Friday, September 16, 2011

Editorial: AppleCare Really Does Come in Handy

2 Years ago, I put down $1400 on a MacBook and some software. The white polycarbonate machine was both durable and less expensive than the pro- and honestly, in 2009 nobody really needed a duel core processor with a clock speed above 2 GHz anyway. At the time it came with 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, which I hastily upgraded to 2 GB of DDR2. The hard drive was also only held the capacity of about 120 GB (about 95 without OS X or other software), so I also upgraded it- to $160. I only bought a simple nylon carrying case so that I could effortlessly transport it place to place without worry.

The final purchase I made was on AppleCare Protection Plan, which costed $250. At first, I was extremely hesitant to do so- $250 for extended telephone support and only support for manufacturer defects? Hell no! But after about a week of extra thought, I gave into it and bought it. The machine ran very well, at speeds unlike my previous iBook G4 and with the future-proof assurance of an Intel and nVidia chipset. Everything was perfect for the first year. But then, as the second year arrived, a ton of issues had arisen.

The palmrest had cracked in numerous places due to the placement of the magnets and the overall design of the latch-less latch. The raised line-shaped bumps had pushed into the plastic in the palmrest and cracked it. When I had the part replaced, Apple still didn't understand the issue, so it persisted. Four times. By the fourth repair, Apple had solved the issue- my computer was fixed.

Not. Then the bottom case began to spontaneously decay. It was bad. The entire area around the palmrest/keyboard/trackpad had disappeared by 1/4 of an inch. When I contacted Apple telephone support and took the device into my local retail store, they blamed the issue on me for "using a cleaning device not approved by Apple". Apparently, a water-dampened paper towel did not suffice in Apple's eyes. So, I sucked it up and dealt with it. Over the next year, it had gone down another 1/8 of an inch- but Apple still declined to do anything and refused to face up to their faults. Around this time, the inside bezel covering the display and the camera, had also somehow broken, which Apple actually replaced for me for free.

But that's not all folks! Almost as soon as the hardware began to break down, so did the software. OS X became corrupted about 5 times or so (I know this because of the difference in the backup images on my external hard drive). I ended up re-installing the operating system at least that many times, with minor updates rendering my machine useless.

And then, it became a mix of the two. I love OS X. It's my favorite desktop OS. It's fluid, sensible and for me, very nostalgic with a childhood locked into OS 8 and 9. At that time, it became clear that I had purchased a faulty machine. The hard drive failed, along with the logicboard. Up until about a week ago, Apple refused to replace the logicboard (but replaced the hard drive without me having to ask twice). Then, the display began to fizzle out. I knew these were logicboard issues, but Apple insisted it was the display itself. So, after ditching the display cable AND the display, they installed a fresh one littered in dead pixels. Thanks Apple.

Eventually, while I was transporting the computer, I dropped it on my bed (closed, mind you) hard enough that when I opened it up to get back to my work, the screen was completely black. I restarted it, and was greeted by three consistant obnoxious beeps and a black screen. This usually means the RAM had become unlatched from the board, or they were broken too, like everything else in this machine- faulty. So, once again, I called Apple. But this time was different.

This was the ninth time I had called technical support with an issue that required repair. They had by now understood I was on a rampage to be saved from a computer constructed without care. And so, I was finally rewarded.

The logicboard, optical drive, bottom case and RAM were replaced. The machine had a month ago had it's display and hard drive replaced as well. This means that the only old parts in this machine are the external top casing... and... the battery. A part that costs less than $50 to replace is the only existing piece that has been with this machine till the end. The battery, is another story. As of this post, it is on it's 875th cycle. After about 1000, the battery is either extremely low in capacity or completely dead.

So, how exactly was all of this possible? I managed to have my entire machine replaced in less than 3 months sans a cheap, durable top casing and a battery. The total cost of all of these repairs totals somewhere over the original price of the computer- $999. I didn't pay a single penny. Apple paid it all, in full. No nominal renewal fees, no accidental charges, no forced charges. Nothing. Nada. Free. Free as can be... all thanks to the AppleCare Protection Plan I had bought with the machine. The $250 dollars I spent then, paid me back more than what I expected over two years later.

Apple still has the best support in the world. Sure, my machine was riddled with problems- but this happens on the production line. You never know what could have happened during the process. And in the end, instead of being stuck with a computer that worked like a champ after two years and kicking it- I have what is basically a brand new machine. On the house.

Next time you're pondering whether or not to spend that $250 on AppleCare, please do. It's worth every penny if you're stuck in the situation I have been in for the last two years. Don't make the mistake, buy the damned thing.

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