This is the story of how Apple lost the enthusiasm of one family of formerly fanatical customers.
We’ve owned nine or ten iPhones, a couple of iPads, and a long string of iMacs and Macbooks. Most of these are no longer with us, but the warm glow of that “it just works” feeling is still with us, and that’s what keeps us going back to the Apple store for more. About a month ago, Apple breathed an icy wind into our idyll. One of our iPhone 4’s was bricked by Apple’s iOS 5.0.1 update.
One minute it’s humming along in perfect working order, eagerly anticipating its new iOS version, the next minute it’s a useless brick. Doing Apple’s own iPhone update from within iTunes on a Macbook Pro had bricked the phone. It’s not jailbroken or anything weird like that, just an innocent iPhone 4. I think to myself, “no problem, I’ll take to the friendly geniuses at the local Apple store, they’ll take care of it”. I made an appointment, drove down to the store, and explained to the genius what had happened and that I’d tried the various restore methods found on Apple’s support site.
Enter the icy wind. Not being able to tell a customer from an idiot, the genius tried the same restore methods again and, surprise, they didn’t work. This is where I expected her to say “This is our fault, I don’t know how to fix it, I’ll give you a new one”. Instead, I heard “it’s a month out of warranty, we can only sell you a replacement”. Cost of said replacement: $149.
This would be an extremely generous offer if I’d caused the brickification of the phone. But since it bricked itself during the iOS update process, with help only from Apple’s own servers and software, this offer was an affront. Clearly Apple caused this issue. Asking for some explanation of why Apple wouldn’t own up to the problem, I was told that since they’d replaced so many cracked screens and things in the past for free, they were no longer doing that.
I tried to explain very patiently the difference between a problem I might have caused myself (e.g. cracked the screen) and a problem that Apple caused due to some defect or snafu in their iOS update. The latter is not my problem, it’s Apple’s problem. The fact that Apple used to give away free replacements willy-nilly to people who sat on their phones or left them out in the sun is also not my problem. It’s Apple’s problem. The Apple store employee and I went around and around for ten or fifteen minutes before I left.
That’s where things stand now, with an icy wind where there used to be a warm Apple-shaped glow. If you can’t own up to this, Apple, you’re off my list.
I’m still a fan of Apple computers, and I’ll continue to buy them, though I’ll probably wait longer between upgrades. I’m not eager to give Apple money anymore, the magic spell is lifted, their computers are simply more efficient to use than the alternatives.
In a future post, I’ll write more about how the Apple mobile device ecosystem is like being in an all-inclusive resort, whereas Android is more like a city, with traffic and noise. And choice. A resort is all about the warm glow and the “ahhh” of settling down into a beach chair with a mai-tai.
But after a while you get sick of resort food, and resort muzak, and resort transport, and resort activities, and you’re ready to go back into the world of choice. Having used an Android phone for a while, there are quite a few things to like and amazingly it just works and is more efficient and easier to use than my iPhone. If you’re getting resort ennui from your Apple devices, go out into the world and take a look around. You might be surprised.