Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Did 'old-media tester' conquer Apple's hubris?

Apple kept balking at even admitting a problem with the iPhone 4. Then Consumer Reports, the nonprofit magazine owned by Consumers Union, weighed in with laboratory evidence, and Steve Jobs folded.

Did 'old-media tester' conquer Apple's hubris?

For weeks, Apple kept balking at even admitting there was a genuine signal-interference problem with the iPhone 4 - the so-called "grip of death." Then Consumer Reports, the nonprofit magazine owned by Consumers Union, weighed in with laboratory findings, and Steve Jobs folded.

The Times' David Carr sees this as a victory for an "old-media tester of everything from flooring to steam mops."  His very good "Post Mortem: No Hair Shirt for Steve Jobs" recounts how Apple ultimately bowed to the evidence.

But Carr misses an important point:  Especially in recent years, Consumer Reports and its parent organization have gone far beyond their familiar role of testing products and services.  They've become important participants in public-policy debates on issues such as telecommunications, auto safety, and financial products,  with a consistent stance in favor of consumer protection via intelligent regulation and pro-competitive policies.  

And in every area, their stances on policy are informed by their evaluations of products, services and pricing. So a data-driven critique of the iPhone was hardly unusual. It was evidence-driven advocacy, which is what Consumers Union has learned to do as well as anybody else.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
About this blog

Jeff Gelles, who writes the Inquirer's weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns, takes a broad look at the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.

Reach Jeff at jgelles@phillynews.com.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
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