Apple iCondom – Use and Throw

A couple of years ago I bought an iPod Touch and have been using it mainly when I travel. The other day I was checking the stuff I needed to take for my upcoming three week long US trip and found that the lowermost part of the iPod touch screen wasn’t responding. I could not adjust the volume slider in the Music application. Neither could I use the lowermost row of keys in the virtual keypad. I use my HP iPAQ for email and stuff. So I could live without a keypad. But adjusting volume was critical to me. After fiddling around I found that if you double-pressed the iPod button on the home screen, a volume control popped up in the center of the screen which was accessible. So the iPod was usable but it would be irritating to do that every time I wanted to adjust the volume.

So as a first step I logged into iTunes and paid Apple $4.95 to update the iPod software to version 3.1.1. That didn’t help. So without anything better to do I handed the iPod to the Apple Service Center in my city. I told them that I had already restored the iPod to the latest software version and thought that it looked like a hardware problem. They told me that it wasn’t a big deal and that they would fix it.

A day later, I got a call from the Service Center telling me that they would need to restore my iPod and wanted to know if they could go ahead since all my data would be erased. I gave them the green signal. Today I got a call from them asking me to collect my iPod. I went over and I was handed a service bill of 350 Rupees (about $8). There was one item on the bill titled “Diagnosis of problem without repair“. The conversation went like this.

Me: You couldn’t fix it?
Apple: No Sir. We restored the iPod. But that did not solve the problem.
Me: I already restored it before I got it here. I told you, remember?
Apple: Yes Sir. We tried it again. But that didn’t help. This is a hardware problem.
Me: I guessed as much. That’s why I brought it to you. Did you try replacing the touch screen?
Apple: We do not open iPods.
Me: What?!! What do you mean you do not open iPods? Do I need to take to another service station?
Apple: No sir. We do not open iPods in India.

A moments silence as I took this in.

Me: Hang on a second. How did you conclude that it was a hardware problem if you did not even open it?
Apple: We tried restoring it, and that didn’t work. So it must be a hardware problem.

Freaking brilliant!!

Me: OK. Help me understand something here. You are selling something that you do not even know to open?
Apple: (Silence)
Me: So now what? What do I do with this thing?
Apple: Sir, if it was under warranty then we would replace it for you free of cost.
Me: You bloody well should. If you, being an Apple service station, can’t open an iPod, then you had better have a room full of replacement iPods. OK, so my iPod is out of warranty. Now what?
Apple: We can take back your iPod and give you a new one for 8,000 Rupees.
Me: Eight grand? How much is a new one?
Apple: 12,400 Rupees. But you will get only three months warranty for the new iPod.
Me: Why only three months?
Apple: Err… I don’t know, Sir.
Me: OK, let me see if I have understood this right. You manufactured and sold an iPod that you cannot or will not even open. And now you are willing to buy it back for a third of the price and give me a brand new one with a warranty of only three months.
Apple: That’s right, Sir.
Me: So if this new one conks off a day after three months, I will again need to pay you eight grand to get a new piece.
Apple: Err… Yes Sir.
Me: And to tell me all of this you are charging me 350 bucks.
Apple: Sir, the 350 Rupees is for the inspection of the iPod.
Me: What inspection? You did not even open it. Tell me something, what exactly did you do with my iPod for the past two days?
Apple: Sir, we restored it.
Me: I already did that you…

I cut myself short. By now, I was pissed. Shit pissed. So before I said or did something that I would later regret I decided to pay up and get the hell out of the place. There was no way I was going to pay eight grand for a new iPod that came with only three months warranty, especially since they would not fix it if it broke. Moreover, the iPod was usable. So till the time that I bought something else this would do.

Me: Never mind. Here is 350 bucks.
Apple: Sir, I will need a photo ID.
Me: Here’s my driver’s license.
Apple: Sir, I will need a photocopy.
Me: Why? Will I look different in a photocopy? Go ahead and take a photocopy.
Apple: Sir, we don’t have a copying machine in the office. There is a shop across the street. You can get one there.

At this point it is a miracle how I didn’t burst a blood vessel. I waited a few seconds for my rage to settle down, then coldly look into this guy’s eyes as if I was going to pluck them out and said, “You know what? I am going to put this money in your pocket, take my iPod from your hand and walk out of that door.” And I followed to do precisely that.

This may be a cultural thing. In the country that I come from, you don’t simply pay twelve grand for something and then throw it away after a while. Twelve grand is a month’s salary here. Is it even legal to sell an electronic item that you refuse to even open.

