Did Apple Make a Lemon?

Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad already has a problem.

According to a litany of complaints at Apple's support site, many of the iPad's first owners are experiencing trouble connecting with Wi-Fi networks. Weak signals, dropped signals, poor or even nonexistent download speeds ... the stories are eerily similar to what we heard from early iPhone owners complaining about AT&T's (NYSE: T  ) network.

The former Ma Bell won't have anything to do with these devices for another 30 days, when the 3G edition ships, but today's iPad problems appear to be just as pervasive, and just as troubling. "Went to the Genius bar today with my day old iPad and described the same symptoms everyone else is experiencing to the Apple tech," wrote support poster Minpeak yesterday. "He was able to replicate the weak Wi-Fi and exchanged my iPad."

But the problems didn't end with the exchange. The poster's new iPad was "continuing to have the weak reception" as of last night.

More broadly, many of the users who complained about Wi-Fi on the iPad said they had no trouble with connecting their iPhones or other Apple devices, which could indicate a hardware issue or even a design flaw.

At IntoMobile.com, tests showed the iPad performed considerably better when connecting to an Apple network. "There may be a correlation between non-Apple Wi-Fi networks and weak iPad Wi-Fi signals," wrote Will Park, the site's Editor in Chief. "Our Time Capsule is pushing wireless bits with strong signal to our iPads. The iPads connected to our Linksys wireless router are seeing signal fluctuations and dropped connections."

Calls and emails to Apple seeking comment hadn't been returned as of this writing. Nevertheless, all evidence points to the iPad having a problem that needs fixing -- bad news for Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) and mixed news for Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , which has positioned itself to profit if readers enjoy the iPad as a home for their ebooks.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) can take a breath, but they can't relax. Apple's retail stores were designed for problems like these; they allow users to grouse to a live person and receive prompt service.

For now, there's a chorus of complaints about the iPad, a rare lemon from an Apple that consumers expect used to make sweet and delicious gadget pie.

Is the iPad defective, or is a tune-up all that's needed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

Apple, Amazon, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy wore pads for last night's game of full-contact investing.


Read/Post Comments (20) | Recommend This Article (27)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 11:11 AM, XMFTom7 wrote:

    Well, before all the Apple and iPad hate starts to flow in, I'm gonna go with "tune-up." ;-)

    AppleInsider.com notes that it seems to be a software issue with dual-band third party routers, and a few simple tweaks to how the network SSIDs are named seems to clear it up. Probably something Apple should have caught in testing, of course, but nothing that would indicate any kind of hardware failure.

    Of course, time will tell.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 11:24 AM, SkinnyWallet wrote:

    I'll give credit where credit is due: As every good blogger knows, nobody reads articles about how great apple products are, but everyone reads the articles about how they're awful and leading us to global ruin. Its a good way to draw attention to oneself on the internet.

    As for the issue raised in the article? I think the problem is serious, but its not an iPad killer... heck its not even an iPad-black-eyer.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 12:00 PM, MaBellIsDead wrote:

    RE: "The former Ma Bell won't have anything to do with these devices for another 30 days...."

    The company to which you refer was NEVER Ma Bell, but only a collection of Baby Bells. Are you attempting to be cute (at which you fail) or do you have a learning problem.

    To the article, my iPad works flawlessly with my wireless LAN, and is great surfer, Pages load in a blink.

    The disappointing items of the iPad are the inability to print from the various Apps, and that I can't upload things such as my wife's 50 year collection of recipes (in rtf format) . It doesn't come come very close to what I wanted, but it's a great looking conversation piece and a good book reader,

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 12:19 PM, Decidocisum wrote:

    Since we are talking about bugs here I was unable to choose a username through the comment form you provide and had to go to My Fool settings to set it. I would call your site a Lemon but that woule be an exageration.

    Also what I gather from the title is that out of 300 to 400 thousand iPad's sold at least 200,000 different people must be on the Apple boards complaining right? Well I bothered to check and there seem to be less than 1,000 posts in these community forums and not all are complaints but people either giving suggestions OR complaining about the issue.

    Yes this is akin to Toyota's troubles... miniscule but hyped.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 12:34 PM, FoolInFL wrote:

    If Apple made a lemon, this must be lemonade -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAl28d6tbko

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 12:40 PM, FoolInFL wrote:

    If Apple made a lemon, this must be lemonade... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAl28d6tbko

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 1:04 PM, grant224 wrote:

    If I had to take a guess, I think Apple's real future (or at least the ipad's) lies in the second and later editions...at least that's when I would buy one.

    Apple seems to have a history of deliberately limiting the earlier editions of their products and there seems to be an intentionally set pattern of improvements (the addition of cameras, better processors, external speakers.) Apple's products (at least in my experience with my Ipod Touch and Macbook) all are quickly made obsolete within months by the next "edition."

