Matthew Fitzsimmons

Apple Store Tech Support: the Good and the Bad

I've had a number of opportunities in the past year or so to interact with the Apple Store on a technical support level. Most of them have turned out really well, albeit for problems that had fairly simple resolutions.

Over the past year or so, I've had the misfortune of needing to have laptop batteries replaced about 5 times (for three different laptops). This experience, while annoying that there were so many battery issues, was handled quite well by the Apple Store. After clearly explaining the problems with the batteries, all were replaced with a minimum of fuss and without requiring the laptops to be left behind.

Another problem we dealt with was Adina's trackpad button failing. After a brief trip to the Genius Bar, they replaced the top case on her MacBook in only a couple of days, and there haven't been any problems since. Well, the trackpad button did stop working later, but that was because the battery was swelling up and pushing on it from underneath. That was the fifth battery replacement.

Within the past couple of weeks I've also dealt with a failing Airport Extreme base station, and a malfunctioning iPhone. Both of these were quickly replaced once I explained the troubleshooting steps that I had taken, and they determined there were no other steps they could try. I did have to wait for a replacement base station to ship, but I was able to keep my current one and use the parts that worked while waiting for the replacement. It would have been nice if this could have been shipped to my house instead of requiring a trip back to the store, but that would create some additional logistical problems for the store.

All of these issues, however, required pretty simple solutions. The one actual repair performed is one of the easiest hardware repairs that could be done on an Apple laptop.

We have sent some iMacs in from TNI with a few different problems. Most of these were old G5 iMacs with hard drive or power supply problems, and they were fixed quickly and easily (both very simple repairs.) We wouldn't even send one of those in for the hard drive if it wasn't under warranty still, since they're so easy to replace ourselves.

And this is where the bad comes in. We had a new aluminum iMac that was experiencing fan problems. Normally on one of these systems, you can't hear the fan running under normal usage. This one developed a problem where the fan would run at a high speed all the time, indicating that there was possibly an issue with one of the temperature sensors. Fans will typically run at high speed when the system is unsure of the temperature.

We took the system in to the store, and got it back. This time, not only did the fans still run at high speed, but they were making additional noise as if one of the fans had a bad bearing or something. So we sent it in again. This time it came back and the fans were still running at high speed. We sent it in again, and they tried to fix it, but determined the fix didn't work before they sent it back to us this time.

The resolution of all this is that they are replacing the machine with a brand new one. This is a satisfactory resolution, but it disturbs me that they evidently did not test the machine enough the first two times to realize that the fans were still running at high speed before they gave it back to us. This is something that should have been noticed immediately if they started up the computer when they were done with the repair.

August 28, 2008