At first, it had seemed like a peculiar technical problem – some slight hitch in the software, no doubt. The incidents were almost universally embarrassing, of course, but that was hardly surprising. The idea that there might be anything malicious behind it, however – how could there be? The effort required, if it were deliberate… and for what purpose?
The first time it happened, it was to a twenty-something graphic designer, who found himself in the enviable position of sitting opposite a rather beautiful young woman on the train, who kept looking at him and smiling – while Britney Spears lullabied Toxic into his ears.
The most publicised time it happened was to a high-school student, who just happened to find herself in the middle of a tram filled with the (somewhat conservative) North Brunswick Silver Foxes – who were on their way to blitz the Melbourne Bridge Club Congress for the fourth year running – while the Electric Six promulgated their desire to take her to a gay bar, gay bar, gay bar…
The worst part about it, really, was that the poor saps had no idea. When the iPhone’s speaker started blaring the music, it was, of course, perfectly in sync with the music that they were already listening to through the earbuds – so they didn’t notice it at all. Until, that is, the reactions of those around them gave it away.
And then it was mortifying.
Initially, everyone was certain that it was just an unfortunate glitch – but the incidents started to become more common, and they always seemed to be perfectly timed for maximum humiliation, and then a technology website decided to investigate a previously unidentified circuit found during a tear-down of the device… finally identifying it as a mischief chip.
Steve Jobs, it turned out, had a twisted sense of humour.
“What are they going to do?” he smiled impishly when interviewed on the subject “Stop buying iPhones?”
“Besides, it’s not a bug. It’s a feature.”