Apple – Have They Done Some Wrong?

So, as Mr Sod and his law would guarantee, as soon as I wax lyrical about Apple, I get hit – big time. My iTunes account has been hacked.

I got sent an email receipt for about £7 or so. Straight away I knew that wasn’t me – I tend to only use iTunes for music storage and syncing, rather than buying anything, so immediately I realised that someone had access to my iTunes account and potentially my bank details.

A lot of people panic and start blubbing at the first sign of Internet fraud, but although I wasn’t best pleased, I reasoned that I take enough precautions with my online use that this shouldn’t be a massive widespread issue and that whatever had happened could be resolved, albeit with some amount of hassle to me.

I reset my iTunes password as well as any other website accounts that used similar passwords and tried to find a contact number for Apple. This is where they suddenly become less user friendly than usual. By putting all their efforts into design and in-store experience they are somewhat lacking in the direct contact routes in times such as this. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate why they do it – I can only imagine the number of calls from Grandma Joan they would get saying “oooh lovey, my Internet machine’s been infected by one of thems flu virus thingies” if the number was more up front, but I did actually NEED to speak to them. After resorting to Google searches around the same kind of thing, it appeared that ad-hoc iTunes gift card purchases were the most common Apple fraud. But what had I experienced? Some rogue downloads of Music From The OC Volume III. Typical, I can’t even get a hacker with decent taste or decency.

Anyway, eventually I tracked down a link to an Apple web form and dropped them a line. To be fair, the autoresponse gave all the right noises, telling me I’d hear back soon.

Sure enough, the next morning, a very personal (although obviously templated in parts) email came through from Sarah who was going to personally deal with my issue, and had already reunded the £7, no questions asked. Whether or not it really is someone called Sarah helping me, or if it’s a former brickie called Kev from Sunderland, it doesn’t really matter, it’s that personal touch that is missing from so many other companies that matters.

Anyway, I then checked my iTunes purchases through the software itself. Uh oh, another four sets of purchases totalling £25 each. Starting to get a little bit more concerned, I was re-assured by Sarah’s email, and simply sent her the additional fraudulent orders.

Hopefully this will all get resolved quickly and I won’t have to trouble my bank for a new card. Certainly, what could’ve really put me off Apple has so far made me like them even more. Simple things, done nicely. Why can’t all companies be like this?

Apple – Can They Do No Wrong?

Yesterday the sleep/on off button/whatever it’s called on my iPhone 4 suddenly stopped working. The spring had obviously gone. As I was out and about, I thought I’d take it to the Apple Store to see what could be done.

Obviously it was in warranty as the things have only been out for less than a year, but even so, for some reason I wasn’t expecting an easy experience. Paranoia strikes again.

How wrong could I be. The first assistant I spoke to (forgive me Apple if I’m not using the right brand words to describe your sales staff) registered me for an appointment, explained they were pretty busy, but said they had a slot in ten minutes time. He asked me to enter my name and Apple ID on screen and that was that. This was all done via the nearest display Mac to me. Talk about networking.

He then pointed me towards a lady with an iPad who would book me in. Sure enough, she took my serial number and pointed me towards a waiting area. To be fair to them, they were a couple of minutes late seeing me, but judging by how busy they were this wasn’t hugely surprising. A young chap (how old do I feel) then came over, introduced himself, asked me not what the problem was, but how he could help me fix things. I told him the switch had gone, and without a quibble he explained that unfortunately the only way to resolve my issue was to replace the handset as the one thing they can’t fix in-store is buttons. Not an issue for me one bit. Whether it was to be a re-conditioned model or a brand new handset, this would be one free from the little scratches and knocks that accumulate over time. All fine by me.

Luckily I had backed up a couple of days previously at home, as the assistant mentioned I would lose the data on my phone. I was a little worried, not knowing how much data iTunes actually does back up when you plug your phone in.

I was probably sorted by my new Apple best friend inside five minutes, but it didn’t feel rushed, just efficient. He even offered to dispose of the new phone’s screen protector plastic sheath for me.

When I got home, I went about the usual paranoid checking via Google of what I could expect from restoring my phone from a backup…and then went ahead and took the plunge.

EVERYTHING was restored. To a ridiculous level of detail. Even down to the fact that I have my battery percentage showing. Texts, contacts, even voicemails, all present and correct.

I don’t know if it is just me, but whenever I have had to repair/replace a phone before, I have always lost something. Not this time. A 15 minute restore saw to that.

Okay, so my music, photos and apps weren’t but these could be easily synced from iTunes. I choose to do these manually anyway. And even more incredibly, all the app data also re-synced itself once the apps were back on the device. So, here, I am with a brand new, unscratched iPhone 4, with all my stuff on there, not having to start again on my hard-earned Angry Birds and Cut The Rope achievements, and with an even better impression of Apple than I had previously.

This brings me onto their announcement this week around the iCloud. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is nothing new. Companies have been doing the same for years, but stick that magical ‘i’ in front of it and you wow the unconverted.

So, are Apple just masters of the Emperor’s new clothes? I don’t think so. I think they are just particularly good at taking the impenetrable and making it mass market through beauty of design, incredible functionality, usability and the sense of prestige that users feel when they wield an Apple device. They truly do put the user/customer/client/friend/whatever they choose to call us regular people at the forefront of everything they do.

Good job Jobs.