I have been a loyal customer for years. I have owned four ipods and cherished every one of them. Although each one has invariably broken, I still replace them because the software design and simplicity of the hardware are unrivaled. Unfortunately, the hardware has apparently gotten too simple. The materials that make up the 4G ipod touch are so flimsy that it almost breaks in your hand.
This morning my 3 month old 64GB iPod touch 4G decided that the ground looked like a comfortable place to rest and took a dive from my lap (I was seated) onto the linoleum floor of my class. It wasn't a particularly far fall, as I've had phones, former ipods, laptops and all variety of electronic equipment make the trip before with varying degrees of damage. Usually the damage is minimal, with a few scuffs on the edges being the worst extent. However, this morning, my little delicate state of the art iPod hit the ground and not only cracked the screen so bad that chunks of it are now missing, but it bent the aluminum casing on the corner of the device so that replacing becomes another issue entirely.
I am not a physicist, but I have a pretty good concept of gravity, and the distance of the fall seems completely disproportionate to the level of damage received by the device. Upset, but undeterred, I called tech support as soon as I returned from class. Someone promptly answered, and I explained the issue. Not expecting a complimentary repair, I was prepared to pay a fee to have the screen and quite possibly the casing replaced. What I was unprepared for was the price...
$199 for the screen replacement alone. $199. $199?!! What?!!! Thats over half of what I paid for the new device in the first place! So you are trying to tell me that not only will Apple not replace the screen with an extended coverage warranty if you purchased one, but you charge an outrageous fee for the replacement of perhaps the most common component part on the iPod! How can you produce a product intended to be carried with a person through the bruising ordeal we lovingly know as life, that falls apart after just the slightest disturbance?!
From what I understand about chemistry, there are alloys, plastics, and glass products out there that are capable of withstanding disruptions as strong (or stronger than) a speeding bullet. Apple, you manufacture a sensitive electronic device that you charge an exorbitant sum for, (and because it is an incredible piece of technology the price is probably justified), but the one thing which that price does NOT justify is the delicacy of parts that are most likely to be placed under duress, most notably the screen. If I purchase a product, I expect it to meet a few standards. I have dropped iPods before, from far greater distances on much harder surfaces, and been upset with the scuffs on the corners, but still satisfied that it was still intact and worked fine. This time I am stuck with a mandatory repair, because there is a gaping hole exposing the internal structure of the device and the headphone plug-in has become partially obstructed by a bent piece of metal from the rim.
This instance appears to be one of many being faced by my fellow 4th Generation Touch owners. There are multiple message board postings with horror stories of brand new iPod screens shattering in a purse, or breaking on carpet, or not even being able to survive a trip to the store in someone's pocket. The girl with whom I spoke to on tech support even mentioned that her screen shattered after a similar incident last night. Undoubtedly this product went through rigorous testing, to determine if it had the capability to withstand the shocks of everyday life...so my question is how....how could you develop and sell such an expensive and in-demand product which is so poorly engineered that the costs of repairing a simple, common, accidental malfunction are half as much as the original product itself?
If the materials used to produce the object are so expensive to repair or replace, then why have more measures not been taken to strengthen them so that repairs will be less common? How could you manufacture iPods that were more durable three years ago than they are now? That is innovation in the wrong direction and for the wrong reasons. I am a cynic, but I don't want to believe that you would knowingly release a product that is less durable than its predecessors. I understand it makes good "business" sense because you can now charge more for replacements and repairs than you would if the machines last forever. You don't make money from one time business, I understand, but one thing Apple used to be known for was top notch customer service, and if one component on your product is likely to break from the slightest disturbance, and then the cost to repair it is so astronomical that merely replacing it becomes a viable option, then it makes sense from a service standpoint to offer a discounted or even complementary repair!!
I know you are a public company, and I have made an investment in you. I own a share of your company in the sense that I have faithfully purchased your products and have therefore helped you meet that magical EPS valuation that has allowed your stock to soar. While the shares I own now aren't on paper, they are currently keeping paper weighted to my desk. Is a $350 dollar investment in a share of AAPL worth more than a $350 investment in one of your flagship products? Apparently so. Although the continued sale of the product is what allows the stock to soar, even if the stock lost 50% of its value in two seconds, I could still sell it for more than the relative value of my iPod after an unmercifully short tumble to the floor. Who is more important? The customer or the shareholder?
I have already spent thousands of dollars on your products, and I have asked very little in return, since the utility and joy I received from using them have been all the return I needed. However, when the new product you make is so fragile that the slightest disturbance can effectively (in terms of $) render it worthless, I expect a little more in return. All I am asking for is for a reasonable cost of replacing broken parts on your device. I know that there are third party companies which can do the repair cheaper, but since you control the monopoly for the parts, the cost of their service is still reliant on your prohibitively expensive materials you offer.
Please, please, please figure out a way to reduce the cost of repairing cracked screens, or include a method for insuring within the warranty so that customers like myself, a student, who can't afford to pay an extra tithe for what should be a cheap repair, aren't left out in the cold with another expensive paper weight.