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The iPhone 4S Is Full of Bugs: Is the Magic Gone Already?

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Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) gadgets "just work." That's the whole point.

Grab an iPhone and start enjoying it right away. That Macbook Pro isn't just fantastically handy and lightweight, but also orders of magnitude easier to use than the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows 7 machine on the next shelf. You may need to ready the manual for your Android phone even if you've had one before, because HTC slaps a different user experience on its phones than Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) does on its models. But the Apple experience is always predictable, always smooth. That's the magic of the brand, right?

Except when it isn't, of course. The iPhone 4S is shipping in huge volumes, but it also seems to cause a whole lot of trouble for users. Did the magic start fading away before Steve Jobs was gone?

What's wrong, dear?
The new iPhone's battery life turned out to be very short for some users, causing some online clamor. As it turns out, it was a software problem all along, and Apple plans to fix it in a quick iOS update.

Maybe that update could smooth over some other problems, too. For one, upgrading your old iPhone 4 or 3GS to the new software can wipe out your installed apps. For another, the update might kill your phone stone dead, as it did to two of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's old handsets. Woz, who now works as chief scientist at data-management firm Fusion-IO, also had a hard time seeing the benefits of the new iOS version, while the installation drawbacks are hard to miss.

Don't be such a sissy -- this won't hurt at all
The antenna debacle was supposed to put a dent in iPhone sales, too. Never really happened. The Apple faithful were all too happy to just slap a case on their beautiful slabs of glass and aluminum and go on enjoying the phone. The biggest remaining issue was the network quality of AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , but first Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) came to the rescue, and now you can even use Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S  ) . Antennagate turned out to be a total non-issue.

And that wasn't even the first seemingly botched iPhone launch. The iPhone 3GS had overheating issues; some even exploded. Some 3G units came with hairline cracks in the case, and iOS 4 doesn't always play well on the older device. And nobody remembers those problems today.

Likewise, the launch issues with the iPhone 4S will soon be water under the bridge. The lost-apps issue seems to go away the next time you link up to sync your iTunes playlists, which doesn't sound like a long-term problem at all. Apple has a software fix in the works for that battery-life issue. The only real trouble here would be the occasional older iPhone going dead when applying iOS 5 -- which isn't a 4S issue at all but a separate software problem.

So no, the magic isn't gone yet. This stuff seems to happen with every launch, and it never does any long-term damage to the brand. Will this one be different because Steve Jobs isn't here to deflect complaints? No, because CEO Tim Cook only has to roll out some software fixes and replace a handful of old handsets, and all is forgiven.

What, me worry?
Maybe the iPad 3 launch will be worse, or the next-generation Macbook Air -- or just maybe the magic lives on beyond Jobs. Five years from now, we'll know how much of that nearly half-a-trillion market cap really depends on Steve's magic touch, and how much an accomplished operations guy like Cook can keep intact.

For now, Batterygate is much ado about nothing. I'd worry more about the insecure default settings for Siri, which also is unlikely to hurt sales at all. I mean, if you care enough about data security to know that there's anything wrong, you're already the kind of user who would change the problematic settings. The rest will happily buy the phone regardless and still think that Siri is the best thing since ninja-sliced fruit.

The 4S also didn't ship with 4G data networking or NFC payment-handler chips, but it's breaking sales records anyhow. Apple is notorious for letting new technologies mature before letting them into its hottest product lines. Learn more about NFC and why Apple most certainly will want to add it to next year's model. Your credit cards will soon be useless, and Apple needs to be a part of their replacement. This free video report will tell you all about it.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating bull call spread positions in both Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. We have a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (14) | Recommend This Article (16)

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 November 07, 2011, at 11:02 PM, PedroHMG wrote:

    Totally stupid article. Apple has a fix on the way for the battery issue which is applicable to all IOS devices. I have the new iPhone 4S and have had no problems with it what so ever. The iPhone 4S is the best smart phone on the none. If someone has a problem with Apple products all you at least have some one intelligent to talk to at the retail stores.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 11:10 PM, spiriton wrote:

    Not exacty sure what "Full of Bugs" might be referring to. What you mention doesn't actually constitute "Full of bugs" in my book. Sounds more like 1 bug.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 11:30 PM, bbrriilliiaanntt wrote:

    What? Full of bugs, then you dismiss as not important, then go on a weird tangent about NFC, what exactly was the point of article? Are you

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 11:52 PM, MrMarcus65 wrote:

    Which is why my next phone will NOT be an Apple. I've had enough of my iPhone and iTunes...

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 12:50 AM, rlcato wrote:

    Full of bugs. Like Andriod phones are flawless. We know how Google stands behind their work... NOT!

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 2:56 AM, macgregor45 wrote:

    This article is full of BS, not bugs.

    Are you shorting AAPL and hoping?

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 3:03 AM, kramsigenak wrote:

    Ha ha that was a good bait and switch Anders, you got me. As you eventually state, no real significant problems with the 4S at all.

    The phone in the universe should see some impressive sales numbers.


  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 7:12 AM, Calimesa wrote:

    It amuses me to read the responses to a lot of the articles/commentaries here at TMF. I can't believe how many Fools get wrapped around the axel when they see/read something that triggers their negative barriers...boom..."I don't like what you said so I'm not even going to pay attention to the rest of what you have to say" thus they miss the whole point of the article/commentary. This is one reason why our country is having problems, from Congress to OWS. The only commenting Fool to get the article is kramsiqenak.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 8:07 AM, Morgana wrote:

    Lots of Fool headlines start in one direction, yet the article discusses the opposite. I have gotten used to that ploy. Apple is wonderful for a myriad of reasons: computers last 7-8 years without a single problem as did my single! chip computer that I replaced this spring. No virusware! AND PedroHMG is right. Apple has intelligent people to talk to. It is probably the last place where one can get SERVICE from people who actually have a happy personality chip!

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 8:24 AM, DaveGruska wrote:

    If the Fool works like the publications I've worked at, the editors write the headlines, not the writers.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 8:37 AM, MBfool wrote:

    Much a do about nothing!

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 8:59 AM, BedfordNH wrote:

    Holy cow, can we say, "Apple fanboi"?? Too many readers who don't read (trolls???) and are taking any criticism of Apple too personally. Like kramsignenak said, the rest of the article explains the real intentions.

    No company will remain dominant in the tech world for as long as you'd expect a company like KO has. People like having the freedom of choice. Apple is too controlling, and having only 2 platfroms to choose from is too limiting. I think MSFT will get in on the game in a bigger way, but some company (or several) will not stand by and watch AAPL and GOOG eat this big, juicy pie. I think AAPL will peak in 2 years, especially without Mr. Steve Jobs leading.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 10:20 AM, mnosense wrote:

    LOL! From reading the comments, seems these Apple fans are brainwashed. They can not think of anything without Apple telling them how.

    In particular, I can not understand why they tolerate the stupid iTune? It is a dictator.

    One thing for sure is common for the Apple fans, most of them suports big Government, dictatorship.

    Apple is against open and competition!

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2011, at 1:02 PM, jdmeck wrote:

    It happens on all phone/program/system launches and upgrades. Bu you just don't hear about it because it's not Apple. Double standard.

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