How I spent 200 minutes last night, or Tim Cook and Jonny Ive should buy their iPhones in the Apple Store

Apple is famous for its user experience. I was at the Apple Store (Rosedale, Minnesota) for 3 and 1/3 hours yesterday upgrading my phone. (5s to 6s, the 5s worked fine, but the battery is clearly nearing the end of its useful life, and getting to 0% before I go to bed and recharge, plus my contract was up, and I wanted to change carriers).  Somehow, 3.5 hours seems too long. This was not Apple Staff’s fault. It’s the system. The system for getting an upgrade should be re-engineered. This will not happen until senior Apple staff actually experience what it is like to go through the bureaucracy required to get a new phone. (Of course Tim Cook and Jonny Ive would likely be recognized, so they will need costumes and have to go incognito).

I got an appointment for 6:00 – 6:30, signing up online last week. I would have done it through the mail like last time, but, (1) There is some complexity with switching carriers (Sorry AT&T, it’s not you, it’s international coverage and the Great Firewall of China. Here’s hoping T-Mobile works better.), and (2) I wanted to trade-in the old phone which seemed more complex via mail. So I signed up to get it in person. This was a mistake.

Like a visit to the Genius Bar, I sort of thought they would actually serve me at the appointed time, so I got there at 5:50. (10 minutes early) Ok, there was a queue. It was the first day of the 6s sales, which I hadn’t quite realized (I knew it was coming out, I didn’t realize it was the first day or I would have avoided and done this over the weekend, though evening should be better than when the doors open in the morning, no?). I made it into the store at 6:40. (40 minutes). Apple should have a better estimate of how long the set-up process takes so it schedules the right number of customers for the right number of staff.

By 7:40 I was signed up with T-Mobile. This should not have taken an hour. (This alone must have cost Apple $25 per customer to sign up just in labor costs (I’m guessing), leaving aside my time.) (60 minutes)

  1. Why cannot the signup software scan the old phone (a photo from the setting screen e.g.) rather than the Apple staff typing everything from one phone into an iPad? (Or isn’t this in an Apple Database already?)
  2. Why must my information be entered more than once? How many times does the system need my name and phone number and iCloud account information, etc.
  3. Why does the T-Mobile signup app ask for my PIN as if I have an account with them. I don’t. If it wants me to create a new PIN, it should say something like ‘create a new PIN’, not ‘enter your PIN.’
  4. Staff said the T-Mobile app was better than the others. This is absurd. Apple should have a straight-forward App that populates the carrier databases later, rather than waiting for their laggy experience.
  5. If I am buying my phone from Apple and service from carriers, somewhere on the Apple website should be a comparison of the different carrier services and prices. I can’t find it. I don’t really know what its going to cost without going to their sites, which are hardly paragons of clarity.

Ok, so now I have a new phone in a box, and am ready to turn in my old phone for a trade-in. First I want to restore my most recent iCloud backup to the new iPhone. This was slow, and failed the first time. Apple staff reinstalled the OS and 9.0.1 update and we did it again. It worked the second time, but this took a while. In the mean time I surfed the web on my old phone with 6% battery. At least they give you free charging at the Apple Store, and free WiFi. Note, the progress bar telling you how many minutes this update will take steadily lies. Surely someone can come up with a more accurate predictive algorithm.  This took from 7:40 until 9:10 (90 minutes).

I understand downloads and installs take time, I did it at home overnight last time. But if you want us to do it in the store (and I don’t want to lose my old phone until my new one is set up), this should be faster. I don’t know if the bottleneck was the local WiFi (which was certainly being slammed), or iCloud servers (which are also likely being slammed) [I suspect the latter], but this is not unanticipatable. And my being in the store is using up some Apple staff time that could be better used.

In short, this would be a much simpler process if Tim Cook and Jonny Ive and Eddie Cue and Phil Schiller and Angela Ahrendts and the other relevant executives at Apple eat their own dogfood and buy an iPhone like the rest of us, rather than being issued phones in-house. They would redesign the process, and save tens or hundreds of millions of human hours now wasted globally at the in store iPhone sign-up/set-up process. If Apple sells one-hundred million phones through stores, and each takes an hour, and this can be cut to 1/2 hour, they will save 50 million human hours for the customer and 50 million staff hours. A human life is less than 1 million hours.

The main thing is just they should take old phone, scan it, take in all your information (enter once your icloud account & password) in one fell swoop, and your new choice of carrier and plan, and set you on your way, and then however long it takes to install properly, and then issue you a set up new phone. You can get a text from them once they are done and return to the store. The old phone scanning can even be pre-done online, as can your personal information intake, they just need to validate in person you are who you say you are, and your phone is what you say it is. I am idealizing a bit perhaps (maybe you must enter your iCloud id and password multiple times, though I am not really sure why), but something closer to this would be standard practice were senior executives to experience this.

So far the new phone is fine, mostly like the old one. The wallet for Apple Pay (with an interesting if trivial bug) does not use my primary credit card, so still is more proof of concept than something that allows me to leave my real wallet at home. There is functioning health app that I did not have before on the 5s, so I can track more than Pedometer++. There is  a slightly bigger screen, but not enough to move me off the iPad when reading at night. And hopefully a longer battery life, which just comes with it being new. A few apps allow force, er, 3D touch.  I will not be profoundly affected by this the way the iPhone 1 or 3g made a difference.

The Apple OSes have their annoyances, mostly related to security and two-factor authorization. How often do I need to do this. I know I opted in to it, but this is a huge waste of time, and I am likely to opt out. Also separate passwords for each app is especially annoying. When I first start up the OS, it asks me for my iCloud password, which is long and complicated (for good security) and I dutifully enter. Then it asks again (apparently for the other apps like Messages and FaceTime), but this is a different password, and it doesn’t say that, so I enter the wrong password several times before it reminds me to get a 1-app use password from, which requires two-factors (a text to your phone with a code) to log in to, and cannot remember its the same browser from day-to-day though you tell it to. And since I do OS maintenance and installs for the family, I revisit this whole process multiple times. And this isn’t even including the PIN to enter the device, or the passwords for other apps that want them when you set up a new OS release. Somehow I don’t think Apple executives experience this either. If I were John Siracusa, I would document this exhaustively with screenshots. But this is a blog about transportation.