47 thoughts on “3 Times Unlucky or the Start of a Larger Trend?”

  1. Unbelievable, that sucks for a company that prides on quality and customer experience! You are being too patient too to do it 3 times…..:)

    Btw any possibility that the Apple store that you kept returning and getting new products is the “same store” and “got a whole lot of bad lemons” from the factory and now sitting on their shelves??? If I was an Apple Service guy reading this, I would be running to that store, digging up all of their returns metrics for this product/store asap and confiscating the entire inventory lot rather than disappoint more customers like you 🙂

    Hopefully they learn!

    1. Raghu

      I tried to get these replaced at three different stores – Chestnut Street (SF), Market Street, and Palo Alto.

      This isn’t the same store or same lot. This is a bad production run.

      It is really hard to come to terms with this whole mess.

    2. I don’t know where the illusion of Apple’s greater hardware quality comes from, especially with a laptop. Apple is using the same components — especially hard disks — as everyone else. The pixie dust the factory sprinkles on it just makes it shine. It doesn’t make it more reliable.

      1. You don’t know anything about it.

        No, they don’t use the same components throughout. Hard disk yes. The motherboard is designed by Apple and IBM hardware enginners. So is the battery. So is the LCD and a few other things.

        I work for a well known technology company with thousands of these laptops and no one has heard of this issue. It is also not on Apple support boards or anywhere else I can find.

        Something is weird with OM’s backups. Imagine if you had this issue with Dell, HP, etc. You sure wouldn’t get a new laptop let alone any other help.

        You lost data? Definelty somethng wrong with your backup strategy.

        Pulling the battery makes no sense. This isn’t Windows. use Onyx and then Diskwarrior to check everything.

    3. BTDT, My old (3 yrs) 17″ MBP went through 3 hard drives in 4 months, Oh, and my Time Capsule died, AND Time Machine refused to back up on anything else. When the 4th hard drive started to sputter and cough up a lung, my husband decided to toss it on the scrap pile and get me a brand new 17″ uni-body MBP. I was headed for my 3rd spinal surgery and needed a laptop during my recovery. The Air Port card was also busted and I went through 2 of them also.

      Yeah, brand new laptop bought in June; all hi-end; maxed memory, maxed drive size & speed, etc… its now on its 2nd hard drive. This drive is just over 1 month old. I ain’t holding my breath with it either.

      I have no expectations of quality from Apple anymore, but I hate MS enough to not go back to them.

      Suck It Apple!

  2. Maybe something you are restoring from time machine is causing the problem? Seems like the one persistent variable in your equation.

    1. Exactly. Every failure has had two things in common: you and the backup you’re restoring from. Assuming it has nothing to do with you personally, are you sure there’s not something in that backup, some nasty boot-sector virus (they do exist on Macs, as you know, even if they’re less common) or some piece of software you’re running?

      It certainly could be a string of bad hardware, but at this point it sure seems more likely that it’s a string of bad software installs/restores.

      1. Matthew and Jeffrey

        The problem is strange: even if restore is the problem, how does it kill the hardware.

        In order to check that, I erased and restored the Macbook Air and it is working without any problem. Or atleast for now. I will be posting an update later.

      1. Though after reading your story, there is little chance that this is not Apple’s fault. Have you tried checking on the internet/apple’s support site to see if others are having similar problems?

        concerning your macbook air, is it a real hard drive, or the Sold State? if you have been using that as your control variable when doing the backups from time machine that may make a different…?

        but to be honest, even if there was a problem with time machine, or watever, it is still apple’s fault and it is becoming a larger trend…. my macbook’s (granted from almost 2 years ago) fan wasn’t working properly a couple of weeks ago (they replaced it)

  3. When modern manufacturing goes right, we get great consistent products that run for years. When it goes wrong, entire runs of product go toes up. I used to build video editing workstations, and we once had a run of 15, yes 15, bad hard drives, all WD. It took a day to build and configure the machines, and these sequential failures hurt us.

    You have my sympathy, but even you must know that even three failures, as bad as that is, is a very small sample.

  4. That sucks! Wasted time and all.

    And speaking of wasted time, I can’t access gMail here in Vancouver, BC right now @ 821pm Pacific time. Message on screen is: 414 Request-URI Too Large

  5. I remember when you compared the perfection of Apple’s products with Taj Mahal. Its sad to see you have such an experience. I sure hope Apple looks into this and gets to the bottom of it.

  6. Om after that type of very public post you must regale us lesser mortals with Apple’s follow-up over the next couple of days. Who called, what did the say, what did they do etc. etc.

