Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Something Rotten in the Apple Basket

I love Apple products. From the early 1980s when my friends and I ogled the black and green screens of Apple mainframe terminal hubs in our high school computer programming classes, to the sleek design and amazing sound and graphics of the latest iPhones, I've been hooked.

And it isn't just the hardware I find impressive. The simplicity and power of programs like GarageBand, PhotoShop and Pages cannot be overstated. Someone at Apple, probably Steve Jobs, years ago crawled inside my brain and understood I didn't want to have to sift through thousands of lines of coding in order to complete a simple creative task. I'm simple and stupid, and my memory sucks. All I want and need from my computer is the ability to click and drag. That's it.

Click it.
Drag it.

Another thing I've always admired about Apple is the ability of the company's products to play well with others. Sharing files has always been easy. We could toggle back and forth on our Macs from Apple to PC in the early days, until Apple finally just started working directly with most PC-based software and we were finally able to rest our toggle fingers.

These days, however, I'm not feeling the love so much as I once did. The reason is simple: email.

My Lovely Wife upgraded to the iPhone6 a few months ago and, immediately, experienced trouble with her RoadRunner email account. We loaded it correctly and she received emails with no trouble, except that no email hung around more than a day.

I hear many of you out there saying "Go to 'Settings' and change the 'Mail Days to Sync' to whatever you need it to be." Imagine me responding, with a mildly pained and sour-pussed expression on my pale face, "Don't you think we tried that?" In fact, under the RoadRunner account on her iPhone there is no Mail Days to Sync option. There are only two options. One is turning the Mail on or off. The other is turning Notes on or off.

Speaking recently with Apple Support to solve this problem was reminiscent of my experience with Honda a couple years ago. The engine in our Odyssey was malfunctioning. Even though the economy feature was properly reducing the number of pistons in use from six to four when appropriate, it continued to spit oil into all six pistons. This led to a build up of oil and scoring that damaged the pistons and required a new engine be installed. Turns out this malfunction was well-known and existed in several models of Honda vehicles from multiple years of production. Problem was Honda had yet to acknowledge the problem was their fault. The support tech on the phone kept telling me he understood too much oil was being injected and had damaged our engine, but we had no claim against our warranty because oil was not a covered mechanical part of the vehicle.

"Oil doesn't magically jump into the engine on its own because it feels like it," I recall telling him. "A mechanical part of the vehicle moves the oil from its reservoir into the engine."

"Yes, sir," he would respond. "But that mechanical part didn't cause the damage to your engine. The damage was caused by the oil itself and oil is not a mechanical part of the vehicle."

"I hope you rot in hell." Or something to that effect.

The Apple Support folks I spoke with the other day were not condescending prats like the Honda guy, but the runaround was fairly similar. They began with several half-hearted attempts to reset the RoadRunner email account they fully well knew would not work. Then they talked to me about the difference between POP accounts and other kinds of email accounts and how POP accounts, especially POP3 accounts, sometimes cause problems when being imported into iPhones. I would then restate how we had never had this problem with previous versions of iPhones, regardless of what kind of POP was POPPING over at RoadRunner, and that's where our conversations became Mobius threads that would have made M.C. Escher proud.

The most telling moment was when I offered the Apple Support tech an emotional out and she took it. I told her I realized the misbehaving iPhone was not her fault and that she didn't have the authority to do anything about it or acknowledge the possibility that Apple's hardware and software could be to blame. You could practically feel the defensive tone melt away from her voice when she said "Thank you."

In the meantime, for the first time I can recall, Apple has me thinking of trying someone new.

© 2016 Mark Feggeler

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