An Open Letter to Tim Cook: Apple’s Latest Lightning Rod

Good Morning Mr. Cook,

Something odd happened at Apple this morning. While most of the world was sleeping, some of us were awake ordering new iPhones and iPods from the online Apple Store. During the sales process, a little dialog box popped up noting that the new “iPhone includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter,” and offered to sell us an “additional” one along with the purchase. Soon afterwards, Apple sales representatives began to tell customers that this was an “error.” And according to your web site, the iPhone 5’s specs page confirms no adapter is included.

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Image: Engadget

Having made and retracted an offer to give Lightning Adapters to some customers, you have a small problem on your hands. The easiest solution would be to give your earliest iPhone 5 customers the “included” Lightning Adapter, no questions asked. That’s just good business—legally required, in some regions—and it’s certainly something Apple can afford. But we’d strongly suggest that you take this one step further. The right thing for Apple to do is to give every iPhone 5 customer a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter. Ditto for new iPod nano and touch customers.

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While a small group of die-hard fans might deem such “generosity” unnecessary, hear us out. You knew long ago that asking customers to switch from the ubiquitous Dock Connector to Lightning was going to be a challenge; inside Apple, somebody obviously prepared text for your web site with the understanding that a Lightning Adapter would be included with the new iPhone. And outside Apple, compatibility is about to be broken or limited with accessories that people have invested hundreds or thousands of dollars to use—speaker systems, video accessories, and who knows what else. Rather than making the Lightning Adapters inexpensive, you’re selling them for $29 each. Yes, progress comes at a price, but Apple has already made hundreds of millions of dollars licensing “Made for iPod” and “Made for iPhone” accessories, far more than any maker of competing devices. Keeping your past customers happy by letting them easily transition to new accessories on their terms is the right thing to do—especially when so many early iPhone 5 users will be paying premiums for unsubsidized devices.


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The up-front cost to give adapters away to early adopters will be small by comparison with what you stand to make on new accessories going forward, so use this as an opportunity to garner a whole lot of goodwill. Since nothing was said at your media event about including Lightning Adapters, consider this a rare chance to surprise and delight your most loyal users. Position it like this: “We want to make sure every iPhone 5 user gets started on the right foot.” Adapters don’t need to be given away for perpetuity, or more than one per customer. Give them away with new iPhones and iPods for the first three months or so, and re-evaluate thereafter—like iPhone 4 Bumpers, only ahead of the controversy rather than after it. There’s no question that the positive buzz you generate will outweigh the expense: just like Apple’s classic plastic Universal Dock Adapter pack-ins, this is an investment in the long-term health and happiness of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad accessory ecosystems. 

Mr. Cook, as Apple’s CEO, the decision is yours to make. We think you know what to do, and if you support your hundreds of millions of users, we’ll continue to support you.

19 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Tim Cook: Apple’s Latest Lightning Rod”

  1. I agree with the letter 100%. While Barry’s statement is accurate that Apple doesn’t “owe” me anything, they could show some level of respect to the folks that have extensively invested in the iUniverse of products and accessories.

  2. It’s not about Apple “owing” anyone anything.

    It’s about good customer service, and leaving people with a positive opinion of the company; making them feel good about their investment in Apple products.

    And once you have an iDevice and an iTunes/App store account, you’re invested.

  3. While I do wholeheartedly agree with the statement that Apple does not owe us anything for free, and having to buy these adapter is the cost of having the latest and greatest tech.
    I definitely agree however that Apple screwed up here. Some people had enough forethought to decide to purchase adapters with their iPhones (I did not feel the need to get one right away). If the above message never appeared on their site when people tried adding them to their cart than I would say people are making a stink over nothing, but for the message to state that your phone comes with an adapter already I think they should come out and say we screwed up. If I had added an adapter to my cart in the process and saw that message I would have said screw that if it comes with one than I wont buy another one.
    The next thing is I don’t agree with the blanket statement of give them out free to all early adopters, but then again how do you know who tried to add them to their carts and who didn’t? Unless webobjects is able to track all of that stuff than I guess you either decide to give no one adapters for free, or have a program to get a free adapter and let people decide whether the feel they were ripped off or not. I think I would personally let it slide, because I never intended on buying one when I ordered the phone in the first place.

  4. There’s no reason why people buying a new iPhone 5 should subsidize others by being forced to pay for a “free” adapter that they will never use. Similarly, Apple never guaranteed or even implied that the 30-pin connector would be on every iDevice for all eternity. And don’t even start with the “superiority” of the mini-USB connector that’s apparently mandated by the EuroMasters…

  5. One of the main reasons that attracted to become an APPLE fanboy is their attention to details. No matter what I purchased, an iMac, Macbook, iPhone or iPad; I had everything I needed in the box and I definitely did not need to purchase anything in addition to kick start my device. With this concept rooted in my head since the first day I owe my first Mackintosh, I would think APPLE should throw in this adapter for free to every iPhone 5 user as a gesture to carry on this good reputation of thinking ahead for their customers. The argument point is not about money, I believe we all can afford one here.

  6. The “right” thing to do would be to give the adapter to the people who ordered before the error was corrected. After that, Apple owes you nothing., stop crying.

    “My new $500 smart phone, that I don’t need but must have, will no longer work with the thousands of dollars of accessories that I purchased for my old $500 smart phone, that still works perfectly, but that I no longer want. Therefore Apple owes me the $29 dollar adapter that will fix this and expecting me to purchase it is nothing short of an outrage.

