iView: Open Let­ter to Ap­ple

iPhone Life Magazine - - News -

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 hal@thad­deus.com. Check out Hal's new book at med­i­tatin­gen­trepreneur.com.

Il­lus­tra­tion by Mikaila Maidment, mikail­a­maid­ment.com

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