Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Does your iPhone have a warranty? Don't think different. Think again.

The following is my nightmare of an experience with the new iPhone 3G S. Please help me get coverage on this by linking it in your Facebook/Twitter feeds and by telling all of your friends about it. Please feel free to submit it to blogs or the media. If you know someone considering purchasing the iPhone 3G S, please send them a link here. Thank you kindly and I hope this issue is resolved soon. Please don't turn this into a flame/slander war against or for Apple or Research in Motion products. If you have your own experience to share, please email me at and I will post it to this blog.

I've always been a fan of Apple's products. I've owned an Apple IIe, Macintosh Plus, Macintosh Classic, Macintosh LC, Performa with G3 upgrade, PowerBook 12", 15" MacBook Pro, iPod 4G 20GB, iPod Touch 32GB, and now the iPhone 3G S 32GB. As a developer, I've always enjoyed the developer experience on Apple products.

I pre-ordered my iPhone 3G S and received it on launch day. I also bought a foofpod case from (mine is the Nishikigoi style one). The iPhone 3G S has been in that case all of its life, except when I browse the internet or make a phone call or charge my phone. The dock connector has always faced the inside of the foofpod case; this is significant, and I'll tell you why soon.

I've always treated the phone well. I drink tea in mornings and afternoon at work. My iPhone sits at one end of the table, and my tea sits on the other end. The phone cost me $300 and a 2 year contract with AT&T. Water damage is the last thing I want to happen to my phone.

During the past weekend, I flew from San Francisco International Airport to Chicago O'Hare Airport. During my stay in Chicago, I turned my phone off. When I turned my phone back on, I was met with a wonderful screen telling me that I must use iTunes to restore my phone. iTunes did not recognize my phone, so I had to place the phone in Recovery Mode. iTunes recognized my phone only to spit back an error message during restore (error 23, unknown error). Online users reported that this issue is caused by the wireless baseband chip failing--typically for no reason at all or during heavy use. Annoyed, I made a reservation at the Valley Fair Apple Store on Tuesday (8/25). I spent my entire weekend without any cell phone, which caused a significant inconvenience.

On Tuesday (8/25), I went to the Apple Store. The Genius bar drone peered into the dock connector and headphone jack with his flashlight. Everything seemed fine. He then attempted to do the same steps I did to restore the phone. No success.

"Oh, man, we are low on replacement phones," he told me with a worried look on his face. "I hope they can still replace my phone today", I remember myself thinking.

He disconnected my phone, and did something to it. And then turned it back on. He then used his flashlight to peer into the headphone connector and the dock connector. His face became very serious.

"Has your phone ever been in the WET?", he asked me in a very serious tone.

"What?" I had no idea what he was trying to say. The WET? Is this a codename for something?

"Has your phone ever come into contact with the WET?", he asked again giving me his best "I know you know what you did" look.

"Has my phone ever been exposed to liquid you mean? No, never. Impossible." I finally understood what he was trying to say.

"Well, your phone has two WET sensors. The one near the dock connector has tripped." he said. He showed me the one near the dock connector. It is indeed pink indicating that it has come into contact with moisture.

I said, "That's impossible. My phone has never been near any liquid."

He went on, "Well, because the wet sensor is red, I can't replace your phone for free, and it will cost $199."

I was pretty angry by then, but I contained myself out of politeness. "My phone has never been near any liquid. I drink tea at work, but I keep it far away from my phone. I paid a lot of money for it, so I take the best care for it."

He was not fazed. His tone changed to an accusatory one, "Well, if the wet sensor has tripped, you must have dunked it in water or used it in the rain or something."

"That's not possible", I told him. The dock connector has always been in the very deepest part of the case.

"Well, if you let a friend borrow it, maybe they dunked it in water. That happens a lot. I don't know." Are you kidding me? The fact that I never let a friend borrow it aside, who does that to their friends?

"Could sweat trigger it? What about humid weather?" I asked. Chicago was humid, but my iPhone was dry. Also, I haven't seen any rain in California during the entire short time that I owned the phone.

"Sweat wouldn't trigger the sensor, unless you were soaked in sweat." he explained to me. That's good to know. It would be stupid if Apple made a phone that cannot cope with one of the most common human secretions. He ignored my question on humidity.

"Is there anything else I can do? I just bought the phone last month," I asked in one last hope that he was just joking.

"Look, man, I really feel for you," he said, but he looked like he was triumphant for outing a liar, "but there is nothing I can do for you. You can come in and pay the $199 any time. It doesn't have to be today."

That's it. New phone. Dies on its own. Warranty goes out the door for something I didn't do and something that hasn't happened to the phone.

