A day at the Apple Store


Yesterday I called Apple Support in Germany. I was bracing myself for the worst: in Singapore, my experience with Apple Support is hardly pleasant and the people I usually get connected to are often utterly clueless or simply don’t seem to care to give a proper answer. Granted, in Singapore I have made the mistake multiple time to think that chat support is quick and easy. And then I always spend 20x more time than I think I would and I am always angry when it’s finished (and yes, I know that they won’t be located in Singapore).

So I called Apple in Germany. Lamia’s iPhone 6 has serious battery issues and this needs fixing. The replies and the cluelessness of the idiotic chat support in Singapore had been epic and the only thing they came up with was that it is perfectly normal that a phone battery does not have full charge anymore after 18 months usage. And I would agree, but the behavior of Lamia’s phone was not that of a battery losing charge due to age. Instead, it simply crashed from 80% to 0%, just to be back at 79% when connected to a power outlet. There is no Apple Store in Singapore (yet), so the only option to have this fixed wa going to an authorized service center and I did not feel like doing that. Sindelfingen, however, which is not that far from where my parents live, has an Apple Store and given we were in the region, I thought I have this issue fixed once and for all.

The intent of my call was hence simply to make an appointment at that Apple Store. The person on the phone was listening carefully to what I talked about, did not give me that typical US bullshit paragraph that should assure me they understand how upsetting it is that my little shiny device is not working, and actually said right away that this behavior clearly was not okay. Now look at how refreshing this was…

He asked me to run an online test (which is smartly built into the iPhone, in case you did not know – I didn’t), stated that he could see the results from the tests I had run with his colleagues when I was in the support chat and then said to my big surprise:

Apple Support: Ah, I can see my colleagues ran this test before as well and already concluded it failed…

Erg, what?
That’s not what they told me…

He ran the test again, confirmed the same result and made an appointment for me at the Apple Store in Sindelfingen. To be honest, this was likely one of the best Apple Care experiences I’ve ever had. Not because he said Lamia would get a replacement (he did not), but simply because he clearly understood the problem, was competent in explaining details and what to do next and swiftly made an appointment for today at 12 pm.

Fast forward to earlier today: we arrived at Breuningerland Sindelfingen around 11:30 am, did some clothes and shoe shopping and then hit the Apple Store at 12 pm. Here’s a photo I took in the store while we were waiting for our support (not a great photo, but it’s the only one I took):

A friendly support person listened to the issue and then ran another check. His analysis showed that while the battery was not defect as per Apple’s definition, there were clearly cells which had been utterly depleted and did not work anymore. After quickly checking the phone in the back, he also confirmed that part of the battery had expanded. Long story short: he told me he could not replace the battery under warranty, but he offered to provide Lamia with a brand new (not refurbished) iPhone 6 at the price of a battery replacement (89 Euro).

We took the deal.

Replacing the phone had been something I had predicted as possible outcome of this, so we had made sure in the morning that Lamia’s phone backup was up to date. It’s also important to disconnect the Apple Watch from the old phone before resetting it, because otherwise it might not be able to connect to a new phone (I am not sure this is still true, but I’ve read something about this in the past and wanted to make sure we did not miss anything stupid). I also wanted to make sure we completed the principle set up of the replacement phone in the Apple Store in case we’d run into unexpected issues. This should have been a reasonably quick process.

It wasn’t.

