Why Apple’s iPhone Replacement Program Cannot Be Trusted

I’ve always been a proponent of Apple’s refurbished products and there are no shortage of forum members extolling the virtues of Apple’s iPhone replacement program. Most have had great success, with Apple providing them with an iPhone that looks new. If you had a minor scratch on your non-working iPhone, there’s a bonus in picking up a replacement. My experience today at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Roosevelt Field, NY has forever changed my opinion of their customer service and why you can no longer trust Apple’s iPhone Replacement Program.

Despite being a multiple iPhone household, my first brush with the Genius bar occurred roughly 4 months ago on May 11th when my wife’s iPhone 4 had an issue with her microphone. She could hear callers, but they could not hear her. This was a hardware issue, one that Apple had a history of covering, despite being out of warranty. That policy had changed along with the introduction of Apple Care Plus, which retails for $99. This extends your coverage and also covers you against various mishaps. My iPhone was out of warranty, so Apple did not owe me a free replacement. For better or worse, Apple’s program was no different than how most companies handle products out of warranty. My options were to re-up for a new 2-year contract and purchase a new iPhone 4S or pay $149 for a replacement iPhone, which would have no impact on my wife’s current ‘out of contract’ status. I opted for the $149 option. This would provide me with what I understood was an iPhone that was “as good as new”. That would be sufficient to get her to September, at which point resale on an iPhone 4 could defer the cost of the replacement. Fair enough or so I thought.

Yesterday, her iPhone was stuck in a boot cycle and I was lucky enough to get it to display ‘Connect to iTunes’. I advised her that any data which had not been backed up would be lost. I charged it for a good five hours and then attempted to factory restore it to iOS 5.1. My attempts were met with a nasty ‘2001’ error. A relatively new iPhone, I immediately scheduled a Genius appointment for this morning. At the time, I was unaware of Apple’s warranty on replacement phones. Truth be told, I was hoping that flexibility I heard so much about would apply to my situation, since it was a relatively short time-frame since I was leaving the Roosevelt Field Apple Store with this iPhone.

I arrived late for my 9:40 appointment and was quickly seated and greeted by Lillian. I explained what happened, then helped her remove my wife’s iPhone case. Under the snap case was the original plastic from when we received the iPhone. I’m a stickler for keeping iPhones in tip-top shape. Nobody gets by without a case and it’s surprising that I hadn’t put a screen protector on her iPhone. I must be slipping. Lillian took the iPhone and went in back for roughly 20 minutes. She returned and pretty much come to the same conclusion to what I had surmised from my troubleshooting. This was not a software issue. What followed took me by complete and utter surprise.

“We cannot service this iPhone”, said Lillian. She continued, “It’s been tampered with and we have no way of retrieving the serial number.”

I proceeded to inform her of the history of this particular iPhone, at least post-May 2012. My wife doesn’t install iOS updates. She rarely, if ever, properly backs up her iPhone and installation of apps is a rarity. You could say she fits the role of your semi-typical iPhone user. Lucky for her, she has me on staff. I’m fairly proficient at troubleshooting software problems and that’s the extent of my abilities. I’ve never come in contact with a pentalobe screwdriver and the closest I’ve gotten to an iPhone repair was linking out to a teardown in a blog post. If there is a hardware problem, then it’s time for a trip to the Apple Store and they’ll make things right, provided we as customers take care of our phones. I was wrong.

“There is absolutely no way that either myself or my wife had anything to do with anything that’s gone awry with the internals of this iPhone”, I said.

I argued that it was a refurbished iPhone and perhaps there was an issue with quality control. Lillian would not back down from her assertions that somehow it was tampered with between the date of purchase and today’s Genius bar appointment.  Unless my 10 month old is handy with pentalobe screwdrivers, that didn’t happen. Shocked, amazed. I kept my cool, but was less than thrilled with where this conversation had been going. I’m paraphrasing, but Lillian went on to describe what she had found.

“We were unable to scan the serial number, it wasn’t smooth and there were fingerprints. I also found a screw which had been lodged next to the power button. This is inconsistent with new iPhones.”

Hey Lillian, this isn’t a new iPhone. We bought it here, just 4 months ago and it is refurbished. Lillian quickly corrected me, saying they are new iPhones and not refurbished. I didn’t think it would curry any favor, but I did play the ‘I cannot wait to write about this on my iPhone blog’ card. This was less about getting my way and more about letting them know that I had an outlet to inform others of the quality control of these ‘new iPhones’. This probably did more harm, as it appeared as if my Genius had an “aha” moment. He writes for a iPhone blog, he must a thief. Let’s face it, that is exactly what they were alleging this morning.

“I’m sorry, but we are not able to service this iPhone. I should have refused service initially upon my findings”, said Lillain.

This went on for five minutes or more, when she took the iPhone again. I was rooting for Lillian, because I wanted to receive an apology and perhaps change the perception among Geniuses that these phones weren’t susceptible to quality control issues. Gone for roughly 15 minutes, she returned and gave me the broken iPhone. She left once again, only to return with Myra. This could only mean one thing. I was the irate, in-the-wrong customer that required back-up.

“Your iPhone is out of warranty. We were able to find your serial number on the back of the SIM card tray, although we cannot use this as a valid method of retrieving serial numbers.”

Now they were inferring that I was a customer who:

  • Had my iPhone replaced 4 months ago for a legitimate hardware issue
  • Purchased a broken iPhone
  • Did something to the internals to where they could not scan the serial number
  • Swapped my wife’s SIM card tray from the replacement iPhone with the broken iPhone

Myra informed me that the SIM card tray swap is the newest trick among thieves.

