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Preemptive Recalls


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I’ve been having headphone/hands-free problems with my first generation (5th day they were available) iPhone. Specifically, people couldn’t hear me through the microphone and I couldn’t use the clicker to skip through songs. I bought a new pair of headphones and everything appeared to be fine, but a few weeks later the problems resurfaced so into the genius bar I go.

Turns out my headphone jack was full of bag schmutz, which prevented a full connection from being made. The genius cleaned out the jack and everything was happy again.

Since I was there I brought up the dead touch zone problem again and asked if she knew how I could get Google Maps our of Transit mode without using the top icon row. I’d been previously told the dead touch zone was an out of warranty problem that wasn’t covered, but instead of parroting what I’d heard before she looked up the serial number in the computer and said I could get a replacement phone. She was also kind of shocked I still had my original phone from two plus years ago.

I thought I might be getting a new pair of headphones and instead I’m getting a replacement phone, which is a nice counter towards Apple Inc.’s recent trend towards evil average.

More interestingly though is Apple’s strategy for dealing with defective hardware. Traditionally a manufacturer will take the cost of a recall vs. the cost of any potential lawsuits and if X is greater than Y, a full recall happens.

Apple isn’t doing that.

Instead Apple has setup a national wide support channel in their retail stores. “Everyone” knows if you have a problem with your Apple product, bring it to a genius. If it’s a product that Apple has identified as being susceptible to a class action lawsuit, Apple replaces your product. Enough people get new products that no critical mass can get behind a class action suit to make it worthwhile to pursue, and Apple avoids the cost of a recall and avoids disrupting its supply change to immediately address the quality issue.

I’m not a fan of how Apple is slowly redefining “personal computer” to mean “media viewer you can’t hack on”, but they remain one the few large American firms who refuse to accept business as usual when business as usual might harm their long term bottom line.

Originally published September 26, 2009

Copyright © Alan Storm 1975 – 2022 All Rights Reserved

Originally Posted: 26th September 2009