quality.
Carlos Franco, Richmond, London, UK
The question you should focus on is: Does Apple take care of any problems that arise?
The Apple Brand is not suffering. They have excellent products.
I think the real issue here is that journalism is suffering, as evidenced by this flimsy article.
Jonathan Good, Houston USA
I had an iBook and the screen stopped working. I expected Apple to be awkward about it because it was just out of warranty, but they sent out a courier and had it fixed at no charge.
It was an amazing level of customer service that I'm just not used to. Since then I've bought more Apple gear simply because they look after their customers.
Had Apple products most of my working life although I work for HP and have found none of them problamatic or cause any issues what so ever.
Karl Bate, Quarry Bank, West Midlands
I've got a four week old Mac Book Pro, which throws Kernal Panics when using Airport. Having looked around the net it seems it's pretty common. The fault sems to be the Logic board. I called Apple support, who were poor and refuse to exchange/fix my MacBookPro, until they talk me through the basics of self - help. I decided to give up when I was offered the chance of 'being talked through how to restart'. A real shame the MBP is a wonderful machine, that deserves better support from Apple
Paul O'Brien, Nottingham
An iMac G5 I bought 18 months ago for £1200 is now pretty much unusable due to overheating problems. Apple are not remotely interested in helping me get it fixed - they even want to charge me just to look at it. When you buy a premium product, it's reasonable to expect a premium service but Apple show no signs of providing it. I'm sticking with standard PCs from now on - at least when they break, they're generally easy and cheap to fix.
I got my MacBook Pro on the first day of UK release. After about a month I experienced the same problem as Dave Verwer - the battery dying without warning at 30%. Apple replaced the battery under warranty.
Just last week I had another problem with power - the proprietary (and ingenious) magnetic plug started to come away from its lead. Soon afterwards the cable became so hot it melted the cord slightly shorted out. Again Apple replaced it under warranty, but wanted the power cord back as "nothing like this had happened before".
I realise that this is part of the "early adopter experience", and Apple have been very efficient with their warranty replacements, but it's still dented my opinion of Apple's quality control somewhat. As for buying another Apple, I'm with Mr Verwer!
Simon, King's Lynn
I know many people that all use the Apple products. Out of my closest four friends who own Apple stuff, three of them have had to return it at some time to have it fixed. All three of them were upset with the poor standards of customer support and slow turnaround times.
Nathaniel Thomas, London
I bought a Macbook as soon as they were available in the US. It is a beautiful machine which runs perfectly. A small minority of machines do have problems - however Apple's customer care service is well known to be very helpful. Don't be scared off by hyped up reports on the internet, very few people make a fuss when things are great! The macbook is a fantastic machine!
Vicki, NC, USA
After buying a few different Apple products I can say I am very pleased with them. I believe that the problems that people are experiencing are to be expected Apple products which do sometimes have problems. The first Powerbooks paint chipped off and the Powermac G4 earned a reputation of being very noisy. But these where fixed and so will the current problems.
M Jolly, foxhound
I am aware of the problems that others have had but to be honest I think Apple have always made the effort to resolve the problems where it is definitely their fault!
Meanwhile try and get the same response form certain other manuacturers whose laptops have been seen to physically explode and the company deny it
Alex Robinson, Leicestershire
Despite having only a small share of the market, only Apple make Macs, so they are in a monopoly position. Most Macs I've bought (over 15 years) have had problems of one sort or another. Nothing too serious and nothing to convince me to switch to PC, but their customer service is appalling. I've known them admit a fault was their design failure but not repair it because it was more than 90 days old. Apple simply doesn't care about its customers because it doesn't need to.
Richard Ghail, London, UK
I hope the BBC is going to be fair and unbiased by also doing a piece on the problems that Dell have with their laptops, one exploding into flames. This has certainly been mentioned at lot by other news sites, including, via Drudge, The International Herald Tribune.
So when are we to see a BBC piece?
Barry, London, UK