Apple Legend Woz Blasts iPhone Price Drop And Refund Policy

Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak Saturday blasted his old buddy Steve Jobs' decision to drop the price of the iPhone by $200 only 68 days after the big launch and even took his old friend to task for how refunds have been handled for the popular device.

"Nobody expects a product to drop that much in price in such a short time," said Wozniak, the driving force behind the original Apple I and II computers. "Steve Jobs and everyone expects technology to drop in price. The first adopters always pay a premium. I am one of them. I am used to that. But that one was too soon, too harsh."

Wozniak, or Woz, as he is known by geeks and admirers made the comments in a question and answer session with reporters following an address before 600 solution providers at the ConnectWise Partner Summit in Tampa, Fla.

Jobs, Apple's CEO, sparked a firestorm of protest when he lowered the price of the iPhone on September 5 by $200 from $599 to $399 only 68 days after the launch of the eagerly awaited device that Apple fans waited in long lines and snapped up by as soon as it hit the market. The pricing decision upset a lot of early iPhone purchasers.

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Jobs, who cofounded Apple with Wozniak, responded with a public letter of apology to those early iPhone buyers and and offered a "$100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store."

But Wozniak complained that he has bought some iPhones that he is saving as gifts for people which he can't get a refund on right now. Only when an account is opened can that person who received the phone get the discount, he said. "If I bought it and gave it as a gift they get the discount," he said of the Apple $100 credit policy for early iPhone buyers. "Why don't you just take my receipt and give me the money back? And of course it always comes back to Apple Store credit. So instead of getting $100 back you are getting $50 back sort of. It is very optimal to the company. I feel badly about the situation for everyone. I don't think Apple should have even done it. Maybe a very much more gradual price reduction, $50 at first or find ways to bundle it into a savings on your account."

Wozniak says he probably purchased about 20 iPhones for himself and his friends and has not gotten a single refund back on his own although some of his friends have gotten their refunds. "I haven't had the time to," he said. "I will. I only have one iPhone that I am using. I figured at first I would use three for myself. But one is enough."

NEXT: Woz: Still A Big Apple Fan Of The iPhone

Even though he takes issue with the price cut and how it was handled, Wozniak said he is a big fan of the iPhone. "I fell in love with the iPhone," he said. "I did not like it at first." Wozniak said it took him a month to fall in love with the device. He said he also "loves the Blackberry Pearl because it is such a small size. The iPhone is bigger, but boy that iPhone is more fun even when it's slower at dialing phone calls."

Wozniak said he still has not switched the phone he primarily uses for voice over to the iPhone because of the "voice quality, being able to hear it." What's more, he said, the iPhone doesn't work with the BlueTooth (wireless hands free) technology he loves so much."I like to be hands free and my voice dialing is not built into the iPhone yet," he says. "I expect that soon."

Wozniak, however, had high praise for the iPhone's interface and the ability to use the phone like almost like a full fledged desktop to view the internet. "I like the human approach," he said of the iPhone. "If a Web page looks the same as on my computer, I don't have to learn a whole new familiarity. Every smart phone I used before the iPhone, if I used it for Web browsing I just got sick. I almost wanted to throw up. It was so miserable an experience. Sometimes I couldn't even find the field I wanted. It was horrible to navigate and I said, 'I am not going to use this!' Every one of them I put down. I said I am not going to switch to a Smart Phone so ridiculously inhuman. I think the iPhone has really got a lot of the right formulas: Make the Web page look the same. Why didn't anyone ever do that before?"

Wozniak said he is surprised it took so long for a company to develop a successful Smart Phone-like device to surf the internet. "Sony should have done it," he said. "They had the Clie long ago with the big screen and they just didn't find the right formula. In a lot of these cases, Apple has replaced Sony in making the best products that everyone wants."

Wozniak complained that a lot of the intense focus on user interface design even at Apple has gone away. "We have learned the formulas and a lot of that (innovative) thinking has gone away," he said. "Now we (at Apple) are a monopoloy as much as Microsoft. If you're going to buy a Macintosh you're going to buy a Macintosh and we don't need quality to sell."

Wozniak said some the work is shoddy and the lack of focus is evident in "confusing" design or inappropriate wording. At Apple in the early days, there was even a booklet for user interface guidelines that came from the early Macintosh. "We still prided ourselves on being easy to use and user interface," he said. "User interface means the software developer put a whole lot of extra software in to make it work the human way, the way the human will understand."

Wozniak said he is an avid consumer gadget user who usually has two phones on him and sometimes three or four."I keep up by buying them," he said. "I go through almost every significant cell phone or smart phone that comes out to try to get my own opinion. I can't judge it just based on what I read. Sometimes you have to really use it to see what works and what doesn't. What is cumbersome for people and what is not."

NEXT: Who Is More Innovative: Apple Or Google?

Wozniak said he believes that Apple still has an edge over Google as the most innovative company. "I would say Apple is still number one just based on the fact they are taking themselves into such new businesses so well," he said. "A lot of people from Apple, even a lot of people that worked on the Apple Lisa and Macintosh computers in the beginning now work at Google. The thinking over at Google is very much like early Apple days. The fact that they give people time off to work on their own ideas is exactly matches some of the things that made Apple great. I wish Apple did that."

Wozniak said he has switched over to Google calendaring. "Google hasn't gotten me to change over to everything," he said. "But boy if I was (advising) somebody new and telling them what they should do for email, GMail would be my first suggestion. So far Google has been very good to its users. You almost wonder how can they be that good like they are giving and still make money."

As for Google's GMail, Wozniak said he has GMail accounts that he checks but doesn't use extensively. Sometimes with new email services, Wozniak tries to make sure he has favorite versions of his name such as Steve.Wozniak or SteveWoz on the new service. "Other people try to jump in," he said. "Sometimes a service will start up and somebody else will have SteveWoz and they'll have Woz and I'm pissed. It happened on AOL."

Wozniak said when Apple came out with the .Mac domain moniker the name Woz was not available. After being initially upset at not being able to get his own name for the Apple domain, he learned that his old friend Jobs "had actually saved it for me."