As part of my review of the iPhone 3.0 software upgrade, I tested the remote wipe feature. It worked great and turned my iPhone into a brick. Unfortunately, the restore process didn't fare as well, but the failure did give me an opportunity to experience Apple customer support.
First off, I have to admit that I didn't buy AppleCare for my phone. I didn't cover my first iPhone handset, either, much to my chagrin. I had dropped that unit one too many times and caused the touch sensor on the lower third of the screen to fail. When I took that handset to the Apple Store to see what could be done, I was told, basically, nothing--except buy a new phone. I did just that, and iPhone No. 2 was the one I tested the software upgrade on.
With some trepidation (or, fear of having to buy yet another new phone), I returned to the Apple store in Emeryville, Calif., with my living but comatose iPhone.
Keep in mind that I showed up at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 17, the very day that Version 3.0 of the software was released--without an appointment and with no AppleCare.
The Genius Bar looked like the emergency room waiting room with people stacked up against the wall, most cradling dead or dying MacBooks in their arms. I was not feeling good about my chances.
I logged into the appointment center and was offered an appointment on Saturday afternoon. No way could I be without a phone for that long, so I meekly asked an Apple floor walker if there was any way to stand by for help. After telling me that my chances were next to nil, the floor walker broke the first rule of low-cost tech support: He asked what was wrong.
I almost felt bad, taking advantage of this lifeline, but this is was my iPhone that was on the fritz. I needed it back online, or I needed a new replacement, that night. I explained that I had used remote wipe and that the restore process from my home PC wasn't working.
After spending a couple of minutes trying to get my phone to reboot to factory defaults, John (not his real name) broke another support rule: He asked if I could wait for a second while he showed the device to someone.
I almost passed out.
John took my phone and disappeared behind the magic silver door that led to where the geniuses live when they are not working the bar. A few minutes later, John emerged.
John was holding an old MacBook and a sync cord. He set my phone up on the MacBook and started the restore process (he called it "restricting," a nice play on "reset" and "destruct"). He left me to supervise the process while he went back to selling massively over-priced Mac accessories.
I was dumbfounded.
John didn't ask for my driver's license to hold. He didn't make me sign anything. He didn't make me fill out a trouble ticket. Nothing. He just helped me get my iPhone back online. On one of the busiest days of the Mac year (the day the 3.0 software was released and the release of the iPhone 3G S only days away), I was up and running after intentionally killing my phone. All in less than a half-hour.
So, here's to John, who broke the rules and made a return customer very happy--so happy that I will most definitely consider paying the premium price for another Apple iPhone when the time comes to retire my current unit.
I should note that John did not know that I work for a major tech publication. He did what he would do for any customer walking in off the street.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at email@example.com.