Apple’s iPhone continues to attract not just customers but out-and-out fans, which can be a bit of a double-edged sword.

The company this week racked up the highest owner satisfaction ratings from J.D. Power. That’s especially impressive considering that it won the rankings for business use as well as personal use.

The catch is that when something does go wrong, the chorus of Apple chatterers can amplify criticism.Take version 3.1 of the iPhone’s operating system. Apple began pushing that out to consumers last month and, for the majority of users, everything went great.

Hundreds, though, have reported big problems. In the worst cases, phones slipped into so-called “coma mode” and stopped responding to commands.

More common were mysterious, battery-life-devouring issues that confounded owners and slashed time between charges by 50 per cent or more. Concerned iPhone users flooded message boards at and elsewhere, generating thousands of postings, and they booked up the tech-support appointments at some Apple’s stores for days.

Most maddening, for many, was Apple’s lack of official response. The company didn’t answer an emailed request for comment from the Financial Times, either, though some representatives did email users who complained on its pages.

Apple’s general advice on power issues is to conserve energy by reducing the functionality of the phone. The company’s Web pages devoted to batteries say that iPhones can last longer if users disable such things as “push” email, which automatically brings in Microsoft Exchange and other services, Wi-Fi connectivity, and even access to 3G, the speediest cellular network.

Certainly, a lot of the new functions added to the iPhone are also battery-eaters. “There is a perceived battery problem,” said an Apple technical support employee in San Francisco, adding that in most of the cases he had been involved with “people don’t understand how the technology works.”

But it is frustrating to buy a smartphone and then be forced to effectively get rid of either the “smart” or the “phone.” In some cases, Apple has replaced units that are still under warranty.

Late this week, Apple released a minor revision to its operating system download, what it called 3.1.2. That should fix the coma problem, it said.

But there was still no word on the deeper battery mystery, and some customers said they were furious. Using the brand currency and parlance of the day, a search on the mini-blogging service Twitter turned up far more references to “AppleFail” than to “MicrosoftFail” in the same period of time.

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