    Obviously Apple knows what they are doing when it comes to product lineups, so it might not be a bad idea to wait six months until the price is cut and half, the bugs are fixed, and its features expand just enough to make the previous one obsolete.

    Speaking as someone who has been fallen for Apple's marketing scheme's before,

    Grant

    Disclaimer: Despite them being quickly outdated (within a few months of purchase) my macbook and ipod kick ass!

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 2:49 PM, plange01 wrote:

    ipad is probably well made it just doesn't have much use.once the initial idiots have run out and bought one it will quicky die out..how many data plans do you need to pay each month?

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 6:15 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    'Evening everyone,

    Here's more about the iPad Wi-Fi issue, taken directly from the Apple support site:

    http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3304

    Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 8:26 PM, webjawns wrote:

    @TMFMileHigh That article from the KB has to do with automatic reconnecting, and is separate from what iPad users have been seeing.

    The iPad is a sad, sad machine. The HP Slate looks much more promising, as it is Windows-based, which is a wonderful operating system, has a better processor/RAM, price, etc.

    Right now, all this hype is not over anything new. This is merely a tablet PC restricted, and repackaged without a physical keyboard. Where Apple claims to be on the verge of something magical, many have been for years. There might be a niche market for things like the iPad, but the majority of users need a laptop to contribute rather than only consume.

    You are not OPEN to use the app store, but RESTRICTED to the app store. With normal laptops and the upcoming HP Slate, you can install normal software without being restricted to what Apple thinks is good. There may be some that will opt for Apple's iPad due to the name, but competitors will rule the market.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2010, at 9:19 PM, fogelbaby wrote:

    I am having no problems with my WiFi. I am getting 16 megabits to the iPad through an 801.11n network.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 12:14 AM, webjawns wrote:

    @fogelbaby I hope that's not your LAN speed because N connections should get 250-300 Mbps. G gets 54 Mbps.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 12:15 AM, webjawns wrote:

    @fogelbaby I hope that's your LAN speed. N connections should get 250-300 Mbps. G gets 54 Mbps.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 2:59 AM, Wesss wrote:

    I'm an Apple fan, but not a fanatic. I've made a load of money off the stock while thoroughly enjoying Apple products every day. Results and common sense would tell you I'm typical of a lot of people over the last ten+ years.

    So I'm always surprised at the weird anti-Apple bias in The Motley Fool. From the recent "Steve Jobs is mistreating you" article to the one above, which is about the only negative iPad article on the planet.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 9:32 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Hello Wesss,

    Thanks for writing.

    >>So I'm always surprised at the weird anti-Apple bias in The Motley Fool. From the recent "Steve Jobs is mistreating you" article to the one above, which is about the only negative iPad article on the planet.

    I understand why you're writing this -- you're a self-confessed Apple fan -- but it just doesn't line up with the facts:

    * There were several articles highlighting the iPad's Wi-Fi issue, which was and is real. Here's one:

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9174858/Wi_Fi_issues_...

    * Apple is a two-time Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick.

    * I own shares of Apple, and am the author of not just this article, but also this one:

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2010/02/03/3-ways-to-i...

    We're here neither to cheerlead or vilify Apple, but to offer analysis for investors weighing decisions about the stock. Informed opinion is what we offer, with a touch of humor thrown in.

    Thanks for being here and sharing your thoughts.

    Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 9:35 AM, JGBFool wrote:

    I liked the analogy at the end of Decidocisum's post. (Disclosure-- I am a TM and AAPL shareholder.)

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 12:16 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    I'm no Apple fan, but there's no way they will let this dent their image. As you stated, this is precisely what the retail stores were created for. And Apple is a fairly nimble company still. I expect this to be cleared up promptly. Even a recall and replace program (if it tuns out to be hardware issues) would be fairly manageable, though of course not ideal.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 2:29 PM, JSinvestmentguru wrote:

    I have trouble using Linksys with windows. The Time machine always makes a good connection, I have 2 at work (very large building) and they don't cause conflicts like some many other wireless networks. I also use at home. I connect effortlessly with my 3 Macs and Ipods anywhere at work or at home and I expect my Ipad will do the same. Before switching to Apple, I spent countless hours of trying to network Windows devices.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2010, at 9:12 PM, eldetorre wrote:

    "It doesn't come come very close to what I wanted..."

    Such is the mystique and allure of Apple, people buy their products anyway. Go figure. Politicians I'm afraid know all about his...

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2010, at 5:17 PM, l3iodeez wrote:

    Wait you cant even update a text file and view it on this thing? What the hell does it do besides display DRM locked content purchased from Apple and send email?

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