This weekend’s positive Apple Store experience

We hear a lot in the tech press and on personal blogs about bad experiences with Apple’s support of it’s products, so I thought I would offer a positive experience my family had this past weekend.

A couple of days ago, our teenager’s iPhone 7—my old iPhone, and more on that another time—started losing its cellular connection. We could restart the phone, and after a couple of restarts, it would come back up for a few hours before disappearing again. It worked fine on Wi-Fi. When it became apparent that no amount of restarting and resetting networks was going to fix the issue, I made a Genius Bar appointment at one of the DFW metroplex Apple Stores, Willow Bend in Plano. I arrived on time for the appointment, and was seen within about three minutes of my arrival by the technician.

I explained to her all the troubleshooting steps we had taken. She ran diagnostics on the phone, then checked the model and serial numbers. This is when she informed me that Apple had become aware of an issue with this particular model of the iPhone 7 a couple of months ago. She shared there was a specific batch from a specific factory that suffered from the cellular modem failing.

Our iPhone 7 is still covered under AppleCare through May. The way she talked about it, however, led me to believe this would be a free repair even if it was not. A $319 repair Apple was eating the cost of for a new logic board, plus labor. When I had the opportunity to ask, I verified this was indeed the case. No matter when one bought the iPhone 7, if it was within this particular batch from that particular factory, you could get a new logic board installed, gratis. The only hitch is that it gets send to one of the repair depots, it’s not done in store.

So we were given a loaner iPhone 7. The SIM card was swapped from ours to the loaner, we started an iCloud backup there in the store on Apple’s wifi, and that was it. I will get emails about the repair status, plus a call when our iPhone 7 arrives back in the store and is available for pickup. All in all, we were in the Apple Store 45 minutes, and over half of that was spent waiting on the iCloud backup restoration. Kudos to Apple for a job well done in this particular situation.

“I am on a mission”

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs:

Will you write on a tablet, or just read from it? Or will you just buy it and put it on your desk and look at it a lot and never use it at all? Or will you maybe carry it around and put on the table in restaurants to show the other humanoids in your tribe that you are more advanced and wealthy than they are, and they should fear you because you have powerful magic that they do not understand? You see what I mean? What is the anthropology here? And what about the ergonomics? Can you mount it on a wall? Will it have a shiny surface so that Macolytes can adore themselves as they use it in public? (Yes. It must.) The tablet must look and feel not like something that was made by man — it must feel otherworldly, as if God himself made it and handed it to you.
I’m so glad Fake Steve came back.

Um, yeah

MacJournals News:

Expert Macintosh users who see “MacWorld” in an article know you don’t know what you’re talking about, just as most technology-literate readers would laugh at “MicroSoft,” “QualComm,” or “LexMark.” Referring to a famous technology event without the correct name or spelling is a quick way to throw away your credibility. Saying “That’s how I always thought it was spelled, and besides, everyone knew what I meant” is saying “I didn’t bother to get the facts about my subject before I wrote my article.” Don’t be that writer.

There must have been a lot of holes

An Upstart Challenges the Big Web Browsers:

Browsers have always been viewed as crucial on-ramps to the Web. Nevertheless, after vanquishing Netscape, the first commercial browser developer, Microsoft waited five years before releasing the sixth version of Internet Explorer in 2006. Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer group, says the company was focused on plugging security holes during that time.
[Emphasis added. –R]

Macworld Keynote impressions

So the big news in the tech world yesterday was what Steve Jobs talked about during his keynote address at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The annual technology conference geared toward the Mac OS, and all things Apple, Inc., is often used for the announcement of new products from my favorite fruit company. Yesterday was no exception. Here are some of my thoughts on what was announced:
Time Capsule
If I hadn’t bought an Airport Extreme Base Station last year, to replace a router that died, I’d be buying a new 1 TB–yes, that’s a T, for terabyte–Time Capsule right now. Merging an Airport Extreme Base Station with a “server-grade” hard drive, the Time Capsule allows for wireless backups from all of your Leopard-based Macs via Time Machine. Jobs called it a “back-up applicance”.

