Monday, December 9, 2013

Warranties and life in the 21st Century

Used to be, you'd buy stuff, and it would work for many years, you could repair it, and it would then work many more years. As things have become more electronic, the cost to replace has fallen below the cost of repairing - sometimes by a huge margin. Warranties that used to involve sending the broken item in and having it repaired are now far more likely to involve going to said repair place, and swapping out your device for a different one of the same type, which inherits the warranty of the original. For items that are still mostly mechanical, there is benefit in repairing much of the mechanics, but for things that are digital, most warranties now cover replacement, not repair.
Consider Apple's devices. Phones from the Froot Stand can be repaired for minimal items (home button, camera, speakers) on some models, but iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs, they are never opened in a local store. Screen repairs on the iPhone 5 are done in store, but most models require a full swap. That is the difference between AppleCare and warranties from carriers and superstores, where some geeky kid in a blue polo is going to crack open your iDevice and try to fix it. Turns out, this means that Apple can never work on your device again, or swap it for a working model, for any amount of money. If it fixes the issue, great, but if in mucking about in the innards of your device our geek (or your resident teen) happens to compromise another module, or if the replacement part fails, you're out the total cost of a new item, not just the repair/replacement cost. Plus whatever you paid for the warranty and the repair.
At the Store and within certain other places where you can purchase their products, Apple offers something for these devices called AppleCare+. The Plus means that not only does it include extended warranty and phone assistance coverage (more about this phone coverage later), but there are also two instances of physical or liquid damage that can be made during the warranty period for a small deductible. (I know, $70 for replacing an iPhone is not cheap, but it's a far cry from $240, right? And a huge savings over the non-contract price!)
Let's compare this to a carrier policy. Most of these are $10 or less per device, billed to your monthly bill. On a typical 24-month contract, that's $240 for the actual coverage. (AppleCare+ is $99 for iPhones and iPads, $59 for iPods touch. Quick approximation: less than $1/week for the same two years.) Now, consider that most local carrier stores are not equipped with spare parts, and have no one qualified too offer true warranty service on Apple products. What are they going to tell you when your camera module dies 8 months into your warranty? "Take it to Apple." Who will cover it happily. But at 18 months, still under your carrier plan, Apple will charge for that service, while your carrier will require you to send the device to them for several days while their regional repair center fixes the issue. If that item is covered. You may just get back a refurbished phone of the same model.
Now, a bit about phone support. Little known fact: Apple's phone support includes software support for all Apple iOS apps. That copy of iPhoto you downloaded free with your new 5c? Call and ask how to publish an album. Or get advice on adding a transition to a keynote slide on your iPad. Friendly help from someone in your country, wherever you call from. Try getting Google to help you do the same in QuickOffice. Oh, wait, you can't add transitions within QuickOffice's PowerPoint editor - my bad. But there's no online or phone assistance from anything at Google or any other office suite company that I know of.
So, my car is now done with its warranty checkup/oil change/car wash. Time to post this and get on with my life. I love a good warranty, where the cards are on the table, and there are little extras tossed in, like free fresh brewed coffee, a quiet business waiting area with no TV, and a comfy office chair and desk.

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Location:Glenwood Ave,Raleigh,United States