Tuesday 18 July 2006
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Are we falling out of love with iPod?
By David Derbyshire, Consumer Affairs Editor
(Filed: 01/07/2006)

Two years ago, it was the coolest gadget of them all - a sleek, sophisticated and stylish white box that revolutionised the way millions of people listened to music.

Now, however, there are signs that the iPod may be losing some of its shine.

 
Various designs of iPods
More than 50 million iPods have been sold since 2001

Internet chatrooms are buzzing with accounts of allegedly unreliable machines, while questions are being asked about working conditions in the Chinese factories where they are made.

This week Apple's share price fell to an eight-month low after an analyst predicted that new models would be delayed several months.

The fall in public confidence is highlighted in figures from YouGov's "brand awareness" index which show a steady fall in the popularity of the Apple brand.

Apple insists that the quality of its products is not an issue and that the iPod remains the most popular, and best loved, portable music player in the world.

More than 50 million have been sold since its launch in 2001. The backlash appears to have started last year.

Sundip Chahal, of YouGov's BrandIndex team, said: "The overall brand index is showing a definite downward trend up to the beginning of April.

"The index for quality is going down - from a rating in the high 30s in October to the mid 20s, which is a very significant drop."

The fall in reputation could be linked to bad publicity. Shortly after the launch of its iPod Nano in the autumn, Apple admitted that some models had faulty screens that scratched too easily.

There have also been complaints about the iPod Shuffle - on Apple's internet chatroom, more than 40,000 visits have been made to a section dedicated to an allegedly fatal problem.

It has also come under fire for its alleged use of cheap Chinese labour. Mr Chahal believed that the decline in brand reputation may be a consequence of the company's early dominance. "Apple used to stand for corporate reputation and quality and people were prepared to pay more because they got it back on quality," he said.

However, Apple denies that it has a problem with quality. Greg Joswiak, the vice-president of iPod marketing, said they had a first-year failure rate of five per cent.

"A lot of products don't enjoy such a low failure rate - mobile phones in the UK can be up to 30 per cent," he said. "The vast majority of customers are extremely happy and have never experienced a failure."

He said the failure rate may be perceived as higher than it is because of the numbers in circulation. Rather than fail after a year, they were designed to last "for years".

"Most failures are caused by mishandling. They are complex electronic components and they can be broken if dropped or mishandled."

17 June 2006[Arts]: A world of music at the tips of your fingers
4 June 2006: Pupils allowed to use iPods in class to 'get more work done'

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Apple: iPod