A while ago I was looking for advice on buying a notebook since my HP tx2000 refused to respond to my brute force techniques. Quite a few people on Twitter and Facebook advised me to go for a Macbook. No freaking way. Do these Apple morons here in India even know to open Macbooks? I will be surprised if they do because common sense dictates that a Macbook is way more complicated than an iPod. Unless Apple considers the iPod to be something like a condom – use and throw.

  • lol, as an engineer have you looked at the ipod? Did you see any screws?
    No it is all click systems that break on opening. Als in most western countries it cost more to fix then to buy a new one.
    But I own a dingoo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dingoo) and that retro style mp3 player is cheap, it has screws, it has linux, and it has replacement parts that you can buy. Things like the screen and battery are available and you can replace them yourself. Mac is soooooooo overrated and expensive.

    • Not choking on apples rooster.

       You, sir, are an idiot, I have opened and replaced many things in an Ipod, and to say that it will break upon opening is not only a complete lie, but a complete design failure if true. If a company can not fix a product that it makes for less than it costs to buy one then that company is inherently flawed and obviously trying to manipulate its ignorant consumers to blindly throw money into its burners. That being said, the only reason to buy an Ipod is if you cant use the internet to find out how very many better products there are.

  • Marijn,

    I don't give a shit whether it has screws or no. Or whether they used some glue from Mars to stick it up. When I pay for a piece of electronics that expensive, I expect that the manufacturer will fix it if it breaks. Charge me if its out of warranty. But fix it. Not ask me to buy a new one.

    I can't understand these apple fans are raving about. Maybe they enjoy getting shafted by this use and throw bullshit.

  • ChrisMcA

    Deelip,
    I sincerely feel your pain. I'll say they are great for thing under warranty as I've had them hand me a few brand new mice (yeah the mighty mouse scroll wheel is a JOKE, I've gotten 4 now and all of them stop working after a month) as well as a phone when my screen stopped. But the minute your out of warranty they start throwing these great “replace at a cost” crap at you. I had them offer to sell me a iPhone original a week before the 3G ame out for literally $200 more than the 3G was going to be. Glad I got to wait in that line though.

    Great products when they work right but when they go down oh the nightmare. And yes they do intend them to be use and throwaway, why do you think they lock features on one device only to unlock it on the next (see video in iPhones and others)

  • John (original)

    The trick I use for my Mighty Mouse is to flip it over and roll the scroll wheel vigorously on a piece of plain paper on a hard surface.

    This gives me another month or so of trouble free scrolling.

    Not ideal, but it works.

  • cadguy

    Deelip – In india the “Authorized service shops” dont repair stuff – they just replace. You should go to the friendly mechanic like this one – http://nycipoddoctor.com/Main/Pricing.htm

  • Get out there quickly Deelip, and register 'iCondom' as a trademark – it has a distinct marketing ring to it 😉

  • EvanBryent

    Nice article, yet i still want to win my iPod.Here, please vote for my CAD design (concept CAR in 2015):

    http://www.zwcad.org/DC2010/VoteDesign.aspx?id=58

    thank you for all your support!!

  • This use and throw attitude will take a long time to work here in India. I remember, many years ago, a company came out with use and throw cameras. The product failed miserably. People just could not bring themselves to buy something and then just junk it after one use. No matter how much they were told that the actual valuable part was the film roll and the rest was all cheap plastic, they wouldn't buy it. And by buying I mean they could not buy the idea, not just the product.

  • Evan,

    I don't think I am allowed to vote. I am one of the final judges 😉

  • Tony

    Not everyone in the US likes throwing stuff away; here is an interview with Kyle Wiens of iFixit:
    http://www.edn.com/article/CA6715779.html

    And the iFixit iPod Touch teardown:
    http://www.edn.com/article/CA6600223.html

  • That’s very heartening to know.

  • murda

    Your consumer protection laws need updating more than the firmware of the player. In Australia, a manufacturer might nominate 12 months warranty, but the government department of fair trading has force of law to make the supplier replace the device up to three years after purchase, a consumer device that doesn't last that long is not regarded as being of merchantable quality, ie its such a piece of rubbish that it shouldn't be on the market, so the seller is obliged to refund the purchase if it can't be repaired. The effective statutory warranty is three years.

  • Excellent!

  • We have such a law too, the consumer organization has en life expectancy for products, if a product breaks within that time you can go to a commission. But Apple doesn't use that commission, so you need to go to court.
    But Apple just ignores the law and still makes a lot of money because going to court isn't cheap, so a lot of consumers won't do it. And Apple just doesn't gives a sh*t.