Before I left for the Apple Store today, I advised my wife that should this be out of warranty, we weren’t going to pay an additional $149. Not only because we’re less than a month away from a new iPhone, but also out of principal. Refurbished, Replacement, Remanufactured. Whatever they want to call it, they sell these phones as if they were new, as Lillian continuously asserted during our conversation. These are new phones.

The discussion at this point had ran it’s course. My options were to call Apple Care and spin my wheels some more or simply buy a new phone. I made one last ditch effort to restore my good name, suggesting they connect this iPhone to XCode. I was met with blank stares. If this sort of thing happened with another company, I’d bring my business elsewhere. Not an option. But I wasn’t done…

There was something bigger on my agenda at this point then getting my broken iPhone replaced. Information normally flows from behind the counter, but it was time to turn the tables. Surely Geniuses can be taught something new, right?

I informed both of my now attentive geniuses that before I showed up, my mind was already made up regarding my unwillingness to part with another $150. I then proceeded to advise them that perhaps they needed to think differently about the quality control of their replacement iPhones. I provided them with a scenario of a typical Apple customer who was under contract and under warranty. That person would be out of luck, to no fault of their own. I’ll admit, I did get a little preachy, but it was warranted. The assertions were clear – they felt that I was at the Genius Bar attempting to pull one over on them.

Sometimes being in the right isn’t enough. When your character is attacked, it’s not a great feeling. For me, it was worse than not having my iPhone repaired. I’m not going to do anything crazy like swear myself off iPhones, but I can tell you one thing. I will no longer trust Apple’s iPhone Replacement Program.

  • http://twitter.com/emschultz Marianne Schultz

    What a horrible experience! Are you going to call AppleCare?

    • http://christophermeinck.com Christopher Meinck

      I called and entered my newly found SN#. The automated system asked me to either pay $29 for a one time incident or hang up.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brian.r.whitney Brian Whitney

        The automated system doesn’t sell AppleCare. Liar.

        • http://www.everythingicafe.com Christopher Meinck

          “The automated system asked me to either pay $29 for a one time incident or hang up.”

          That’s exactly what happened and the name calling is unnecessary.

          • http://www.definitivedepictions.com Jose Contreras

            You’re not lying, the automated system does inform you of needing to pay for a PPI (Pay Per Incident) fee which is good for 30 days from purchase of the service agreement to service or troubleshoot the problem.

            You are one of the unfortunate left to sink, I’d call again and ask for a senior advisor and escalate it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dave.jergenson Dave Jergenson

      haha EXACTLY THAT IS THE PROBLEM. APPLECARE MEANS APPLE DOESN’T CARE!!

  • Tim Barribeau

    That’s seriously abysmal — and wouldn’t you know that today the lock button on my iPhone 4 decided to stop working…

  • http://christophermeinck.com Christopher Meinck

    As an update, I plugged this iPhone into Xcode and the ECID was available. I wonder if that would have been enough for them to identify this as the iPhone I purchased from them. Guess it wouldn’t have mattered, given their refusal to acknowledge that some replacement iPhones suffer from a lack of quality control. Let’s say I prove my point that it was indeed the original iPhone, they’d still suggest I was behind the ‘repair work’ that has gone on inside this iPhone. I’d be afraid they might frisk me, looking for a pentalobe screwdriver in my sock.

  • http://christophermeinck.com Christopher Meinck

    Well, that didn’t take long. Using the About This Mac, the SN# shows up when you toggle the USB tree and locate Apple Mobile Device (recovery mode). Sure looks to me like a serial number that starts with QR.

  • ericsinsideout

    wow, I’d be fit to be tied after all of that. the last time I had any dealings with a replacement iphone, it went rather smooth, but I was still under apple care for another 3 months. But if I went through what you did, I’d be out on a soap box in front of the store giving a sermon to all that walk by

    • http://christophermeinck.com Christopher Meinck

      I’d agree that most have great success with the Genius Bar, AppleCare and under warranty iPhones. I’m definitely in the minority on this one. I’d also venture to guess that most iPhones they see with this sorts of damage internally, are done by those with questionable motives or overreached when attempting to do some sort of out of warranty repair. I don’t fall in either of those categories, so didn’t appreciate being painted with such a broad brush.

      • Shelli Brennan

        The same thing happened to us. My son broke his first iPhone 4s, so we paid £139 (+us$211.00) for a replacement. The first thing my son noticed were some warped pixels in his photos. He could live with that, but then the sound started to go. He finally took it in to the Apple Store, out of warranty, and apparently, much of the inside was missing, hiding the the phone’s origins. He was accused of tampering with it. My son has learning issues and would never have been able to do what they accused him of. I thought they would look after him but no, he came home in tears. I went back to the store and argued with the manager and a Genius for nearly an hour. I accused them of selling us a phone with parts missing, and they returned that we must have done it. Then my son pointed out that he could show that his pixels have never worked completely. I asked how, and he said that if the phone was hooked up to a computer, the dates would show up there. I asked the manager and Genius if this was true, and they agreed. Then I asked why they hadn’t suggested this? Surely they know more than an autistic boy. They changed their stance and then started to offer to replace the camera in the phone. I argued that they obviously sold us a faulty phone and should just replace the whole thing. They were still adamant that we must have tampered with it or had someone else tamper with it. We live on an island off the west coast of Britain, we’re hardly going to travel by boat and train for hours to have our 64GB iPhone4s tampered with by some stranger. We chose Apple because we felt safe with them. Now we find there is no course for recourse. We’ve been through Applecare, and they can only help us with technical issues, but as the phone is out of warranty, there is nothing they can do. We have been advised to “write” (And I mean write and old fashioned post.) to the European Head Office in Ireland, and we may or may not get a reply in about 28 days. The Glasgow Apple Store has since offered us another replacement for another £139.00, but with no warranty. They’ve offed to take us back into the “clean” room so that they can open it up and show us that it is complete. Like I’d know which way is up. . . . It’s ridiculous that they don’t have a complaints procedure. This is obviously happening all over the world and is an issue. Somebody obviously knows about this policy of tampering meaning that Apple will just refuse any assistance. That leaves everyone in this state of distrust.
        I will endeavor to spread the news from my end. I need an Apple corporation I can trust. If not, I’d rather just do without. I’ve lived without technology before, and could do it again.

