Bad Apple – An Open Letter

RottenWhat do you do when you plunk down several hundred dollars on media players that shit out on you within 18 months? The only thing we, the people, can do in Corporate Amerika: Complain.


1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA 95014

May 29, 2006

To whom it may concern (and that should be anyone who works at Apple),

I know most consumer protection agencies recommend a calm, non-threatening tone be taken when filing business complaints in writing, but it’s awfully difficult to maintain a cool composure when you’re staring at $800 worth of electronic equipment that’s up and crapped out short of 18 months from the purchase date. But I’ll try to be the bigger man.

Please find enclosed TWO dead iPods: my wife’s 20 gig and my own 40 gig models. Also note that these iPods were purchased on the same day in December 2004. It is now May 2006 and both have suffered fatal hard disk errors, which I’ve learned from a simple Google search, is quite common.

The Big Dog: December 2004 - May 2006After my wife’s iPod croaked two months ago I stopped at the Michigan Ave. Apple boutique in Chicago and asked a friendly, if hapless, employee what options were available. Considering Apple’s excellent reputation for customer service and the fact that I’d dropped nearly a grand on the players and some accessories, you can understand my shock at being told I could “trade in” my wife’s limp machine and apply $50 toward purchase of a new model. Do you treat all customers as nothing more than simple fools? THAT is not a satisfactory policy and will only drive otherwise loyal customers like myself into the arms of your fast approaching competition. My wife decided to think about it while we shared my then still functioning iPod.

And then the unthinkable: My iPod died this Saturday, May 27, in the year of our Lord, 2006.

They'd like to be buried togetherInstead of trying to sucker me into plopping down another small fortune to ensure my wife and I can tolerate the mind numbing jobs we hold to pay for such frivolous expenditures, why don’t you do right by us and promptly send two NEW, preferably WORKING, iPods that are comparable to these dead models? At this point, it’s your only hope of saving me as a customer. Given the popularity of these little monsters, I am sure you could get by with losing two from the cult, but I PERSONALLY know six (6) people whose iPods have met the exact same fate—all curiously just beyond the term of their warranties. Don’t think for a moment I am above forming some sort of consumer awareness campaign to warn others away from what seems to me to be a criminally shoddy product. I’m hoping the new generation iPod is better than the last—help me keep the faith.

If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me anytime via email or during reasonable hours at the number provided.


Derek Phillips

UPDATE: Have You Heard the Good News? He is Risen!

My iPod may be the Jesus. Last night—three days after His untimely death—the Big Dog came back to life. While doing a Google search on “40 gig iPod, disk failure” so I could gather evidence to throw in my box to Apple, I came across this interesting anecdote from a fellow iPod sufferer:

Trying every third party and Apple software solution I could think of, I gave up and smucked the unit on the side lightly in the direction of the disk armature on the HD. This worked. No thunking followed and it ran stable enough to Disk Utility erase and Pod Software restore.

Having nothing to lose, I “smucked” the Big Dog around for a bit and then ran through the iPod restoration process. It worked. The Big Dog came back from the dead. That was His first miracle. It turns out, He also has the power to heal.

As you know, my lady’s iPod died two months ago. Lil’ Red was her name (the iPod, not my lady). She was a cute little 20 gig model and my wife loved her so. I decided to try the Fonzie Cure on Lil’ Red and she too came back to life, though it took several tries and I’m not confident she’s fully back to normal.

So, while I am elated that our iPods are back, I am still convinced that a one-year warranty is horseshit. I think this little episode also illustrates how delicate these “portable” media players are.

Just the same, it’s comforting to hear the Good Word coming from my earbuds again.

DIGG this!

49 thoughts on “Bad Apple – An Open Letter”

  1. Attaboy, Derek; bring it home to the Man. Call me a cynic, call me whatever you choose*, but I haven’t been convinced as a music lover to go iPod. iTunes yes; I have it on all PCs I use. It’s free, and it gets me the podcasts of Steve Dahl’s show. But when you’re asking me to pay $.99 for a song with dumbed-down audio for a device that doesn’t allow you to swap out the battery, AND they croak without cause just outside the warranty? Hmm, way to revolutionize the music industry. Next, Apple’s gonna sell us the proverbial beachfront property in Tucson.

    *I prefer to be referred to as the “red hot lover of the greater Chicago metro area”.

  2. Ask my husband about my absolute disdain for Ipods.

    I like the Creative. Hasn’t failed me. And mine has stood up so well he went and purchased one too.