Time Capsule photo

Backing up your data is very important, and too few people do it, realizing the value of doing so only when it’s too late. Time Capsule is a dead-simple way, for most people, to ensure their Macs are getting backed up. Plug in and power on the Time Capsule, open up Time Machine on your Mac and point it to the Capsule, and you’re done.
Time Capsule comes in two sizes, the 500 GB version for $299, and the aforementioned 1 TB version for $499. That’s an amazing bargain, a terabyte of storage and a full wired/wireless router for five hundred smackers. As I said, if we didn’t already have the AEBS router, my credit card would have already seen one of these charged to it.
iPhone Update
Today was the 200th day the iPhone had been available for purchase, and Apple’s sold 4 million of them, an average of 20,000 iPhones sold per day. This means that in terms of United States smartphone market share, Apple has nearly 20% of the national smartphone market.
The rumors of a 1.1.3 update to the iPhone proved to be true. The home screen can now be customized, and the Maps application–the underrated killer feature of the iPhone in my humble opinion–is now even more super-powered. The new Location feature in Maps is great. Combining data from Google and Skyhook Wireless, your iPhone can now, without GPS on board, triangulate your position within a couple of blocks. It pulled up my location at home with no problem.
You can, finally, send a SMS message to more than one person, something my lowly Motorola v557 was capable of two years ago. The WebClips functionality is pretty neat; you can create a WebClip from any web page or portion of a web page and pop it on to your home screen, so it’s easy to just go to Google, or The New York Times, or whatever web page you wish, with one touch.
I’ve had quite some fun this afternoon playing with all of this new stuff, and it’s almost like getting a new iPhone for free. All in all, it makes the iPhone an even better communication device.
iTunes Movie Rentals
In addition to buying movies through the iTunes Store, you can now rent them as well. Library movies (viz: older titles) are $2.99, and new releases are $3.99. From the time you click “Rent Movie” in the iTunes Store and it downloads, you have 30 days to watch the movie. From the time you click “Play” on the movie, you have 24 hours to watch it. You can also transfer the movie to another device, such as your iPod or iPhone, and watch it there as well, before your 24 hours or 30 days, depending on where you are when you perform the transfer, are up.
The thirty days requirement is pretty decent, but I find the 24 hours one to be a little restrictive. It should be at least 48 hours, and 72 would be better, with 96 being the ideal.
Going hand-in-hand with the new rental service is an updated Apple TV, or as Jobs put it, “Apple TV Take 2”. Whereas the original Apple TV pretty much required you to have a computer to sync it up with, the new version acts as a stand-alone box. You can rent movies from the iTunes Store in HD through the Apple TV, for only $1 more than the standard resolutions. So library titles go to $3.99 and new releases are $4.99, and no trip to the mailbox or corner Blockbuster is required.
I’m still not convinced that we have a real use for this in our house, given our movie viewing habits. For now, Netflix will continue to suffice, but I’ll be keeping my eyes on the Apple TV, and I’m sure I’ll try out the new rentals even without the new box.
MacBook Air
This had all the buzz, and was the announcement I was most looking forward to. I was ready to pounce on ordering Apple’s new subnotebook, provided it met my personal expectations.
Apple has created the world’s thinnest notebook computer. At its thickest point, the MacBook Air is 0.76 of an inch, and it weighs only three pounds. It comes with a full-size keyboard, a 13.3-inch LED backlit display, and a 1.6 or 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Two gigabytes of RAM, an 80 GB hard drive, 802.11n wireless networking, Bluetooth, and a built-in iSight camera. A pricey option is to ditch the standard hard drive for a 64 GB solid state drive (viz: no moving parts), and when I say pricey, I do mean pricey: $999 on top of the base $1,799 cost.
You won’t find much in the way of ports on it, either: MagSafe power port, a single USB port, headphone jack, and a micro-DVI port which requires adapters to hook up to external displays. That’s it. The trackpad is larger than on previous MacBook versions, and features multitouch, so you can perform some of those pinch, zoom, and rotate gestures you may have seen with the iPhone.

MacBook Air photo

The downsides to this incredible piece of tech? For me, the hard drive size is the first. I put a 160 GB drive in my four year-old 12-inch PowerBook last year, and have gotten quite used to the extra room it gave me. I’d hate to step back down by half. Only two gigabytes of RAM? And no way to upgrade it? My two year-old iMac is maxed out at 2 GB, and some times I bump against that particular ceiling. I’d really prefer a machine that can handle up to four. The battery is also not replaceable by the user. This might be okay on an iPod or iPhone, but in a full-size computing system devoted to the ultimate road warriors?
Ultimately, I decided this was not the next notebook computer for me. It’s a really awesome system, and if someone were to buy one for me, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it, but that’s not happening. I think I’ll be better served ultimately by a MacBook Pro, and with seven and a half months since the latest edition of those came out, they’re due for a refresh, even a “silent” one like we saw with the Mac Pros last week.
Summation
In the end, it was what I would call a typical Steve Jobs Macworld Expo keynote address. There were the requisite ooohs and aaaahs, Apple’s making some evolutionary gains in all facets of its business, and there was a great new product introduced that has the entire tech world talking. It wasn’t a blow-me-away sort of keynote, as was last year’s with the announcement of the iPhone, but then they can’t all be like that. Still better than anything Bill does on stage.