    Hope you let us peer over your shoulder as Apple tries to make amends. It would be the non-MSM thing to do.

  7. As somebody who who has spent a lot of time supporting both windows and OSX I have come to the conclusion that apple makes a great OS and really crappy hardware. Oh sure it is sexy, but mac problems are hardware problems like 90% of the time. Bad USB ports, bad (and outrageously overpriced memory), and yeah bad hard drive runs, fan failures (spend the dam 10 cents and get good fans damit)… and really bad and unreliable and allays imminently prone to death batteries. this all plays havoc with businesses and really changes the TOC numbers depending on how to look at it. Yeah hardware is easier to replace then trouble shooting many software problems but with macs, when it rains it really pours if you buy in batches.
    I still prefer them though, flaky over priced hardware is easier to deal with the endless bizarre things customers can find to do unto their xp/vista installs… and some times the winboxes have hardware issues too but they are comparatively rare.
    I wish apple would spend a few fractions more on hardware QA and supply chain management for quality (rather then driving down their prices to maximize profits) versus image and design, which they do well enough to have to have a store in every other mall to support the hardware collapse rate :p.

    Honestly though the no replaceable battery thing has been the final straw with me. I won’t order mac’s anymore with out user changeable batteries. All batteries fail, apple one’s just do it in droves, not being able to do a simple swap is just beyond IT unfriendly.

    I was a fan, now I am less so.. .and the design direction is making it hard to come back… Hackintoshes are looking better all the time.

  8. Hi Om,

    With Apple, Microsoft, Google, …. first versions, even second versions of anything software, hardware .. are betas and you are the tester. If being a Fanboy means buying first versions of everything then expect more of the same. I’ve learnt to let others be my beta testers. As a tech journalist you are forced to get first versions of everything so consider it an occupational hazard – but I am surprised that you are still surprised when it happens. As a QA engineer in a previous life I saw the sausages being made.
    My strategy buy version 2.1 of everything always – and be safe.

    Remember windows 3.1 was the first Windows that people really started using. Apple IIe was the first successful Apple. ….. If you want Apple hardware that works buy it on EBay – 2 revisions old and half the price.

    I am a Mac fanboy too – just no longer fooled by the shiny objects.

  9. Uncle Om-

    I’ve had a Macbook for a few years now, and I had to take it back 6 times to be fixed for screen flickering to the Apple Store and their “Geniuses.” Every time I would take it in, it would disappear for a week, and then I would have it for a few days and repeat the process. One time I was told that the screen flickered because “the hard drive was too large” (because naturally, it sucked up more power and made the screen flicker – OBVIOUSLY). Finally the plastic developed this weird melting on the LCD and after emailing Steve Jobs (you know you’re screwed when you have to email the CEO) they gave me a replacement. And it wasn’t just my Macbook: I’ve had iPods go bad and were replaced. Nitin’s right – always be gen 2 for Apple products.

    And there are quirks: My old Macbook would kernel panic when I would insert a DVD to watch, and other weird things. Heck, even friend’s Windows XP desktops that were filled with viruses and spyware could still play movies without killing the computer.

    The trend’s always been there. But between Apple’s PR machine and fanboys who defend Apple like they’re battered spouses (“My Macbook breaks because it LOVES ME!”), it’s ignored.

    1. As far as Macbook Pros and batteries, I have a 17″. As an Art Dir, wanted the larger screen to display applications side by side, etc. It was one of the first duel Intel chip machines, heating to a whopping 147 degrees, which no tech @ Apple seemed concerned!?

      But the big battle was over the “bulging battery”. After owning my machine for some 9 mos. + (and no one contacted me to inform) on a user forum page the there was a recall for the batteries in Macbook Pro 17″ machines, as they ran too hot, would tend to bulge out of the actual metallic frame.

      I had noticed over time, that my laptop no longer closed and latched shut as it should – that is, the top panel and the keyboard didn’t meet seamlessly. I took it as my treatment, as I was transporting between work and home. Once I read the user forum, and found out about the recall of batteries, contacted tech support who denied even knowing of the problem. . .

      After loosing my display inch-by-inch (the warping was actually affecting the screen connections) I fought my way to upper technical support mgt, where they informed me that, because I had a ding on the laptop frame (near the CD/DVD drive – a small dent that in no way affected the optical drive performance), that this was the reason for the entire display to fail. . .

      Fifteen years of PC and MAC procurement for gov agencies told me that this was absolute misinformation (read BS) and I had to pay for the $600 optical drive in order to rehab the $3,000 laptop. How absurd!