  • heatwave316

    That is one downside of having a product that is so popular, and makes so much money. They don’t feel the need to go above and beyond to help you. If they think you are wrong, that’s it. What do they care if just one person is unhappy out of millions. Sorry about your experience.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brian.r.whitney Brian Whitney

      Going above and beyond? Name another phone manufacturer at even has the option for 2 year phone support. And spending $30 to get support when your device is far outside its support isn’t even an option with most other companies.

      • Anonymous

        It is by law that manufacturers need to provide 2 years warranty, so hence it’s not Apple ‘offering extra’, it’s something they are obligated to by law. Bet Apple didn’t tell you that x].

  • http://ifury.net fury

    That is some world-class bullshit. Are you going to take it back and try for a different genius? This one sounds like she’s just been through new employee training and hasn’t gotten “the talk” yet.

  • New York Reaction

    Each new purchase comes with a one year warranty. When you have a product replaced, it either is covered under the original warranty, or, a new 90-day one–whichever is longer. Nothing lasts forever.

    • http://ifury.net fury

      This would be an entirely different story if that warranty expiration was the story Apple stuck to. Instead, they went as far as accusing Chris of modifying the phone. That is absolutely inexcusable.

      • http://christophermeinck.com Christopher Meinck

        Exactly. The original iPhone 4 was out of warranty and they offered to replace it for $149 on May 11th. Yesterday, I was denied service on the very phone they sold me, claiming someone had modified the internals of the iPhone under my watch. The phone in question is pictured above. As you’ll note, it was in stellar condition, with the original plastic on the back plate. I was able to confirm the SN# (confirmed after entering at AppleCare online), something they were not able to do. Funny, I managed to find this without undergoing the rigors of Genius training.

        With that confirmed, I’m not sure what conspiracy theory would make sense, other than Apple sold me an iPhone that should never have passed through their stringent quality control checks. I accept that I was out of warranty, if only by 17 days. Apple does not owe me a free replacement for an out of warranty device. The response from them should have been the same as on May 11th. This iPhone has a hardware issue. You are out of warranty. If you’d like a replacement, it will cost you $149. Honestly, if I were them, I would have done everything to get the iPhone back from me. This would allow them to further research the history of the device and find out why it managed to find its way into the hands of a consumer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/1shuttle1 David Shuttleworth

    This is more of an “I found an idiot to deal with” rather than an Apple problem. I took my wife’s phone back last year because the home button did not work well. The Genius(that title cracks me up) because all they do is replace and they don’t really fix anything. Anyway he replaced the phone even though he noted water damage just because it turned on. Unfortunately they may have already noted your account. I would still try a different store. Never let a moron be your last recourse. Try someone else. They may have more time in and realize the big picture, which is to keep the customer happy. I once got a free upgrade on a flight just because it was the persons last day and she was upset with the airline. My point is everyone handles things differently.

    Unfortunately for you, we know you are gonna buy more iPhones because you work for an iPhone forum. If it were me, that would be my last iPhone because the only power we really have is to not give them anymore money in the future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mbaturin Mike Baturin

    Wow such a strong contrast to my experiences with Apple. Even after AppleCare+ was introduced, I’ve had multiple out of warranty devices replaced for things as small as a piece of dust under the screen. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s shocking to me that they would accuse you of tampering with the phone. Even if it were the case, and a customer was trying to get one over on them, taking an accusatory stance can’t be the best approach, can it? I’m wondering if there is any path of escalation you can take – perhaps a note to mr. Cook?

  • Siobhan foster

    I got the iPhone 4 nearly 2 years ago, on my sons advice & pretty much fell in love with it straight away. To cut a long story short, I dropped my phone & it stopped working. My son assured me not to worry just make an appointment in an Apple store & I could get it fixed or failing that get a refurbished 1. Had that appoinent today & told them how I broke my phone & really needed it fixed. They took the phone away, only to come back a few minutes later to ask how I really damaged my phone, again I explained that I dropped it & to my horror I was accused of tampering with my phone as there was a part missing from it. I told the salesman that my phone had never been tampered with by anyone & asked him to get a 2 nd opinion, obviously this has never happened to him before & took him a few minutes but 2 other salesmen came over & said it had missing parts. I have never tampered with my phone & kept telling them this but was not believed & when I said it must be a manufacturing fault they told me Apple never make mistakes & they were 100% certain of this!!! I’m left feeling angry, let down & frustrated!!! Can anyone help me & tell me where do I go from here? Incidentally when he put my phone together again it worked, but the salesman said he didn’t know how long it will work for.

  • Sam H

    This just happened to me today, my iPhone 4S, under apple care warranty, had been dropped one too many times so it would no longer show the display. I bought my 4S brand new from the same apple store i went into and have had no other third party fix it or even look at it. They were the ONLY people to take my phone away from me since i bought it. When they came out of the back room they informed me that my phone had been tampered with and the serial did not match the serial on itunes. They insisted i must have taken it to a third party dealer but I know for a fact i have not. This is CLEARLY an issue on apples end that needs to be looked into.

