Apple gets a lot of flak from the technology press and a certain segment of users. Their complaints range from the fact that Steve Jobs comes across as an arrogant jerk to Apple’s refusal to support Flash on its mobile devices to its walled-garden model for apps on the iTunes App Store.
I’m perfectly prepared to cede many of these points. Yes, Jobs seems arrogant, which is why I haven’t invited him over for dinner. Yes, Apple hardware isn’t always as expandable as competing products; no, you can’t run Flash on iOS devices. (Of course, running Flash means you’d be much more likely to need that expandable battery that Apple won’t provide.)
Having said that, I am a huge Apple fan. Let me share a few stories, and you might see why that is. I’ll note the fan reasons, or FRs, in line.
Story #1: I have an iPhone 4 that I bought last year. Its home button was only working intermittently, so I took it to the Apple Store in Huntsville. I made an appointment using the Apple Store app (FR 1: you can schedule service appointments online at any time, and the service hours are generous, not just 8-5) (FR 2: every Apple store has access to all your purchase and maintenance records, so you can take any product to any store for service.) They looked up the phone and determined that I was out of warranty by one day. FR 3: they replaced the phone anyway.
Story #2: the week after I got my phone fixed, it fell from my pocket onto the kitchen floor, cracking the screen. Thankfully I’d purchased an extended warranty from SquareTrade, but to activate the warranty I needed a copy of my purchase receipt and the replacement work order for the warranty replacement. I went to the Apple Store at Oakridge to get the work order. When I explained why I needed it… they replaced my phone! Broken screens are not, of course, Apple’s problem, and they were under no obligation to do this, but I was certainly delighted by their doing so. Call that FR 4, with a big fat asterisk next to it.
Story #3: my MacBook Pro’s optical drive had been failing to ingest disks properly, so I took it to the Apple Store at Valley Fair to have it checked out. The Genius Bar folks determined that the drive needed replacement. I dropped it off about 4:30pm on Saturday and was given a 1-3 business day repair window. At 10:45am Sunday, they called: the laptop was ready for pickup. FR 5: under promising and over delivering.
These anecdotes don’t mean that Apple’s perfect; they’re not. They don’t speak to the design or implementation of Apple products, which often have flaws (yes, Mac OS X Server, I’m looking at you.) They ignore all the hullabaloo about Apple’s policies, corporate behavior, and so on. But they point out why I am a satisfied Apple customer: Apple provides a degree and level of customer service that very few other companies match. Notice I didn’t say “can match”; Apple-style service is well within the reach of Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and other consumer electronics companies that have similar retail models.