My iPhone Odyssey–As it Stands Today

Last December as a company perk and to improve communication within the TheJapanShop.com team, I decided to buy all employees (that is, myself and Pam, my sister) an iPhone. Having succumbed to all the hype, we came up with good rationalizations why such a purchase would be necessary. All the way to the AT&T store, we used our imagination with utmost diligence.

I don’t regret getting the phones; the phones have been extremely useful (frankly, beyond my expectations), but I thought you, dear reader, would be amused by my troubles.

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen… Nobody but a half-dozen Apple technical support employees.

光陰矢の如し
(こういんやのごとし)
Time flies like an arrow

Ok, if I were to be in that slightly annoying Apple commercial, my first line would be, “Hello, I’m a PC.” I see no rational reason for paying twice as much for a computer that won’t run any of the software I own. But the iPhone is nice and it talks with my PC—albeit ONLY through the bulky and oft buggy iTunes software (not a big fan).

On the other hand, I should also say, Apple support is exceptional. A+++ (except the ogre, see below)

Here is my story. Sit back with a cup of Joe and be thankful you are not me right now.

About Three weeks ago: When syncing my iPhone, the phone would show the Apple logo when booting up, but make no more progress. I tried reseting it and restoring it, but nothing would help. Finally, I took it to the AT&T store. Using his iTunes, the clerk was able to get it working, but I had to sync it at home to get the phone part to work.

Arriving at home, I attempted a sync. Again the same problem occurred. I called Apple. Two hours or so was spent trying just about everything imaginable. The guy was very nice and patient and so was I. Finally he said I should send the phone to Apple for repair. He asked if I wanted a loaner. I said sure! He said it would cost $39. I said I could wait a week or so without a phone. The box came, I sent it off, and waited.

About Two Weeks Ago: I waited almost a week without the phone. Not being able to check the news and email from anywhere was the most painful part. I really don’t use the actual phone as much as everything else.

Finally, a box from Apple arrived. Opening it, I read the technicians couldn’t fix the problem so they replaced the phone with a brand new phone. “Great!” I thought. That is, until I tried syncing. Same thing.

I got on the horn with Apple again for another hour. Turns out, the problem was not with the phone (my original phone was just fine), but with a corrupted iTunes (not a big fan) backup file. I simply reset the iPhone and set it up as a new phone. I lost a lot of data, but nothing too important. You see, iTunes only makes a SINGLE backup of the phone. According to the tech (and from what I can see) I couldn’t just go back to a backup from a few days before the problem started. iTunes just adds new data to a single backup file. When that file gets corrupted, that’s all she wrote. I was not miffed about the support I got—they sent me a new phone for goodness sakes!—but of the iTunes software that caused the problem.

Anyway, after I installed it as a new phone, (again with Apple support on the line), I thought all was peachy.

About a Week and a Half Ago: I was happily using my new iPhone to check email and make quick calls for days before someone called me. It was a customer and after about two minutes I heard them say, “Hello. Hello?” Then a click. I heard them just fine. I called them right back and again after a few minutes, “Hello. Hello?” Click. I had to use a different phone to finish that conversation.

I called my sister and asked her to test it. Same thing. After a few minutes I could hear just fine, but the other party couldn’t hear me. The symptoms: The person talking to me couldn’t hear me after about two minutes, but I could hear him or her just fine. It didn’t matter if I called or someone called me.

Again, I went to the AT&T store first not wanting to be on the phone for an hour with Apple. There the clerk gave me a new Sim chip and sent me on my way. I got home, reset the phone (Again) and made a test call. Same problem…

I was on the phone with Apple for at least another hour that night. The end result: It was decided I should receive a free loaner phone and a box to send the bad phone away.

Last Monday: The new phone came, I synced it, added passwords and all was well.

Last Tuesday: FedEx came and I sent the bad phone back. I thought this was the end of the matter. After all, I now had a perfectly working phone. Why would Apple spend the money to send the bad phone back to me even if they got it to work?

Last Friday circa 4PM: I was flabbergasted to hear a new box from Apple had arrived. I thought, “Why?!” This phone works just fine; I’ve set it up with all my contacts, email addresses, passwords… In short, this was my baby—and they want to take it from me?

Last Friday circa 4:15PM: I’m at home and I open the box to read, “The problem was unable to be duplicated. Sending phone back as is.” They didn’t fix it AND this is the same phone. I decided to simply call Apple and say, “I’ll keep the phone I have thank you. It works just fine.”

Last Friday circa 4:16PM: I’m on the phone with Apple and got a semi-rude person. After telling this entire story from start to present, he basically told me, “If you keep the loaner phone, your card will be charged $499 AND you will be out of warranty.” I imagine an evil ogre from a Tolkien fantasy was talking from the other side of the phone. I told the ogre, I would hang up now and test the returned phone and, “if the problem persists, I shall be miffed and call back none too happy.”

Last Friday circa 4:22PM: Calling Apple back none too happy, I once again had to explain the story all the way through. This tech was much nicer (must be of the elven race) and almost immediately sent me to a ‘manager.’ The manager was super nice and even gave me her extension in case I needed help again. She said she believed me, but I made her call me so she could hear the phone did have a problem still. Once hearing the problem, she assured me she would tell the repair people to simply replace the phone and NOT repair this one. Basically, the ogre was correct. If I keep the working phone, I will have a $499 charge and be out of warranty. So I packed up that phone and waited for FedEx to take it away.

Today (Monday): Yumi just called me to tell me FedEx came and dropped off my next new phone. This phone is the loaner and will be returned once my ‘real’ new phone arrives (Phone #5)

To be continued…

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5 thoughts on “My iPhone Odyssey–As it Stands Today

  1. OMG, what a tale! I guess when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong! I would love to have an iphone or similar when my current phone contract runs out. If it’s in Australia by then, and it’s not locked to one network like I am reading it might be.

