"Our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it"
Apple December 2017
The following scenario is fictitious, any resemblance or reference to persons present or past is entirely coincidental.
The corridors of the Cupertino headquarters reverberated to the sound of gnashing teeth; sales of the new iPhone were not going according to plan. Q4 sales figures did not make for great reading; the January earnings call was going to be 'prickly'.
"We've got to do something" barked Tim, "And fast".
Gathering his team, a plan was swiftly hatched.
"We'll ship a new iOS, one which will slow down older models. That way the poor schmucks will soon want to upgrade"
"You think it will work?"
"Piece of cake - we'll schedule it overnight in all time zones and label it a security upgrade - they'll never suspect"
Of course, whilst there is no suggestion that the above conversation ever took place, it was widely reported this week that Apple have admitted to deliberately slowing down some older iPhones in order 'to preserve battery life'.
Rather than the technical (we could, I imagine, debate that ad infinitum) this raises questions about the trust we as consumers place in a brands' integrity.
This example calls out Apple - arguably possessing the most brand appeal of all - others such as banks, retailers and airlines have, in the past, all also fallen foul of the same problem.
It begs the question as to what kind of corporate culture exists in an organisation prepared to treat its customers in such a fashion?
And should we as consumers accept being treated in this manner?
Perhaps the reasons for Apple taking this action were legitimate however it was the manner in which they were implemented which is of most concern; doing so without the knowledge or control of customers. There was no opt out capability.
At the time of writing there are multiple lawsuits in the US from users seeking action as a result of Apple deliberately slowing the performance of their iPhones.
This amounts to a massive breach of trust on the part of Apple, the only smartphone manufacturer which controls every aspect of their device - hardware and software.
However, such is the brand following (I hesitate to call it loyalty but Apple gets closest) which Apple has built up over many years, it is highly unlikely that Apple fans will desert them for Android en masse.
But consider this for a moment......
Apple CEO Tim Cook has called autonomy "the mother of all AI projects". During an August 2017 earnings call, Cook re-emphasized Apple's deep interest in the technology.
Given the customer experience Apple has delivered to its iPhone customers, the prospect of Apple autonomous vehicles brings with it a nightmare scenario too easy to imagine.
But perhaps as consumers we get what we deserve?
When the first iPhone was released 10 years ago no-one questioned the battery life or whether it was right to spend so much on a device which was, in reality, completely controlled by its maker.
As Christof said in The Truman Show:
"We accept the reality of the world with which we're presented"
And perhaps that is above all why Apple will weather this particular storm and why in 10 years time, it won't only be the streets of Cupertino which are filled with Apple self drive technology.
Andrew Busby is Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections, a globally recognised retail influencer and an IBM Futurist.