AppleCare, AppleCare+ to undergo significant changes this fall, feature updated warranty policies, in-store iOS device repairs

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 13th, 2013, 03:34
Category: iPhone, News, retail

applelogo_silver

You’re going to see some changes in AppleCare this fall.

Per AppleInsider, in a town hall session held on Thursday, Apple informed tech staff that major changes to the AppleCare and AppleCare+ service programs will be enacted starting this fall, with a broadening of current policies likely to cut costs and make the service more attractive to consumers.

The town hall session was led by Apple Vice President Tara Bunch, who revealed a set of after-sales policy shifts would soon be rolling out across the U.S., and eventually the world, with many of the changes referred to under the “One Apple” brand, said a source close to the story. While Bunch was referred to as Vice President of AppleCare, AppleInsider cannot confirm this assertion. On her LinkedIn page, Bunch lists her current job as simply “Vice President at Apple,” but it is known that she was previously vice president of Global Customer Support Operations at Hewlett-Packard prior to joining Apple in 2012.

As for the “One Apple” moniker, it is unclear if the term is an internal designation for the vast restructuring about to take place, or is intended to become a consumer mark once the new changes are in place.

“The biggest announcement, was the way repairs for iPhones will be handled soon,” the person, who asked not to be identified due to their active status as an Apple employee, told reporters. “The way it is now, if almost anything is wrong with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, the entire device is exchanged for a like-new re manufactured (sic) device, whether brought into an apple store or sent in for mail in repair. Now we are starting to actually repair the products and return the same device to the customer.”

Currently, Apple Stores have the tools to replace speakers, receivers, home buttons, the vibrator motor and battery. Come June, capabilities will be expanded to display replacement, and by July cameras, sleep/wake buttons and logic boards will be dealt with in-store. In addition, employees will have access to advanced diagnostics tools that can remotely assess hardware issues and relay the data directly to technicians, allowing for quicker turnaround times.

The new in-house repairs are to be rolled out across the U.S., with international support coming online soon thereafter. Bunch reportedly said Apple expects to save nearly US$1 billion per year with the change in policy.

In another huge departure, Apple will reportedly reconfigure its paid AppleCare service as a subscription model, or introduce a new tier, which will be attached to a customer rather than a specific product. Under the proposed system, a customer is entitled to in-store training similar to the One to One program available to new Mac buyers, with each device owned being covered by the warranty. The new AppleCare may also include “exclusive” 24/7 support, though that has not been confirmed as a full set of features and pricing is not yet etched in stone.

Gratis after-sales coverage is also slated for an update, and will move over to a new system where phone support will persist for at least an entire year, with possible two-year support offered in the future. Apple currently offers 90 days of free phone support without buying the add-on AppleCare plan. Online support, knowledge base articles, online live chats and Genius Bar visits will continue to be free.

Apple is also looking to grow its home advisor team, which currently consists of over 4,200 technical advisors who work from home instead of an office, approximately double the number from one year ago. The program is meant to cut overhead costs and provide for a larger pool of potential employees.

Finally, the source said Apple’s online resources will see an overhaul in the coming months as the company is working to expand its current offerings to include support over iMessage and a revamp of the Support Pages website, which is expected to focus on interactive tutorials and video content. Unsurprisingly, the Web-based enhancements will be optimized for both computer and iOS device perusal.

In addition, Apple personnel will begin to take a more active role in the discussion boards, helping to answer questions, consolidating threads and performing general maintenance.

Most of the changes mentioned above will roll out by fall if all goes according to plan.

The source briefed on Apple’s upcoming changes pointed out that in-store repairs would also be a plus for those customers whose products are no longer under warranty. Instead of paying a universal “swap out” fee, out of warranty hardware issues will be fixed on a per device basis. Apple has reportedly deployed advanced in-store repairs at select locations, with customer response being largely positive.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

T-Mobile gears up “$0 down” trade-in deal for Mother’s Day weekend

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 10th, 2013, 12:31
Category: iPhone, News, retail

Your mum might like this for Mother’s Day.