      Finally, after I had paid for repair, argued w/multiple levels of mgt, and given up. . . I was awarded two free MacBookPro batteries. . . like pullin teeth!


      As to the original thread in this conversation, When I lost the display for the MacBookPro laptop, I slaved it via firewire to a IMac, and it recognized the drive, even though the machine could not recognize itself. . .
      Odd, but may help ya.

      Cheers and good luck

  10. Is this the beginning of a larger trend for Om to get hits, first he blogged he ditched the iPhone because of drop calls and now he claimed 3 times in a row he got bad hardware from Apple.

    It is possible but had he examined himself on how good a computer geek he is and had he bother to trouble shoot the problems before whining to the whole world.

    Maybe Om you should get an Apple genius to handle the setting up and migration of data to the new Mac pro just to prove your point that the hardware is bad and not the lack of knowledge on your part.

  11. Om,

    It’s funny because we just experienced some frustrating moment with Apple, too. My sister and i’ve got our iphones about 3 months ago and my sister recently noticed several cracks appeared on the bottom and the top of her iphone (white case). So we went to the local apple store and they were nice enough to replace it. However, when we got home my sister was again able to spot out the cracks on her brand new iphone, exactly like those on the old one. We’ve used quite a few apple products and been familiar with some of their “known quality issues” (e.g., the discolor/cracks on the white macbook) so we thought it was just another one of those things and decided to keep the phone anyway. However, this afternoon, on her way to the mall, my sister stopped by the apple store hoping that she’d be able to report an quality issue so Apple could fix it on later versions, you know, just like she clicks the “report to apple” button whenever her macbook crashes. And the rudeness began, the sales girls thought my sister was trying to replace the phone, so they were immediately on defense. As my sister was waiting for her turn, several employees pointed their fingers at her and looked at her like an alien. The whole team [sales + geniuses] whispered to one another in front of my sister and one of them told my sister that “no phone is perfect” and “it was just a minor cosmetic problem” and even showed my sister several phones they had on display with the same problem then stated that “there is nothing we could do.” All that just because they didn’t want to replace my sister’s iphone, which, to their surprise, was totally not my sister’s intention for being there. Those apple’s employees have changed the way we think of Apple forever.
    Back to your post, is it a larger trend? Yes, I do think so. Apple has been known for their high quality products and excellent customer service. But i’m afraid that we’re witnessing a major downturn. Products aside, in-store customer service barely makes average, at least at the 4 locations that i’ve been to. Apple store (esp. Mall of Georgia, Buford, GA) has never been a friendly place since their opening in 2008. And so many many times i witnessed “geniuses” treat their customers like bozos. And all it takes to work for an apple store, my friend says, is a GED.

  12. I am a big Apple fan, long on AAPL, constantly recommending Apple products to anyone who will listen. But in my history of buying Apple products, I have seen more than my share of defects. Enough to discourage a less ardent Mac user.

    My first Mac was a 1st generation Blue & White G3, bought on the show floor at Macworld 1999. These had a faulty motherboard that caused hard drive corruption when connecting a second internal ATA HD to the mobo bus. Ooops. A year later I bought the Grey Whale, a 21″ Apple Studio Display that got sent back to Apple 3 times in the first 3 months for video problems. Last time I got it back, it still wasn’t fixed, and the delivery guy dropped it in the street, cracking the case. I made Apple take it back & refund my money.

    Second Mac was a Powermac G5 Dual 2.7 that got so hot it kept the room warm in winter. In the summer, it would go nuts and fail on hot days. And year ’round, its nine fans constantly ramped up & down at the slightest workload, spoiling an otherwise quiet machine. Seriously, you could wiggle the resize tab of a Safari window, and the fans would spin up. Overall, it was fast, but noisy, balky & infuriatingly unreliable. I complained so much that Apple replaced the power supply, motherboard, and processors, after which it was exactly the same as before. It has been replaced with a Mac Pro Octo 2.8, which is silent perfection. Awesome.

    Along the way, I also bought a Macbook Pro, which failed within a couple of weeks, just outside of the 14 day replacement limit. Bad video board. It also had a crappy screen, with very uneven backlighting. A nice Apple Genius replaced it for me, anyway. Replacement works fine. Sweet computer.

