I’m a long time gadget nut and have fallen back in love with Apple in the last few years after a ten year hiatus when they lost their mind. I’ve had a 15 inch PowerBook since March that I truly enjoy using despite some of its shortcomings so it was an obvious extension to go out and purchase an iPod. I know, it’s supposed to happen the other way around according to the Apple business model but I love to be a rebel without a cause. I’ve used tons of Windows based MP3 players over the years. I lean towards the bleeding edge when I have the cash to support the habit and even owned one of the very first Sony Walkmans that I purchased in Asia en route from Australia to the U.S. When I arrived in the U.S. no one had seen one yet and when I returned to Australia where I was living at the time it was almost a year before any of them made it there. But, I digress. I’ve also used mini-disc players with good success (even for running where they are prone to skip). So, since I love to run I was a natural target for the Shuffle. Indeed everything was going to plan until this summer when I decided to expose my Shuffle to a bare chested mid-afternoon run. Not to get too graphic here but I’m the kind of guy that just doesn’t perspire a lot even when I’m going flat out in the boiling summer humidity that is so renowned here in South Florida. So, yes it was 90 degrees outside and my iPod shuffle was doing its best to bump and grind against my sweaty chest for the five mile run. Soon enough the unit was starting to flake out. It started with not turning on properly and switching songs. Then, it would only play in random shuffle mode and not the ordered track mode. By the end of the run it was toast. The battery check light would come on but my PowerBook wouldn’t recognize it anymore and everything I tried produced the big fat zilch o, you’re a looser baby, so why don’t you kill me. I chalked it up to bad luck, a fluke, Apple would never make a product so useful, so clearly designed for people who would be using it for exercise and not design it to deal with a little sweat. Even the cheapest Windows-based MP3 players I’ve used have held up for years of abuse without incident. I just stopped using them because they were too large, ugly, and newer units had better functionality and ultimately a prettier and younger face, ahem.
So a few days later I’m running my same route, same weather, the 1GB iPod shuffle around my neck this time. Same thing happens half way through the run. This unit was almost brand new. Same symptoms, same point of failure. First, I was horrified, then aghast, then I got really pissed off. I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me! I know there’s some smart alec out there laughing at me right now and quoting the iPod owners manual where it specifically states that you cannot, under any circumstances expose your Shuffle to moisture. Hey, even if that’s true *I* don’t care. I haven’t had to read a portable music player manual since my dad bought me that Sony Walkman. Call me crazy but I just expect proven, electronic products with solid state memory to work like a mule in a Juan Valdez coffee commercial.
Oh yeah, you know where this is going, it does indeed get *even* better.
So, the first unit I toss in the trash because it’s beyond the 6 month warranty and hell, I only paid $100 for it. Wait, that’s a lot of money! But, away it went with the dump truck on a Tuesday morning. The 1GB unit was only a few months old and as you’ve heard had never been used with the sweaty chest before. This one was going back to the mother ship in Cupertino for a quick repair jaunt down Infinite Loop. OK, it was probably going to go back to some sweat shop(no pun intended) in China but I liked to imagine it going back to the Bay Area where I used to live. So, I diligently go through Apple’s site, figure out how to sign up for repair service and I’m thinking to myself, hey, it will cost less to fix this then buy a new one and all will be well. Then the Apple site tells me my unit is beyond warranty. I look at the info and Apple’s system has somehow assigned my serial number and purchase date from my original 512MB unit (the one out of warranty) to the very new 1GB unit. I’m looking at my beautiful PowerBook screen with its amazing resolution and deep colors in absolute shock. I KNOW that I registered both units, and I couldn’t have switched the serial numbers around because I purchased them months apart from each other. Further, it’s not like they were the same model. It would be kinda hard to confuse a 512MB and 1GB unit now wouldn’t it! But, all the same, Apple is convinced the 1GB unit was the first one I purchased and says I have to produce my receipt to get the unit serviced under warranty. All great except I rarely keep receipts for small purchases and this was no exception (yes, shame on me, won’t do that again). So, I’m stonewalled. Apple has completely screwed me. Not once, not twice, but yes, three times. Isn’t there an old saying about that?
I still love Apple and I still love my PowerBook but I won’t be buying any iPods in the near future and I’ll be the quintessential pissed off consumer who tells everyone he meets about my bad experience with my Apple iPod’s. It’s a real shame.
Oh yeah, what did I do as a replacement? Back in July of 2005 I had purchased a Cingular Audiovox SMT5600 Windows based Smart phone. Not everything about this phone or Mobile OS is SMART but it does have Windows Media Player. After installing an after-market 512MB Mini-SD memory card it had more than enough capacity for a run and the typical voice recording function I like to use when driving. It’s like a Motorola ROKR and a lot more. I highly recommend the phone which I’ll review here at a later time.
The moral of this sad tale? Don’t sweat your Shuffle baby and don’t expect Steve Jobs and Apple to come to the rescue if you do.