Per TmoNews, wireless carrier T-Mobile has begun highlighting Apple’s newest smartphone to push the trade-in program that it’s had running since April 12. That program allows new and existing qualified customers to trade in an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, with the resulting trade-in value wiping out the purchase price for the iPhone 5.

The deal — good for both GSM and CDMA iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S units — requires that the device be able to power on, have no cracks in its screen, and bear no liquid damage or other physical damage.

T-Mobile will be running iPhone 5-specific advertising in newspapers across the United States beginning May 10. This campaign will include ad insertions in local papers in the top 20 U.S. markets, including Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Denver, and Houston. The carrier will also run ads in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

ESPN expresses interest in subsidizing mobile data plans, looks to keep users watching streaming video

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 10th, 2013, 07:58
Category: iOS, iPhone, News

espn_logo_887

ESPN wants you watching streaming video, even if they have to pick up part of the check…

Per the Wall Street Journal and AppleInsider, cable sports network ESPN has expressed interest in potentially subsidizing those data plans to allow users to stream video without worrying about overage fees.

ESPN has allegedly had discussions with at least one major U.S. carrier about the plan. The two largest carriers in America, Verizon and AT&T, both carry the iPhone and both restrict new customers with capped data plans.

The concept proposed by ESPN could guarantee that content streamed from the network would not result in data plan overage charges. The network has reportedly expressed interest in either paying carriers outright, or giving them a share of advertising revenue.

But the alleged deal isn’t imminent, the report said, as questions remain about the economics, and the fact that any agreements could run afoul of government regulators.

Carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are said to be interested in content deals as a way of increasing revenue without raising fees for subscribers.

ESPN has aggressively pursued mobile streaming capabilities as smartphones and tablets have gained in popularity. The network’s WatchESPN application allows users with participating cable subscribers to stream live sporting events from the ESPN family of networks.

Content available on WatchESPN includes the NBA regular season and playoffs, major golf tournaments like The Masters and U.S. Open, college football and basketball, and thousands of other live events. The service also streams original ESPN shows like SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption, and Mike and Mike in the Morning.

But smartphone users might be reluctant to use live streaming video services like WatchESPN on the go because of restrictive mobile data plan caps in place via wireless carriers. Both Verizon and AT&T charge customers a US$15 fee for each gigabyte consumed in excess of their data plan cap.

Watching low-quality video for one hour uses about 200 megabytes of data. For an hour of high-definition video, a user might expect to see 400 megabytes of usage on their mobile data plan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy offers discounts on MacBook Air, iTunes gift cards, iPhone 4S handsets

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 9th, 2013, 06:22
Category: iPhone, MacBook Air, News, retail

best-buy-logo

If you’re looking for something to get mum for Mother’s Day, this could come in handy.

Per 9to5Mac, Best Buy is discounting US$125 off the price of MacBook Airs for the next three days to celebrate Mother’s Day. The retailer knocks off US$100 across the board, then using code MOM25 knocks off another US$25.

Prices after discount:
– 11.6″ MacBook Air 4GB/64GB: US$874.99

– 11.6″ MacBook Air 4GB/128GB: US$974.99

– 13.3″ MacBook Air 4GB/128GB: US$1074.99

– 13.3″ MacBook Air 4GB/256GB: US$1274.99

Best Buy is also offering a US$100 iTunes gift cad for US$85. Those interested in an iPhone 4S can pick one up for $50 with contract.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen some Mother’s Day tech sales of your own, please let us know in the comments.

T-Mobile sells 500,000 iPhones in first 30 days, sees first subscriber growth in four years

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 8th, 2013, 05:42
Category: iPhone, News, retail

T-Mobile and the iPhone seem to be getting along just fine, even in the first stages of the relationship.

Per 9to5Mac, wireless carrier T-Mobile just released its first earnings report since it started officially carrying the iPhone on April 12th and ‘coincidentally’ the first where it has picked up customers in 17 quarters. The carrier had accumulated 2.1M iPhone users without even carrying the iPhone up until it launched in April, which is up from 1 million in 2011.

