Republican bomb-thrower Donald Trump has upped the ante on his insult-everybody campaign by calling for a boycott of Apple (AAPL). That’s right, the world’s most valuable company, and a beloved one, besides. Trump—fresh off a spat with the Pope—apparently feels he can poke anybody or anything at this point, and emerge victorious.
The underlying issue is a serious one. Apple is embroiled in a dispute with the Justice Department over an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the shooters in the San Bernardino massacre of Dec. 2. The FBI is demanding that Apple develop technology to unlock the phone, so they can investigate information the shooter may have stored there. Apple CEO Tim Cook says that’s no easy task and doing so would set a precedent allowing hackers and crooks easier access to iPhones worldwide. Apple is contesting the FBI order in court, with an appeal set for Feb. 26. But further appeals could keep the matter in court for months.
Trump, with his genius for publicity, is playing the law-and-order card, in calling for Apple to do what the FBI wants. “Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information,” Trump said recently at a rally in South Carolina. “Apple should give up.” Trump, of course, also took to Twitter to affirm his position:
I use both iPhone & Samsung. If Apple doesn’t give info to authorities on the terrorists I’ll only be using Samsung until they give info.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2016 Boycott all Apple products until such time as Apple gives cellphone info to authorities regarding radical Islamic terrorist couple from Cal— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2016 Now, this is fascinating. Rarely does one famous brand confront another so pugnaciously, so we get to see how both of them shadowbox in the limelight. In Apple’s corner: The world’s most revered tech company, according to the latest annual rankings by Harris, with a “reputational” score of excellent. In Trump’s corner: a 38% favorable rating and the lead, for now, in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Those circumstances seem to favor Apple in a toe-to-toe matchup with Trump, especially since a boycott of Apple is sort of an absurd premise. There are something like 1 billion devices in consumer pockets running on Apple’s iOS software, and most people can’t live without their phone or tablet for more than a few moments. Besides, Cook says he’s sticking up for consumers by stiff-arming the feds (though not everybody believes that).