Apple forced to rename Genius Bar on grounds of false advertising

Everyone is getting a Macbook these days, and with good reason, I suppose. The Macbook and Macbook Pro series of laptops have helped Apple pick up quite a bit of marketshare in the laptop space. The Apple brand itself has gained a fair bit of popularity with the help of the ipod and iphone, and its users like to associate with the brand in a variety of different ways (read: fanboyism). As a result, any blaring flaws tend to be brushed aside and accusers are promptly burned at the proverbial stake for blasphemy (of course if you were in Ireland, you would be fined $5000 instead).

Just to be clear — I do like my Macbook Pro. It’s a good machine, my favourite part about it is the display. The font rendering is just incomparable. Even so, there are a few things which just need to be said.

Appleland is not an impenetrable fortress

Firstly I want to address the increasingly popular belief that the Mac operating system exudes awesomeness, and has thousands of magical pixie-horses constantly patrolling your system to ensure that no bad things can get inside. No. The only reason you do not get attacked from the rear on a daily basis in Mac OSX is because the attackers don’t give a shit about you. If you were a bored child with fireworks, and you had the choice of lighting them inside a mall where you could cause mass chaos, or heading over to the pottery barn where a small collection of hippies is protesting evil technologies like the wristwatch, which would you choose?

At the end of the day most trojans/viruses/exploits are written by bored hackers trying to maximize the damage caused by their efforts — hence they will attack the platform with the most users. I can’t wait till OSX becomes popular enough to garner the attention of hackers. Apple will have to hire a special support team just to respond with “They don’t exist”, when thousands of idiots simultaneously call tech support and claim that their pixie-horses are not working anymore.

My Macbook should not double as a mirror

With the latest line of Macbooks, Apple has decided to go with Gloss as the default display type (versus matte). When you walk into an electronics store and see a bunch of laptops, sometimes you run into one where all you can see on the screen is the gigantic lights reflecting from the ceiling. That is a gloss screen (more here). All previous Macbook Pro’s used to come with matte, and they’ve now change the default to be gloss. The only way you can get matte is to buy the 17inch macbook pro and pay an extra $200 odd to choose the matte option. That is just plain retarded. For someone like Apple who claims to be all about user experience, this is a pretty awful decision to make (not to mention the genius idea to ship 8-bit displays on the new 13-inch macbook pros). I am going to latch onto this Macbook Pro for as long as I can. Of course, Apple has other ideas, which brings me to my next point…

Fruitflies have longer lifespans than my Macbook battery

At our company, no less than 3 Macbook Pro’s have had their battery’s lifespan degrade to nothing in less than two years time. This is completely unacceptable. No other laptop will cease to function so freaking quickly.

My own laptop’s battery life started to dwindle quite drastically of late. It used to last for 3 hours, now i’m lucky if it goes for 45 minutes. I figured since it’s only a year and a couple months old, this is probably a defect of some kind. There’s no way this level of performance can be by design. So, I took the battery into the Apple store and told him my story. I actually expected to walk out with a new battery.

What actually happened? He proceeded to plug into my laptop what could only be described as an ipod nano with a piece of tape stuck on it. Apparently this was some kind of battery tester. He then performed a test on my battery, and a picture came up. This is pretty much what I saw on the screen, combined with his verbal explanations:

He then proceeded to relate to me how, despite the fact that my battery is only a year old, it has gone through 412 cycles. I asked him what defines a cycle. He explained that it means whenever a battery goes from full charge to empty, including partial discharges. So, if it went down to 50, back to 100, then 50 again, back to 100, that is considered a cycle. I explained to him that I plug the laptop in when I get to work, and I plug it in when I get home. I’ve had very normal usage patterns for the past year, and so I don’t understand why my battery is almost dead.

He suggested that, when it came to using my computer, I must have been doing it wrong to get it to 412 cycles, and the battery is actually only supported up to 300 cycles. 300 cycles! First of all, I’m pretty sure any normal user would hit that number in no time. What this means is, if you use your laptop under uncommon conditions like on top of your lap, that is the equivalent of your battery taking up chain-smoking. As a result, most people will kill their batteries within a year or so (which is exactly what happened to my peers).

Granted, Apple has somewhat resolved the matter with their shiny new batteries (5-hour charges and 1500 cycles supported)… but personally, I’d prefer to shell out $120 for a new battery rather than deal with those retarded gloss screens.

I think what really bothered me is how strongly that Apple employee believed in the validity of the bullshit 300-cycle clause. He didn’t even try to recognize my argument about normal usage patterns resulting in abnormally rapid deterioration. Typically, I have little to no expectations of competence when it comes to support. But it has to be noted that the support center at Apple is called a “Genius Bar”. He actually wore a t-shirt that said “Genius” on it.

Einstein is probably rolling in his grave right now, in an effort to reverse the earth’s rotation, go back in time, and patent the word genius just so that Apple can’t use it. At least then when I walk into Apple and head to the Mediocrity Stand I’ll know exactly what I’m in for.

UPDATE: Apparently there are rumors that Apple might bring back matte to the 13-inch and 15-inch macbook pros (thanks Faraz). Maybe there’s hope after all.

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9 thoughts on “Apple forced to rename Genius Bar on grounds of false advertising

  1. JZ says:

    Ya, when it was time to upgrade over a year ago, I waited with my 3yr-old 12″ Powerbook until the 17″ Macbook Pro with the LED screen option was available (it was already available on the 15″ Pros but not the 17″, not sure how that happened). When the 17″ Pros came out with the upgraded LED screen, I bought one with the matte option. I actually don’t remember an added price tag for the matte (over the glossy), but then again, my grant paid for it so not positive on that.

    My first reaction, other than the novelty of the MacBook Pro was that the screen was significantly better but the OS was surprisingly less stable and most programs were slower in the NEW laptop (even though Leopard had been out a while). I was comparing PowerPC-based programs and Tiger OS on the Powerbook with the Intel-based programs and Leopard OS in the Macbook Pro. The Powerbook did poorly with Intel-based programs however, and Apple’s move in this direction with their software and OS support finally made me let go of my portable 12″er. I still got a good deal for it as I wanted to sell it before the AppleCare ran out – afterwards the resale value obviously drops big time. Sold it for $800 almost 3 years after I bought it for $1300. Not bad at all.

    So far, my 17″ Macbook Pro is doing well; the OS hasn’t frozen in months and some programs crash about once a week (my old Powerbook crashed a couple of times in the entire time I owned it – amazing).

    I will speak in defense of the Genius Bar. It is THE BEST customer service I have had with any electronic product in the US. Hands down. To the point that you even expected to walk out of the store with a new battery after a year of USAGE. Where else would you even have that expectation? I’ve been there a few times, and each time, they are resourceful and efficient. They might not be your literal geniuses but they are far more knowledgeable than ALL other electronics support that I have encountered. It’s the single reason I use to justify the premium price that Apple sells their products for.

  2. Simika says:

    sorry to hear about your experience! I’ve heard about their battery issues from other people too! I suppose there is no such thing as mac users with “normal” usage patterns 😉

  3. Imran says:

    from what i recall, they used to ccharge that extra 200 to get a GLOSS screen. somewhere along the way they flipped it…

  4. Salman Ansari says:

    @Junaid: You may be right, but my incompetence assessment was not based solely on this visit. Another time, my friend had her ipod “die” on her.. took it to Apple, they said the thing is now useless and she should throw it away. As she’s throwing it in the garbage, I ask her to give it to me instead. I literally plug it into my PC, perform a hard reset via iTunes (the one which wipes it clean)… and it worked fine.

    @Imran: That is weird because the only motivation I could think of for gloss was lowering the price point. Makes no sense if gloss is actually more costly…

  5. Faraz says:

    I agree / disagree with your genius bar comments. They dont know a lot. I bought the old macbook pro in May (just before their new line came out in June) and I had a question about the integrated graphics card. They had no idea what I was talking about! The employee AND manager told me that theres no difference between an integrated graphics card and the un-integrated (if thats a word). I got so angry I left and went to another mac store.

    BUT… I cant complain about their customer service. They let me swap my macbook which was used and scratched, for the new line. They waived my restocking fee (the 10%) and gave me a 25$ itunes gift card bc i said how stupid their genius bar at the other store was.

    PS: They re planning on bringing the matte screens back:

  6. Salman Ansari says:

    @Faraz: Nice… clearly they are bringing matte back because of this article.

  7. Imran says:


  8. Robert says:

    Just got my MacBook Pro! I hate the gloss screen normally but now that I have it on my desk I can see my Team Lead behind me. So whenever he’s taking a look at what I’m doing. I can see it instantly.

    I had to buy a sleeve instantly. I do miss having the easy ability to connect a monitor to it though. I have to buy a connector to go to VGA or DVI.

    About the battery. I normally take my battery out when its plugged in. I do it at work and I do it at home.

    Anyways, those are my quibbles, overall though, I’m liking it.

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