    Every Ipod owner I know or know of has encountered this kind of crap. Why buy something that “may” have difficulties down the line?

    Sorry to hear about this D, but Ipods suck if you ask me.

  3. Charli, how long is Creative’s warranty? And how long have you had it?

    I’m just trying to figure out if Apple’s one-year warranty is “industry-standard” or if it’s as short as it seems (for a $400 piece of hardware).

  4. This is something Apple definitely needs to address, and pronto. They’ve built a solid reputation in the computer world for reliability, and they’re on the verge of blowing it in the world of consumer electronics.

    If my iBook, for example, had crapped out on me after a year I’d be howling for blood.

  5. I’ve owned 5 iPods and not had any problems with reliability.

    If you’re worried about failure outside of the warranty period, buy AppleCare or any of the other extended warranties out there. But I’ve had no such problems. The only iPods I’ve seen have problems are those that weren’t treated well.

  6. Hey Ward,

    Glad you haven’t had any problems (but I have to wonder why you’ve had FIVE over the past few years).

    I can ssure you that my two iPods were not mistreated. I understand they’re electronic equipment and I’m not new to this kind of ownership.

    And yes, it’s obviously wise to cough up the extra cash for the service agreement–knowing what I know now. Of course, I didn’t expect a $400 piece of equiopment from a manufacturer who prides itself on quality to fail within 18 months–twice. I guess I had higher expectations.

    Note that I had TWO iPods fail and personally know of at least six others. I am a snob and don’t have many friends, so I find that high rate of failure among my relatively small sample to be pretty alarming.

    Just the same, I do believe Apple makes great products and I understand that in the mad ramp-up of the iPod campaign and subsequent rush, there may have been some quality control issues. I just now want them to live up to their fine customer service reputation and replace these clearly defective products.

    I am also open to trying new products so please post your recommendations.

  7. This is scary. I also got my iPod 12/04 and have become increasingly paranoid that it’s going to crap on me at any minute. Not only that, but my shitty PC crashes if I store too much on the 60 GB harddrive, so I can’t back up my music on my hard drive. And a lot of that is downloaded stuff that I don’t have CD accessible. So when (if) mine goes, I’ll probably cry.

  8. Also, those who have non-iPod MP3 devices–how are the accessories? Basically I just need a good car/radio adapter. I use the TransPod now. Do these other models have similiar accesories? Because if I have the same problems Derek is describing, and I can find a model that I can play well in my car, I’ll make the switch.

  9. There was an interesting article in the Guardian last week about this very issue. It seems Apple don’t see the iPod as anything more than a disposable consumer item.

    Is your iPod one of the bad Apples?

    I’ve had a Creative Zen Micro for over a year, and despite being dropped down the stairs at work and taking a couple of falls while inside my jacket, it’s still going strong. I would like to upgrade because 5GB isn’t enough space. I’ll probably stay with Creative though.

  10. From the article: “Apple operates on the basis that the iPod life expectancy is a year, and that’s it.”

    That’s the fastest way to lose this customer base that they so quickly built. Again, I understand that electronics can be testy, but a one year life expectancy on a piece that expensive? There’s some thing wrong there.

  11. Here’s another interesting article, wherein Steve Jobs tells us “you have to buy a new iPod at least once a year.”

    Granted, he’s talking to people who “always want the latest and greatest,” but still… The attitude is clearly aimed at getting people to upgrade every year. Which, of course, is kind of shitty.

  12. Unacceptable. I am not given the choice to “upgrade” right now. It’s simply replacing defective merchandise. I value my money too much to continue buying products from a comapny that doesn’t place the same value on my satisfaction.

  13. Thanks for the article, Derek. I’m pretty much a ditz when it comes to technology, but even I can see something’s wrong with iPods. I’m on my third one, though I’ve only had to pay for two because of the decent six-month warranties. My 60G video just kicked the bucket after 4 months, and got sent back from the factory with seemingly little improvement. If this one peters out, I seriously quit – I’ll buy a boom box and strap it to my back before I buy another iPod.

    Also, have you seen the ridiculous scratches these things take? I breathe the screen and it gets marred. For all the green that goes into these little boxes, you’d think they could include some sort of coating.

  14. Jake,

    Not sure on the warranty.Honestly haven’t thought about it since I got it almost two years ago.

