One of the first things people would probably say to describe me, if you’re fortunate enough not to have met me, is that I’m a massive Apple nerd. I’d buy anything if it’s got an Apple logo on, around, or somehow related to it. Ever since I bought my first 12″ 800Mhz iBook G4 some time back in around 2003, I’ve been absolutely and completely hooked.
Many don’t understand Apple fanboys. The unquestioning appreciation of everything the company does, the ability to just gloss over little hiccups, and antennagates, and remain faithful no matter what. Today, my confidence in the products of the company I probably held the greatest respect for out of any company, has – to try not to be too dramatic about it – taken an absolutely colossal hit.
I was one of the people who was waiting on an iPhone since the days of using iSync to try and wrench in some sort of backup system for contacts on a Motorola RAZR. I’ve had every single iteration of the product line since original launch, bought out contracts early to upgrade, and been in line for every launch day short of the 3GS, when I had to pick it up a little later, as I was otherwise engaged being crushed by partying Spaniards watching David Guetta in his residency at Pacha in Ibiza. My most recent iPhone purchase was the 4, and I, like many people I know decided not to upgrade to the 4S, as it seemed a fairly minor upgrade, and my current model would do just fine until whatever next year might hold. The current model that I purchased sim-free, for £599.
Now £600 is a lot to pay for a phone. But my iPhones have always been reliable, I’ve never had a single problem with a single one of them that I can recall, but I’ve only ever had them a maximum of 12 months. This is the first time I’ve had one longer than that, and I’ve been, and I quote a manager of the store I’ve just been to, “unfortunate”.
I love my Apple products, and as such, they don’t get abused. I’d go so far as to say you could put all of them back in their boxes (most of which I’ve still got), and they’d do a pretty damn good job of fooling anyone into thinking they’d never left them. And yet, the home button, and the lock button on my iPhone 4 are now not operating their intended functions. Like anyone would, I booked an appointment, and took it into store.
I shan’t go into my in-store experience in any depth, because frankly, I worked in retail (for O2, for 4 years) through college and uni previous to becoming a full-time webbie, so I know there are restrictions and procedures that everyone has to work up against. I go out of my way to be nice to retail staff members, and avoid being ‘that guy’ who quotes Sales of Goods Acts, because it isn’t their fault something’s gone wrong with the product of the company they’re in the employ of, and I’ve been on that particularly bad smelling end of the stick more times than I care to remember. I strongly believe it’s a rite of passage, that everyone should have to spend at least a year in retail at some point in their life. It’ll make you a much nicer person, trust me. I also know that when the brown stuff hits the fan on the odd occasion it’s not the customer’s fault, a good manager will escalate the situation to try and get it resolved. The staff members I spoke to, including the manager, were perfectly polite, albeit unable/unwilling to go out of their way to resolve my issue, as I was outside the 12 month warranty period, and unlike every other Apple product I own, I haven’t paid for AppleCare on it.
My point comes down to this.
The response I got from Apple, was that for whatever reason (the fact the iPhone’s built so compactly, would be my guess), it’s not possible to repair the home or lock buttons. The phone has to be replaced. At a cost to me of £119, because the phone is 17 months old. 5 Months more than the warrantied 12 months of age.
What they’re saying is this.
Anything more than 12 months is beyond what you’d reasonably expect a product costing £600 to last.
A product that is happily sold on 24 month minimum-term contracts (and 36 month contracts in Canada, by the way). So… What would I be doing for the last 7 months of my 24 month contract? Because obviously it’s not reasonable in any way to expect a phone to last that long without some sort of mechanical breakdown to 50% of the total buttons on it.
After having my 2 year old MacBook’s display and wireless unit fail earlier on this year, being without it for a month over the course of three repair cycles, and fortunately dodging a £700 bill due to having AppleCare, I went away happy, even after a month of being without a machine, and a bit of a dip in confidence, as the issue was resolved, and I had a working machine.
It makes me genuinely concerned that Apple products’ build quality is becoming, quite frankly, sloppy. Just because they can. Because there is too high a demand for them to be able to build them solidly any more, because they’re shiny, so people will just buy them anyway. Hell, I should know, I’ve been doing it for long enough. The argument so many fanboys have had for so long when battled down on the price of Apple products is that you get what you pay for. But if you knew your next £600 Apple purchase was only going to last 12 months before you had to start topping it up with repair fees, or extended warranties, would you still buy it? That’s the question that’s going through my head at the moment.
As a die-hard fanboy for quite so long, it pains me to say it, but I’m genuinely considering just buying elsewhere. What pains me more than that though, is the fact that because I’m ‘just one guy’ in an industry of people who buy and use their products every minute of every day, and this isn’t being written on Engadget, or MacRumours, or TUAW, it won’t make the blindest bit of difference to the company I’d come to absolutely love.