The iPhone 4S Is Full of Bugs: Is the Magic Gone Already?

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Apple's (NAS: AAPL) gadgets "just work." That's the whole point.

Grab an iPhone and start enjoying it right away. That Macbook Pro isn't just fantastically handy and lightweight, but also orders of magnitude easier to use than the Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) Windows 7 machine on the next shelf. You may need to ready the manual for your Android phone even if you've had one before, because HTC slaps a different user experience on its phones than Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) does on its models. But the Apple experience is always predictable, always smooth. That's the magic of the brand, right?

Except when it isn't, of course. The iPhone 4S is shipping in huge volumes, but it also seems to cause a whole lot of trouble for users. Did the magic start fading away before Steve Jobs was gone?

What's wrong, dear?
The new iPhone's battery life turned out to be very short for some users, causing some online clamor. As it turns out, it was a software problem all along, and Apple plans to fix it in a quick iOS update.

Maybe that update could smooth over some other problems, too. For one, upgrading your old iPhone 4 or 3GS to the new software can wipe out your installed apps. For another, the update might kill your phone stone dead, as it did to two of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's old handsets. Woz, who now works as chief scientist at data-management firm Fusion-IO, also had a hard time seeing the benefits of the new iOS version, while the installation drawbacks are hard to miss.

Don't be such a sissy -- this won't hurt at all
The antenna debacle was supposed to put a dent in iPhone sales, too. Never really happened. The Apple faithful were all too happy to just slap a case on their beautiful slabs of glass and aluminum and go on enjoying the phone. The biggest remaining issue was the network quality of AT&T (NYS: T) , but first Verizon (NYS: VZ) came to the rescue, and now you can even use Sprint-Nextel (NYS: S) . Antennagate turned out to be a total non-issue.

And that wasn't even the first seemingly botched iPhone launch. The iPhone 3GS had overheating issues; some even exploded. Some 3G units came with hairline cracks in the case, and iOS 4 doesn't always play well on the older device. And nobody remembers those problems today.

Likewise, the launch issues with the iPhone 4S will soon be water under the bridge. The lost-apps issue seems to go away the next time you link up to sync your iTunes playlists, which doesn't sound like a long-term problem at all. Apple has a software fix in the works for that battery-life issue. The only real trouble here would be the occasional older iPhone going dead when applying iOS 5 -- which isn't a 4S issue at all but a separate software problem.

So no, the magic isn't gone yet. This stuff seems to happen with every launch, and it never does any long-term damage to the brand. Will this one be different because Steve Jobs isn't here to deflect complaints? No, because CEO Tim Cook only has to roll out some software fixes and replace a handful of old handsets, and all is forgiven.

What, me worry?
Maybe the iPad 3 launch will be worse, or the next-generation Macbook Air -- or just maybe the magic lives on beyond Jobs. Five years from now, we'll know how much of that nearly half-a-trillion market cap really depends on Steve's magic touch, and how much an accomplished operations guy like Cook can keep intact.

For now, Batterygate is much ado about nothing. I'd worry more about the insecure default settings for Siri, which also is unlikely to hurt sales at all. I mean, if you care enough about data security to know that there's anything wrong, you're already the kind of user who would change the problematic settings. The rest will happily buy the phone regardless and still think that Siri is the best thing since ninja-sliced fruit.

The 4S also didn't ship with 4G data networking or NFC payment-handler chips, but it's breaking sales records anyhow. Apple is notorious for letting new technologies mature before letting them into its hottest product lines. Learn more about NFC and why Apple most certainly will want to add it to next year's model. Your credit cards will soon be useless, and Apple needs to be a part of their replacement. This free video report will tell you all about it.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of and creating bull call spread positions in both Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Check outAnders' holdings and bio, or follow him onTwitterandGoogle+. We have adisclosure policy.

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