  • Ezra Litton

    I recently purchased a “new” iphone 4 through my employer’s ATT Premier website. This site offers our company’s employeeds discounts, etc on ATT products. Well, the phone I received stopped working after only a few days. The phone wouldn’t charge and also the button wouldn’t exit me out of applications so I could view other screens. I called ATT and they said that I needed to take the phone to an Apple retail store for repair or replacement. At the Apple store, I was advised that the phone has been tampered with. Apparently there are components missing from inside the phone, tamper labels show the phone has been opened and the screen has been replaced with an unauthorized third party screen. Because of all this, Apple won’t replace or repair the phone. Incidentally, the charging issue is related to a connector on the batter that was damaged when said tampering ocurred. I was shocked and went back to ATT and they also won’t do anything and say I need to deal with Apple. So, I’m curious why ATT is either selling phones as new that are not, or why they are having unauhorized service / refurbishment done that violates their agreement with Apple. Oh, yeah, by the way the phone serial number is already registered to another iphone user – in Alabama. I reside in Texas.

    • Tina Homolik

      Same thing happened to my husband this weekend. Took his iPhone in because it was having technical difficulties only to find out that it has been tampered with and according to apple was sold in Memphis, TN and we live in Utah. My husband camped out for this phone at the AT&T store the night it came out so there is no way it could have been used. Or so we thought. So lost at what to do. Can’t really figure out if it is AT&T being shady or Apple? Any suggestions on what to do? I can’t believe there are this many people who have had a problem and nothing has been done!

  • Philip Brooks

    I remember the time when apple cared and would replace anything for free or close to it, because you were an apple customer and not Microsoft. Has the greed gotten too much, has it made them forget who put them where they are, YES. Surely the genius STEVE JOBS would understand.

    • Sandy

      Steve Jobs wasn’t greedy? Maybe his illegitimate daughter that he refused to recognize for years…or maybe Steve Wozniak could help you with that one =)

  • http://google.com Luther Beltran

    what I find most interesting is that itsnoted as such,.. I read about someone buying a phone Brand new and that happened to them too….. I think CHina is sending a signal to apple

  • JUAN

    THIS IS RIDICULES, IV BEEN ALSO ACCUSED BY APPLE THAT I HAVE TAMPERED WITH MY PHONE. MY NEW APPLE IPHONE 5 ‘ S MIC STOP WORKING AND I CAN HEAR PEOPLE BUT THEY CANT HEAR ME AND I SENT IT IN FOR SERVICE.. KEEP IN MIND I JUST HAD BOUGHT THE PHONE 4 MONTHS AGO PAYED FULL POP FOR IT. STILL UNDER WARRANTY. YET THEY GOT BACK TO ME WITH ” SERIAL NUMBER DON’T MATCH AND IT BEEN TAMPERED WITH” THIS IS BULLSHIT!!! SOMTHING NEEDS TO BE DONE!! WHY WOULD I TRY TO FIX IT MY SELF OR HAVE A THIRD PARTY PAY TO TRY TO FIX IT WHEN IM STILL UNDER 1 YEAR WARRANTY??? IV BEEN AN APPLE IPHONE CUSTOMER SINCE THE FIRST ONE CAME OUT AND ALL OF A SUDDEN THIS IS HOW YOU TREAT A LONG TIME LOYAL CUSTOMER???

  • Chris

    This is good (or maybe not) to hear other people are having similar issues. I just took in an iPhone 4S that I have had about a year and bought it new and never had an issue. My external speaker has been having issues, so I took the phone to an Apple Store. After opening the phone they said that the “logic board” was not Apple so they would not warranty the product. Of course there was no use in arguing, but it is a little unnerving to think that before I buy one of their products I should ask for the device to be opened up in front of me and have the internals verified before I leave a store. Yikes!

  • Joey

    Don’t get me wrong I understand how frustrating it must be to, one break your phone or have it malfunction and second have the apple store give you the run around when you expect them to accomodate you. But I would be willing to bet that 99/100 times the people are more than happy with their service at the genius bar (assuming they are like you and have legitimate claims). Apple has been more than generous with me and my Iphone “problems”. Since I was sixteen when I waited in line for what now looks like a big hunk of mangled metal, I have loved these phones almost to the point that it is absurd, preparing all year putting a little money away for the new phone that is going to come out. Since the first Iphone, I have had every model and them some, for every phone that I have bought it would eventually make its way out of the case and fall victim to the floor before the new Iphone came out the following year. Now including the iphone 5 I currently own that makes a total of 9 phones, 4 of them being replacements. In every instance save one, where the microphone stopped working on my iphone 4, I should have been denied and required to pay the fee. In addition to this I own a Macbook pro computer (roughly 5 years old) within 6 months of owning It, I fell on my skateboard slamming my backback into the pavement completely ruining the harddrive. I arrived at the apple store nervous and 100% positive I would be informed that they do not cover physical damage, but he looked at it and simply asked me what is wrong with it, I said it runs really slow and he took it in the back and said you need a new hard drive we will order one, replace it and send it to your house free of charge. Now for obvious reasons they have to try and create a zero tolerance policy for tampering with phones because it is simply impossible to guarantee that the problem was or is apple’s fault when it has been touched by a third party (not saying that yours was). Thus if there is even a slight chance that it could fall under this cardinal sin then they must turn you away. My point is that my Iphone 5 bent when I sat down and the mother board cracked or so I think and I am going to willingly pay the 229 to get it “replaced” because over the years apple has more than taken care of me and my poor attempts to keep things off the ground, I am more than confident that in all 5 of my encounters with the Genius Bar could have turned south quickly but they were on my side and found loopholes that they could book the problem under. Lastly please let this story of my clumsy hands show you that apple is not some bloodsucking vampiric company trying to bleed you out by nickel and diming you to death (thats your service provider :-p) but rather a company that has helped me and showed compassion to me when they had no reason too.

