Apple, revisited

One of my first posts considered the oxymoron of “customer service” as applied to Apple.

In last his “Talking Business” column in last Saturday’s (July 14) New York Times, Joe Nocera writes about their lastest snafu: their battery replacemtn policy for the iPhone. The product just came out a couple of weeks agao and already there are concerns about battery replacement? Not recharging, mind you, but replacement.

The folks at Apple must have been out the day the industry was discussing customer convenience, Nocera opines. They clearly have “other priorities.”

[J]ust as my iPhone column was going to press a few weeks ago, Apple finally released its battery replacement policy. You can find it on the Apple Web site. (Or maybe not. It’s actually buried on the site. http://www.apple.com/support/iphone/service/battery/)

Anyway, here’s the policy: Because the iPhone lacks a replaceable battery, you will have to send your phone to Apple [emphasis added]. If your phone is under warranty, the new battery will be free. If it is out of warranty, it will cost a hefty $79, plus $6.95 for shipping. Apple will also lend you an iPhone while your phone is in the shop, which will cost you another $20, warranty or no.

It may be a matter of semantics, but when you have to pay to borrow something, that’s called renting, not lending. ___ cites the procedure if/when the battery runs down:

1. Put up $20, (or $105.95 if your iPhone is out of warranty);

2. Wait for the loaner to arrive;

3. Put your data on the loaner;

4. Send Apple your iPhone;

5. Wait for it to be returned;

6. Put your data back on your iPhone (it is erased while Apple is replacing the battery);

7. Mail in the loaner.

Whew. Given how awkward this all is, you have to wonder why Apple didn’t just build the iPhone with a replaceable battery.

He accuses Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, and Jonathan Ive, design chief, of being “design snobs, who care more about form than function” and

Larry Keeley, the president of the design firm Doblin Inc., wrote me an e-mail message after he’d seen the innards of the iPhone, which several Web sites have now published. The battery, he told me, lacks the normal metal jacket, making it “thinner and lighter, while also making it more difficult for consumers to handle or dispose of.” He added: “This is clear evidence that they are optimizing the INSIDES of the phone to the OUTSIDE form factor that they have designed. It is far more common and much cheaper to design the other way: pile up all the components you have to stuff inside, then figure out the sexiest box that can contain them.”

A few MAC-praising websites claim the battery life is better than expected, but you never know who’s hosting these sites and what their agendas are.

I have heard over and over from my Apple cronies that although there are benefits to the products, customer service is definitely not one of them. I hear horror stories of multiple-hour waiting lines at Apple stores, peopled by inattentive, inconsiderate, and/or just plain indifferent employees whose attitude seems to be, if you don’t like it, buy something else. But do so at the risk of being relegated to the class of the terminally uncool.

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