Tuesday, July 10, 2007

iPhone Interruptus

Has anyone who has bought an iPhone thought this through: What are you going to do when the battery wears out? IIRC, the life expectancy of the battery is 2 years. I don't know about you, but whenever a company brags about battery longevity, either between chargings or need for replacement, I am inclined to heavily discount those claims.

While it is true that Apple has graciously agreed to replace deceased batteries for $85.95 (including shipping), I am wondering how do you plan to communicate with others while your phone is enroute to Apple , the three business days it is at Apple having all the data stored inside erased while the new battery is installed, and then on its way back home?

Apple says not to worry, they will rent you a phone for the 10 days to two weeks it will probably take for only $29.95! I doubt it will have your telephone number, though. Another $116 tacked onto the expense of the phone seems pretty steep. Anyone care to bet how many people end up not wanting to go through the hassle of replacing their battery and just buy a new one?

Apple's not just betting on it, they are counting on it, I'm sure.


bill said...

Apple's not just betting on it, they are counting on it, I'm sure.

Possibly. But I think this mostly falls under "you can't please everyone." Apple went with this style of battery for specific performance reasons. Like many of the design choices they make, there are plusses and minuses and THEY choose what THEY think will offer the best experience. Works for some, not for others. It's fine to say you'd like it with a user replaceable battery, but with that you have to consider how that would alter the iPhone. Would it be larger or less comfortable to use? Would components/memory have been dropped to keep it the same size? These are important questions to be asked. A large appeal of the iPods and iPhones is not necessarily what they do (many like products do as much if not more), as how they do it. Don't mistake functionality for usability--a product people enjoy using will get used more than one they don't like using.

I do think the turnaround time and cost is unreasonable. Like the iPods, I expect there to be kits to crack open your iPhone and change the battery yourself. I did that for my iPod and it was easy.

I'm curious how long most consumers keep a phone before trading it in. Two years seems like a long time, even a 2-year old computer is getting up there in age. My phone is 2+ years old, then again half the time I don't know where it is and other than answer and make calls I don't know how to do anything on it.

Internet Ronin said...

I imagine that you are correct, Bill: a replaceable battery would alter the look & feel. And your point about people liking to use it is apt as well.

I do believe, hwoever, that, had Microsoft, for examples, come to market with such a product, the screaming about their over-priced phone with built-in obsolesence would be deafening. Apple has always gotten a free ride over things like this. So, while I agree that the unreplaceable battery was probably the best choice , I think Apple's track record shows that it fits in well with their history of milking the consumer for top dollar and then leaving them high and dry when the new improved version comes along.

bill said...

Now you're just pimping for poor, misunderstood Microsoft. Sorry I kicked your puppy.

Apple has always gotten a free ride over things like this. I'm sorry, it was a little hard to hear you over all the bitching and complaining everyone is doing. I think if we reviewed 20-25 years of computer arguments we'd find that while Apple has had periods of mostly favorable press, they've never had a free ride--no one gets a free ride.

history of milking the consumer for top dollar... Don't really see this, either. I'd agree they have a history of not building and marketing towards the low-end computer market. That doesn't mean the same as overpriced.

high and dry when the new improved version comes along. More so than anyone else? I switched back to Apple in 2002, my iMac is 5 years old and I have a 3G iPod that's 4 years old. Both work fine, still accept software updates and I plan to upgrade to the new OS in the fall. I've found some software doesn't want to play with my old hardware, but that's always the case, no matter what computer camp you're in. I left using MS for home computing when XP came out. If the operating system decided it didn't like (or didn't recognize) a hardware change, it could deactivate your license. Vista is even more egregious (from my viewpoint). Another argument is that leaving everyone "high and dry" can be a feature. One reason Apple was able to make such radical changes with OS X is because their user base is so small. A large cause of Microsoft's software bloat is the need to support legacy systems. Vista is their first step towards upgrade or die.

Use whatever works for you and just because something doesn't meet your requirements doesn't make it wrong.


I'd also suggest that a pain in the ass way to change the battery does not equal "built-in obsolesence." Battery dies in two years, replace it and keep using your phone. Of course it might be unrecognizable next to the third-generation iPhone that costs $100 less and does 4x as much. Same as it ever was. In the basement, I have a perfectly functional desktop running Win95 with two harddrives totaling 10GB. How much do you think that's worth?

Internet Ronin said...

Microsoft is not my pupy, Bill. Neither is it the evil empire some wish it to be, I think. At the same time, it seems to me that Apple's motto has always been "Upgrade or die," and little or no consideration has ever been given to legacy systems.

At the same time, I never said anything about it being wrong. I did say it was expensive, inconvenient, and financially lucrative for Apple shareholders. It is. There's nothing wrong with that.

bill said...

As an aside, ever read Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning was the Command Line (free download)? It's from 1999, and some of the particulars are outdated, still I think it provides a fascinating look at operating systems. He analogizes between cars and operating systems:

(Microsoft) is much, much bigger than the others. It started out years ago selling three-speed bicycles (MS-DOS); these were not perfect, but they worked, and when they broke you could easily fix them.

There was a competing bicycle dealership next door (Apple) that one day began selling motorized vehicles--expensive but attractively styled cars with their innards hermetically sealed, so that how they worked was something of a mystery.

