On December 26th, as with every year since 2008, Apple Inc. launched its ‘12 Days of Gifts’ app in Europe and Canada. One marked difference in 2013/14, however, was the app’s availability in North America for the first time.
Apple hits iTunes stumbling block
Offering and delivering daily gifts to millions of Apple product users across different devices and different continents was bound to throw up issues for the brand, and reviews began streaming into iTunes with varying degrees of appreciation.
3 users shy of 2,500 took to iTunes to complain about the most glaring flaw in this year’s update of the app – its iOS7 only compatibility. Apple customers using any phone older than the iPhone 4, an iPad earlier than the iPad2, and anyone with an iPod, which is not the 5th generation iPod touch, were denied access to Apple’s annual gifting app in 2013. Consumer reviews entitled “How to lose customers” fill the app’s listing page in iTunes, along with comments such as “Apple should be ashamed,” “a horrendous abuse of loyalty,” and “I’d give zero stars if I could” elaborated on the 2,497 1 star reviews left for the festive giveaway. Desktop and PC users were also unable to access the app and its contents in December, for the first time since the app’s launch.
Aside from compatibility issues, eligible users also took offence to Apple’s apparent pricing errors within the app. Day 2 of the scheme invited users to download an episode of the BBC’s popular ‘Africa’ documentary series by linking them straight to the television series’ homepage in iTunes. However, by directing consumers to the series page, and not the individual episode, visitors were shown to a page, which listed each episode of the show for £12.99. At this stage, instead of using their initiative and selecting the ‘Kalahari’ episode that had been offered within the app and receiving their correctly labeled free download, a vast number of users took straight to the reviews page to vent their frustration at seeming to have to purchase Day 2’s gift.
Further pricing complaints arose as it became apparent that some items offered as a free gift during this promotion had previously been listed on iTunes as free to download, prompting users to feel cheated out of a gift.
A further update to the app that upset consumers was Apple’s decision to change the name of the giveaway to ‘12 Days of Gifts,’ replacing its previous title of ’12 Days of Christmas’ so as to make the app accessible and universal to all users. The move was slammed by a number of iTunes reviewers as “political correctness gone too far.”
Not only were consumers irate that their devices could not support the app this year, those who could access its 12 free downloads found more to complain about as the content offered in 2013/14 was not to everyone’s expectations or taste. Day 1 of the app was a free live sample from one of the world’s biggest music artist, yet the gift was met with reviews of “Justin Timberlake live? Are you taking the p***?” in the UK. A number of games and apps available over the festive period were also negatively received for being aimed at children, and one film download was shunned for “being on TV loads over Christmas, who needs to own this?”
Apple Inc. were not the only ones left with a bruised ego over the app and its contents, as many designers and developers found their offerings were receiving negative reviews online for their inclusion in the supposedly faulty Apple app – not for their actual work or content, causing damage to the portfolio and profiles of the included creators.
So where can Apple go from here to improve universal reception of the app in 2014/15? Many users and reviewers called for the app to work across all Apple devices, regardless of operating system updates, creating far more work for the brand to design and build apps and content that can work across the board. Consumers also suggested the app contents be focused around a Genius model, the iTunes feature that recommends music and video to users based on the existing contents of their personal media library. Again, implementing this tactic across such a broad and diverse audience will be met with difficulty by Apple’s developers to ensure every user has a universally bug-free experience. Easy to address issues such as directing consumers to the individual items offered within the app in iTunes, as opposed to their general series or album page – such as the ‘Kalahari’ example – will make user journeys far smoother and straight forward, which may take the heat off Apple slightly for the much larger, intricate draw-backs.