a company like Apple which has a reputation for very reliable computers
over the years, can still ship a bad product. I’ve been using Apple’s
computers since August of 1982. I worked for the company for nearly twenty years and I have had access to a lot of Apple’s hardware over the years.
In October 2010,
I purchased an I5 iMac which I have come to call my iLemon. It’s the
first Apple computer that I have owned in forty years that I consider to
be a true lemon. I’ve had some problems with computers over the years
but none of the issues have rivaled what I’ve seen on this iMac.
this is only one iLemon in four decades of Apples, I think buyers going
into the holiday season should listen to the challenges that I have
faced and carefully weigh them as they consider purchasing a new
many people Apple is a premium product on par with the best computers
that are out there. Certainly with few exceptions, you end up paying
more for an Apple product than you might for a product from another
manufacturer. If like many Americans you live in a metro area, your
Apple purchase gives you access to an Apple store and what can be for
many people a very satisfying support infrastructure.
little over six years ago, my wife and I made the decision to move to
North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. It is an area of unbelievable beauty
reminiscent of Atlantic Canada where we lived early in our lives. It is
not a densely populated area, and as such is not really on Apple’s
radar. The closest Apple Store is in a mall in Raleigh which you might
reach in three hours if you hit the traffic right.
distance to an Apple Store has not stopped me from using Macs, it has
just made it more challenging. Just as we were moving to the coast in
the summer of 2006, I bought a white MacBook. My Aluminum G4 laptop
that I had purchased 21 months earlier had become unusable. The ribbon
cable to the laptop monitor was malfunctioning. After evaluating repair
costs, it made sense to buy the new Intel based MacBook. It was
shipped to me and that fall I had a problem with it. After some
pressure I was able to convince Apple to let me ship it to them for
repair instead of making two round trips to Raleigh.
we moved to the coast, my job required that I use Windows. While I put
it off as long as possible, I ended up buying a HP laptop running
Windows Vista. In was an inexpensive computer with a limit of only two
gigs of ram. Vista was not much fun but in a couple of years when I ran out of hard drive space, I
bought another HP laptop with an I7 running Windows 7. At the same time
I replaced my wife’s ancient and deadly slow Mac laptop with an I5 HP
also running Windows 7. We paid less than $1,500 in total for the two
computers. At the time Apple was not even shipping laptops with I5s or
much of this time, my white MacBook was a constant companion. When I
went to work, I often carried the MacBook and my Vista laptop. Vista
was a quagmire in my opinion and working on a Mac was an order of magnitude better. However, Microsoft learned from Vista and Windows 7 was a huge step forward. Not long
after I bought my Windows 7 laptop, I quit carrying both laptops.
Windows 7 proved to be very reliable, and I could do almost everything
that I wanted to do on it except for work that I did on the web.
For that work I had my MacBook and a trusty dual G5 tower that I purchased in December 2004.
In the fall of 2010, I started a project that required more horsepower
than my four year old MacBook. The software I wanted to use would not
work on my G5 so I made the reluctant decision to buy an I5 iMac since I
had been priced out of Apple’s family of towers. At the time, the
only way to get an I5 processor was to buy the 27” screen which barely
fits on my desk. I ended up paying something over $1,800 for my iMac.
It was slightly more than I paid for my dual G5 tower six years earlier.
iMac had some quirks. It generated a lot of heat and I found the SDHC
reader which was located below the DVD drive to be very inconvenient and
something of a pain for someone like myself who takes a lot of
pictures. As is often the case not long after I bought my iMac, Apple
shipped a newer, cheaper one. I did take advantage of a $7.50 upgrade
to the new iApps but more about that later.
we fast forward about 15 months to the spring of 2012, the iMac began
to exhibit some disturbing signs. It was taking well over fourteen
minutes to boot Snow Leopard. I did some research and talked to some
Apple folks and eventually decided that I was suffering from “Slow Snow
Leopard.” I followed some homegrown remedies that I found on the web
since Apple seemed to have no suggestions. I did get the boot time on
the iMac cut down to reasonable time. Shortly after that my MacBook died
after over five and one half years of faithful service. The iMac
became the only computer on which some of my web design software would
three months later, the iMac gave me a dire warning that I should copy
all of my data to another hard drive, reformat my drive, and reinstall
the operating system. I went one better and after coping the data to
another drive, I did a complete clean install of Apple’s Lion operating
system onto an external Firewire 800 drive. I ran that until I was
comfortable with Lion. Then I formatted the internal drive and did
another completely clean install except I moved up to Mountain Lion,
Apple’s latest operating system.
