iPhone 5suck

Or, “Apple Doesn’t Have a Customer Loyalty Program”

So, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you’ve probably noticed that I go through cell phones like most people go through bags of chips. What can I say? I have relatively realistic requirements. One of those requirements, for example, is that any phone that I spend $1,000 on should last more than a year and a month, unless I drop it or get it wet, etc. Hardware-wise, a $1,000 device should last at least a year and change — preferably a minimum of the 2 years that most phones are on contract.

The reason I’m writing today is because that was absolutely not my experience with Apple’s old ‘flagship’ phone, the iPhone 5S.

I bought an iPhone 5S on launch day — switching from AT&T to Sprint in the process (something that has not been without its own caveats, but that’s for another day). That was September 20th, 2013.

In November 2014, I upgrade to iOS 8.1.1 (the day it came out), and my iPhone 5S started behaving somewhat erratically — it started rebooting itself randomly, with a blank blue screen beforehand. It threw some errors in the diagnostic logs about the NAND read/writes timing out. Sometimes it would reboot 6-7 times in a row before it would be usable again, sometimes it would reboot once and work. I figured it was just a bad flash, re-flashed the phone to 8.1.1, configured the device as new (didn’t restore from backup), but the problem persisted.

In December it got notably worse — now the phone was reliably rebooting at least 4-5 times a day, sometimes bootlooping for as much as 10-15 minutes before it was usable again. So, I set a reservation at the “genius” bar nearby and went to go meet some hipster idiot who didn’t give a crap about my problem. It rebooted in front of him, he said “oh, yeah, this. It’s a hardware problem, $270 to replace out of warranty”. I was pretty bothered by this — the phone was about 1-2 months outside of the 1 year included warranty, the problem only began when I upgraded to iOS 8.1.1, and I had already spent >$1,000 on the phone throughout the life of the contract. I talked with the genius for a few minutes before it was apparent he couldn’t really help even if he wanted to, they are seemingly not empowered to do anything other than parrot back policy to you. Nevermind the fact that his comment, “oh, yeah, this,” made me think this was a more widespread issue, which I then confirmed reading through dozens of exactly the same story on the Apple support forums. People with the same phone as me having the same behavior, right after upgrading to iOS 8.1.1. What a shocking coincidence.

So, I did what I do best — I escalated. I wrote Tim Cook an e-mail telling him that as a customer who bought a $1,000 device, I shouldn’t feel like I drew a “short straw”, and that I felt that Apple had a responsibility to ensure that their hardware actually functioned for a legitimate period of time. In contrast, my launch iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4 all still function with no issues as of this posting.

Less than 24 hours later, I received a phone call from a woman who worked in Apple’s corporate customer care department who was interested in working with me to have one of their higher level technicians in Texas do some diagnostics on the phone to validate whether or not it truly was a hardware issue.

Flash forward two weeks of me taking logs and e-mailing them and uploading them and following up, etc., etc., etc., and I finally get the call back from corporate that they have confirmed it was a hardware issue (that could not have been caused by me whatsoever), and that they’re very sorry but it’ll be $270 to replace the device out of warranty. I offer to buy AppleCare for $100 retroactively, which would allow for the replacement of the phone damaged due to hardware problems, but they decline as I can only buy AppleCare during the first 30 days or so after I have the phone. Appreciably, it likely doesn’t make sense for them to sell insurance after the device you’re insuring already breaks, but I figured it was a realistic attempt to meet them halfway, after their expensive piece of crap broke itself for absolutely no reason. They offer no solution other than $270 to replace the phone out of warranty — the replacement phone would only carry a 90 day warranty as well.

I explain to the person that I’m dealing with that I’ve been an Apple customer for *years* and that I have never seen a piece of their hardware spontaneously break itself so soon after purchase. I tell them that I’ve been using the iPhone since the 3G model all the way up through the 5S, and that every previous one of their phones is still functional. I tell them that I’ve been using Macs and Macbooks and MacBook Pros as my personal laptops for quite some time as well — and she cuts me off to tell me “I’m sorry, but Apple doesn’t have a customer loyalty program”.

That pretty much sealed the deal. I was already frustrated that a $1,000 device had failed less than 45 days outside of its included warranty, but the fact that the woman I was on the phone with was so blatant in her response stopped me dead in my tracks.