T-Mobile tallied approximately 500,000 iPhone 5 sales in the first 30 days which is stronger than you might initially imagine, especially off a launch cycle. Other US carriers who have reported iPhone sales in the millions over 3 months note that about half of their sales are iPhone 5 (the other half are the cheaper iPhone 4 and 4S models).

The US #4 carrier saw its subscriber base increase by 579,000 customers, a number likely directly correlated to iPhone sales. In addition, T-Mobile will be adding 9 million MetroPCS users over the coming quarters to its ranks. T-Mobile also ran into some legal problems last month and was forced to change its marketing terminology with regards to ‘no-contract plans’ and was forced to offer customers refunds.

If you’ve snagged an iPhone running on the T-Mobile network and have any feedback to offer about the experience, please let us know in the comments.

U.S. Cellular to begin carrying Apple products this year

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 3rd, 2013, 07:13
Category: iPhone, News

US_Cellular_Logo

U.S. Cellular, the Chicago-based carrier serving around 5.8 million customers in 126 markets, will likely start offering the iPhone later this year, possibly in addition to other iOS devices. Per 9to5Mac, the carrier announced today in its first quarter results that it will soon begin carrying Apple products, but didn’t provide any further information regarding when or what specific products it might launch:

“We have a number of strategies in progress to increase loyalty and attract more customers, including our announcement today that we will begin offering Apple products later this year. By further strengthening our device portfolio, we’ll give consumers another great reason to switch to U.S. Cellular, and enable our existing customers to choose from an even wider variety of iconic smartphones, and enjoy the outstanding U.S. Cellular customer experiences they deserve. Our smartphone penetration is currently 43 percent of core market customers and growing quickly. We believe there will be strong, ongoing demand for smartphones and data products and services from our customers, and we have significant room for growth in this area.”

It was only a few years back that U.S. Cellular claimed it said no to the iPhone 4S with CEO Mary Dillon at the time saying Apple’s “terms were unacceptable from a risk and profitability standpoint.” Later, CEO of the cellular provider’s parent company, TDS, hinted that the carrier would wait until Apple unveiled an LTE capable device, which was of course before the unveiling of Apple’s LTE iPhone 5.

After it decided not to carry the iPhone 4S, it soon after launched its Wonderphone ad campaign that were seen by many as mocking the iPhone.

U.S. Celluar today reported service revenues for the first quarter of US$996.3 million and noted that it plans to roll out its 4G LTE service to 87 percent of its subscribers this year. The carrier also said it plans to close its US$480 million deal to sell its Chicago, St. Louis, central Illinois and other markets to Sprint in the second quarter of 2013.

Earlier this year the carrier added Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S4 device and Dillon noted today that the higher subsidies of LTE smartphones will impact profitability. The CEO said its “long-term strategy is to balance those costs with growth in ARPU and reduced capital expenditures for our legacy networks.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.4 update for iPhone 5 handsets

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 3rd, 2013, 07:09
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

This might come in handy.

Lat Thursday, Apple released iOS 6.1.4, a 107 megabyte download offering the following fixes for its iPhone 5 handsets:

– Updated audio profile for speakerphone.

iOS 6.1.3 is available via iTunes or Over-The-Air updating and requires an iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, iPad 2, third or fourth-gen iPad, iPod Touch 4th Gen or iPad Mini to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple looking to expand Siri, Maps integration with upcoming car models

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 30th, 2013, 06:30
Category: iOS, iPhone, Rumor

Make no mistake about it: Apple wants Siri and its mapping program in your car.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple plans to move aggressively into the in-car integration space later this year, according to multiple people familiar with the initiative. The company is working with car makers to deeply embed iOS’s Maps and Siri services into cars, according to these people. While companies sell accessories to place iPhone and other iOS devices on car dashboards for easy access to Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation, Apple wants to break into the space with its own solutions…

According to sources, Apple is working with car makers on updated versions of car center consoles that could attach to iOS devices like the iPhone. Specifically, an iPhone could be plugged into a car and an optimized, redesigned version of Apple Maps will appear on the car’s built-in display instead of a proprietary GPS system found in many cars.

