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Apple Abuse Detection Not New, Can Be Questionable

AppleInsider has posted a story today about a new patent filing by Apple that would make it possible for portable devices to detect consumer abuse. For example, there would be evidence of exposure to cold, moisture, or heat at levels that would void a warranty. However, my own experience not only shows that such mechanisms have been in place in the company's devices for a while, but that the detection can go awry, giving false positives that can result in customer dissatisfaction.

Last Christmas, I had bought one of my kids an iPod Touch. She was almost 18 and very careful about electronics. Within a few weeks, the screen froze and no amount of following Apple's standard steps, including full resetting, changed a thing. We got in touch with customer support, having bought an extended warranty from Apple, spent a considerable amount of time retracing all the things that we had done, and were finally told to send the device in.

We did and eventually heard back that, according to Apple, there was evidence that the iPod Touch had been exposed to water. Now, I went over this carefully with my daughter, even saying that if she had dropped it into snow or splashed water on it, I just needed to know. But she hadn't. So I started researching the iPod Touch about screens freezing and moisture exposure (which, you'd think, would cause the whole device to fry, not for the screen or UI alone to become unresponsive). After some extended time (much of which I spent saying that I'd get around to checking more without actually doing it), I found documentation about looking inside the earphone jack, where moisture would expose a red mark that should have been buried under a white covering. The white presumably dissolved in contact with the moisture.

Looking into the jack, there was a bit of pink circle showing, but the overlaying white showed straight edges. It clearly looked like the printing of the inks had been offset. After some negotiation with Apple, I was able to communicate that I would not cease to push on the issue because I knew I was in the right, and they finally replaced the device, though, of course, without admitting that there might have been a problem on their end.

Granted, there are likely many people who would drop their iPods into the Atlantic, fish them out after three weeks, and try to claim that the problem was caused in manufacturing. But I wonder how many companies are going to try "protecting" themselves in various types of interactions with consumers, watching the pennies and potentially losing the dollars in deteriorating customer relations.

Image courtesy Erik Sherman, all rights reserved.

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