I told her I was going to dedicate my life to ensuring that everyone I possibly could share the story with would hear it, and that if even one person didn’t buy an iPhone because of it, I’d feel solidly victorious. I’m pleased to say that my father ended up buying a Windows phone instead of an iPhone 6 based on my story.

Anyways, the long and short of it is that Apple doesn’t give a shit about you or me. They don’t give a shit about any potential sale they may lose because of me. They honestly and earnestly give absolutely 0 fucks about the quality of their product, or their brand, or their customers. So, keep that in your mind when you blindly go spending $600 on a terrible watch, $1,000 on your next vendor-locked app ecosystem that they call a phone, or 30% more on your laptop because of a unibody aluminum enclosure. Apple would pretty much prefer you just fuck the fuck right off after giving them your money, and it’s apparent in how they treat their customers.

Me? I spent $200 and bought an HTC One E8 out of contract (which comes with a better warranty than Apple and a replacement guarantee) and haven’t looked back. Removing iTunes caused my computer to breathe a notable sigh of relief.

Sorry, Apple — you may not have a customer loyalty program, but your customers have loyalty to companies that don’t treat them like shit. I’m pleased that I now no longer own a single one of your products that I paid any money for, and I am no longer tied to your eco-system.

If you have an iPhone, I hope you never have to experience what they classify as “support”. It’s frustrating and poorly executed, and engaging with them will make it readily apparent that they truly, honestly, and without a shadow of a doubt do not give one tug of a dead dog’s dick about your problem.

My iPhone 5S? I shattered it into about a thousand pieces in my driveway. Pretty excellent catharsis. In its defense, it took 3 or 4 pretty solid throws straight at the concrete before it truly exploded into components. Sweeping it up was like sweeping away my entire Apple past, which fell into the electronic recycling box with the pieces of my phone.

Fuck you, Apple, and goodbye. Enjoy your sheep, I’m just not one of them any more.

Sprint, Siri, and Why I Miss Windows Phone 8

So, I recently switched from AT&T (god damn do they suck) to Sprint (god damn does their coverage suck), and in doing so, upgraded from my iPhone 4 to a 5S.  One of the ‘benefits’ of this upgrade was that I now have access to Apple’s idea of a personal assistant, Siri.  As I was previously a Windows Phone 8 user (fuck you Nokia, and your shitty fucking battery life, and your shitty fucking support, and your shitty treatment of your customers — no wonder your phone business is failing, you’re a company of assholes), I had been looking forward to replacing one of the nicest Windows Phone 8 features finally in my iPhone — voice dictation for SMS.

As previously mentioned, I have a fairly lengthy commute.  I classify myself as a fairly safe driver, and as such I do not use my phone while driving unless it is just for conversation over bluetooth.  I do not text and drive under any circumstance — it’s exceedingly dangerous.  If you do it, you’re an asshole and I hope that when you inevitably crash, you only manage to hurt yourself.  Dick.  In any case, Windows Phone 8 had a really well written feature where if you received an SMS while the phone was connected to a bluetooth hands free set, it would come over the set and say “Text message from (contact name) received.  Read it or ignore?”.  I’d say “Read it”, and it would read the text message for me.  It would then ask if I wanted to reply, and if I said yes, it would take voice dictation for my reply, read what it received back to me, and ask me for confirmation to send.  The voice recognition itself was extremely good, I wasn’t ever able to throw it for a loop.  Beyond that, all of this was handled 100% by the phone.  I did not need internet access in order for it to transcribe my voice to text, I only needed cell coverage to send the SMS itself.

I received my 5S on launch day (surprisingly, no one was in line at Sprint for one of these things.  I suppose that’s because it actually requires you to have customers in order for them to queue up outside.  I digress.) and was surprised to find that Siri does not automatically ask you if you want her to read an incoming text message when you’re connected over bluetooth.  Well, no big deal, all I have to do is hold the home button to get Siri up and then tell her to “Read SMS”.  The first time I tried this, Siri chugged for about 10 seconds and then said “I’m very sorry about this, but I’m afraid I can’t take any requests right now.”  I didn’t know at the time how frequently I would hear that in the coming days.  Turns out (and this isn’t really news to anyone in the know about these things), Siri requires internet connectivity to do fucking *anything*.  There is list of about 3 things Siri can do without being connected to the internet, and they are all entirely useless.