I say completely clean install, that means I went back to CDs or disk
images for all my applications. The operating systems were installed
from Apple’s app store. Starting at square one actually worked well
except for a set of upgrade disks that I had purchased from Apple. For
some reason Mountain Lion would not recognize the upgraded iPhoto. I
solved the problem by spending another $14.95 at the Apple Store for a
new purchase of iPhoto.
this sort of worked for a couple of weeks. Being of a cautious nature,
I only installed a completely new, small iPhoto library on the internal
drive. In spite of that I started to have iPhoto library corruption
problems. It wasn’t long before I figured out that the internal drive
was dying. The computer quit booting from the drive so I upgraded my
external drive to Mountain Lion and started running the computer off the
external drive again. During all of this I wasn’t too worried about
my data since I am a heavy user of Dropbox, Google Drive, and
Microsoft’s SkyDrive. I also had regular time capsule backups of my
the same time I switched to the external drive I started have
intermittent problems with the SDHC reader on the Mac. Sometimes it
would read a card from my camera and sometimes not. I would often
rotate my chair fifteen degrees, insert the same card in my Lenovo
laptop, load the photos into Picasa, and export the ones that I wanted
to my Google drive and then import them from Google drive to iPhoto on
sometimes I could come back later in the day and the iMac would read
the same card it had refused to read. It might read one or two of four
cards or sometimes none of them. I also was having more trouble with
iPhoto. I ended up reinstalling iPhoto from the Apple Store twice. For
any of you who have done that, you know that it can take a few hours
with a cable modem. For a while it seemed like the iMac was always
downloading something from Apple.
by this time, I had a tremendous amount of time and energy expended in
trying to fix my iMac. At this point I figured out that Apple in its
wisdom designed recent iMacs so that you have to pull the LCD panel to
access to the hard drive.
For someone who has been swapping hard drives in both desktop and laptops for years this was a bitter pill to discover.
the years I have been a big believer in trying to give companies a
chance to stand behind their products and services. I’ve had
significant luck with companies as diverse as Adobe and Toro in getting
problems resolved so I decided to contact Apple to see if they would do
something to make amends for what I consider an iLemon.
a long career at Apple, I still have a few high level email addresses
so I sent a note to someone high enough up the corporate tree to see if
Apple was willing to stand behind their product. I wasn’t too surprised
when I got a call on my cell phone the next day from someone in
executive relations promising to help me resolve my problem.
was traveling and naturally they wanted to trouble shoot the problem so
I promised to contact them when I got back home. That was especially
important since they couldn’t find my name attached to the serial number
of any iMac. I was surprised since this iMac was my seventh one over
the years. All the others were actually used by the ladies in the family.
weekend and the following Monday, I spent much of my time running tests
and doing screen shots. I formatted several types of SD cards with
five different cameras to try to determine a pattern on my
malfunctioning card reader. I also tried to document the strange
problem I was having with photostream in iPhoto. I took all that
information along with my system profile and sent it to my contact at
executive relations. I told her that I would be available at my home
phone number at 10 AM the next day.
about 10:15 the next day, I noticed that I had transposed two digits in
the backup cell phone number that I had given them to use if our home
phone number was busy. I sent a new email with a corrected cell phone
number even though I knew the executive relations lady had my correct
cell number. A couple of minutes later I got a call from the system
engineer saying that he had been waiting for the right phone number. It
was a clue that he had not read the email that I sent the previous day
or looked at any of the information I included.
spent well over an hour on the phone with the Apple expert and let him
download all sorts of stuff from my computer in the hopes that he could
resolve some of my issues. He seemed to tire of the whole thing and we
never got to the photostream issue. He promised to pass the
information on to his engineering team and get back to me.
waited a week to hear back from him and then sent a note to him and my
executive relations contact. The next day I got a call back from my
executive relations contact. All she said was that it had been
determined that I had a loose wire on my SDHC reader, and I should take
the system to my local service provider.
Mac users would not have the experience or the extra hardware to go
through the effort that I did to fix my iMac. Some will say that I
should have purchased Apple’s AppleCare extended warranty. I feel the
same way about extended warranties on computers that I do about extended
warranties on cars. I should not have to buy an extra warranty to get a
product that is trouble free for a few years. Had I made a policy of
buying Apple’s premium-priced, extended warranties on every Apple
product that I have owned, I would be out several thousand dollars.
was a little disappointed with the result of my Apple intervention. My
suggestion to Apple was they send me a new MacMini and I would just take
the iMac to electronics recycling. In the end I wasted a few more days
of my time on what has proved to be a hopeless system. With a dead
hard drive and a card reader with intermittent problems and Bluetooth
that no longer works with my phone, spending money on this iMac is
probably a waste. The shame is that all of this hardware worked fine at
one time. None of this relates to the user not knowing how to get a
computer to work. All of this is in Apple’s lap for creating a
combination of hardware and software that turned out to be unreliable.
whole experience did prompt me to order Adobe Lightroom 4 for my
Windows laptop so I will no longer be tied to a couple of adjustments
that I used in iPhoto for photos taken in a certain light.
whole experience confirmed several of my thoughts about the new Apple.
