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.

Taking a test drive…

I promised an unboxing, but was a little too quick getting things unwrapped to keep much of a record. For the moment you’ll have to be satisfied with riding along as I take the new toy out for a test drive. The first thing you notice out of the box is just how good it feels in the hand. The tapered edges are much more comfortable than the vertical edges on version one. It’s definitely a slimmer form factor. I didn’t expect it to be as noticeable as it is, but it makes quite a difference.

After the mandatory registration with iTunes and really getting a chance to put iPad 2 through it’s paces, I’ve got to say that it handles remarkably well. Web browsing is very, very quick and switching apps doesn’t lag at all. I haven’t thrown too much stress at it yet, but I’m expecting great things based on first impressions.

For an afternoon launch, the line wasn’t bad – assuming you got there early enough. I ended up waiting just over three hours from getting in line to walking out of the store… Which brings up the only negative experience of the day. Stockage of the 18 different versions was a bit of an issue. By the time I made it into the store, the AT&T 16 and 32 GB models in black and white were sold out, leaving the only AT&T option as the 64GB version. Since the card I got while in line guaranteed only an AT&T enabled version, it was either hand over an extra $200 and take delivery of four times more storage than I planned on or walk out empty handed. Since I had an AT&T card, I couldn’t just switch off to one of the Verizon versions that were still in stock. This is an issue Apple could have prevented if they would have taken online reservations as they have for previous product launches. Of course it’s not necessarily in Apple’s interest to do that. I forked over an extra $200. I wonder how many others did too. I can’t image many who sat in line for hours were going to be thwarted by another two bills. Now if I were one of the people who was still several hundred people deep in the line when I left, I might be feeling a little different about how things turned out.

All things being equal, I’m well pleased. There are still plenty of things I need to put through their paces, but I’m pretty sure our friends from Cupertino hit another home run.