Strange Things Are Afoot at AppleCare

Over the weekend, Mikey Campbell of AppleInsider released a report which claimed that iPhones would no longer be regularly replaced through AppleCare. He quoted an Apple employee (punctuation, capitalization sic):

“The way it is now, if almost anything is wrong with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, the entire device is exchanged for a like-new re manufactured (sic) device, whether brought into an apple store or sent in for mail in repair. Now we are starting to actually repair the products and return the same device to the customer.”

This is a major change in the way in which issues with the iPhone and iPad are dealt. I’m one of many who have been impressed by the speed and convenience of a device swap policy. But this policy is clearly not cheap. Campbell continues his report:

In another huge departure, Apple will reportedly reconfigure its paid AppleCare service as a subscription model, or introduce a new tier, which will be attached to a customer rather than a specific product. Under the proposed system, a customer is entitled to in-store training similar to the One to One program available to new Mac buyers, with each device owned being covered by the warranty. The new AppleCare may also include “exclusive” 24/7 support, though that has not been confirmed as a full set of features and pricing is not yet etched in stone.

This smells of accountant meddling and money conservation, and that hasn’t gone well for Apple in the past. Former Genius Stephen Hackett1 shared his thoughts:

All in all, I’m not encouraged after reading AppleInsider’s report. While AppleCare and the surrounding services aren’t perfect, most of these changes — on the surface at least — seem like moves in the wrong direction.

He also added this today:

If Stores can’t keep up with demand, Geniuses should be able to replace a phone at their own discretion, if that’s what’s right (or faster) for the customer.

From my experiences at Apple Stores, Geniuses seem to have significant flexibility with their decisions. While this has been reduced as Apple has grown and expanded, the Genius Bar still seems like the epitome of a customer-first approach in retail. While they may save one Instagram with these changes, it needs to be balanced in the scope of the future of Apple’s legendary service.

  1. Not that he’s not smart any more, just not a capital-g genius. I’ll see myself out. ↥︎