    As for accessories for the Creative Zen, I’m not one who needs a lot in that regard but Josh bought and lives by his car adaptor and every so often it has its moments. But otherwise it works awesome.

    I’ve always been one who felt that Apple was screwing its customers with constant upgrades to the Ipods. It comes across as a quantity not quality situation.

    That and the big stores like Target and Best Buy etc, only seeming to advertise to Ipod owners seemed weird. And aggravating. Almost as if they never recognize that there are other Mp3 players out there other then Ipod.

    That alone has been one of my main reasons for not jumping on the Ipod train.

  15. I’m pretty much okay with the constant upgrades and new editions. As long as the thing continues to do what it did when I bought it, that’s fine.

    One exception is when they release a firmware update that only works on newer models, and adds features that ought to work on older models. I got burned by this when I bought my first iPod (a second-generation model), and a couple months later they released the third-generation models and immediately issued a firmware update that allowed you to create “On the Go” playlists. This update wasn’t available for the 2G and older models despite the fact that there were no obvious hardware reasons that this update couldn’t work on my iPod. That still makes me mad.

    The other exception is when the accessories aren’t backward compatible. I can’t believe, for example, that there’s not a Firewire-USB2 adapter available. And I feel bad for all those 3rd-party manufacturers who made fancy little sleeves for the iPod Mini, only to have it discontinued.

    But whatever. If my new iPod lasted forever, I can’t imagine why I would ever buy a new one. Unless it could be implanted in my skull somehow (with a camera and phone, obviously). I’d pay $400 for that, for sure. Of course, I’d want more than a one-year warranty…

  16. i got my ipod in 03 and it hasn’t worked properly for a good while now. the thing looks like it’s been to hell and back considering i hardly use it. i think ipod is great in concept, but god awful in desgin. too many problems with it. i’ve got a thing from a lawyer saying that i would be able to get some kind of replacement due to a lawsuit won on my behalf (i have no idea). if apple won’t trade mine in for a new one. they can see walk out their store.

    i already dislike itunes with a passion. and i’m not thrilled with apple stores either (they charge $45 for headphones even cheap ear buds). i’m sorry to hear of your misfortuen there derek. stories like that and my own are reasons i still cling to the cd player. i may have to lug all my cd’s around, but i at least don’t have any of the hassels that come with a lot of mp3 players such as ipod.

  17. I still have a cd player. And a record player. I still use those when I listen to music at home. And I buy cds and records all of the time. But I love my iPod, too. Walking around with thousands of songs–basically a personalized radio station–is excellent. So far, I’ve been lucky with my iPod. I got it in November of 2004 and it’s still working great. It is the same one you had, Derek. (The discontinued 40 gig model.) So perhaps the salad days of my iPod relationship are nearing a close . . .

    I really hope not, though!

  18. Sorry, but if you’re an Apple Person you commit to buying a new one every year. Steve even said so. If it’s not the hard drive it’s the batteries. So if this doesn’t appeal to you then yes, avoid the Apple stuff.

  19. It tastes apple-rific!

    I’m curious, Derek: Were there any warning signs that you’re iPod was about to die? Had you used all or most of the hard drive space? Doesn’t sound like yours was a battery problem at all. And the batteries can be replaced, anyway.

  20. No, there were no indications of a problem on either unit. For each of them, I docked them to update and charge and they crashed my machine. After rebooting, I went to Apple’s support page and followed all the directions to no avail. The exact same thing happened to both iPods and, as I’ve learned, to others’.

  21. So I suppose it’s only a matter of time then…

    I’ll be sure to post if anything happens. And please keep us informed on what, if anything, Apple does for you.

  22. I’ve had a Creative Zen Sleek (20G) for 6 months and it’s been flawless. The design, sturdiness, and sound quality are excellent. It’s got features including a mic and an FM tuner (from which you can record digitally), but other than that no bells and whistles. It’s just what I need. Fuck the iPod, this thing beats it hands-down. This is for people who want a great MP3 player for a great price (retail $269 vs comparable iPod $299), and not for those who want a fashion accessory.

  23. I own a Creative Zen Touch and I love it. Sturdy as all hell, great size and weight and very user friendly. Belkin makes a good car adapter that works on it’s own bateries so you don’t drain any juice from your player, it also comes with a car lighter adapter which can be touchy at times. I bought my creative online last September and have had no problems so far. My only request for them is if they could make the Random a little more Random.