The big dealership responded by rushing a moped upgrade kit (the original Windows) onto the market. This was a Rube Goldberg contraption that, when bolted onto a three-speed bicycle, enabled it to keep up, just barely, with Apple-cars. The users had to wear goggles and were always picking bugs out of their teeth while Apple owners sped along in hermetically sealed comfort, sneering out the windows. But the Micro-mopeds were cheap, and easy to fix compared with the Apple-cars, and their market share waxed.

Eventually the big dealership came out with a full-fledged car: a colossal station wagon (Windows 95). It had all the aesthetic appeal of a Soviet worker housing block, it leaked oil and blew gaskets, and it was an enormous success. A little later, they also came out with a hulking off-road vehicle intended for industrial users (Windows NT) which was no more beautiful than the station wagon, and only a little more reliable.

Since then there has been a lot of noise and shouting, but little has changed. The smaller dealership continues to sell sleek Euro-styled sedans and to spend a lot of money on advertising campaigns. They have had GOING OUT OF BUSINESS! signs taped up in their windows for so long that they have gotten all yellow and curly. The big one keeps making bigger and bigger station wagons and ORVs.

...(Be, Inc.) is selling fully operational Batmobiles (the BeOS). They are more beautiful and stylish even than the Euro-sedans, better designed, more technologically advanced, and at least as reliable as anything else on the market--and yet cheaper than the others.

With one exception, that is: Linux, which is right next door, and which is not a business at all. It's a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus. The people who live there are making tanks. These are not old-fashioned, cast-iron Soviet tanks; these are more like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age materials and jammed with sophisticated technology from one end to the other. But they are better than Army tanks. They've been modified in such a way that they never, ever break down, are light and maneuverable enough to use on ordinary streets, and use no more fuel than a subcompact car. These tanks are being cranked out, on the spot, at a terrific pace, and a vast number of them are lined up along the edge of the road with keys in the ignition. Anyone who wants can simply climb into one and drive it away for free.

Fascinating to read then, fascinating to read now with all the changes that have occurred:

The operating system market is a death-trap, a tar-pit, a slough of despond. There are only two reasons to invest in Apple and Microsoft. (1) each of these companies is in what we would call a co-dependency relationship with their customers. The customers Want To Believe, and Apple and Microsoft know how to give them what they want. (2) each company works very hard to add new features to their OSes, which works to secure customer loyalty, at least for a little while...

...So Apple/Microsoft shower new features upon their users almost daily, in the hopes that a steady stream of genuine technical innovations, combined with the "I want to believe" phenomenon, will prevent their customers from looking across the road towards the cheaper and better OSes that are available to them. The question is whether this makes sense in the long run. If Microsoft is addicted to OSes as Apple is to hardware, then they will bet the whole farm on their OSes, and tie all of their new applications and technologies to them. Their continued survival will then depend on these two things: adding more features to their OSes so that customers will not switch to the cheaper alternatives, and maintaining the image that, in some mysterious way, gives those customers the feeling that they are getting something for their money.

The latter is a truly strange and interesting cultural phenomenon.

bill said...

I'll stipulate that neither is evil.

peter hoh said...

In the past, I got a lot of years out of my Macs, but part of that I was comfortable not doing cutting-edge stuff after a few years. Now that I have a teen who likes to make movies, I expect that I will have to replace my Macs more frequently.

And yes, I'd agree with the assessment that Apple has figured out how to milk their devotees. For instance, I think they ought to give away .mac to those of us who drop a few thou at their stores every year or so.

I think the early adopters who snapped up the iPhones will be more than happy to get new iPhones next year.

Me? I'd be happy with a roatary dial cell phone. Really, I'm not hard to please. I just want one that has a traditional ring tone and no rocker buttons.

Internet Ronin said...

Really, I'm not hard to please. I just want one that has a traditional ring tone and no rocker buttons.


When my sister's kids were in elementary school, the school used Apple computers in the classrooms. My sister asked the family if we would all go together and, in lieu of more traditional Christmas presents, buy a system for the kids to use at home. Of course, it had to be Apple, too. So we did. I can't imagine that whatever the kids wanted to do was cutting-edge stuff, but I do remember finding out afterwards that, unless they printed out a copy, they could not take stuff they did at home and use it at school.

reader_iam said...

My husband has chosen the traditional ring as his ringtone on his iPhone. (Me? I went for the opening bit of "Bad to the Bone"--like Sideways Mencken, I was amused to read at Amba's.)

The phone # thing is a non-worry; assuming that what they're going to rent you is an iPhone, it'll synch with the computer address book, just as one's original iPhone does.

reader_iam said...

DH has also changed his own iPod batteries.


I don't mind the battery fee, but I do think the loaner rental fee is a bit much (I could understand returnable deposit, of course, for obvious reasons). OTOH, our Apple stock has risen enough over the past weeks that, adjusting the perspective sufficiently, our phones have been paid for manymanymany times over.

Thanks, fellow iPhone buyers!

(It's all in how you look at things--not always, but surprisingly often.)

Internet Ronin said...

I agree that, in the end, it largely depends on how one looks at it (and whether or not one is An Apple shareholder ;-). We shall see what wonders are to be had as the future unfolds.

Internet Ronin said...

Reader_Iam: Truth be known, I will probably have one myself soon. It has most of the bells-and-whistles that I have long wanted (and expected) to be combined together for convenience. And I have always been a sucker for bells-and-whistles.

I stopped by a store today to see one up-close. It was everything I thought it would be, but heavier than I expected. Don't know why I expected it to be feather-light considering what is packed inside, but I did.