Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sour Apples – the iPod Rant

I am of the strong belief that technological products should last forever.

This is completely unrealistic. I know this. But if I'm going to invest a significant amount of money in a computer or a device, I want to do it with the assurance that said product will function for a suitable amount of time to make that investment worthwhile. What's a suitable time? Whatever I say it is. Quite frankly, if a company is to have any pride in its product, then it should be made to last. You think you're the greatest in the world? Prove it.

I'm not an Early Adopter. I like to see how things play out before I purchase what I consider to be a big ticket item. These things get better as time and technology move on and I prefer the tried and true over the flashy new.

I get the fact that tech products and gadgets are like new cars: As soon as you drive it off the lot, it starts to depreciate in value. As soon as you hook some up – well, there you go.

Ya know what? I don't care. The bugger should work and that's it.

Case in point. My laptop is now four years old. It feels like I bought it only yesterday, but OK, it's been four years. I've re-upped the warranty for its remaining available year and have a mental ticker that in another year or so, I may have to look into getting a new laptop. Plan accordingly. Of course, right away something went wrong (windows installer vanished from the hard drive ne'er to be seen again) and the long and the short of it was that I had to reset to factory settings and reload all my stuff. I didn't lose anything thanks to double, nay triple backups on flash and external drives. Which is actually how this all started: I bought an external drive to back up my hard drive. Turns out, external drives now has more memory (500 GB) than the 40 GB hard drive on my clearly antiquated laptop. My baby is still clicking along though and I'm confident (hear me computer gods? Confident) that it'll hang in there for the time being.

Which brings me to the iPod.

You may remember my unmitigated glee when I purchased my iPod last year. It was epic. I carried that iPod everywhere, loading audio books on it and listening to it in the car, while grocery shopping, standing in line at the post office, etc. You should understand that I was the girl who walked home from school reading a book (and was horribly teased for it too. Like reading is something of which to make fun). Being able to actually continue "reading" a book instead of having to leave it to do more important things simply by listening to it on my trusty iPod? Nirvana. I was even reading while walking again albeit with someone reading the story to me. I was ordering massive unabridged novels from the interlibrary loaning system (which rocks). I spent hours uploading huge tomes of novels on upwards of 48 disks. I'm talking all but one of the Harry Potter books and all but one half of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER series – I'm not talking Harlequins here. And I did it with a song in my heart because I was so thrilled to listen to them on my iPod. I gorged myself on them. And then I began buying the DVD/Blue Ray 2-disc packages of newly released movies and uploading the included digital version to the iPod. Too much glee. I was totally, unequivocally in love with my iPod.

OK – there were some bumps in our relationship. It tended to freeze if I asked it to rewind too many times, and since I could never remember the button combination to restart it, I had to wait for the iPod to run out of juice and reset its self. Also, I really, really, REALLY don't like the way Apple controls how you use music and how the device links to the computer(s). For instance, when my office hard drive crashed and (I thought) I'd lost everything, I learned that you cannot transfer from the iPod to the computer – this was a one-way music street. Here though, iTunes came up to scratch and set up my purchased songs to be downloaded again. My other peeve is that even though both office and home computers are authorized to my iTunes account, I can only sync the iPod to one computer. Yes, I know, you can transfer purchases from two authorized computers, but if I'm loading my CDs onto one computer, I don't want to have to do it all over again on another one. I get the anti-piracy thing and I support it because I create stuff and I don't want anyone poaching it. But I'm not poaching, I bought this stuff and I should be able to move it around however I want it to go. Apple disagrees.

Still, all this was more irritating than deal-breaking and I know very little about DRM and personal device technology but enough to suck it up as part of the price of being a lesser being in the iPod world. Kind of like being a woman in the "modern" evangelical church.

And then the bloody thing busted.

It's only a year and 6 weeks old!

Needless to say, I was not happy. I was actually totally flabbergasted. For years, all I heard was how great apple was, how their computers never got viruses and never crashed and here my very first apple product that I was – in cannot be said strongly enough - enraptured with totally tanked.

And so I entered the Apple store zone. I zoomed up to the Rockaway mall the very next day and had the helpful scrum at its entrance confirm that it was, indeed, gone. Big honking red X in a circle on my iPod screen should have been my first hint. I asked the girl why. She said, it happens, especially on the refurbished ones. I say, oh no, this isn't a refurbished one. I bought it new off apple.com. She said, well maybe, but they've not really new. They've been sitting in the warehouse for years. I said Wha –huh? Really, quite literally, my jaw dropped and I said "Wha- huh?" Because see, I was under the impression that I'd paid all this money for A BRAND SPANKING NEW IPOD.

Essentially she couldn't even help me. Oh no. I had to make a tech appointment with one of their "geniuses" for the next day who told me that it was totally gone. So back and forth I went, sun setting and rising between my Apple store visits. Thank God – THANK GOD – I had bought the warranty. The tech "genius" offered to replace it on the spot, but I'd had it engraved and wanted the same engraving on my new one. That meant I had to leave the store and contact apple by phone. I'm convinced that their telephone customer service department is on the other side of the planet. Polite and competent as the service eventually was, given my state of mind by now, this was NOT the time to make communication problematic.

Plus my faith in Apple was completely gone. I no longer trusted that either the store or telephone customer service would actually give me a new one. By now, I'm beginning to doubt they have them at all. This distrust that was upheld when my "new" iPod arrived with a caveat note that said it may actually be a refurbished one – no guarantee that it's new. So here I thought I'd bought a new iPod and the extended warranty, which guaranteed that it would be replaced with a new hard drive should something happen only to find when push came to shove that Apple is only too happy to shove someone else's problems off onto you when fulfilling the terms of your warranty replacement.

How nice of them.

I've had the new iPod for two weeks and only now have I begun to connect it to my laptop and start loading it up. All my previous glee is gone. I've lost my urge for audio books on the iPod and have returned to the radio for in-transit entertainment. I'm back to be surly and aggressive in the supermarket derby and have returned to DVDs on the computer when I'm cooking (rare as that is) and cleaning (often equally rare).

And I am completely soured on Apple. Had I known any of this earlier, I never would have bought my sister the iNano. She is currently experience excessive iNano glee so much that I was actually considering splurging for one for myself. I haven't the heart now to burst her bubble.

Look, I expect Microsoft products to screw me. I know to stay far away from Vista. I'm prepped that my laptop has a shelf life that will never ever be as long as I need it to be. But Apple has spent years selling a type of product that doesn't exist. Maybe its computers are better constructed. Certainly a number of writing friends swear by Macintosh and their iMacs and wouldn't dream of returning to the PC world. I was considering becoming one of those people in the next one or two years.

Not anymore.

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