Apple dealers deny iPod's "dirty secret"

Apple dealers deny iPod's "dirty secret"

Apple’s star music player, the iPod, has taken a public battering in the US, recently, as US court cases and media reports question whether its battery life lives up to expectations.

In response, the company has taken several steps to redress customer concerns about the iPod’s battery, including lengthening the standard warranty to 12 months - and offering a $199 battery replacement service for out of warranty iPods.

But recent media reports – including one in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 27 - have struck a little too close for comfort for some resellers. Some resellers – including Next Byte director, Adam Steinhardt – have dismissed the negative publicity as a “non-issue”. But others are tackling the negative publicity head-on.

Apple Centre Taylor Square director, Ben Morgan, said his sales staff were taking action to make sure the shine doesn’t rub off this Apple product.

Apple is currently subject to five separate class actions in American courts, brought by consumers who allege that the vendor misrepresented the length of the iPod’s battery life.

Current iPods ship with a promised eight hours of play time, with the caveat that battery life varies by use.

Customer complaints – including one quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald which alleged the iPod represented “$600 down the toilet” - were the fault of poor customer education, rather than a problem with the battery life, Morgan said.

“We’re having trouble because customers are loving this stuff to death,” he said.

“The battery is designed to operate at medium quality setting,” said Morgan.

Users downloading high quality audio tracks – for example – 44 Kbps in full surround sound, could halve the playback time they could achieve, he said.

Apple Centre Taylor Square staff contacted each customer who bought an iPod in March to talk them through the correct battery care and to address any concerns they might have, Morgan said.

“We’ve tested something like 250 iPods in our service centre,” he said.

Morgan said salespeople need to ensure customers were aware of the proper procedures for initial charging, and ongoing proper use, of their iPod to get maximum battery life out of it.

In addition, customers were protected by a warranty, Morgan said.

If the battery was underperforming, Apple replaced it, he said.

Morgan estimated that on sales of 30 to 40 iPods a day, he saw 3 or 4 returns a week, and some of them were due to damage rather than battery problems.

“That to me says Apple’s got the recipe right,” he said.

Managing director of My Mac in Melbourne’s Flinders Street, Steve Bardell, was another reseller who questioned the public reports about iPod performance.

“The perception is more of a problem than the product is,” he said.

Bardell said he hadn’t seen battery problems like those reported from the US.

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