I had to fight Apple to get my new laptop fixed. And I still had to pay $850 -- to fix a laptop that was under warranty.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


How Apple is losing its mojo

January 6, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

Steve Jobs took a good part of Apple with him when he died a little more than a year ago.

He took the vision of the founder, of course. But he also took something I call "the pass" -- the automatic forgiveness granted by Apple's customers and members of the press because of who he was. He was larger than life.

Somehow, Steve Jobs made many of us believe that he knew what we never could. So we trusted him even when he was obviously making things up. A fib, so it seemed to Steve, was the truth told a little early.

All that disappeared when he died. Apple is now just a big company -- the biggest in the world by some measures -- that makes nice products in a few important categories. Apple's not special any more, not like it was under Steve Jobs. Apple's legions of "fanbois" -- fans who will follow their leader into the sea -- no longer have such a mystical guide.

This gives Apple an incredible opportunity. It can blow away the smoke from the famous Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field and start acting normal.

By that, I mean Apple could start treating customers as people who actually buy its products -- not, as in the past, as fanbois who will forgive everything Apple does. The new Apple could do such elemental research as checking whether an iPhone antenna actually works when the user is holding the phone, instead of insisting, as Steve Jobs did in "Antennagate," that everybody who complained was just holding the phone wrong.

Or how about this: Apple could actually test its mapping software before it pronounces it ready for use. That would keep it from moving towns, leaving out cities, blasting away bridges and leaving tourists stranded in the Australian outback when the company's maps moved a town 73 miles away from where it actually was.

Apple could also value its customers. When I spilled coffee into a USB port of my 3-week-old MacBook Air, Apple could have taken an infinitesimal portion of that on-hand cash and fixed my laptop for free or for half the actual cost. The idea isn't at all new.

Instead, I had to fight Apple to get my laptop fixed properly. While repairing the damage from the spilled coffee, Apple's technicians accidentally disabled the laptop's wireless capabilities. I had to return to the Apple Store three times -- a six-hour round trip from where we were staying, six hours each time -- to convince them that the Wi-Fi wasn't working and that they had caused the problem.

You'd have to be nuts to suffer through this. I thought about that a lot. Especially after seeing the bill Apple presented -- $850. To fix a computer under warranty. And, yes, I paid it.

There's more. My wife's MacBook Air flashes a blue screen now and then, sometimes 6 or 7 times a minute. Many others say they have the same problem. Apple knows about this and has never recalled the MacBook Air.

And there's more.

Just last night I learned about an iPad 3 problem that Apple pretends doesn't exist. The iPad 3 takes an absurdly long time to charge -- hours and hours and hours. As if that weren't enough, if you're actually using (the thought!) the iPad while charging it, the iPad might not charge at all, and might even lose battery power. While it's plugged in.

Apple can pretend all it wants, but the fanbois insist that the rest of us are unfair. After all, don't all tablets do this, or if they don't, don't we all have better things to do than criticize Apple? But the fact that Apple made a mistake with the iPad 3's charger is clear if you examine the iPad 4's charger: It's beefier. Apple made it stronger after realizing the iPad 3 charger was wimpy.

And of course Apple has recalled the iPad 3 charger, so everyone who bought an iPad 3 will -- oh, sorry. That must have been a daydream. There has been no recall. No owning up. No sign that Apple treats its customers with respect.

It's time for Apple to clean up its act. Being big isn't enough. In fact, it doesn't count at all. Caring for your customers is what matters. Can't Apple figure out how to manage such a simple thing?

If it doesn't, somebody else will step in with the right formula. Samsung, Apple's biggest competitor, is learning from every mistake Apple makes. Already, Samsung is making cell phones and tablets just as good as Apple's, and maybe even better. Someday, and probably soon, Samsung will figure out how to make its customers feel special, without a Reality Distortion Field or $850 charges to fix devices that are under warranty or expensive tablets that can't charge themselves.

When that happens, I wouldn't be surprised if Steve Jobs is remembered as the visionary who founded a company that lost its mojo -- and its market share -- soon after he died.