I have an iPhone, but if I had it to do over again, I would never have bought one.
It works just fine; I haven't experienced the problems with AT&T that a lot of iPhone owners complain about, and I like a lot of the apps. But at the time I bought it, I wasn't fully aware of Apple's blatant, unapologetic contempt for its employees, its suppliers, the media and its customers. Now that I've been educated, I'm sorry I ever bought one of Steve Jobs' products.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that one of its reporters had been roughed up by security guards outside the factory of Apple component supplier Foxconn in Longhua, China. It was yet another outrageous display of the extremism Apple has promulgated in its obsessive demand for secrecy.
True enough, Foxconn supplies components for a lot of manufacturers other than Apple, including Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Cisco. But it's Apple that creates the secrecy-or-else environments at Foxconn and other suppliers, and it was a prototype of an Apple product-an iPhone-that cost a Foxconn employee his life after it went missing last July. The Register captured the widely publicized event this way:
[Foxconn employee Sun Danyong] leapt to his death from his 12th-floor apartment window a few days after he told his superiors that one of the 16 iPhone 4G prototypes which had been entrusted to him had gone missing. Both Foxconn and Apple have acknowledged Sun's suicide.
What happened between Sun's admission of the missing prototype and his suicide is in dispute. According to various sources, including China Radio International and VentureBeat, Sun was allegedly beaten during a search of his apartment by Foxconn security personnel. A few hours later, Sun committed suicide -- an act that was videotaped by security cameras.
Apple's obsession with secrecy at home, meanwhile, was well documented in a December Gizmodo article titled, "Apple Gestapo: How Apple Hunts Down Leaks." The author wrote about an Apple employee named Tom, who told a frightening tale of Nazi-like tactics used within Apple's Cupertino headquarters. Here's an excerpt:
"You may want to know about their Worldwide Loyalty Team," Tom told me recently in an email. I read what he had to say. It felt like a description of the Gestapo, without the torture and killing part. [H]e knows how it feels to be watched, to always be considered guilty of crimes against another kind of state. He knew how it felt to have no privacy whatsoever
"Apple has these moles working everywhere, especially in departments where leaks are suspected. Management is not aware of them," he told me, "once they suspect a leak, the special forces-as we call them-will walk in the office at any hour, especially in the mornings. They will contact whoever was the most senior manager in the building, and ask them to coordinate the operation."
The operation, as Tom calls it, is not anything special. It is not one of a kind event. It's just a normal practice, and the process is pretty simple: The manager will instruct all employees to stay at their desks, telling them what to do and what to expect at any given time. The Apple Gestapo never handles the communication. They are there, present, supervising the supervisors, making sure everything goes as planned.
What's especially galling is that these employees are subjected to this nonsense so that Jobs can turn every Apple product announcement into a self-aggrandizing media spectacle that wouldn't be possible without the secrecy mystique. And it's even more galling that the media and Apple enthusiasts buy into it like docile lap dogs, happily chasing the bones that Jobs throws out, and reverently licking up the crumbs under his theatrical table.
So if it's not too late, and you're still debating whether to buy an iPhone or any other Apple product, at least consider all of this before making a decision. I can tell you that I wish I knew then what I know now.