iView: Open Letter to Apple
Thanks to a relentless focus on user experience, Apple leapt ahead of its competition immediately after introducing the iPhone more than a decade ago. Over the years, that focus has waned and morphed into so-so customer service, accessories that don't last, and non-intuitive iPhone software.
So-So Customer Service
Take my screen replacement experience, for instance. I love the look and feel of the iPhone so much that I don't use cases or screen protectors. Not surprisingly, last month, I dropped my iPhone 7 Plus onto concrete and broke the screen. Apple repairs its devices at Apple stores and through the mail. It aggressively discourages the use of unauthorized third-party repair services. The broken screen repair charge at an Apple store costs $169 for Plus iPhone models, up $20 from last year. Unfortunately, I live nowhere near an Apple store or authorized center. My options are to drive three hours to the nearest Apple store, pay for shipping, and be without an iPhone for a week, or send Apple $349 for express replacement and be overnighted another iPhone (Apple used to include this express service as part of warranty work and repair, but now charges AppleCare users $99 for the privilege). Since Apple makes its stores hubs for knowledge, sales, and repair, I don't understand why Apple doesn't open more stores to support its customers.
Accessories That Don’t Last
Another disappointing experience with Apple concerns expensive Apple accessories that don't stand up to normal usage. The cheapest Apple USB Lightning cable costs $19. As of this writing, thousands of people have reviewed the cable on Apple's website and have given it a two-star rating on average. Apple has been aware of the problem for years. Several of my cables have stopped working, after the ends ripped and left wires exposed. Further, my iPhone and iPad now report “Accessory not supported” when I try to use third-party cables that worked just fine before the iOS 11 upgrade. Also disappointing—after 18 months of using the 9.7-inch iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, the connection became unreliable with the dreaded “Accessory not supported” message appearing on my screen. A Google search revealed that others had similar problems. 9to5mac.com published an internal Apple service policy memo dated May 5, 2017, extending the Smart Keyboard warranty to three years. I happily called Apple support. I tried twice. Each time Apple gave me the run around and didn't seem interested in verifying the memo. I was told I could send it in for repair but would be better off ordering another $149 keyboard.
Confusing iPhone Software
Finally, each major upgrade to iOS brings more features but also more frustration. iOS 11 brought an unpleasant surprise for longtime App Store customers. If developers don't upgrade older apps, many of them no longer work. I miss the ability to use my older paid games and productivity apps. Also, 3D Touch introduces other usability problems. There are no cues to remember to use 3D Touch or to know the shortcuts it offers. Worse, after all this time, I still get confused about how to access it. To see the 3D options, I must remember to hold the icon and press hard. Maddeningly, I must remember to press and hold app icons less hard in order to delete apps.
As a long-standing Apple enthusiast, I have no plans to give up on Apple anytime soon. Yet I hope the company remembers its history of excellence and returns to the focus on user experience that captured my heart in the first place.
Hal, along with his wife Rita, founded iPhone Life’s original publishing company, Thaddeus Computing, in 1985. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Hal's new book at meditatingentrepreneur.com.