By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 2, 2015
The Apple Store in Raleigh, N.C., is located in the Crabtree Valley Mall, a place I hadn’t visited in a few years. Getting there involved the usual nonsense: Driving, parking, walking.
I was a little taken aback when I got to the Apple Store: It was teeming with people. I made my way toward the back, where the technical support seems to be located in every Apple Store, and checked in with an employee.
About a minute later, a fellow whose name I don’t remember steered me to a table and began helping me. I mumbled something to the effect that that was fast, and the employee told me that I’d come in a bit of a lull.
“Really?” I asked*. I stammered something to the effect that there were a bunch of people. The guy just shrugged, seemingly unimpressed. I raised my eyebrows in surprise. If this was what the store was like when it wasn’t that busy, it must be an absolute madhouse when it was crowded.
After very brief preliminaries, the Apple guy asked me what was going on with my phone.
“Let me show you,” I said. I brandished the device and pressed the sleep/wake button.
An aside here: Initially, the device’s sleep/wake button wasn’t working at all. But between my moment of crisis and this point, a different pattern had developed: Pressing the sleep/wake button would put the iPhone to sleep — only for it to awaken about a second later and display the screen option for shutting the phone down entirely. In just a few days, I’d trained myself to put the phone to sleep and then, seconds later, tap the icon on the screen that cancelled shutdown.
This time, in the Apple Store, in front of the Genius (as the Apple Store calls it technicians), the phone went to sleep. And it stayed asleep.
I peered at the phone for two, three, four, five seconds…
“Um,” I said.
I stared for a second or two longer. Nothing happened.
“OK, let me try that again,” I said. I tapped the home button to awaken the phone and then pressed the sleep/wake button.
The phone went to sleep.
The phone stayed asleep.
“This isn’t acting like it usually acts,” I said with a small measure of embarrassment. The technician assured me that this kind of thing happened all the time.
I started to explain what had been happening with the sleep/wake button not putting the phone to sleep and the attempt to restart the device not working and the new symptoms where the sleep/wake button triggered first sleep and then a seemingly spontaneous shutdown attempt.
The tech asked me to show him something on the phone — the iOS version, perhaps? — and as I was tapping around to obtain the pertinent information, the shutdown screen suddenly appeared without prompting. “See, this is the kind of thing I usually get after trying to put the phone to sleep,” I said, flustered.
“So you’ve been having phantom touches,” the tech said.
“Phantom touch,” I said, trying out the words.
“It’s just a phrase I use,” the tech said. “It sounds more scientific than saying your iPhone is possessed.”
The tech established that the phone was no longer under warranty, which I already knew, and said that a replacement screen would cost $159 plus labor and tax.
“Uh huh,” I said, thinking to myself that there was not a chance I would pay that much for repairs.
The tech examined it further and pointed out a faint rainbow shimmering effect on the screen, which I’d seen before.
I nodded and sighed. “That’s a bad sign, huh?” I mumbled.
He took the phone into the back. I waited, wondering if my device would hold out until the new release.
The tech came back out and showed me that the main body of the phone had started to separate from its enclosure. This was a result of the battery swelling, he said.
Then he surprised me. The technician told me that because of the battery issue, Apple would replace my phone free of charge under what he called its “quality” program.
This was pretty gratifying. We arranged to delete the data on my faulty device. (Yes, the data was backed up, thank you very much. No, wiping the device was not easy — I had turned on restrictions, I think in order to prevent people from buying stuff with my phone, and I’ve forgotten the separate passcode that I need to unlock this, which means that zeroing out the machine required having the tech do some kind of override in the repair shop.)
The tech brought out a new phone — a seemingly brand-new 32-gigabyte iPhone 5, just like the model I had, even though the 5 is no longer sold by Apple. I began setting it up and made a few test phone calls. The tech returned with my old device — I guess it was my old phone? I’m not sure how closely I looked! — to show me that its data had been erased.
The technician brought me an iPad with a work order for the replacement phone and some terms of service. I scanned the document very very very quickly before indicating that I’d read and agreed to the terms.
I won’t lie: It felt pretty good to walk out of the store with my brand-new iPhone.
* Standard disclaimer: Since I wasn’t taking notes or making recordings at the time of these events, all dialogue and thought bubbles are guaranteed to be only kind of, sort of accurate. Fortunately for you, the valued reader, this free blog comes with a money-back guarantee!