January 18, 2010

Another Amazing Genius Bar Experience

I call this: mac — Posted by KP @ 2:58 pm

As someone of a geeky persuasion, I have an inherent dislike of seeking technical support. Under no circumstances will I do so except in a case of obvious hardware failure where I have no choice. And then I fear the series of questions from the technician, who expects (or his employer expects him to ask) that what ails my hardware can be solved by rebooting it, and that I haven’t tried that, and every other possible solution already before seeking help.

I have had a rather unfortunate number of opportunities to visit Apple’s Genius Bar in Apple Stores all over the country, and at this point have had so many pleasant experiences that rather than thinking of it as a dreaded last resort, when I reach the moment of acceptance that my hardware is broken, I’m comforted knowing that as soon as I’m somewhere with access to an Apple Store they’ll make it all better.

So my battery in my Macbook Pro (the one I got as a replacement when we were in Pennsylvania on tour last year) has been showing defective performance for at least 3 months. But when I gathered my paperwork to take it in, I realized it only came with a 90 day warranty. Which is pretty lame for a battery, even if it was free. So I held off doing anything about it, but took the receipt with me on tour, in case I wanted it when the battery inevitably decided to become completely useless.

That day came last week when I was in an informal meeting in the cafe at the Guthrie, and right in the middle of editing our Google calendar, my computer spontaneously shut down after about a half hour off the charger, while still showing a 50% charge. With the meeting at a temporary stand-still, I closed the lid and said, “well, I know what I’m doing on the day off.”

I thought about just buying another battery, since I knew I was out of warranty, but $130 for something that is obviously defective, and my non-fear of the Genius Bar, was enough that I was willing to take my chances and make an appointment. Maybe they could give me a discount at least.

So today I went, and the genius’ eyes popped out of his head when he saw how bad the battery’s stats were. Then he ran the diagnostic, which I blogged about last time, and if possible, it showed even more red commentary on just how bad it thought my battery was.

So the genius went to the back to discuss the situation, and came back and said they would replace it for free because of how many bad batteries I’ve had, and because I paid for one of them (plus the one the computer came with). I was very pleased that they were able to be flexible in their policy based on the circumstances.

So then I brought up my secondary question, which is that a couple days ago (after making my Genius Bar appointment) my iPhone cable broke — the cable split, exposing the wires right where the cable meets the plug that goes into the phone. I have a general awareness that that’s usually something they consider wear-and-tear (though those cables wear out way too easily), but I thought I’d take advantage of the fact that my iPhone is pretty much the only piece of hardware I own that’s under warranty, and bring the cable along in the hopes they would cover it. They did.

So I spent nothing and got about $150 in new accessories that technically they weren’t required to give me. It was a very worthwhile day.

And now yet again my trusty Macbook Pro gets a new lease on life, and between that and the new hard drive, should be running like a spring chicken until I can afford to replace it. We just won’t talk about the video problem it had on the night of the first preview. It must have been a solar flare or something…

Tech Details

For those who track things like battery failure stats… I did some research before taking my computer in, since I know (from personal experience!) that these batteries fail at a higher-than-normal rate (this is the original MBP 15″ battery). What I found from perusing the Apple support forums is that the batteries made by Sony seem most prone to failure, and those by SMP are apparently better. My old one was a Sony, and I’m glad to find that the new one is SMP.

I didn’t bother recording the exact stats of the battery, because they were so awful there was no question it wasn’t normal degradation of a rechargeable battery, but it was at 8% health after 80-something charge cycles, which is FRIGGIN TERRIBLE if you’re looking for comparisons.

And while I am fully aware that this particular model of Macbook Pro suffers from battery issues, most models of computers have one common flaw where they are most likely to fail, and the battery isn’t such a bad one. That being said, the whole issue is moot as this model is obsolete, and Apple has been employing new battery technology for a while now, so it doesn’t make me nervous about future purchases. I’m actually really looking forward to getting an upgrade in six months or so, mostly because of the more reliable, higher-capacity battery. There’s not much else in the unibody MBPs that excites me, although there are rumors that there may be a quad-core model coming soonish, which would be worth waiting for (although I expect it will be out before I was ready to purchase).

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