There were several things that gave me trouble:

  1. When we wanted to activate the new phone with Lamia’s SIM, it did not accept the SIM – arguably because it’s from Singapore in Germany. We circumvented this by using a dummy SIM from the Apple Store (and I congratulated myself for the foresight to stay in the store and set up the phone).
  2. Then I wanted to set up Lamia’s Apple ID, but I had not considered that the 2-factor auhorization would make this a little challenging. At this step, one of Lamia’s other devices (iPad or Mac) would show a code, but we did not bring any of these. After some hard thinking, I realized I could call my mom and ask her to look on Lamia’s iPad This worked, even though it required some work to explain which device to grab (not Lamia’s battle ship of a work laptop) and where to press (reminder to self: the Home button might be on the left or right, not the bottom, if the iPad is in landscape mode). We eventually got the code (thank you, Mom!) and continued the installation.
  3. Then a software update had to be installed (sigh).
  4. And once this was done, iOS was setting up the system and probably downloaded Apple ID related files. This should not take forever, by the way. Maybe 20-30 minutes. So I waited.
  5. And waited. Lamia took Oskar shopping.
  6. And waited. Lamia took Thomas shopping.
  7. And waited.
  8. And waited.
  9. And wai…

Oskar: Papa – peepee!

Erg… what?! Now? Didn’t he go like 20 minutes ago? Hum, hum. Okay. Luckily the toilets were just around the corner of the Apple Store, but I of course lost the Wifi connection on the way there and the process bar on the phone paused. Oskar peed, then we returned and the process bar eventually continued. Good.

Lamia eventually came back and it was still not done. By now, I was easily waiting for more than an hour and it did not seem that this phone would want to get to the point where the Home screen would show (which would have meant that it now downloads the apps, i.e. the point in time where I would have said we are okay to finish at home). After 1 1/2 hours Lamia pushed me to talk to the Apple staff. I would not have done this, but it’s likely a good thing I did.

When it was my turn again, the support person shut down the phone, restarted and indicated that the issue might have stemmed from the little break in Wifi connectivity that occurred when I took Oskar to the toilets. At first everything seemed to be okay and after rebooting the phone seemed to be in the expected state of showing the Home screen with apps starting to download. I wanted to make sure, however, that Lamia’s Apple Watch would not only install nicely on the new phone, but also show all the activity credits that she had earned to date. And then it happened: the screen of the phone became unresponsive and it was virtually impossible to do anything. This is when the support agent was checking on me.

Apple Support: How do things look like?

 I thought good at first, but the phone is not responsive now… looks like touch disease to me…

I don’t know whether it was touch disease, because this seems to me more a problem of the iPhone 6 Plus. And maybe it was just sluggish because it downloaded so many files in the background. But the moment where the puzzled Apple Support person took the phone in his hand without so much as touching the screen, it crashed and restarted.

That did not look good and was asking him rather annoyed whether they had given me a broken phone as replacement.

Without much discussion, he grabbed the phone went into the back and came out with… a new one. I had to sign a few times and then he replaced the replacement phone with another replacement phone. Wow! See, on the one hand side I thought this was pretty awesome and good service. Then again, I had just wasted nearly 2 hours on this. And that’s a long time when your wife and kids have to wait, too (you can only play at the iPad kids table for so long, after all).

And of course…

  1. I had to borrow the dummy SIM from the Apple Store again.
  2. I had to call my mom again to give me the code on Lamia’s iPad because of the 2-factor authorization (you would think my mom would be faster on second try to figure out how to find the code, but she wasn’t… uh: love you, mom! :) ).
  3. Software update.
  4. Download.
  5. Waiting.

Now, in all fairness, the steps seemed to go faster now. Either the Apple Store’s Wifi signal got stronger in the course of out little visit or something had been seriously wrong before. It still took what felt like ages. But this time the installation went through as expected. Lastly, I successfully installed Lamia’s watch and then we were finally ready to go.
We had then spent something like 3 1/2 hours here, which is pretty much 2 1/2 hours more than I had planned for. Nevertheless, Lamia got a new phone for a reasonable price. And while we were setting up the new phone for the first time, I remembered that my iPhone was eligible for a free battery replacement. So I had that done in parallel, too (in fact, it was long complete before I had Lamia’s phone up and running).

Anyway. That was a bit much Apple, even for me.
But we both have now new phones and / or batteries – and that’s a good thing, when you are ~18 months into owning your phone.

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