  • Lisa

    I recently took my iPhone 4s into an apple store because my phone would get extremely hot when I charged it & I suspected that the battery was expanding causing the shape of my phone to morph. They tested it and said that the battery was not warped or overheating and accused me of either “sitting on my phone or slamming it in the door” I proceeded to tell them that I never put my phone in my back pocket and WHY WOULD I SLAM MY PHONE IN A DOOR!!!!! I love apple products but I am definately not loving their customer service. I am re-thinking ever buying any new apple products

  • http://twitter.com/atechfreak Ketul Patel (@atechfreak)

    I am sure you must have tampered the device otherwise your serial number is available on the sim tray. From what I know of is that under the replacement program they give you a NEW DEVICE they call it “REPLACEMENT DEVICE” apple cannot and does not replace your device with a “REFURBISHED” device. “REFURBISHED” devices are sold separately. Let me assure you that APPLE warranty is the best warranty/replacement service WORLDWIDE. All other manufacturers repair the device and ship them back to you or replace the devices with refurbished or reconditioned device.

    • Allie

      This is not true. They do give refurbs, I have recieved 3 as replacements for a phone I bought new a year ago that didnt work. All the refurbs I got had issues very early on and had to be replaced…with another refurb.

  • Steve

    What you should have done was go back and blame Lillian for leaving her fingerprints in your iPhone and leaving a screw there too. She obviously did it…

  • Allie

    I am so sick of Apple! I bought a brand new iphone 4 a year ago and I dropped it within a couple hours of buying it,before I bought a case. I called Apple because I had an iphone 3 for 2 years and dropped that thing a hundred times and never had a crack and this one dropped a couple inches and shattered. I was so impressed with how great they were, they said I could send it to them and they would send me a new one for free…well not new…refurbished. Sucks to pay for a brand new phone and end up with a refurb but oh well. So I get the new one and it has issues with the volume not working after just a couple days. So I send that one back, luckily I still had my 3 as a backup while I waited. So I get a new phone back…but wait, nope not a new one…the same phone I sent them! They sent the exact same phone back to me and said they didnt see anything wrong. I was so livid I called and talked to a manager who was super nice and sent me, once again, another phone. This is the one I have had for almost a year. Well, about a month ago the speaker stopped working when the phone was on speakerphone during a call so I call and I am 4 days away from the 1 year warranty being up. I am told restore all settings and it will work, guaranteed. i was surprised they would guarantee this to fix it because how could they really know? Well this was just a ploy to get me off the phone and be someone elses problem because it didnt work. Shocker! So I call and I am told that because I dont live near an apple store, closest is 6 hours away, I can send it to them to look at and they will send me another and I will be without a phone for about a week, or I could pay a 500 deposit and they will send me another phone then I can send the broken one back then they will return the deposit. Sorry, but not trusting apple with 500 bucks. I was told that I could buy the apple care for 69 dollars for the phone and it would cover the price of them shipping me a new phone, I said sure do that so I dont have to wait. Then I get a manager on that says I was told wrong info and I couldnt buy the plan. Its like they just say stuff to make people shut up. I paid for a new iphone a year ago and I have now recieved 3 crappy refurbs. When will it end!!!

  • Juan

    After not giving up and insisting that I have never “tampered” with my device!!! Again why would I tamper with a brand new iPhone 5!!! Makes no sense i am not made out of money poeple…… Anyways after talking to 5-7 different “supervisors” I finally set up an app to take it up in person , I had to drive 3 hours to the nearest apple authorized store….. When I got to the store I told them I had an app set up to get my phone replaced, by the way when I recieved my iPhone back from the apple company in California I did not open it till I got to the actuall store in Person and I made the “tech” open it so I wouldn’t be accused of something else …… Ok so they took it back and came back with ” your phone had all the right parts , but looks like you dropped it the screen is all pixelly” I was like hahaha you must be joking……. So I asked why when I sent it in they said they found an ” unauthorized part”??????? And they said we don’t know???? And so I said we’ll I’m not leaving the store till I get a new one… And I don’t want a refurbished…. So they went back and came back with this ” ok mr.juan here is a new iPhone 5 , looks like the techs in California that you sent it to didn’t put the phone back together like they should have….. I was like whatever I’m not going to argue anymore so I just took the new phone and couldn’t wait to get the f out……

    The point is DONt let them feed you B.S!!!

  • Juan

    And don’t give up!! Keep talking to as many supervisors as possible and insist that you want a full replacement !!!

  • Mike

    I just came back from my local apple store and had a horrible experience, first time ever as I am a long time apple user and supporter.

    In January I had an issue with my iPhone5 and took it in, it kept searching for networks and would not connect. The Genius folk were unable to fix it and I was given a replcement phone in one of those small white boxes.

    Great, new phone and everything was working fine until 2 days ago, I could no longer hear people when they called me. I took in today and they told me my phone was tampered with and they can not replace it!

    I was speechless, the phone is in warrenty and I have no need to have others take a look at my product. I went on to explain this but to no avail, the manager said she could not replace it and the best she could do is send some pictures to Apple and I may have to go through Apple Legal to get this resolved.

    Customer service has always been great but this experience is making me question everything. If I have to now go and spend hunderds on a new phone, I don’t know what I will do.

    I wasn’t able to convince them to replace it – this is shocking to say the least.