  2. What a story, and a shame you’ve had such problems. Hopefully the next one will be your last! I’m looking forward to them releasing it here in Japan later this year so I can try it out. Not sure how well they’ll get all of the necessary Japanese mobile software working on it, but it’ll be interesting to see.

    But I have to say something about your “I see no rational reason for paying twice as much for a computer that won’t run any of the software I own” line.

    That sounds to me like you’re talking about pre-2000 Apple computers or the current Mac Pro. The modern ones (iMac and MacBook in particular) have been shown comparable to PC prices many times – they even beat people like Sony and Lenovo out on price these days if you compare them with likewise specs. And the fact you *can* run Windows on them (dual-boot or VM), and therefore have access too all Windows software. I do this on mine for website testing using IE.

    Sorry but I saw your comment as a bit of a hyped-up exaggeration, and saw fit to respond. And although I do like my Mac, I used Windows from v3.1 to XP before moving to OSX back in 2003. I also admit to hating my girlfriend’s brand new Acer Vista laptop, which I bought for her under the illusion it was cheaper than the MacBook – it was about half the price, but the specs are nowhere near similar and neither is the build quality; it can’t even play a DVD smoothly! I really do wish I’d stumped up the cash for a MacBook instead.

  3. @Carlie, here in the US we have to use AT&T. Honestly, the sound quality for the phone is terrible. My other cell phone is much better. I don’t know if it is AT&T’s fault or the iPhone’s built in speakers. I hope they improve on that when it hits the market elsewhere.

    @Mark – It’s too bad Japan and the US use totally different systems. I won’t be able to use my iPhone as a phone in Japan at all. In fact I have to take the chip out so I won’t be charged ‘roaming’ charges whilst abroad. I hope they add Skype soon!

    >>I saw your comment as a bit of a hyped-up exaggeration

    Perhaps. A friend bought his Mac laptop the same time I bought mine. Granted his laptop has a slightly larger screen and is a superior machine–but not by much. He paid almost $2k. I paid $600.

    Maybe he just got ripped off and the average is nowhere near double, but I suspect on the whole Macs are much more expensive for comparable specs.

    I guess what I dislike about Macs more than anything is they make me feel pretty computer illiterate. I’ve been around computers since the late 70’s. In the 80’s we usually got the latest TRS-80 model (trash 80) every year. Then came the 8088, the 286, the 386, etc. I’m not a computer expert, but I know my way around PCs and I don’t like feeling stupid. Besides, wouldn’t buying a Mac mean turning to the dark side? 🙂

  4. I guess I didn’t start quite as early as you, but I started with the BBC B and from there Amiga, 286, 386 and on with DOS and then Windows. I used UNIX at University (CS degree) back in 95 and continued with that at home on Linux and BSD (and now admin Linux remotely for part of my work). But the Mac doesn’t make me feel stupid at all! In fact as it is based on UNIX (and is now even UNIX certified) it’s far more advanced underneath than Windows if you want to look at it like that. I can run bash/tcsh/ksh scripts on the command-line, or create web stuff with the built-in PHP/Perl/Python/Ruby/Java/Apache. Or you can ignore all that tech and stay in the GUI. If anything it makes me feel *less* stupid. I really don’t understand why Macs could possibly make you feel computer illiterate.

    I understand if you’re thinking old-school Macs. I also used them before OSX and *hated* and refused to use them. But modern ones are completely different, so if you get a chance to dig deeper than the “pretty” GUI you might be surprised at what you find (as hinted at above).

    As for value, it’s all subjective I guess. Does the fact I paid closer to $3k for my Mac laptop mean I was ripped off? Not at all, I’ve had nearly 18 months use out of it so far for both work everyday, and pleasure, and it still feels and looks like new, even after updating to the new OS version; I’ve (touch wood) had no problems with it; and as an extra bonus it’s slim and metallic with a glorious screen and backlit-keyboard. It always works. Easily the best machine I’ve ever had, and has been well worth $3k *for me*. I will buy another when I need to without hesitation.

    Just because we think different things doesn’t mean either one of us is wrong though. Right, on with the daily slog of my Japanese 😉

  5. >>Just because we think different things doesn’t mean either one of us is wrong though.

    Absolutely. Neither of us are wrong. But only I–am right. (just kidding)

    I guess I became an Apple bigot when at the university in the mid 90’s. It was to be my first and last somewhat prolonged experience with an Apple computer.

    You see, in a dreary winter Art Ed class, I was forced to use a Mac. After a few frustrating minutes of toying with a mouse lacking a right click button, I managed to get a lot of work done. At the end of the class, I saved my work and leaned over to eject my floppy disk.

    “What!? Where’s the eject button?!” screamed a terrified young Clay to himself.

    I calmly pointed out to the student sitting next to me the absurdity of my buttonless disk drive. I mean someone at the Apple factory really screwed up.

    She smiled and told me to drag my disk icon into the trash can. I smiled back and said, “thank you” while marveling how insensitive she could be–I mean I spent the last twenty minutes working on my masterpiece, and she wants me to erase it?!

    After that girl was safely out of earshot, I told the teach of my predicament. He confirmed the girl’s lunacy and, having me restrained by campus security, he proceeded to drag my floppy icon to the trash can icon over the loud protestations of the young Clay.*

    So, you see, I’ve become an Apple bigot. I guess my iPhone is a kind of therapy. I am slowly improving. Really.


    * Ok. There were no security guards, but the event was traumatic.

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