One of the unfortunate facets of owning gadgets is their nature to break. Regardless of how well something is manufactured, eventually even a brand new just out of the box item will have a manufacturing error or damage caused by shipping. In my past life as an electronic DIY-er the solution usually involved pulling my home constructed PC tower out of its nest of coiling black wires, cracking it open, and replacing the offending part (or salvaging what I could for my next cobbled together tower). Other devices were simply discarded when they went awry; support and customer service for the various non-Apple players I’ve owned was virtually nonexistent and the construction of the devices made tinkering with their innards a task beyond my skills at the time.
Since my conversion to all things Apple the story has been considerably different. On the whole my devices have been remarkably reliable, to date I’ve only had two instances where a device had to be returned (and I’ve owned a lot of Apple products). The consistent level of support and ease of obtaining it has become a main factor in my adoption of Apple products.
Case in point: my new iPhone 5 had a minor light leakage in its display; in the top right corner black backgrounds revealed a touch of light seeming to bleed in from just beyond the edge of the screen. The issue was minor enough that I didn’t deem it worthy of pursuing, but it devolved to other color bleeding (blue over white backgrounds as well) and then streaking pixel loss. Since my iPhone is my only home phone and my primary means of communication at work, I was more than a bit concerned. Unlike my experience with other handsets the solution was simple, quick, and easy. A trip to my local Apple retail store and a demonstration of the issue to an associate resulted in them taking my damaged phone and handing me a new replacement. The associate even backed my iPhone’s data to iCloud for me to insure that everything would transfer. Service was friendly, even though my iPhone had chosen the worst possible time for me to need to visit a retail outlet- the last few days before Christmas. Even though the store was teeming with customers picking up last minute gifts, the store associates were able to accommodate me with a smile.
Contrast this with the DMV-like line at the customer service desk of Best Buy, and the myriad different ways other PC and device manufacturers offer service. Many retailers offer refunds or replacements for defective merchandise, but the experience of dealing with the merchant usually leaves a great deal to be desired. If you purchase directly from the manufacturer your options for service are even more limited and almost certainly require you to ship your item back to them. When I had a possible issue with the Time Capsule router I had purchased online (and the issue was just as likely due to Comcast than a defect in the router) Apple happily replaced it with a new one off the shelf at my local store rather than requiring me to ship it back.
Apple’s support for their devices goes beyond just replacing devices. I was notified of a recall of the Seagate hard drive in my iMac, and was provided links to schedule an appointment to drop the desktop off at the Genius Bar. Even the ecosystem makes for a better overall experience, as my Time Capsule backups restored my iMac and the OSX App Store had all of my software purchases available for immediate download. The same can be said for all of the iOS devices I’ve had- each upgrade was immediately restored with the same apps and data saved automatically to iCloud when I sync the device. Any app that wasn’t part of the last backup is available via the App Store’s Purchased tab; every App you’ve ever bought/downloaded is listed. While there are several computer-agnostic backup services out there, you’ll have to purchase their coverage separately. The service may not offer the same seamless user experience that I had because of that openness; broad compatibility is typically inversely related to detailed compatibility.
I’ve made big financial choices in the past based on similar thinking and have been very happy with the results. Mini Cooper offers some outstanding customer service thanks to their affiliation with BMW; this friendly all-encompassing service (along with a superior product) resulted in my purchase of two consecutive Minis.
Not everyone is in the market for high-end products that Apple produces. Those that aren’t deride the perceived “Apple Tax”, those that do understand that quality and service come at a premium. When I chose Apple devices over competitors it was for more than the device, it was the support and ecosystem built around those devices that form the user experience. Provided they maintain their commitment to the customer experience, both using the device and supporting their products, Apple will have my business.