I get up at 3am, drive through the quiet streets into Leicester town centre to park up and head to the Apple Store.
There’s a queue of about 12 people. I join the queue. That good old queueing spirit is present and correct. We laugh, we joke, we wait hours for the store to open.
There are lots of iPad owners in the queue. Quite a few MacBooks. The earliest arrived at 9pm the night before.
We are allowed into the shopping centre. Apple staff split us into a preorder queue and an “everyone else” queue.
The preorder queue is given priority. Despite the 9pm arrivals, that have queued overnight, the first person into the store was turned up at 7, some 10 hours after the first arrival.
Lots of preorder queue people go in. No “everyone else” people. After an hour, we’ve not moved.
Apple staff explain that they have to deal with the preorders first. We explain that the preorder queue is only getting bigger, and that we’ll never get into the store if they insist on keeping that up.
Eventually they admit that things are not working.
Finally things start moving. Apple staff say Vodafone is playing up. Despite a 7am opening, they’re not accepting orders until 10am.
I enter the store at just before 9am.
I’m invited to play with the phone. A salesman tries to talk me through the new features. He’s pleasant enough, but I don’t want a sales pitch. I’ve been here since 4am. Just sell me the damned phone already. It becomes rapidly apparent that, tech nerdy geek type that I am, I know way more about the device than he does.
A customer adviser starts to process my order:
Him: You need a new sim.
Me: O2 have already given me a microsim, look.
Him: That doesn’t matter, you need a new sim. That one won’t work. This might take a few hours to activate.
Me: It’s a microsim, of course it’ll work.
Him: I have to key the new sim number here.
Me: It says on screen that that’s not required.
Him: It won’t work if I don’t fill it in. I’ve tried it.
Me: Try it again.
I leave with a phone after checking the screen for yellow blotches. There are none. It’s lovely.
I come home. I try to make a call. If I hold the phone in my left hand, the call drops. I try this four times. It happens every single time. I’m not doing anything special. I’m holding it like every other phone I’ve ever held in my left hand.
I call Apple’s store. After fifteen minutes in a queue, I get a ringing tone for 5 minutes. There is no answer.
I call the techincal support line. I get a very foreign sounding lady who asks me what me problem is with. “Oooh, an iPhone 4, my first”, she gleefully exclaims.
Me: My first too, yeah, and it doesn’t work.
Her: Oh, what seems to be the problem?
Me: When I hold it in my left hand the signal drops.
Her: Excuse me? Really sir?
Her: So if you use it in your right hand is it ok?
Me: No really, there are videos on YouTube and everything, if I hold it in my left hand with pressure over the join at the bottom it drops the call.
Me: Look, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously. I want someone to sort this.
Her: Of course, let me book you an appointment….you can have Tuesday next week (today is Thursday).
Me: No good. I queued for this at 3am, I want someone to look today.
Her: OK, here’s the store number, call them.
So I go back into store. Security stop me from entering, I explain, calmly that I want to see someone about the iPhone I bought this morning.
I wait for someone to come and ask me what’s up. Eventually I get in.
The “Genius” looks at the phone, watches me perform the amazing signal disappearing act, then proceeds to ask someone to give me a new one. He logs a support call so they can keep track of the issue, he says. So they can report it Apple HQ, he says. He has no interest in seeing any youtube videos or websites. “I’m not putting a link to MacRumors in a support call” he says.
Customer advisor swaps the phone. I keep asking if I can try it. He ignores me. I ask again. Eventually I try it, it does the same thing. At which point he tells me there’s nothing he can do. He’s not prepared to open any more boxes, they don’t have enough stock. I can have a refund, that’s it.
I ask to speak to a manager, who, I must say was excellent.
When he asked to see the fault, the phone refused to drop the signal altogether. It reduced a little, but didn’t drop off entirely. Feeling like something of an idiot, I offer to return home and try it out, on the strict promise that I’ll be back if it does it again. He gives me his email address, insists he’ll get me another one in, and we’ll try to get to the bottom of it. Again, he has no interest in seeing YouTube videos or web links. He suggests that maybe I’m “holding it wrong” or that there’s “something inside I’m covering up”.
Sure enough I come home, try to make a call, and the phone does the same thing. I’ll add my YouTube video the list once I’ve managed to capture it on film. I’m going to try getting hold of a bumper or case to see if that helps, but I fail to see why I should use it in a case just so I can make calls. Part of me thinks I’d use a case anyway, so am I fussing over nothing. Part of me really likes the phone, part of me is thoroughly sick of it already.
I’ve emailed the store manager, explained the situation, and we’ll see if I get a response. I have 14 days to cancel the whole deal, I believe, so the clock is ticking.
(While writing this I’ve had a reply from the Apple Store manager. He’s reserved a bumper at my request, and will happily replace or refund if the bumper doesn’t resolve the issue. I shouldn’t have to use a bumper, but I need to decide if the phone’s positive features outweigh the need to bumper it. And see if anyone sheds any light on why this is happening in the next few days).