On shattered iPhones, AT&T, and insurance

Scene I

I pull up outside the daycare. I want to check the time. I reach for my phone from my back pocket. Something feels odd. I pull it out, bring it round so that I can see it, and see immediately that the glass on the screen is shattered. Not only that, but it’s splintering, the tiniest shards are coming off it.

Scene II

If you run your finger over it, you can feel the edges of the splintered glass. And pieces are still falling off. My phone is going to live in a ziploc bag for now.

Scene III

I make an appointment for the following evening at the nearby Apple Store. I recall Maggie telling me that we have Apple Care, so hopefully it won’t be too expensive to get this fixed. I’m still not really sure why this happened in the first place.

Scene IV

In fact, we don’t have Apple Care. Maggie purchased the AT&T insurance instead. The sales assistant in the AT&T had assured her that it was a better option than Apple Care because it also covered lost phones. “It’s easy, you just file the claim and they’ll replace your phone.”

Scene V

Of course, it’s not actually AT&T’s insurance. It’s offered by Asurion, which provides device insurance to lots of carriers. It’s a privately owned company that has thousands of employees and made nearly $4bn in revenue in 2010. I can only assume that figure has grown a lot with the huge increase in (expensive) smartphone ownership. I complete their online form, only to then have to enter the information all over again in a pdf, which I then upload back to their site. I have to upto 24 hours.

Scene VI

My claim is approved! Just follow these steps to complete your claim. Step 1: absurd login procedure. Step 2: confirm your address. Step 3: pay the deductible of $199. ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-NINE DOLLARS. I can’t really fathom how that can be reasonable. Apple, which presumably has premium pricing for screen replacement, charges $109 to do it out of warranty ($79 “service fee” if under Apple Care). So the “insurance” option is the most expensive (even before you consider the additional $7 a month that I already pay.

Scene VII

The San Francisco Apple Store at 6pm. It’s chaos and there’s no way I’m going to get the help I need. I try anyway. A patient (but irritatingly so) man wielding the guest list for the Genius Bar assures me that the phone was “stress tested” and it’s made from Corning Glass, so really, they’d done everything they could. It’s just not right that it broke so easily, I insist. He prods at his iPad again and offers an appointment for Saturday.

Scene VIII

The AT&T store at 6:15pm. The sales associate that smiles and greets me must have given the bat signal early because within seconds the manager appears and I’m being ushered to a corner of the store where other customers can’t hear. He’s empathetic (overly so, it turns out — he concedes that he’s seeing a ton of iPhone 6 cracked screens, including his own!). He too has an iPad to prod at, but I can tell his UI isn’t nearly so pretty as the one in the Apple Store. He prods a lot. And scrolls. Maybe I’m valuable enough to AT&T that they’ll give me a new phone just to keep me happy. Fat chance. He confirms that the insurance deductible is $199 because you’ve only just started the account. “It’s your right, as a consumer, to choose between AT&T’s insurance and paying Apple to fix it.” Ah, yes. The rights of the consumer. Be fucked by us, or be fucked by someone else. Consumer choice! I was pretty livid. Another bat signal, because now the security guard is hovering nearby. I leave. How much do those guys with the banner I keep seeing outside different Market St restaurants cost for a day, I wonder? AT&T insurance is a scam! The iPhone 6 screen is overly susceptible to getting smashed BY MY SKINNY ASS!

SCENE IX

I re-booked with the Apple Store, but my local store in Corte Madera. It was pretty busy. I figured that might be the case, so I took my computer along and did some work at the Genius table until they were ready for me. The guy that came to help was friendly, and sympathetic. As soon as I said that I was surprised that it had broken so easily (and splintered), he listened, and asked questions. How did it happen? Which pocket? He agreed that it sounded wrong. No lectures about Corning Glass or stress tests. “Is it bent?” It had never occurred to me to check. I thought only the iPhone 6s were bendy. It was bent. More iPad prodding. This was going one of two ways… more expensive or… “we’ll replace the phone for you,” he points at the screen where it says $0.00, “no charge.”

FINALE

Apple made good in the end. I guess I didn’t expect any better from AT&T but given that they have made (and will continue to make) more money from me than Apple (this account is relatively new, but I’ve been a customer of theirs since I first arrived in the US nine years ago), it seems like they could have made a lot more effort. I don’t really have words for the insurance scam. That they would charge a deductible that is higher than the cost to fix the problem seems outrageous. I’m amazed that they’re allowed to lower the deductible price over time. Insurance is about hedging risk, and it seems to me that Asurion has figured out how to assume almost no risk, while making customers think they’re helping them. I guess that’s how to have a multi-billion dollar business. I’m sure AT&T gets a healthy cut.

But now I’m wondering what to do with this phone. I like keeping my phone in my pocket. Should I stop? I might swap it for a 5S. This thing could just be too big anyway.

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