  • Currygoat

    I had the exact same thing happen today. My Iphone 4 stopped charging and when I took it to the Genius bar they let me know that the phone had beed tampered with and they wouldnt cover anything. When I took it to the At&t store where I bought the phone they let me know that this wasnt the original phone and that it had been swapped somehow.

    I have never opened the phone or has it been out of my possession so its impossible unless my girlfriend did it while I was sleeping. Was forced to buy a new phone. What a hustle…

  • Justin

    Thank you for sharing this story. I, too, am now in a similar predicament. I brought my iphone 4s and charger to the original apple store where they were purchased, after the phone no longer charges correctly with their charger. The apple store technicians opened the phone and claimed there was an ‘unauthorized modification’ on the hardware, which I know isn’t true because I made no such attempt and nobody else has ever had access to it (except my cats…oh wait). What would you suggest that I do? I certainly don’t wanna buy another apple product after this episode, because what’s to say they won’t pull this again and screw me over?

  • Shelli

    It is a rotten situation. Apple have definitely closed ranks on this issue. I’ve written to the Head Office in Cork, Ireland and two months down the road, I’ve had no reply or acknowledgement of receipt of my letter. I’m now gathering evidence and handing it over to BBC Watchdog UK as well as Rip-Off Britain. It’s crazy that such a high tech company has no one to contact in charge of their retail. From what I’m gathering, it’s not the staff at the shops that are doing this as it’s happening all over the world. It seems to be originating from China, but it’s undermining all the trust and confidence that Apple has strived to achieve with their customer base. It may even take picketing the shop as adverse media attention seems to be our only way forward as Apple certainly hasn’t provided us with any. If you do go ahead with another iPhone, the shop should agree with taking you into the clean room where they can open it up and satisfy themselves and yourself that everything is at it should be. Good Luck!

  • stacy

    I am doing a bit of research to see if I am the only one that Apple is accusing of opening and tampering with their iphone and I am so glad to see that I am not. I dropped my iphone and cracked the screen. So feeling rather silly I ran over to pay $150.00 to replace the glass which if I may suggest should be made with a bit more durability.

    They told me that the repair would take 10 minutes but that they had to charge my phone to 50% of which it was at 20%. I left and returned an hour later to find that they were still charging. I thought it seemed strange but left again. The next time I returned they told me they could not fix my screen because my iphone had been opened prior and pieces missing. I explained that I had never opened it and it had never been out of my possession. They more or less, and really more, told me I was lying. I was not sure if I was more upset because I had purchased a defective product or because they were questioning my integrity and loudly in a crowded Apple store.

    They then told me that I had not purchased the phone from Apple and it was not authentic. I was stunned. I went to one of their computers and brought up the receipt. They finally had to acknowledge that I did indeed purchase from Apple but insisted my order was not in their system.

    They insisted there were finger prints in the phone. I told em to print me, because I guarantee they match someone from the factory where it was built and not me. I was treated terribly with one of the assistant managers giving me very loud and nasty ultimatums.

    When they handed me the phone back, they had destroyed the display, which had been fine when I brought it in, but now had squares running all through it. After a lengthy discussion I had to purchase a re-furbished phone because now, if broken glass and missing pieces weren’t bad enough you couldn’t see anything.

    2 1/2 hours later I left defeated and disgusted. How can a multi billion dollar company get away with sending out defective merchandise? There was no way to know that pieces were missing without removing the cover, so had I not cracked the glass I would’ve never known. How many people have the same problem? I would guess millions or perhaps hundreds of millions.

    I have taken this to customer service and although there is a lovely young girl looking for a resolution, which to me is a brand new phone with all of the pieces, I am not optimistic.

    I failed to mention, I own a macbook pro, macbook, ipad, 2 iphones and 3 ipods in my household. Wouldn’t my value as a customer seem worth more than replacing my defective phone. It costs them nothing to manufacture the phone so to replace them seems like a very reasonable request. In a month when the “5s” comes out they won’t be able to give away the “5’s” anyway.

    I know this is a long post and I plan on posting it over and over until someone at Apple acknowledges that there is a problem and that is is not the customers.

    • Shelli

      Get the media involved. If enough Apple shops get protestors with placards parked on their steps, they may finally take responsibility.

  • Jorgen

    I brought my Son’s broken Iphone 4S to the Apple store 4 weeks ago – and had it replaced out of service paying them 200$ for what was supposed to be a new replacement phone. I have an extended warranty from squaretrade.com which covers everything that can go wrong – breakage – water damage etc. so they reimbursed me… (great warranty). Well one month later the screen stops responding in certain areas and I bring it back to the Genius department at the local apple store with my Receipt (they give me 90 days warranty). Guess what – they refused to fix or replace the broken phone – claimed it had been tampered with ‘Clearly you must have attempted to fix the phone yourself. I asked the manager WHY?? Why would I ever attempt to fix anything on my own or open a supposedly brand new phone when I still have a 90 days warranty from apple AND 2 more years on my extended warranty? It did not help – they told me to buy a new phone… Apple Support absolutely sucks….. But squaretrade.com is great – then sent me a second replacement phone and told me this happens quit often!!!

    • Shelli

      It is diabolical how their customer service closes ranks on this matter. I think a little public humiliation could go some way in getting Apple to listen. I plan on standing outside the Apple store here in Glasgow, nearer to Xmas, with a big sign saying that they are selling tampered with iPhones. BEWARE!!! I’m even warning their European Head Office with a copy going to Cupertino, Ca. They must listen. Good luck.

  • Asiangem

    I don’t use Apple stores to buy the iPhone — instead I buy them directly from my cellphone provider, Verizon and pay for their $5 monthly insurance by Asurion. They charge $149 for any replacement of lost/stolen iPhones and never argue with you when you lost/stolen iPhone. Maybe you should consider checking your cellphone provider to see if they have a replacement insurance policy and only go through them when buying your next iPhone. When its lost/stolen iPhone, there is no arguments that it was internally opened up by you. I think Best Buy may have a replacement policy but I’m not certain.

