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.