Sources have described this as a feature akin to a video-out or mirrored display representation of the iPhone’s Maps app onto the bigger screens included with most modern vehicles. This is unlike the new Volkswagen iBeetle car that simply holds an iPhone running a third-party app.

With the iPhone connected, Siri would be used to control the Maps functions and other iOS features.

Last year, Apple announced a new “Eyes-Free” Siri service that allows users to connect their iPhone to their car and use Siri with the iPhone’s display turned off. Apple announced at WWDC that it is working with car makers on Eyes-Free, including BMW, Toyota, Audi, Honda, and Land Rover. It is likely that Apple is bolstering its existing partnerships with these same car makers to take advantage of the new Maps and Siri car-integrated offerings.

While the new car functionality is based on technologies in iOS 7, sources warned that a public release could be potentially be far off. Roadblocks that Apple will need to overcome before the feature launches to the public include more extensive car-based testing, improvements to Apple Maps and Siri infrastructures, and deals with car makers. It is uncertain if Apple plans to debut this new in-car integration at WWDC or at its iPhone hardware event later this year. Because of the processing power that such integration could require, it is likely that the feature will be exclusive to recent iOS hardware.

Apple’s interest in cars goes beyond future iOS integration. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, who happens to now be in charge of Siri and Maps, has long had an interest in cars. At Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference, the executive demonstrated the iCloud Photo Stream feature by taking a picture of a toy car featured in a Pixar movie. Additionally, Mr. Cue sits on Ferrari’s Board of Directors. Earlier this year, Ferrari began equipping one of its car models with iPad minis.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs shared privately that he considered taking on Detroit with a car design of his own. Patents in recent days reveal that Apple is interested in creating software to make unlocking vehicles and findings cars in parking lots easier.

Earlier this year, Apple posted a series of job listings on its website related to iOS device integration with car stereo systems. Apple is seeking Software Quality Assurance testers for stereo compatibility with iOS products. These job listings, which also cover creating software for car integration, require expertise in Bluetooth product testing. This may mean that the aforementioned upcoming features could rely on Bluetooth rather than wired connections.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple’s Tim Cook dismisses larger screen rumors for iPhone, cites trade-offs

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 24th, 2013, 06:10
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

It’s the post-event questions that get interesting.

Per iMore, asked during today’s Q2 2013 fiscal results conference call as to whether or not Apple’s and CEO Tim Cook’s disinclination towards larger screens has changed, Cook said that there are a number of trade-offs that have come with larger screens. He said that Apple’s own research has revealed while some customers obviously place value on larger screen sizes (those giant Samsung, LG, and HTC phones wouldn’t be selling otherwise), others value resolution, color quality, brightness, portability, and app compatibility. He said that “our competitors have made significant trade-offs in many of these areas” and that Apple would not launch a larger-screen iPhone while these trade-offs exist.

It’s worth taking into consideration that Apple said similar things running up to the launch of the iPhone 5 and its larger screen, and Cook said as recently as the last quarter that he’s happy with the 4-inch screen. It’s also worth nothing that while Cook says he believes the iPhone 5 has “the absolute best display in the industry”, the advent of 1080p smartphone screens has obviated some of his stated advantages such as resolution.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Store app hits version 2.6, now includes iPhone upgrade pricing notification feature

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 24th, 2013, 06:19
Category: iPhone, News, Software

apple_store_app_icon

Ok, now this is sort of a nifty update.

On Wednesday, Apple released version 2.6 of its iOS Apple Store program. The new version, a 6.1 megabyte download, has been updated with bug fixes and offers a new feature that will notify you when you’re eligible for upgrade pricing on a new iPhone. You can even buy your new iPhone directly with the app after receiving the notification since all you need is your Apple ID credentials to do so.

The updated Apple Store will now help you keep track of your shipments and send you notifications about important updates, and when it has been delivered.

The iOS Apple Store program 2.6 requires iOS 5.0 or later to install and run.

Cool stuff and I’m waiting for the upgrade price for my beloved-but-battered iPhone 4S handset…