Friday, September 6, 2013

Laptop woes

wicked witch Apple
Everyone who is hooked onto the online world and has even a teeny, weeny interest in technology, has probably seen an Apple product and gone 'WOW'. I was one such person. But, unfortunately, for the early part of my adult life, they were far beyond my reach. Quite unaffordable. Until iPods came to India. My first buy was an iPod and it was simply awesome, the design, the sound... I could go on.

Boosted by my confidence in Apple's promise of good quality & great design in products, I saved up enough to buy a Macbook Pro. It was a conscious decision to pay at least 40% more than a regular PC. Oh...the lure of a well positioned brand! This was in early 2011. Bringing it home was pure joy and awe. I simply loved it the functionality, the screen clarity, etc etc.

Exactly a week later, all of this goodwill towards Apple had sunk down into the depths. One of the keys (Esc) on the keyboard snapped off. It looked like a simple repair, so I went online and logged a complaint with the Apple tech support guys (based in Singapore, incidentally) as well as took it to the service center (outsourced). I wasn't very worried then, as the machine was still under warranty (a week... duh, what could possibly go wrong?) except for thinking "so much for Apple quality".

At the service center the technician dropped the bomb. He looked at the keyboard and told me the entire keyboard would have to be replaced as the keys don't come as separate units. Also, that it can't be taken under the warranty as it looks like damage via usage. A new keyboard cost Rs. 18,000!!! All my protests fell on deaf ears. Then he said, if tech support in Singapore gave them a go ahead I could get the keyboard replaced under warranty.

I started following up with Apple tech support, who in turn constantly asked me to go back to the service center. This to-ing and fro-ing with me like the poor ball in a tennis match went on for about a week (patience is a virtue, or so I had been told). Finally, it seemed like all of us had reached a stalemate. I was all set to file a complaint with the consumer courts when a friend introduced me to a contact within Apple, an employee that is. As a last ditch effort, I wrote to him and also mentioned that I was so sick of both Apple & it's outsourced service center that I was planning to go to consumer court. He promptly got into the problem (even though it wasn't his role really. Nice guy that he was.) and in 3-4 days, my machine had been restore, changed keyboard and all, as good as new. All this saga in the first month of my having bought a brand new Apple Macbook Pro.

Cut to two years later. During this time, I had the most pleasant user experience with the Mac. I really loved the way it worked. I would use it only over weekends mostly as during the week I had a regular PC at the office to work on. Usage on weekday evenings was limited.

Around Jun 2013, I had carried the Mac on a relatively long holiday where I hoped to use it to be connected to the external world. I noticed that the machine would boot on its own despite being properly shut down. Initially, I thought I had been mistaken. But when this happened more than once, I had to let the battery drain out completely and leave it in that state, not to use it at all during the holiday. One cannot begin to imagine the withdrawal symptoms I had, my only device was the phone which was erratic at best due to the mobile network. Soon, I returned home and started using my Mac in the normal way and it seemed to be working fine. It almost seemed like the Mac needed a holiday too.

Three days later, once I got back home, to my complete horror, the Mac refused to start. It just blanked out. I ran back to the service center (yes, the one and only outsourced one) with it, where they first charged me Rs. 2,500 just to 'analyse' the problem, took more than 3 days at it when it was supposed to be 48hrs. Diagnosis - the motherboard had gone bust and would cost me Rs. 37,000 approx to fix. Yes! That astronomical sum to replace the motherboard. The machine was out of warranty too. I quietly left the place and used my hard earned money to get myself another laptop, a good, regular, inexpensive PC.
My grouses against Apple are:

1. Why wasn't the famed customer service attitude extended to me when the keyboard had to be replaced? It took a form of 'string pulling' to have it fixed.

2. When all other machines (PCs that is) have a lifespan of at least four years on average, why did this last just about two years? That too a machine that wasn't being extensively used, day after day, 8-12 hours a day like normal work?

3. Utter disillusionment with a brand that promised the sky, moon and stars which from all that I had heard and read seemed to keep up to it.  

Don't we deserve the same level of service and quality as customers in their more favoured nations? Read about survey results in the U.S.

Ever since I started talking about this to friends and family and researching on the internet, I have been hearing more and more stories of how Apple products bought in India (and Asia) have not lasted as long as the ones bought in the U.S, UK etc. or have had similar problems with their devices/ machines. And, we pay far more for the products here. Makes me wonder!

Lastly, on this subject (phew!), here's another link I found regarding Macbooks especially about their logicboards/ motherboards.

My advice to prospective customers of this company - Look before you leap; All that glitters is not gold etc. :D

As for me, no Apples of the tech variety. Too expensive - money-wise, time-wise and stress-wise.

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