Apple's made for iPod: Lawyers run roughshod and a hacker nod (Plus, a customer 'service' facade)
Synchronicity, again…five days after my analysis of Apple’s ‘Made For iPod’ accessory license program (which also covers other dock connector-inclusive products such as the iPad and iPhone) hit EDN’s website, Bloomberg reported that Apple was suing numerous third-party companies for selling unlicensed accessories that it claimed violate its patents and trademarks. Pardon my cynicism here, but is Apple’s fundamental motivation here that “Many are of inferior quality and reliability, raising significant concerns over compatibility with and damage to Apple’s products”? Or is it, as Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu points out, that “Apple collects a royalty of 20 percent to 25 percent from each sale of a licensed accessory”?
The lawsuit seems particularly silly when, as I learned five days after that, how rudimentary the steps are that Apple sometimes takes to seemingly block unlicensed third-party accessory compatibility. Remember how I told you in late July that I was unable to get a car charger, which worked fine with my iPhone 3G, going with my iPhone 3GS?
Make Magazine tipped me off to what was really happening:
As Engadget succinctly summarizes, “iPhones in particular don’t draw electricity until they detect 2.8V and 2V signals when they attempt to charge. At that voltage, the handsets suck down about one amp, leading to a rapid filling of your device’s Li-ion belly, but by adding additional resistance to drop the voltage further, the iPhone can be coerced into accepting 500mA instead”. It’s actually a fairly slick solution, enabling fast charging when the device is connected to a wall socket, and slower charging when tethered to a presumed current-challenged USB port. The folks at Adafruit figured it out as they struggled to develop the next-gen MintyBoost charger. Delve into the comments on the Make Magazine blog post, and you’ll also discover another solution for getting prior-generation chargers to work with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone4; short two pins together.
Speaking of Apple, I’ve got an update on my MacBook Air repair, and it ain’t pretty. As regular readers may remember, back on Wednesday July 14th I rushed my then-primary work computer to the nearby Apple Store after its hard drive died. Five days later, on Monday the 19th, Apple’s repair depot finally got around to looking at it, and incorrectly diagnosed it as having suffered past moisture exposure. And after I sorted out that mess, I continued to wait; as of Wednesday July 28, it was still sitting in Austin, TX awaiting a replacement part.
That same day, I’d made one of my dozen-plus to-date calls to Apple, where I’d suggested that I’d be happy to accept a 64 GByte SSD in lieu of a replacement 80 GByte HDD, if SSD availability was in a less pathetic state. At the time, the customer service representative I talked to told me that this wouldn’t be possible; that Apple would only swap in the exact mass storage system that the computer originally came with. One week later, on Wednesday August 4, Apple finally saw the light; I got a call with an offer to do the SSD-for-HDD swap. I thought the path was finally clear to speedily get the system back in my hands. I was wrong.
The repair that was supposed to be completed later that same day took until Thursday morning the 5th to wrap up. The return shipment that was supposed to happen that same day didn’t occur until Friday evening the 6th. It went to the wrong address. And instead of Apple telling Fedex to redirect the shipment, as I’d requested and as I’d been told would happen, someone apparently said to recall it instead. It’s headed back to Apple’s repair depot, via the slowest-possible Fedex return shipping option.
It’s due back in Austin, TX on Thursday. Best case, I’ll have it on Friday, more than four weeks after I sent it in. More realistically, assuming it doesn’t get mis-shipped again, I’ll have it in my hands sometime next week. Then I get to see what else the company messed up; incorrect operating system version load, perhaps?
Suffice it to say that any past enthusiasm I might have had for AppleCare has long ago evaporated. Ahem.