    • Shelli

      I really appreciate your comments and your attempt to help. Firstly, we’re in Britain. There are no Best Buy shops here. Secondly, the phone is unlocked and is on a, “Pay as you go” basis. We don’t use the phone enough to justify a contract as the signal can be a bit hit and miss where we live. My point is that something is very wrong with the Apple system of phone tampering at the moment, and Apple needs to sort it out so that they remain a trustworthy company. My case is just a symptom of a disease that Apple have. They need to act so that it doesn’t become a pandemic.

  • Saigon nguyen

    *Just to vent my own frustrations for people who are not sure if they are the only ones”

    I live in California and I am currently having an issue with my lock button not locking when i press it. I bought 2 iphone 5’s back in october and both of them have the same issue. I went to the Fashion Island Apple store in southern california. The technician looked at my phone for 2 minutes and said cause of the scratches he wants to take it to the back to open the phone and look at it. He came back after 5 minutes and said that they cannot repair or touch this phone because its been tampered with.
    My phone is still under warranty and I can take a polygraph test to prove that i am not a con artist or in anyway so desperate as to spend the time to tamper with my own phone and then schedule a genius bar appointment after work just to “CON” them for a free phone.
    I am a consultant for various companies that have purchased a high dollar amount of apple products. My clients have trusted me with the configuration, transport and troubleshooting of apple products that are a 20 times the cost of this one iphone 5. For me to be accused of fraud and to be treated like a crook was absolutely insulting, especially in a public. I am at the point where i am more interested in proving the flaws in apples own customer service than in actually getting this lock button fixed.
    If apple was to say that i tampered with my phone, they should be able to prove it and show me. Now that they taken my phone in the back and i have no clue what they did with it, I question what other things they were doing with my phone in there own back area.
    I do have a planned course of action to prove that some of there own staff members do have there own flaws, whether it be racism or a flawed tamper policy.
    Apple needs to understand that when statements like this are made, you are attacking a persons character and without solid proof you have broken a trust system that cannot be healed.
    I do not want to purchase apple products and have to chronilogically have to record my issues so that there is no doubt in apples mind that I am honest. I have already paid for there product with my own hard working money and I have never committed any type of fraud at all. I do honest work and the companies i work for can vouch for it. Whether apple is aware of certain employees of theres that do this or not, I dont know. I want all honest customers to know that this is not how anyone should be treated if you follow the strict guidelines of there products warranty service. We should be able to see what they are doing with our phones if they are going to make such a bold claim because there is no way you can go back now and say your phone has never been taken apart.
    There is soo much more i want to say but if anyone has any ideas on how I can make my message more clear please feel free to reach out to me.

    • Asiangem

      Go to change.org and start a petition which you will get so many signatures to have the our congressman sign a new law against abuse like this! With your personal experience posted on change.org — so many people will sign your petition that it will force a new law to protect other consumers who have had the same experience!!!

  • Catherine Riddle

    I am having a similar problem and was so happy to find this blog because I thought I had gone crazy or maybe I was being too bitchy but I can see that if there is a serious problem with an iPhone Apple doesn’t seem to want to back their products. Crazy! I was told by my cell phone carrier that because they are Apple they can do what they want. I bought the phone through Sprint and Sprint won’t backed the phone either stating it’s Apple’s issue. I’m at my wits end with these corporations. I own several Apple products they all work fine I have a problem with one device Apple turns their back.

  • George

    As owner of a small trucking company and father of 9 I’ve come to love apples warranty program, until today!

    I preordered my wife’s iPhone 5 and within 2 months after receiving it had lock button issue, I took it to the apple store and was happy to receive a new refurbished phone, but today while still under warranty I’m having the same issue so I return to the apple store where I’m told that they cannot cover or service my warranty stating the phone was missing liquid indicators and had non apple parts inside it, after segueing with the manager for nearly an hour my wife and I left the store very disappointed and confused, neither of us had ever modified or tampered with the phone in any way, I called AppleCare and an investigation is under way, I will let you know what happens!

  • aj

    I know this story is over a year old but this exact thing happened to me. I bought a brand new iPhone 5 in October of 2012 with Applecare attached. Over the course of the year I dropped the phone a few times on concrete, there were dings all up and down the device which eventually stopped working. I take it to the Millenia Mall location for a quick in n out swap under Applecare only to be told it was tampered with. I never opened the phone a single time and they accused me making me feel like a crook for trying to get service that I paid good money for. I eventually got it replaced after 2+ hours of waiting on the store leader who never even showed (or should I say was never told I was waiting on him – cause he wasn’t even there). they lied to me about the store leader being available to talk with if I waited. All it was was the batter got dislodged inside it and flipped over. Tampered with my ass. one of the drops clearly knocked some shit around inside (accidental damage?) They wouldn’t show me though…or bring the pictures out. Long story short I got it replaced after enough complaining, but if I wanted that kind of experience as a customer Id have gone to Best Buy or the likes.

  • Jack

    I went through hell. I opened my iphone and because of this didnt apply for out of warranty replacement.

  • Lolly

    So glad to find this page as I am going through this right know!!!! I bought a brand new iPhone 5 just as they first came out and after a few months the silent switch was stuck and was very difficult to move so I called and asked to have this rectified. They wanted me to give up my phone for 7-10 days with no replacement and I fought and fought and said no way as it’s an issue from their side, not mine. They eventually agreed to get a courier to come collect my iPhone 5 with the switch issue and as the courier collected that he gave me a new/refurbished (?) iPhone 5 from Apple. I live IN Ireland and we don’t have Apple stores here so we have to deal with everything this way.

