My Bottom Line on the iPhone4: Apple Service

by Marianne Richmond on June 24, 2010

So, today was the big day….big lines, lots of chatter, reviews, comparisons, and complaints. I would post a photo of my IPhone4 but I don’t have one… not yet. Oh, I will get one. Just not today. So I am writing this post not to talk about the lines in St. Louis (Were there lines in St. Louis? Apparently!)  or to ponder the features of the  Sprint HTC EVP 4G or Droid X versus the iPhone4. If the truth be known, I did a little comparison Googling because I am officially free to move around the cabin. My dreaded AT&T contract ended in February and I have a first generation (hanging my head) IPhone that is also no longer covered by Apple Care. And so I am told, no longer supported in any way shape or form by Apple…. shunned even from the latest upgrade, it was only a brief two years ago that this very IPhone was so very cool. Here it is, along with its long time friend and constant companion, Apple Care, on the day I brought them home.

And this brings me to the point of my post. The real reason that I will replace my current iPhone with another iPhone is APPLE SERVICE AND SUPPORT from Apple. So, the eye numbing feature by feature, design by design,  comparisons of the HTC EVO 4G, the Apple iPhone 4, and the Motorola Droid X or the AT&T versus Sprint versus T-Mobile versus Verizon and every other possible permutation offered up recently, left me only with numb eyes and the certainty that there was not a Holy Grail Phone, much less a Holy Grail carrier, data plan, battery etc.

Importantly, I have been an At&T Wireless  customer for the two years that I have owned my IPhone and I am a former customer of Sprint, T-Mobile, and Southwestern Bell/Cingular, the former AT&T wireless though never Verizon,  so I do have an opinion or two about the gang of three. My relationships with Cingular,  Sprint and T-Mobile ended badly. Sprint was a long term relationship that preceded smart phones and ended over customer service issues related to billing, Cingular was simply poor quality everything,  but my experience with owing Blackberrys with T-Mobile  is a better side by side comparison with the iPhone and AT&T.

This is the story: I bought a Blackberry Pearl when I switched to T-Mobile. I didn’t really like it and when the Blackberry Curve became available I actually bought it before my 2 year contract was up and paid the unsubsidized price. The trackball started almost immediately falling out. After popping it back in repeatedly, one day it popped out never to be seen again. In my opinion it was a manufacturing defect that should have been covered by warranty. In T-Mobiles’ opinion it was an issue that not only was not covered by the warranty, they claimed to have never heard of such a thing as a defective trackball “falling out” unless caused by the owner despite what the search engines said.

After argument after argument with countless T-Mobile reps, I finally got a T-Mobile rep to agree to send me a new Curve for $80. I reluctantly agree because $80 was a lot less than the $259 we had started with even though I really only wanted a new trackball. They insisted there was no such thing as trackball replacements. However, when the phone arrived it was the lower cost Blackberry Pearl that I already owned. When I called to complain that they had sent the wrong phone, they insisted that the rep had noted that I had agreed to a Pearl. More arguing and finally the rep’s supervisor called me back and insisted that not only had he written down “Pearl” but that she would NEVER have approved a Pearl for $50 (he had asked me to hold while he confirmed the Curve with his supervisor). I of course countered with the fact that I already owned a working Pearl so I would have never  agreed to pay $50 0r even 50cents for another one…and besides I really don’t like being called a lying phone abuser. Not only was T-Mobile dishonest about the known trackball problem, they were blatantly lying about our agreement. So..I found the email address of someone (can’t remember who) at T-Mobile who I thought might care about this and ended it with if I don’t hear back from you by X date I will cancel my service, pay the termination fee and move on. Whatever that date was came and went without a peep so I terminated and bought the IPhone.

A week or so later, I received a phone call from the “office of” whoever it was that I had sent the email to. You know that voice that says “this call MAY be recorded for training purposes” before you are connected to the “trainee”that never seems to be recorded in your favor?  Well, this time it was, and T-Mobile apologized and happily informed me that the recording had substantiated my email and that the rep had indeed agreed to send me a Curve for $80. Yes, I know I said..I was on the call. So, they would now in fact be willing to honor that agreement for me to pay $80 for a new Curve and they had already waived the termination fee. Thanks for the fee waive but no thanks on the $80 for the phone replacement that I felt should have been replaced for free to begin with and really, a free replacement would have been in order for nothing more than being lied to by several of your reps…or at least that was what I thought.

The contrast with the iPhone and Apple Care? Well, Apple Care does not involve AT&T. And the iPhone that I have today is not actually the same iPhone in my photo. I have had 3 iPhone replacements over the 2 years….one was even a crack in the glass in week 1…in their opinion, it is possible that the glass can be defective.  And because we own MacBooks, a MacBook Pro, iPods and an iMac I have spent a lot of time at the Genius bar with various issues and I have had various replacements handled with the utmost respect and integrity. I have also observed many other customers being treated in exactly the same manner. And sure, the $69 that I will pay for Apple Care makes the price of the iPhone $268, not $199 but it is so worth it.

And although the T-Mobile issue was extreme, my experience with Cingular and AT&T with non-iPhone issues tell me iPhone service and support involved them would be quite different than it is with Apple. And remember the Blackberry Pearl that I didn’t like…well I gave it to my son to finish his part of the T-Mobile contract with and over the course of the next year and a half the trackball fell out of that one. Rather than go round and round with T-Mobile I found a replacement trackball on Ebay for $3.00 which was fine…the back panel fell off and was lost and $Ebay had those for $13.

Sure I love every Apple computer that we own and can’t imagine buying any other computer.  I am not even close to being able to say that about the iPhone. I can only say that the replacement for my current iPhone will be an iPhone. After that, we will see. I know that the iPhone is not perfect…..and the most imperfect thing about it is the phone. See Robert Scoble’s post if you want to go there.  That’s not a  small thing. However, at the end of the day, Apple service trumps anything offered by any of the phone companies…and for me that makes the case. I know when I call Apple that the person I am speaking with will answer my question or get it answered and the Geniuses are Geniuses regardless of which Apple product is problematic.Best Buy Geek Squad? Puh-leeze!

So, service and support; that’s my answer in 3 words…the rest of this post is optional.

Oh and it was much more fun at the Apple Store when Kameron worked there.

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