    Then there is my 1st generation 30″ Apple Cinema Display. Contrast ratio only 400 to 1makes for disappointing black levels, but otherwise gorgeous color rendition. Except for the Image Persistence. Leave a window up for a while, close it, and you can still see a ghost of it. I complained hard about this, but they said no way to replacing it. In fact the Genius swore he couldn’t see it! Maybe I was being too picky. Apple’s official cure? Run a solid white desktop for a while until the ghosts go away. Seriously.

    Still love Macs. Wouldn’t buy anything else.

  13. Om,
    I too abandoned PCs one sunny afternoon in ’06, and have been using & promoting MBPros since then. While I bought Intel based MBPRos, being an ex-Intel guy, this move represented a huge leap for me 😉
    Although I’ve been delighted by the overall MAC user experience during this time, I have faced a couple of disappointing challenges of my own (albeit nothing like your blue screen; at least not so far!).

    Based on my interaction with the Apple Store/Genius Bar folks, I’ve concluded that Apple still maintains a ‘Marine’ like mentality while addressing customer issues; i.e. this is how I, a relatively small/exclusive player deal with product issues (or not), take it or leave it. This approach has served Apple well to date, since historically their MSS has been very low, with customers who are really fanatics about everything and anything MAC; and who endured such occasional, though serious issues, kind of like like MJ fans have elected to overlook the transgressions of their idol!

    However, as Apple’s market share numbers grow and capture mainstream users; especially ones with prior/current exposure to the redeeming qualities of PC/Windows platforms, and as manufacturing volumes rise; Apple’s past approach just doesn’t cut it any more. I believe these issues pose a very significant challenge for Apple, and if they don’t address the same with a sense of urgency and customer empathy, they could very well forego their market momentum and ASP premiums; relative to their PC/Windows based competitors! For the sake of ‘civilized computing’, which is what I believe Apple can/does deliver to the world today, I hope Apple is able to get its act together before its too late.

  14. Frustrating, I thinks folks however geeky sometimes just don’t have the time to troubleshoot issues.

    3 failure in a row is unusual for any product, sometimes I am surprised by the reliability of modern computer parts and how they keep on working nearly endlessly. I would seriously investigate your restore process, and perhaps run a new macbook without restore for a week or so to rule that out.

  15. You think 3’s unlucky – try 5 in a row!! Actually was 5 Macs in a row that I ordered that came with some form of defect and had to be returned (2iMacs, 2 MacBook Pros and a MacBook) – in the end I decided to wait!

    Wrote a letter to Apple and someone did get in touch offering a discount on another Mac but the discount was less then is offered via their Employee Purchase Programme for companies or Student Discount i.e. someone could get more discount than I was being offered and without having to go through the hassle and disappointment of 5 defective Macs – I thought that was a bit of an insult

  16. Don’t forget that no matter how much engineering Apple puts into their hardware, it’s only as good as the components they have to purchase for the machines. With the economy in a downturn world wide I sometimes wonder if manufacturers start to cut corners wherever and whenever they can.

    The hard drive died in your Macbook Pro, I doubt Apple had much to do with that failure. It could be related to them, but don’t always put the blame only in their ball court. Now, that said I’m on my 3rd Macbook pro in as many years from related problems and have only this week ordered a Windows 7 PC laptop as a backup. Not that I have more faith in another manufacturer, but it never hurts to have some variety if you depend on a computer in your life.

    Om, one thing you stated above is that you had no option trying to reboot the machine as you can’t remove the battery. This trend from Apple annoys me to no end and is another reason I’m moving to a PC. I think that in Steve Jobs zeal to move everything Apple to the “thin is in” mantra, there comes a point where style gets in the way of functionality. I fear Apple has started to cross this threshold.

  17. Am I the only one here that sees the irony? Every pundit tells us that Apple is a hardware company and not a software company. So what does Apple actually manufacture? The uni-body for the Mac book Pro? They don’t make HDDs or RAM. I’m sure most of the components inside a Mac are the same as in a Dell or HP.

    And tell me again why I should pay more for the same hardware?

    Maybe Apple should stop spending money on the “Mac vs. PC” ads and start investing in better hardware.

  18. Sucks completely, but but how can you think it’s anything other than bad luck? Apple doesn’t make drives, they source them from a small group of manufacturers (Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Hitachi, Samsung). Lenovo and every other computer maker uses the same drives from the same companies.

    Hard drives die sometimes. I had two die within a month of each other a few years ago, and wasn’t fully backed up (this was before Time Machine came out) and it was terrible. But I didn’t blame Apple. They were both Toshiba drives, so I blamed Toshiba.

