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November 6, 2012updated 19 Aug 2016 9:28am

Lies, damned lies and Apple

When does marketing hyperbole cross the line into a bare-faced lie?


iPad mini versus iPad

The iPad mini beside an iPad.

It’s not been a good week for the Marmite of technology companies – you either love it or hate it – Apple. First there was the way that it was left red-faced after its response to a UK court ruling, which had found that Samsung did not copy the iPad design. Apple had been ordered to post a notice on its website but it blatantly misinterpreted the court’s order, banging on about all the places where Samsung’s design had been found to infringe on its copyright. That left Judge Robin Jacob declaring: "I’m at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this. That is a plain breach of the order."

But what about the way they are describing the iPad mini? The thing is flying off the shelves, but how can the company be allowed to market it with dodgy statistics, half-truths and even possibly a bare-faced lie? You only need to go to the iPad mini overview page to see what I mean. The mini is described as "Every inch an iPad" and "The full iPad experience". Yet it’s clearly smaller. Or is it?

Oh wait, it’s not! The iPad mini is just as big as the iPad. Because according to Apple, "Colors are vivid and text is sharp on the iPad mini display. But what really makes it stand out is its size. At 7.9 inches, it’s perfectly sized to deliver an experience every bit as big as iPad [my emphasis]."

Oh really? Every bit as big as iPad? Like, as in, the screen is literally every bit as big as the iPad? Strange, because the original iPad form factor has a screen size of 9.7 inches. So does iPad 2. That’s every bit of 19% bigger than the iPad mini.

From where I am standing, Apple’s marketing is not just slightly hyperbolic, it’s counter to UK Trading Standards legislation, which says that, "Statements made in advertising aimed at both consumers and other businesses must not mislead and must not omit any material information."

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What would Apple’s defence be here? The use of the word ‘experience’? "At 7.9 inches, it’s perfectly sized to deliver an experience every bit as big as iPad." But how can the experience be every bit as big as iPad if it’s almost 20% smaller? Can the experience of sitting in an Economy aeroplane seat be every bit as big as sitting in First Class, even if there’s 20% less legroom?

UPDATE: I just heard back from the Advertising Standards Authority, which said that although it "understands [my] concerns with the claim", it doesn’t believe the advert will mislead consumers. "We consider that consumers will interpret the claim to be a reference to quality rather than actual size." So there you go. I’d have though the sentence, "At 7.9 inches, it’s perfectly sized… every bit as big…" is quite clearly talking about size, not quality. But I guess Apple’s lawyers knew how to fly close to the sun without getting their wings burned on this occasion at least.

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