I’ve now had the 5S for a month and then some, and I have given up on Siri entirely.  Perhaps it’s a Sprint network coverage issue, but 75% of the time I ask Siri to do anything, I just get a shitty response about how she can’t fucking do anything right now.  I could be stationary with 5 bars of LTE coverage, and Siri will still refuse to do shit for shit complaining that “Something has gone wrong” or “I’m very sorry about this …”.  What a fucking joke.  Every time someone tells me know that they think Siri is cool, I immediately think they’re a fucking moron.

The end, go away.

iOS7, iTunes, Podcasts, and FUCK YOU

So, I’m an Apple user when it comes to my phone.  I’m not one of the ‘fanboys’ who rabidly and vehemently fight tooth and nail about these things (anymore?), but I am pretty damn well versed on the topic.  Unlike most people who talk about these things, I actually have used an Android phone, an iOS phone, and a Windows Phone 8 phone.  I detailed my findings pretty clearly on reddit here if you’re at all interested.  I’ve been over that topic from front to back so I’m not going to revisit much of it today, except to say that having used some Nexus devices, I’ll give Android the credit where it’s due.  Most of the problems I had with my GS3 were Samsung’s fault, not Android’s fault.  All that’s just framing for the rest of this discussion, I’m not here to talk about the pros and cons of each of the OSes, more specifically to vent about one really, really stupid change that Apple made with iOS7.

I have a fairly lengthy commute to and from work.  I drive approximately 25 miles each way through fairly heavy traffic.  As such, my morning commute can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, and my return commute at the end of the day takes anywhere from 60-150 minutes.  There aren’t many side streets that aren’t just as congested, so it’s not like much can be done to address the amount of time I spend in the car on a daily basis.  To fill in this huge gap of every day with something somewhat worthwhile, I’ve taken to listening to podcasts.  I like music, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t find it engaging enough to keep my mind off the fact that I’m stuck in a line of cars that stretches endlessly in each direction.  I need something new that I can actively engage in.  Many years ago, my brother-in-law turned me on to a podcast by Kevin Smith called SModcast.  Great podcast, I recommend it — it’s definitely got a lot of dick and fart humor in it, so be wary if those types of things offend you (… idiot), but all in all it’s a pretty well made and engaging podcast.  I listen to it and a couple of others on a daily basis.

Here’s how syncing and listening to podcasts worked for me on iOS6 and earlier:

  1. n1ckn4m3 subscribes to podcasts in iTunes.
  2. n1ckn4m3 tells iTunes to download back episodes of podcasts he wants to listen to and keep them on his computer.
  3. n1ckn4m3 tells iTunes to sync the 5 least recent unplayed podcasts to his iPhone, and to not keep fully-played podcasts on his iPhone.
  4. n1ckn4m3 syncs his iPhone with his computer to get the podcasts on his iPhone.
  5. n1ckn4m3’s iPhone gets plugged in to n1ckn4m3’s car via 30-pin Dock connector every time n1ckn4m3 gets into his car.
  6. n1ckn4m3’s car stereo outputs the podcasts and provides head unit link and steering wheel controls for the playback of the podcasts (and everything else in the music library).

Now, this wasn’t *perfect*, but it worked pretty well.  I would have preferred the ability for the iPhone to sync podcasts automatically overnight instead of manually having to sync the phone (has anyone in the entire fucking world managed to make WiFi sync work better than black magic?), but the end result was that with a minimal of management, my iPhone kept a reasonably up-to-date set of podcasts locally and gave me stuff to listen to during my drive.  Not the most elegant of syncing solutions but quite workable.

At some point, however, Apple decided (as often) that good enough was no longer good enough.  They separated out the podcast playback functionality from the Music application and gave it its very own app for you to download from the App Store.  This brought about the benefit of syncing podcast playback data through iCloud across multiple devices, and also the ability for the iPhone to natively download the latest podcasts itself without a sync to iTunes.  Pretty great update, except for one thing:

Apple decided that the standard media library control method used by the Music app was not good enough, so it replaced it — thus breaking third party connectivity to the iPhone for the podcasts app for every single 30-pin dock connecting head unit and stereo in the entire world.

