Yes, I love the Apple commercials too. John Hodgman makes a brilliant bumbling PC, the charmingly jealous foil to Justin Long's hip modern Mac. I dig the Apple marketing campaigns as much as anyone. They're clever as hell. I get it. We all get it.
For years, Apple has crushed the competition with incredible product innovation, a finger on the pulse of our consumer needs, and excellent marketing which has turned the gadget and gizmo market on its ear. As their stockholders know, things are pretty good in Apple Land. However, after what happened this past weekend in Las Vegas, I've figured out where Steve Jobs and the rest of the Apple folks can store their iPhones, and it isn't in a pocket.
Once a year, I join my closest friends in Vegas for our annual trip. It's the weekend of the year for us, one so steeped in tradition that even our wives like that we go. If things go well, no one loses their mortgage and there is little to no interaction with law enforcement. We look forward to the trip as kids do Christmas. Vegas, the guys, a cocktail or 30...good times.
Our Vegas scene is perhaps a tad more mellow than it used to be. We are kind of old, pretty fat, and very tired from raising our kids. We used to hit Vegas to go nuts. Now we go to get away from the sippy cups and poopy diapers which dominate our lives back home. We also get to eat things most of our wives no longer allow in the house. In short, we're more concerned about getting a firm mattress than a lap dance. We're the guys we used to make fun of. We're our dads. Still, whatever Tommy Lee might think of our trip, we love it. And all you need is a little cash, a sense of humor, a thick skin, and a cell phone so you can find your buddies at 2:00am.
Enter my friend Andrew. A brief bio: He's 38, lives in Seattle, works for a bank, married, two kids, owns a home, pays his taxes, successful, honest, charming, and made a great toast at my wedding which he sang to the tune of the Oscar Mayer wiener song. (My buddy has a first name, it's E.D.D.I.E...) Andrew loves his iPhone...a lot. Like everyone else who owns one, he talks about it like it saved his life. Mazel Tov. I'm happy they're happy.
On Friday, Andrew left Seattle for Vegas. His iPhone worked fine. He landed in Vegas, got off the plane, turned on the phone and saw an error code indicating am issue with the phone's SIM card. The phone no longer worked. Andrew takes it in stride and survives the evening in Vegas without a phone. (We lost him once but luckily found him at the pound several hours later).
Saturday morning Andrew heads over to the Apple Store in Vegas for an extremely inconvenient but entirely necessary fix it errand. The Apple guy starts helping Andrew and asks if he's ever replaced the SIM card. Andrew tells him that he wouldn't know how to change a SIM card if his life depended on it and that to his knowledge the iPhone has one button and the rest of the thing is an impenetrable brick.
The Apple rep takes the phone and tries to activate it. The software on the phone tells him is that the IMEI # assigned to the Phone's software is different than the IMEI # on the back of Andrew's phone. The IMEI number is used by to identify valid devices and therefore can be used to stop a stolen phone from accessing the network. The guy tells Andrew that the only conclusion is that he tampered with the phone.
Andrew reiterates that he's never tampered with the phone, never unlocked it, never changed SIM cards. Still, Andrew's told that he's out of luck. Moreover, he's told that he's lying about why the phone doesn't work and that he must have tampered with the software. The Apple employee simply doesn't believe him.
It seems that unbeknownst to any of us, most importantly Andrew -- he's an iPhone hacker which is surprising as Andrew's just barely smart enough to call his own voicemail. He's many things (kind of jowly, bitter, condescending) but a hacker he isn't.
Patiently, Andrew asks to speak to the manager. The manager stands firm and tells Andrew that he'd have to take it up with corporate. In the mean time, no temporary phone, no new phone, no I'm sorry. He's now the proud owner of a $600 paper weight.
Did it not occur to any of them that perhaps he was telling the truth and the iPhone was lying?
The Apple folks believed their defective iPhone software over a long time customer. How do you fight that? How do you argue against a computer? How do you survive in a world where some Apple guy can choose a gadget's say over yours? How did Andrew leave that store without eating the guy's liver?
What's happened to us? When did a gadget's word mean more than those of someone who actually breath's oxygen? Is this where technology is taking us? Has Apple become so big that they no longer need to believe the customer? Are they so jaded that they've actually turned on their own flock? In the end, isn't technology supposed to ease the human experience?
I'm a fan of Steve Jobs. He's a visionary and all that jazz. He's also a fighter and a survivor, someone who's been handed his ass a time or two and come back better than ever. That inspires me. I can relate to that. I'd only hope that if he were a fly on the wall of that Apple store in Vegas, he'd be as incensed at what went down as I am.
What if all the iPhones in use suddenly show the same error message? What then? Will Apple tell everyone out there, all the schmucks who waited in line for three days, all the hipsters, all the iPhone folks, that they too are lying? I get the feeling that this policy will live as long as consumers allow it to.
Perhaps Steve Jobs and friends should spend fewer dollars on marketing and put that money toward figuring out why their phones are spreading rumors about their owners. And, while they're at it, maybe they can come up with a better policy when it comes to customer service? I imagine calling everyone with a broken phone a liar isn't good for the long term health of the company.
My phone doesn't tell me the best place in San Francisco to get calamari. But, I didn't pay $500-600 for it either. And, it's never once called me a liar. Do the math. Apple better figure this whole thing out quick. The holidays are around the corner and word travels fast...as long as your phone works.