  24. My first iPod died while under warranty and Apple flipped me a new one lickity-split. The replacement unit died six months later. At that point I bought the apple care warranty and was given another new unit; however (here’s the kicker) Apple informed me that the new warranty will not be honoured from date that I purchased it, rather the warranty will be applied from the date of purchase of my original and long-dead iPod.

    I guess the good news is, I got a new iPod for $60. The bad news is, if it dies (when it dies) after October 2006, I’m SOL.

  25. I had EXACTLY the same problem, same time frame too. I am seriously considering starting an online paypal donations campaign to buy people with this problem Creative players. Let’s hit the suckers where it hurts. Anyone who wants in – drop me a line!

    Screw Apple Ipod (love their powerbooks, just not their ipods), I recommend to everyone I know that they consider the ipod as their last option for portable music players. The “over my dead body” option.

  26. I had never purchased an extended warranty until I bought an iPod (to replace one that I lost on a plane – d’oh!) last year. Sounds like it may turn out to be a good investment after all.

  27. i read the digg article and all the replies. jeez! some people are real big apple ass kissesrs. i may be in the minority, but i spend $400 on something i expect the damn thing to work beyond i year. hell, i expcet it work beyond 2. the last cd player i bought 5 years still works and i paid less for it. that doesn’t make sense.


    my ipod has been broken for like two months. whenever i touch a button the little dead ipod signal comes up. After reading this article, I banged it on the desk a few times and it is totally fine and working great!

    I would also like to report that this is my sixth ipod since October, they keep breaking for no apparent reason.

  29. 1212, six ipods in eight months? you gotta be fuckin kidding me! stop wasting your money on those pieces of shit. not that it seems like you have any shortage of cash…

    with that money you could’ve bought a gold-plated toilet seat, for chrissakes. throw a boombox and some headphones in there and you got the ultimate iPod experience.

  30. Anyone know if is this specific to a particular model/ generation of iPods? My nano got stolen before it had a chance to break, but this seriously has me rethinking whether I want to replace it or not.

  31. other 1212:

    you’re an idiot. I have a one year warantee since october so i have only ever paid for one ipod, the original. I just keep trading the dead ones in under warantee. I was worried what would happen when the warantee ran out but now I have this awesome method.

  32. No, I was just getting ready to. I was gathering evidence from other people complaining on the Web when I came across that discussion where the guy :smucked” his iPod. I had the box ready and everything.

  33. Not to sound like a commercial, but people who want to hang onto their ipods and are having problems might want to check out this site:

    I’ve heard that they’re pretty decent folk…will diagnose your ipod maladies for basically the cost of shipping, and then give you a quote for repair price or buy it from you (At a much higher price than the “trade-in” that apple will give you on a new ipod.)

  34. Okay..I’m running home to try this now! I lost my first 40gb 4g 11 months after the purchase still under warranty…the replacement arrived only to die after 2 hours of use…same symptoms as the first. Now…102 days after my 2nd replacement arrived…it has died too…very conveniently just days out of it’s 90 day replacement warranty.

    I pissed..but will be happy if the fonzarelli back kick works!


  35. Henry,

    Let us know how it works out. I’d love to keep this updated with successes and failures.

    Again, anyone shocked by the number of bunk iPods being reported? That is more than just a couple bad apples.

  36. One year later and here’s an update:

    My 40g iPod is still running, though it does seem extra sensitive to jostling of any sort. It pauses at the slightest nudge, which is a pain when you walk and ride a train to work.

    My lady’s ipod pissed out again and I had to replace the hard drive. I went with a thrid party refabber and installed it myself only to have that drive start to skip and stutter within a week. The new drive came with a guarantee though and all I had to do was send the iPod in and they installed a new drive and tested it. Three months on and it’s working fine.

    So, I feel like The Big Dog is living on borrowed time and I’m not sure what to do when he finally kicks it. I love having an iPod and the interface still seems like the easiest to use. I do actuallly purchase a fair amount of music on iTunes too. I don’t WANT to switch to another media player, but I have a hard time supporting a company who produced such shotty devices. I haven’t heard nearly as much complaining about the latest generation iPods though, so maybe things are sorted.

  37. Looks like the Old Boy is finally dead. Got the sad face icon and all attempts to revive have failed.

    Now what do I do? I loved the Big Dog when he was working properly, but can I justify buying ANOTHER iPod after all this?

  38. so wait a minute

    how exactly did you smuck the ipod 3 days later after you enclosed TWO ipods with your letter, when clearly there was no return or response from them

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *