Almost a fiasco…

Saturday morning I discovered that my local Apple Store had in stock availability of their new flagship, iPhone X. I wouldn’t usually venture anywhere near a mall two days after Thanksgiving, but the desire for new and shiny tech got the better of me. Stunningly, I arrived five minutes after the mall opened and parked within 20 yards of the door. It seems that their “holiday hours” are poorly advertised and almost no one realized they were opening an hour early. Fine by me.

I was an AT&T cellular customer since back in the mists of time when they were known as Cingular. I was generally a satisfied customer, too – until I moved to Fortress Jeff, which is located in a black hole of their coverage map. I could make and receive calls over wifi, but when wifi was down, my cell was pretty much an expensive paperweight. Unacceptable. With this change of phone, I wanted to make the jump to Verizon, who neighbors promised had at least a bar or two of coverage even the local power and cable is out. It happens more often than you’d imagine out here at the end of the transmission line.

Without going into details, I’ll just say that AT&T, Verizon, and Apple corporate policies all threw up roadblocks to converting from the Apple Upgrade Program under AT&T to the same program under Verizon. The guy I was working with, though, was an absolute bulldog and took the problems first to the floor manager, who was as confounded as we were. The floor manager then elevated the issues through two layers of management “in the back.” Finally they decided there was actually no way to get from Point A to Point B using existing policy and procedures. That’s they point where one of them decided “we’re going to break the rules” to make the sale.

I can’t say for sure if any rules were broken, but if the number of Apple employees standing around looking concerned while they fiddled with various entries on their tablet is any sign, they were certainly doing something unusual. In the end it took six people and almost an hour to make the sale.

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t seamless, but in the end I walked away with exactly what I wanted. I appreciate that level of tenacity when the easy answer was “we can’t.” I appreciate it even more when I’ve got two bars of service when the wifi’s off. Well done, Apple. It’s a wonderful lesson for other business out there that customer services really, truly doesn’t have to suck.

Why I didn’t upgrade…

The chance to pre-order the iPhone X for delivery on release has come and gone. It’s a fact only remarkable because it was the first time I willingly took a pass on trying to snag the latest miracle from Cupertino on day one. There are a couple of reasons for that – and at least one of them has to do with the phone itself, although Apple is largely to blame for the other reasons as well.

1. $1149 is a tough, tough price point to swallow for someone who remembers $200 cell phones and offers of “free phone with contract.” Sure those were old school dumb phones or “feature” phones of the past, but it’s still a memory fresh enough to trigger thoughts of “what the actual fuck” when it comes time to fork over a grand.

2. My Late 2014 Mac Mini is slowing down under the weight of everything I’m asking it to do as a primary computer and mini-server for the house. It’s going to need replacement sooner or later and that likely means stepping up to the iMac and swallowing another $2400 bill from Apple.

3. My first generation iPad Air, now 4 years old doesn’t quite have a battery problem… yet. It’s still burning through a full charge fast enough that it’s days are numbered. There’s $950 more allocated for tech refresh either this year or next.

4. Pre-ordering is tied to my home address in Maryland… and the state will happily charge me $68.94 for the privilege of ordering a new iPhone and having it shipped to my door. If I’m patient enough to wait until the phone is widely available, I can walk into the Apple Store in Delaware and take delivery and only pay the standard Apple Tax instead of getting hit by Maryland too.

5. AT&T and I have been together for a long time – closing in on 20 years now. The problem with that relationship is that when I’m sitting in my living room I hover somewhere between zero and one bar of service. During the great ice storm of 2017, with my internet connection down I ended up with no cell connection at all… while neighbors running on the Verizon network were still able to call out. Having minimal voice and data coverage at home during an emergency situation is kind of a priority, so it’s likely time for a switch. As an Apple Upgrade Program member there isn’t a clear way for me to change carriers during a pre-order purchase.

So there it is, five distinct and fairly reasonably assessed reasons why I couldn’t bring myself to upgrade right away this time. It’s the right decisions, but I still don’t feel any better about it.

The case of the mysterious disappearing playlists…

One of the many wonderful things I’ve found myself able to do while working from home is to set up my personal computer to do some of the tedious update activities so that I can click “next” and “ok” in the background while hammering out the next great PowerPoint briefing or staff memo on my work laptop. It’s become an awfully convenient method of making sure I’m running the latest version of applications, everything is backed up, and my tired old Mac Mini is in as good an operational condition as possible. Up until today the process had been a happy and productive one.

Today, though, some combination of changes in iTunes and on my phone conspired to delete all of my hard built playlists from both the computer and the phone simultaneously. The music files are still sitting safely in iTunes, thank God, but such playlists as “Angry,” “V. Angry,” “Sleepy,” and “Depress me,” are nowhere to be found. I’m left with just the main list of everything from Music for the Royal Fireworks to songs that are so filled with pop goodness that I’m not even going to mention their names here.

I know I should just get with the program and stream my music like a normal person. You see, although I live among the millennials, I’ll never quite be one of them. My music habits were formed at a time when you went to a store for your music – and you came home with a shiny new jewel case filled with liner notes (and you got the privilege of slicing the hell out of your finger trying to get all of the security packaging off the product). Even though I don’t buy music on physical media much anymore, I do like the idea of knowing that I have all the correct files sitting on my hard drive waiting to be served up to me instead of just expecting them to live forever on someone else’s cloud. Maybe it’s the last vestigial piece of my analog self in the digital age.

So now I need to rebuild my playlists. It’s daunting, but perhaps guided by the spirit of WinAMP it won’t take five years to get things sorted and back in service just the way I like them. I know listening to music doesn’t need to be this hard… it’s just another fine example of liking what I like with all logic and simplicity cast aside. If that doesn’t give you a deep look into who I am as a person, I don’t know what will.

Ten Years of iPhone…

I’d be hard pressed to point out any of the flagship iPhone versions that I haven’t had on my hip at some point over the last ten years. As our friends in California rolled out their latest and greatest this afternoon, I can only sit in awe of their ability of convincing me to part with a large chunks of cash on a near yearly basis. It’s a pretty slick business model if you can get people to go along with it. Based on the numbers that Apple keeps putting up every year, a lot of us agree with them.

Because I was late in getting my hands on the iPhone 7, I’m a few months out of cycle for my regularly scheduled replacement. It means I’ve got some time to ponder the next purchase – which is rarely a good thing when it comes to “need it now” devices.” Then again $1,000+ on something that’s going to live in my pocket, locked in a metal case at the office, hooked on my belt, or repeatedly fall off the dash onto the floorboard, and then be traded in twelve months later maybe it should be more of a thoughtful process. It’s the very definition of a depreciating asset. 

I’m planning on changing carriers (thanks AT&T for sucking so bad while I’m sitting in my own living room) so I’ve also got that mess to figure out. Based on the estimates of availability, there’s going to be plenty of time to sort out those details too.

A big part of me wishes there wasn’t, because as usual, I’d really like for Apple to just shut up and take my money.

Seven Plus…

Since my order on launch day didn’t entitle me to a “first day of availability” delivery of the iPhone 7 Plus, I exercised one of my lesser developed qualities and sat patiently until it was available for walk in sales. If I can’t get my hands on it right out of the gate, having it delivered to the house weeks later and then getting hit with the additional 6% State of Maryland premium was mostly a case on injury and insult. I didn’t anticipate that was going to take three months, but at long last my patience has been rewarded with a shiny new toy from the wizards in Cupertino (picked up tax free thanks to the fine people of Delaware).

I don’t have any assessment of it yet and in any case anything I find will have already been covered to death by the tech world. Suffice to say that it is small and thiner and from an initial test the camera is probably better than any stand alone camera I ever owned. I’m looking forward to taking this little number out for a test drive… just as soon as all the apps finish downloading.

Gone cold…

This Friday is going to mark the first time since 2007 I haven’t schemed, connived, stood in line, or woke at three in the morning to get my hands on a new release of Apple’s iPhone on it’s release day. The idea of it leaves me with mixed emotions to say the least. Living in Apple’s universe has never been about having cutting edge hardware or software so much as it’s about having a platform the feels somewhat more refined and well put together than the competition. There’s very little doubt I my mind that iPhone 7 will continue this trend, but if I’m honest, my 6S Plus is still feeling like a really solid device in terms of fit and function.

As much as I hate to admit it, iPhone has reached a point in its life cycle where it is already doing everything I need or want a cell phone to do. It’s capable of doing much more than that, really. I know there are plenty of features that I either purposely don’t use or find myself not even aware of until someone shows them to me. With this year’s round of incremental improvement there just isn’t a change significant enough to convince me to spend the $1000 to be an early adopter – although I have to admit the dual lens camera is looking pretty sick.

I’m not quite ready to concede that I may have entered a period where I’m no longer compelled to have the newest and shiniest tech. The 2006 vintage plasma television in my living room and the 12 month old phone on my hip may belie that point, though. Of course I reserve the right to change my mind a week from now or three months from now, but whatever desire once drove me to take a vacation day and track down the update on day one seems to have gone cold.

Most foul…

I went on a bit of a tirade today. It wasn’t the career dissipating type, mercifully. Surprisingly enough it had absolutely nothing to do with the office. It didn’t come flying out of my mouth until I was safely ensconced at the house, settling in with a hot meal, and relying on the glowing box to give me a 45 minute break from really needing to think about anything.

That’s not how it played out, of course. What really happened was I sat down, attempted to flick on iTunes, discovered that Apple TV couldn’t communicate with my computer and then spent the next 30 minutes doctoring my Mac Mini out of a startup loop with my temper rising more with each passing minute and failure of the damned dirty contraption to “just work” as advertised.

By the time I coaxed the whole set up back to life, iTunes found my external hard drive, and I was again ready to sit down with a hot dinner, the meal had gone stone cold, I could feel the blood racing through my temples, and I’d apparently been shouting loud enough to frighten both the dogs to the other side of the house and the tortoise under a log.

It clearly wasn’t my finest hour and my mood is still most foul. It doesn’t bode well for the balance of the week.