    If a bad lot of drives made it through Toshiba’s (or whoever’s) manufacturing process, and that lot just happened to be purchased by Apple, then Apple ends up with a bunch of dying laptops. I know contractually Apple is responsible for your computer, but they’re not at fault in any deeper way. It really does come down to chance.

  19. Sorry to hear that, Om! I’ve had my fair share of problems with my MacBook Pro (15″ unibody first gen), but nothing this bad. At least Apple is fixing them — they charged me almost $1,000 because the ethernet port got bent and the bottom of the case. It’s ridiculous! You love Apple, but sometimes you just hate them so much.

  20. Om,

    Have you gone back to Windows permanently? I occasionally use Win7 on a Lenovo X61 tablet as a novelty, but invariably have been droven back to OSX and my MBP.

    If not, when would you pull the trigger?

    1. Not sure if I am going to pull the trigger anytime soon. back to my old Macbook Air for now. Windows 7 perhaps over next few days — it is a hard transition from one UI to another.

  21. Switched to mac back in 2006 in seek of increased reliability and quality. My satisfaction with the design and usability lead to an obsession. Now, knee deep in Apple gear, I’ve discovered “reliable” is one thing macs are not. Bought a new iMac in 2008. In it’s first year, the optical drive failed, the hard drive failed and the OS bombed a few times. Figuring I was “unlucky”, I continued on to buy a $2000 MacBook Pro. 4 months later I’m facing at the least, a failed OS…and possilbly another failed hard drive (this just happened). Even worst, I complained my way up the corporate latter and found out the higher you go the worst it gets. At the store, they’re great. At the Executive level their defensive. The guy basically said there is no way to demonstrate reliability in their products b/c each customer has a unique experience. He then went on to admit that one of his machines had a hard drive failure. Bottom line: Love the product design and seamless intergration, but it’s not worth the hassle. Doubt I’ll stick with it.

  22. Switched exclusively to Apple in 06. Bought two brand new machines in the last year. Three hardware failures and two OS failures later, I’ve found “reliable” is one thing macs are not. I’m probably going to cut my losses and ditch the macs. Great design and product intergration, but it’s just not worth the hassle. Oh well…. I picked up some great gadgets on the way (ipods, iphones, apple tv).

  23. Switched to Macbook from 20 years on PC last week. Seemed ok at first….. but after using an external 3G modem and the latest Office 2008 from MS suit I gave up. Either it’s the new Snow Leopard OS that is really not stable or that the Mac just cant handle a simple 3G broadband modem. The machine froze like 10 times a day…. requiring me to hardboot (6 sec on the power button). Made it impossible to work….

    But even if I could make this work, Office 2008 is just crap. Excel 2008 i extremely slow and not to speak of Entourage 2008…. the user interface is so much worse than Outlook (and Im using OL 2003 normally). Yesterday I gave up. Migrated back to my old T61 thinkpad and left the mac completely.

  24. I feel your pain and I’m here to say I’m now a PC. I’ve been a technical professional now for over 10 years. I’ve worked with both Windows and Macs. In spring 2007 I bought my first Macbook. As my husbands says, I was so proud of it. I didn’t get Apple Care..never bought the warranty for any of my Windows PCs/laptops, didn’t figure I would need for an Apple for sure. Well at a year 4 months the original drive went bad. Replaced it with a WD which went bad at 6mos (last December this time). Replaced it with a Hitachi. You guessed it, 6 months later and it has now gone bad. I believe this to be more than coincidence. 10+ years working in IT tells me this is more than coincidence. I’m typing this on of all things a Compaq laptop I purchased in 2004 which is still humming along. All my Windows PCs have run for years until I finally scrapped them. This one isn’t even 3 years old and I’m ready to throw it on the scrap heap. I will never buy Apple again and am going to contact Microsoft to offer my opinion for one of their commercials. Talk about being disillusioned and disappointed!

  25. It’s fanny to read people defending Apple on these issues. “It’s not Apple’s fault, it’s HDD manufacturer’s fault, because Apple didn’t manufacture the HDD”.
    Take another example: when Windows crashes or XBOX breaks down, it’s Microsoft’s fault, not HW vendor or SW supplier for Microsoft. Microsoft is responsible for the product they offer for the consumer.
    Same thing applies for Apple. It’s Apples fault if their products fails/breaks. They have something wrong in their quality management or processes or where ever, but it’s APPLE’s fault.

  26. My 15″ MacBook Pro is having the same problem. It is out of warranty of course. This also happened to a friend of mine within warranty and apple made him pay for it. I too was a big fan of apple but that is fading quickly.

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