Number one is that what many of us said would happen to reliability
when Apple switched to industry standard parts has happened. Apple is
no longer the leader in reliability. You don’t have to take my word for
it, you can read this reliability report published in February of 2012. Apple is in fourth place and way behind Lenovo which ranks number 1.
second thought is that Apple often pushes design to the point that it
impacts reliability. I was surprised to find that the hard drive on my
iMac has a temperature sensor that shuts down the drive if the
temperature gets too high. It is the first time I have been aware of a
Mac outside of the Xserve that has a sensor like that. You can cook
your hand on the top of my iMac at times. I have to believe that all
the heat contributed to the early death of my hard drive.
the Apple value proposition isn’t what it used to be. The two HP
laptops which I bought for a total of less than $1,500 are still working
great. As laptops they have had a harder life than my iMac which has
never left its desktop. They’ll soon be three years old and are still
functioning. The iMac never even made it two years. My original HP
laptop that I bought over five years ago is also still working.
just because you pay more for Apple, don’t expect better service
especially if you live outside the major metro areas. I was really
disappointed with my “trouble shooting” experience. The whole thing
seemed to be aimed at minimizing what Apple would do to fix my problem.
I’ve solved a lot of customer issues in my career, and never did I get
on a call with a customer having a problem without reviewing all the
information about the case before I talked to the customer. I also never left a customer with an unresolved problem.
top of it all, after the call with the Apple expert, I got an email to
me addressed “Dear Robert.” I have to say if you cannot even get my
first name right, you probably aren’t going to solve any of my problems.
have to compare my Apple experience to the phone call that I received
from Adobe’s director of worldwide operations on a Sunday night telling
me that he was sending me by FedEx a free copy of Dreamweaver to make up
for problems I was having with an upgrade. Last summer I got a call
from the executive assistant to the CEO of Toro telling me that they
were sending me a free cable to replace the broken one on my lawn
mower. I’ve been using Toro mowers for nearly 50 years. The cable
might get me to continue to use them. Just a month ago, Nikon agreed to
fix my Nikkor telephoto lens even though they could not find their copy
of the extended warranty card. Unless they drop behind the technology curve, I will stick with my Nikon
want Apple to be a premium brand willing to go the extra mile because I
have paid premium prices for my Apple products. Unfortunately my
experience even with some high level intervention shows that it is buyer
beware with Apple just as it is with many other companies that sell
products not nearly as expensive but sometimes more reliable than Apple
latest refresh of the iMac line adds some more twists to the equation.
You can no longer upgrade your own ram in an iMac and if you want a DVD
drive you have to buy an external one. Apple’s RAM prices are about as
expensive as the market will bear. From the review that I recently
read, Apple has substituted a lower performing hard drive in the least
expensive iMac. Based on my experience I cannot think that is good.
Then in the ultimate convenience move, the SDHC reader is now on the
back of the monitor. The only reason that I can see for an iMac being
thinner and lighter is that it will be easier to carry into a mall Apple
Store for repair.
saddens me to say that in the nine months since spring I have invested
more time in this iMac than I did keeping my Vista laptop running over a
couple of years while I was calling Vista a quagmire.
am going through a complete technology refresh on my desktop in the
next twelve months. Likely there will be an Apple product on my desk,
but it will not be an iMac. Whatever Mac I get will be here on probation
since my recent Apple experiences have not been confidence building.
I made the first purchase of my technology refresh on the Saturday
after Thanksgiving. I bought a Lenovo Yoga running Windows 8 for
$999. My older Lenovo laptop is now hooked to an external monitor and
acting as my main desktop system while I try to figure out how to
replace my iMac. Here is a picture of my desktop.
bought a new Lenovo because of the great experience with the previous
one. It is the best laptop that I have used since the Powerbook G4
Titanium that I used as an Apple employee. So far I am very pleased
with the Lenovo Yoga which is a combination ultra-book tablet with a
touch screen. I’ll be sharing my Windows 8 experiences and the
decisions I make on other purchases at ReadWrite Web.
You can read more about my Apple experience by checking out my recently published Kindle Book, The Pomme Company. Rumors of my book causing iPads running Kindle reader software to overheat are unfounded.