    So anyway I was thrilled and thought great a proper iPhone 5 with a working silent button. Funny but after less than a year major battery issues started happening and my phone would hardly stay charged for even a few hours. It would often shut down randomly too. So when I was in the USA for Christmas I took it into an Apple store in Atlanta to ask about these issues. They were very helpful and ran diagnostic tests on my phone that showed that my battery was in the lowest 4th quadrant meaning almost no life left in it!?! This phone was only just over a year old – how could that be? They tested my husband’s iPhone 5 and his was perfect.

    So I begrudgingly agreed to pay $79 to replace the battery as my phone was almost useless as it currently was. so he took my phone off to their señor technician to change the battery. About 20 minutes later the guy comes back out and said I’m really sorry but we’re not supposed to work on iPhones that have non-Apple parts in them and your screen isn’t from Apple! He said the technician had known immediately as he saw my phone that the screen didn’t look right and when he opened it up there was no serial number on it like all the other parts. I was furious and my husband and I stood there totally bewildered? We are total Apple fans and have every single Apple product, gadget there is. Total advocates. But this floored us. We both knew that my iPhone has never been touched or worked on by anyone so this was the exact phone Apple had sent to me as a replacement for my original iPhone 5. The plot thickened.

    So the sales guy there (a Manager) was lovely and felt really sorry for me and he said that they aren’t supposed to do any work on iPhones with non-Apple parts but because he’s already agreed it with me he got the guy to put in a new battery and he’d give that to me for FREE. Thought that was very nice but also wondered was it a way to hopefully keep me quiet?

    Since the I have been on the phone to Apple and for the last few weeks have been having phone and email conversations with a Senior Applecare Advisor in the USA about this. He has been very helpful and accommodating but said he’d need to get an engineer involved and as I am in Ireland with no Apple store the best thing I could do was to email photos of my iPhone screen but to be honest they need to see the inside where there is apparently no serial number! So anyway I sent the photos and he emailed back that the engineer in Cork (Ireland) had looked at them and thought they looked perfectly fine and was confident it was an Apple screen. Well then, I’ll just shut up about it? NO. Does he not understand that an APPLE EMPLOYEE TECHNICIAN who PERSONALLY EXAMINED MY PHONE has already told me that there is no serial number on the screen and that it is not an Apple part so I don’t really care if some guy sitting behind a computer in Cork says?

    So now I’m left in a quandary. There are no third parties in Ireland AT ALL who are authorised by Apple to work on/open/repair iPhones. There’s a few around that are authorised to work on iPads, iMacs, iPods, etc but not iPhones. Now why is that? A bit suspicious. So I have no way to open my iPhone to photograph the screen inside and prove what is there now. My only option would be to drive 2 hours to another country (Northern Ireland) to the Apple store there and let them look at it. But what happens if I spend €70 in gas money to do that and I get nowhere?

    This is all beginning to look like a total inside job to me with either Apple or at least their trusted official repair companies using non-Apple or dodgy parts?? Do the engineers in their shops just not know about this and therefore are genuinely clueless and assume if a phone comes back in and they open it up to find issues that it must have been the customer up to something?

    Apple in Cork (the closest customer care centre to me) want to collect my iPhone to examine it thereby leaving me with no phone for a week or so (unacceptable). Then the engineer expects that he will be returning that same phone to me? When I’ve been told by Apple that the screen is a non-Apple part how the heck does he think he can return that to me? I want a new phone, not a dodgy replacement again!

    Anyone else here have any updates/resolution on their situations?

  • HQ

    Old news, but might explain why so many Apple customers had to face these issues:
    http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/08/18/apple_accused_of_selling_refurbished_iphones_as_new_in_china

    So if the devices have been tampered with, then the chances are that the store employees may have a hand in this shoddy affair. Whether Apple knows about this or not, they have a responsibility to protect their customers.

    By the way, I live in the Mid-East and there is absolutely no replacement for phones (non-Apple at least) that have been damaged due to water or been dropped. We have to buy new devices upfront. Talk about consumer protection. :P

  • Courtney

    I thought that my situation was just an isolated event because of how ridiculous it was, but it’s even more ridiculous of how many others have had this issue. I got the iPhone 5 when it first came out and in less than a year the lock button stopped working, so I got a new one, my current one, under warranty. I dropped my current iphone in water about 4 months ago and stuck it in rice and it worked perfectly fine afterwards. Just this past week, my phone has turned off by itself to the point where I can no longer turn it on or charge it. I took it to the apple store and told me the exact same thing. I thought the problems were the result of a delayed reaction to water damage, but they told me that it was only slightly corroded and that someone tampered with my phone. They said that because a serial number within the hardware didn’t match that in the system that they couldn’t do anything to fix it, and I would have to pay $269 for a replacement. I tried to tell them that my phone never leaves my side and that it was impossible that this could in anyway my own fault. When I tried to tell them that I had gotten a replacement before and that it could’ve been the fault of the “genius” who had given me the replacement, they were persistent in placing the blame in everyone other than themselves. I’m taking it to another apple store for a second opinion.

  • Shelli

    Apple know that there is an issue with their replacement program, but they have not officially acknowledged the problems. The Apple store I went to here in the UK still denies that anything could possibly be wrong because of their “stringent quality controls”. But when I went to an Apple store in Palm Gardens Florida, they told me that they knew about the problems and were addressing them, quietly. At the moment, it seems that Apple are content with leaving bewildered loyal customers bewildered, especially as there are no avenues for recourse. Shame on Apple.