Last week, I popped into my local Apple store for back-to-back-to-back appointments with the Geniuses (or Genii) at the Bar.
First port of call was my own iPhone and its radical draining battery. Turns out the problem was my 17,000 apps independently calling for “background app refresh” and “location services” all at the same time. Problem solved, one for one.
Next up was my daughter’s beyond-smashed and dysfunctional iPhone. This is when things got hairy. I was told it would cost $199 for a new phone. I explained I had AppleCare and they acknowledged this, but informed me that my two-year warranty had expired.
Enter the worst bait-and-switch in the history of not-so-smartphones. Obviously the idea is to get people to upgrade to new phones. In this case, my daughter’s iPhone 4S could easily have been upgraded to a 5 or 5S (with Two-year contract of course), but as it turns out, she -- quite understandably -- is holding out for an iPhone 6.
Only Apple is not operating on the same page as my daughter (who I suspect she is not the exception, but the overwhelming majority now) and as a result, is lagging behind pretty radically in the high-stakes game of innovation. The Apple 4S came out on Oct. 14, 2011 and my daughter’s phone was purchased in May, 2012. It’s now August 2014 and all we hear from the too-cool-for-school Blueshirts is thestandard response: “We don’t know when the anticipated mythical iPhone 6 announcement is going to echo from the heavens.”
Why not? Why wouldn’t you inform your own people when your overdue phone is ready? Why constantly trade on innuendo, hype and secrecy? That’s soooo Steve Jobs-era and 2011!
After switching Blueshirts three times and apparently talking to the store “manager,” I found out that I could purchase a phone for $199 and then trade it in when I was ready. At today’s rate, I would get $125 for the phone. But a) the rate fluctuates daily (I’m a day trader now?), b) the phone would have to be in pristine condition (did I mention, this was for my teenage daughter?) and c) I would have to use the store credit for a new iPhone from the Apple store.
The problem here is that Apple is being out-innovated (outsmarted?) by AT&T and the like. AT&T now has “Next” that allows customers to swap out old phones (defined as older than a day) for the latest and greatest with two provisions: 1. The “lease” renews and 2. It has to be done in an AT&T store. That’s AT&T 1, Apple 0 for those keeping score in-store.
To make matters worse, I explained to “the manager” that I was literally (my third appointment that day) about to purchase a new MacBook Air and spend up to $3,000 in the process in their store, making it the 11th active i-device in my household. Yes, there is a “kick me” sign on my back right now.
You would think the manager would be “empowered” to make me an offer. How about meeting me halfway at $100? Nope.
How many people were in the exact same situation as myself, do you think? I didn’t have to think for too long. There was one person sitting right next to me with the exact same problem: a horribly cracked iPhone 4S screen, waiting for the 6, and oops… expired AppleCare.
How many tens, hundreds, thousands of people are walking into Apple stores every single day experiencing the exact same poor customer experience? The mind boggles.
It would appear that innovation -- or rather, the lack thereof -- has a value: It’s $199. When multiplied by tens of thousands of dissatisfied customers, that comes at a rather steep price.