    Wow, talk about entitlement and “first world problems”.

  7. Did you also buy a DVD player and then write to Sony or Mitsubishi for an adapter to play VHS tapes on it? All of your hardware and accessories will continue to work with the devices for which they were intended. Everything you need to operate the iPhone 5 is included in the box. Progress is occasionally coupled with change, that’s a fact. An adapter for those who pre-ordered while it was listed? Perhaps; that would be a smart PR gesture. However, for everyone who buys an iPhone 5, iTouch, or Nano? Absurd.

  8. “First world problems.” This is a first world phone, so your statement is complete hypocrisy.

    This article is completely dead-on. This dock has been in use for nearly a decade – and users are being asked to change what is essentially a gatekeeper to the iOS ecosystem. It’s akin to demanding someone change the lock on their door and when they comply, trying to charge them for a key. The key should come with the lock–you know, like a new lock actually does.

    I’ve not read anyone screaming bloody murder over this, though it frankly made me balk. Why didn’t Apple make this similar to the MagSafe adapter at $10? Because they knew they could charge $30 and get away with it.

    Where is the outrage about this? People are asking for it, not breaking into Apple stores and stealing them. And this IS bait and switch if the adapter was offered and is now not being included. Perhaps it’s not enforceable in the US, but in other regions, it most likely will be.

    Things have very much fallen by the wayside in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death. Every aspect of this phone was leaked months in advance, the Apple site contained *any* data whatsoever about LTE prior to the event, and this adapter is a nickle-and-dime attempt. And a blatant one. Frankly, I half expected the new EarPods to be sold separately from the devices.

    Loyalty is not a one-way street.

  9. New Apple users won’t need an adapter.

    Old users who don’t use special non-wireless peripherals won’t need an adapter.

    Those who like the latest everything don’t want an adapter.

    Giving everyone an adapter is a waste of the planet’s resources, and Apple’s (and as a shareholder, my) money. If you still want to use your old equipment, it will still work with your old iPhones and iPods. Or just buy an adapter – user pays.

  10. Go on Tim, chuck it in!

    I’m no legal expert, but My understanding in the UK is that if money is accepted for an advertised item (“your iphone includes a 30 pin…”) then failure to provide item (iPhone) as described is breach of contract. if apple has taken payment from card the contract is made (do apple take payment at order or shipment?) but until that time they can tell the customer their advert was wrong, However it is possible that they are guilty of other offence decieving customers by falsely advertising their goods. It might be possible to know at what time the change to website was made and all those purchased prior recieve free adapter. If this happened on early online orders in UK (I didnt see it) shopper should inform local council trading standards & the UK advertising standards authority (unless they get given 30pin adapt).

    Additionally: all goods advertised as Made for iPod/iPhone now are incompatible with new iPods so are being missold. the 3party manufacturers might not be too happy about this – i wonder what their apple licences say about change to connector and whether they can redesign, manufacture and ship their goods in time for christmas shoppers, meaning lost sales, particularly at bottom end of market (sounded like apple had tipped off those higher up the food chain).

  11. @casey – your lock analogy is baseless. Nobody is “demanding” that you buy a new phone. Your peripherals will continue to work just swell with your existing phone. If you want them to work with your new iPhone you can buy the adapter. You are owed exactly squat.

    I bought a new MBP last year, I rolled my eyes a little when I realized I had to buy a thunderbolt adapter in order to hook up my cinema display, but I didn’t whine and expect to get it for free, I bought the adapter.

  12. Here’s the bottom line, IMHO.
    I stayed up late and hit my refresh button, I don’t know how many times, to be able to order one for my wife and I. I saw that the phone was going to come with the adapter, so I didn’t buy one. Now, we’ll have to wait weeks to a month to even be able to purchase one. That’s really the unfaire part. We have all kinds of extra cables for when we travel, including the extra long ones we use for charging while we are in hotels. Now, the two trips we have in October are going to cause us issues.
    Apple should give all the people who purchased a phone, while the notice was up, but no connector a free one. They put out the information and I made a decision based on it in good faith. If they don’t give us a free one, the least they can do is make one available for us to buy when we get the phone next Friday., not in October.

  13. Imagine you have paid money to use a toilet, and when you are finished your business, you find that you are required to spend more money for toilet paper. That’s the toilet owner’s right, as noted by some commenters.
    And let’s face it; Apple needs the money.

  14. Everybody has hundreds of dollars in iphones and thousands of dollars in accessories… then buy the freakin 29.95 adapter and stop whining. This is the normal path of technological advance, the 30-pin connector was in the market for almost 12 years i think it lasts enough time to pay for itself. I also have many cables and docks, and they are not wasted, i will order the adapter and everything works as usual.

  15. Seeing the $$ game Apple is playing the US market for, I have already decided to use my Iphone 4 till its done and switch brands. Plain and simple. The only way to neutralize a corrupt corporate America is don’t support them

  16. Of course they are not going to give it to you. It’s a way to boost the profits of a company in Q4. And I’ll bet there will not be 3rd arty adopters made because Apple will not allow it. The same thought process they had/have with their computers forcing you to only have Apple as your radar sorce and laying 3x as much. This is why Appe computers never rose to the top and made it into corporate America. Everything is 3x more.


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