The genius of Apple: How its customers will tolerate any malfunction

While not as headline-grabbing as an exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a flickering Iphone Six Plus means the same for the customer – a phone that doesn’t work.

Apple smartphones afflicted with so called ‘touch disease’ has angered some customers who have questioned why they are being asked to pay for the repair bill. George Frey / Getty Images
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Slowly they shuffled forward, uncomplaining, cradling their broken iPhones like Baldrick nursing a prized turnip.

The queue that stretched almost to the back of the Apple Store was as despondent as a Soviet bread line.

Here amid the glorious impatience of Dubai was a thin grey line of helpless, uncomplaining passivity. Just make our phones better they silently implored as they waited for a token with a time and date to return to the same store for their sickly handsets to be accepted for repair.

This was the queue for the queue.

Thin grey lines of a different kind are also appearing on the iPhone 6 Plus handsets, stricken with so-called Touch Disease.

That is the name given to the gradual loss of touch sensitivity accompanied by flickering grey lines that many owners of the phone have started to encounter in recent months.

While not as headline-grabbing as an exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a flickering iPhone 6 Plus means the same for the customer – it is a phone that doesn’t work.

After the volume of complaints about this issue became impossible to ignore, the Silicon Valley company acknowledged earlier this month there was an issue with the handsets.

So not just me with @apple iphone6+ issues it seems - this was line at MoE store 2 mins after open. More @TheNationalUAE

But rather than recalling them, fixing them, and apologising to its customers, Apple said the problem related to phones that had been dropped and that while they were prepared to fix the broken handsets, it would come at a price – Dh549 to be precise.

This is the genius of Apple.

In no other consumer industry would this be tolerated. Apple has made its phones indispensable. When they stop working we become incapacitated. So if we have to queue like a column of serfs waiting to collect our end-of-harvest reward turnips from the man in the big house, then that is what we will uncomplainingly do.

But customers, like voters, can be fickle. While everyone was playing with their smartphones, Donald Trump was elected the next US president.

Apple should be careful to avoid making the mistake of misjudging the market and in doing so suffer its own Nokia moment.

As for many of the world’s ills, we in the media are partly to blame for hyping up what are often overpriced, unreliable, bug-ridden pieces of not-quite-ready-yet technology.

Great libraries of online user forums reveal the bewildering spectrum of problems people experience when they buy new smart phones – as well as the tedious and time-consuming processes required to make them work.

Little of this seems to make it into the mainstream.

Instead we are fed regurgitated marketing jargon delivered in an annoying dialect understood only by a lost tribe of Amazonian technology nerds.

We may not be able to inform, educate or entertain any more. But we can gushingly tell you how many grams the latest launch weighs in at … and how many pixels it has. Let’s not forget those pixels.

Rarely does one of these paint-by-numbers pieces start with the one bit of information we the consumers really want to know. Will this thing that costs hundreds of dollars still work in six months?

The answer to that question, based on my own experience of the iPhone 6 Plus, is “No, it won’t”.

I’m already on my third this year and we still have a month to go.

The first one fell to water damage. That was my own fault – “my bad” as the Americans say.

If you jump into a swimming pool with your phone still in your pocket, you get everything that’s coming to you. The second just stopped working after five months.

The man behind the counter at Etisalat obligingly gave me a new one.

“What was wrong with it?” I asked.

“Software issue,” he replied without further elaboration.

Now a few months later with the third one on its way to that great mobile phone repair shop in the sky, the man from Etisalat says I need to speak to the man from Apple.

My third iPhone 6 Plus of 2016 has contracted a suspected case of the dreaded Touch Disease – despite being wrapped up snugly in an apocalypse-proof protective case that my farmer cousin in Cork recommended after his own had withstood kicks from cows and falls from tractors.

In its latest software update shortly before it became poorly, my iPhone 6 Plus started to tell me when I should go to bed to get enough sleep.

A bit presumptuous, I thought, but I’ll let it slide.

The alarm tone was also changed to an uplifting jingle that was quite nice and soothing and more than compensated for the nagging about bedtime.

Now it’s the only bit of it that is still working reliably.

If only I could turn it off as well, it would be the best day ever.

But mustn’t grumble.

Like the people in the queue at the Apple Store, I should really be thankful for my really cool alarm phone.

It sounds so lovely when I wake up.​

So cheers for that, Apple.

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