Beyond the fact that this was a big ‘fuck you’ to anyone who had written an app or had designed hardware around this interface (appreciably, Apple is not responsible for third party products that interface with theirs), it fucked my use-case up because once the Podcasts app had been installed on the phone, you could no longer see podcasts in the media library, access them through the car’s head-unit interface, or play them back through the 30-pin dock connector on the bottom of the phone.  Great job, Apple, you pretty much annihilated my use case in one sweeping upgrade.  The saving grace was that AT LEAST I could uninstall the Podcasts app on iOS6 and return to the standard behavior I had looked for, even if it meant I didn’t get auto-downloads and auto-update and iCloud sync.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago — Apple launches the new iPhone 5C and 5S, I head to my local carrier and pick up one of the 5S models on launch day.  Of course, iOS7 has taken the podcast/media library separation to new heights.  The Podcasts app is still not installed on the phone by default, and you can still sync podcasts to your iPhone using iTunes — but they go into a magical no-man’s-land on the phone, completely inaccessible until you install the Podcasts app.  That’s right, they removed the native ability for the Music app to even see or play these things now.  By default, without the Podcasts app installed, you’re effectively saying “Hey, iTunes, put some shit I can’t use on my phone to take up space.  Make sure it’s completely unusable, I don’t want to see or hear about these files ever again, I just want them to take up space on my phone.”  This is fucking stupid.  Just fucking stupid.  But OK, that’s a ‘thing’, and I’m damn sure not going to be able to downgrade the 5S to iOS 6.x to restore proper media library functionality, and I guess I do still have my old iPhone 4 sitting happily on iOS 6.1.2 — how about I just stuff my iPhone 4 into my car, leave it there, and sync that bad boy over WiFi?

Well, that sounds great in theory, but unfortunately — good enough was yet again not good enough for Apple.  iTunes 11.1 incorporates the new cloud sync behavior for podcasts.  I first noticed this when I realized that my D: drive on my desktop somehow had about 120GB more free space than it should have without me having done anything to affect it.  I started digging and realized that iTunes had (on my behalf, without asking, of course) deleted every single one of my podcasts marked ‘played’, even though I very specifically had told it never to delete local content without asking.  It had also decided to delete something like 40-50 unplayed podcasts spread through a couple of my podcast subscriptions.  After a sync, my iPhone 5S was showing every podcast I subscribed to on my PC — even a few which had never been configured to sync with the device.  I removed a couple of the subscriptions from the phone and was surprised to see them immediately delete from my PC as well.  Now Apple has decided that every podcast on your computer should also be on your phone — you couldn’t possibly be making use of their ‘only sync checked items’ functionality, or, maybe the ‘sync 5 least recent unplayed of selected podcasts’ functionality, right?

At this point, in order to stop iTunes and Apple from completely fucking my podcast library up nearly daily, I’ve had to unsubscribe from all podcasts in iTunes, manually re-download the podcasts I wanted to keep, force configure iTunes and my iPhone 5S to never delete podcasts under any circumstance — and it still fucking does it every other goddamned day.

So, here’s how syncing and listening to podcasts works on iOS7:

  1. n1ckn4m3 subscribes to podcasts in iTunes.
  2. The Nebuchadnezzar fires its EMP, killing the sentinels and 30-pin dock connectivity.
  3. A dimensional rift is created on n1ckn4m3’s HDD which grows to encompass a random selection of individual podcast episodes and full podcast subscriptions.
  4. Steve Jobs’s ghost is fed n1ckn4m3’s podcasts for sustenance in the afterlife.

In closing, fuck you Apple, seriously.  You’re bad at this and you should fucking feel bad.  I’m sad that I couldn’t hack it with Android or Windows Phone enough to get the fuck away from you.  At least you used to pretend you were the elegant phone OS where ‘everything just worked (TM)’.  Now you’re just as bad as Android with “one guy somewhere decided this feature would be better if it worked this obtusely specific way that fit his needs and only his needs, so your fucking podcasts are deleted and your car stereo can fuck off.  P.S. eat a dick.”

Grumble.  Now go away.