I could just pay Apple the $199 and get it over with, but it's along the same lines as them punishing me for something I didn't do. Beyond that, this nightmare of owning my first iPhone is a sour one. Do I really want another iPhone from a company that mistrusts their consumers so much? Do I really want to pay for an extension to this dreadfulness?

Honestly, I want one of two things: One, Apple to replace my phone immediately, no questions asked, and apologize to me for the most horrible experience I've had owning any phone (and I've owned a HTC TyTN just to give you a ruler measure). Two, Apple to refund my iPhone, my iPhone developer account, and pay my Early Termination Fee. The experience is soured, and I don't want to touch anything Apple anymore. Now, even when I use my Macbook Pro, I get this sick feeling in the back of my throat. And I was willing to overlook all the times I had to send my Macbook Pro in for repair for things that had failed (hard drive failure, motherboard GPU failure, Superdrive failure).

I could only think that the Genius drone had purposely done something to cause the sensor to trip during the time he was messing with my phone, and his open worry that the store did not have enough replacement phones is motive enough. Could he have enough time to wet his finger and jam it into the dock connector port while I wasn't paying attention? Or am I just being paranoid?

Even if his motives weren't evil, a quick Google search reveals that these type of sensors can change just from being in a humid environment ( Yes, that's right. People who live in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Honolulu, and other naturally humid places, your phone may void its own warranty just by sitting there. Apple is essentially selling you a warranty-less phone.

Apple is losing a developer, and they probably don't care. I wish I never invested the time and money into becoming an Apple developer. The easy to use SDKs and developer software carries no weight against the fact that Apple distrusts every single one of their iPhone customers. It's sad that Apple, famed for their customer satisfaction, is becoming ever less respectful of their customers. They can really learn something from Microsoft. Microsoft went from the whole Windows Genuine Advantage debacle to not requiring a product key to be entered during Windows installation (yes, I know that Mac OS users already enjoy this).

Two of my friends were considering iPhones. I told them of my experiences, and I hope that the $199 that Apple is charging me will have caused Apple to lose more than $1000 of profit. But even more so, I hope that my friends never have to go through this same experience.

What's next? I don't know, but I'm not going to pay the $199 without Apple earning it. I'm hoping someone with a lot more money than I have can expose the warranty fraud that is a "moisture sensor" with real scientific evidence. I hope that same person can start a class action against companies who use these means to quickly squelch warranties. I also hope that my story is covered by as many media outlets, blogs, Facebook updates, and Twitter tweets as possible.

What can you do to help? Boycott all products that use moisture sensors and all companies whom so openly distrust their consumers. I know my next music player will be the one with "HD" in its name, my phone one with an OS created by a search giant or a large company in Redmond, and my next laptop one that only runs Windows 7 or Linux. However, I ask that you just don't buy a product with a so-called "moisture sensor". Also, tell all your friends and family. We're regressing from a "customer is always right" world to a "customer is only after our profits" world, and this may very well spit in the face of progress.


  1. Just letting you know, you should probably take it to another so-called "Genius," perhaps at a different store. Sometimes there are assholes like the aforementioned, and sometimes there are some that genuinely believe you and care about the customer.

    If all else fails, I would seriously look into calling AppleCare themselves. Don't give up, even if your sensor -is- pink. I know it's ridiculous to not get proper service the first time, but it's just what happens now that Apple is so mainstream and can afford to lose their most loyal customers.

  2. I had the same experience. I called Customer Relations and got a new phone. The way the stores handle this issue is just plain terrible. After speaking with customer relations, it became obvious that this is a BIG problem.

  3. The same situation happened to my iPhone 3GS yesterday. I live in Sunny California and my iPhone was never dropped into water or splashed/spilled by drinks.

    I has the same feeling that Apple's design of the indicator is a SCAM to void the warranty work and cost.

  4. OMG I just went through this today. Now mind you, this is my THIRD iPhone 3G failure in a year. My first one had a cracked screen, which I paid the $199 to replace. The second one, the screen had a dead spot out the door, replaced. This one the silent switch went bad about 20 days in. I lived with it for 2 months, ( had it now 82 days) and now I have this pink sensor. That is right, I said PINK not RED.

    I'm kind of curious how this might stand up under the scrutiny of a Class Action Law suit ! Damn sure bet that I will be outside my local AT&T store EVERY Saturday until Christmas helping out every potential Mom & Dad that wants to get Billy that iPhone he's always wanted.

  5. I just returned from the Genius Bar and was told that my moisture sensor had been tripped. Like the OP my phone has never been anywhere near water. They told me their hands were tied and all I could do was walk away or pay another $199 to have it replaced.

  6. We're investigating complaints about this issue in preparation for a lawsuit to recover the cost of repairing and replacing iPhones after Apple told consumers that triggered moisture sensors voided their warranty.

    If you'd like to participate, go to and let us know.