Banished from the Apple Store (and also my experiences with Apple Music)

If you’re an avid reader of my blog, you’re probably familiar with the ongoing saga that is Me vs. the Apple Store in Jacksonville, FL. If you’re new here, here’s a brief recap:

  • Incident 1: Several years ago I spilled some sort of liquid on my MacBook. The logic board was toast. I visited the Apple Store in Jacksonville to recycle the machine. I made the unfortunate mistake of not removing my hard drive prior to the visit, and upon asking them if either they could remove it, or while I stand at the genius bar, let me use the teeny-tiny screwdriver they use, I could remove it. Their answer was a flat no with the added “You could use it as a weapon”. Tensions escalated, and I removed the battery (back when you could!) and in front of the store, beat the hell out of the hard drive, shattering the platters beyond recovery. Handing the MacBook to the Apple guy, they refused to accept it, stating “it’s too beat up”. Why that matters when it’s going to be melted down or whatever they do, is beyond me. Needless to say, after some choice words, they kept that laptop.
  • Incident 2: Just last year, my Airport Extreme went tits up, and needed a hardware replacement. After a pleasant conversation with AppleCare, they phoned the Jacksonville store and setup the hardware swap (as it was faster, and I needed my router). On arriving to the store – I provided the “Apple Concierge” with the information given to me by AppleCare only to be asked “Do you have an appointment?”. The encounter didn’t end well for this gentleman, after some phone calls and dealing with one of their Managers, I got my hardware swap.
    In between, I have had a consistently poor customer service experience in the store, year after year, visit after visit. Many, of their staff have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, and it really reminds me of the brief romance Verizon Wireless and I had, where after cancelling and returning my device, the manager chased me out of the store, shaking his finger, while shouting “You’ll be back! Verizon is the best!”. Staff in this Apple store are rude, and often hard to locate. To be blunt, I receive better customer service from the IRS than the local Apple Store and much prefer the store in Orlando.
  • The above said, I still have a few Apple products in personal use. While we have replaced our home router with gear from Ubiquiti, I do have an iPhone 6 and an Apple Music subscription.

Interestingly, I’ve had better success with Apple Music than my iPhone, but that’s a story for later. My existing iPhone has been replaced once before for the home button failing to recognize double clicks, to open the multitasking view. The issue persists, and in my opinion, is a design flaw – but hey,. I’m not Jony Ive. I’d say it was about 4 months ago I last visited the local Apple Store to troubleshoot this issue. They believed it to be software related (possible) and suggested I perform a DFU recovery.

For those who don’t know, a DFU recovery is where you force your phone into recovery mode and the computer to which the phone is connected will download a fresh copy of iOS from Apple’s servers. This is quite helpful if you have a major software issue or the OS is seemingly corrupted. Unfortunately, it also nukes your phone and you have to reinstall/re-customize every setting, as you can’t set it up as a “existing iPhone”, since that could re-introduce the previous bugs/artifacts. It’s a huge pain in the ass if you have a lot of stuff on your device.

Coincidentally, Apple Music launched at the end of June and as a user of Deezer, tired of missing out on a lot of my favorite artists due to licensing and a “soft-launch” in the US, I switched. My experience with Apple Music has been mostly pleasant thus far.

  • Beats1 is awesome. It is what radio used to be. I have discovered numerous new artists via the streaming radio service and hope they continue to innovate the service.
  • Apple’s Music catalog is huge. Rivaling that of Microsoft’s Groove service, and certainly larger than Deezers catalog, at least, what is available to me under USA licensing.
  • Streaming from the Apple Music via iTunes Cloud Library was buggy in the beginning. Adding a song on my iPhone and having it automatically add in iTunes (or, vice-versa) didn’t always happen. It has since become far more reliable.
  • Streaming quality in iTunes is fine, though, I’m not sure I would want to deal with the lower encode rate when streaming over cellular. Just make your playlists available offline using a WiFi connection folks!

Now, despite some iOS and iTunes updates, the service isn’t perfect. I should note, I am working with Apple’s Senior Support and Engineering teams to resolve the following ongoing issues:

  • I do not keep my iTunes library “offline”. There’s no need. My ISP places no caps on my monthly bandwidth usage, and the streaming quality is high enough to enjoy. Often when shuffling through the library quickly, iTunes will freeze upon trying to buffer a song.
  • On iOS, offline downloads seem to get stuck in the downloads queue with no way to remove them except reinstall iOS.

Those issues aside, I’ve been quite pleased with the service. Now, you might be wondering how my thoughts on Apple’s new Music service tie in with a banishment from one of their retail stores.

Recently, iOS 8.4.1 came out and after updating I decided to go ahead with the Apple Store’s advice – DFU recovery. After reloading my OS, downloading apps, logging into various services, and the arduous process of re-configuring my 2-factor authentication app, I began to download my music library. Unfortunately, Apple has not made a way to tap and make the entire iCloud Library available offline. Instead, you can do it one song, artist, or genre at a time, or add your music to a playlist and make the playlist available offline. This is where my woes (mentioned above) began.

I’m a fan of Lana Del Rey, but my phone isn’t. It seems “Born to Die” was stuck in the download queue. After contacting Apple’s support team, this issue was forwarded to their Senior Support team and they are working with me on the issue, as mentioned above.

However, the home button double tap issue persisted. Here’s some video of the failure:

As you can see, I am seemingly trapped in the Phone app unless I press the home button once to go “home”.

As a result, I made an appointment at the Jacksonville Apple Store, Friday – August 21, 7:30 pm. I figured, this should be an easy swap. It’s under warranty, I can demonstrate the device doing what allege, easy peasy.

Not so!

It would seem my reputation preceeds me. Friday afternoon, I received a phone call from the Apple Store. The gentleman on the phone confirmed some information and proceed to tell me they were reviewing the appointments for that afternoon and evening, and one of our managers would prefer I address the possible hardware issues with my iPhone via AppleCare and the mail in service program or at another Apple store

I tried to clarify if I wasn’t welcome at the store, to see if he’d admit it. His response:

If you wish to make a purchase, we are happy to assist, but again, we prefer you address your iPhone case with AppleCare or another store.

I must say – I am shocked and to be honest, I’m not sure they can actually do this. I’ve made no threat or action of violence upon the individuals at this store. In my opinion, “banishment” is unwarranted. I have reached out to my contacts at Apple, but being the weekend, I don’t expect anything until Monday or Tuesday. In the mean time, the home button on my phone is still as temperamental as ever.