Am I going to get a refurbished (refurb) iPhone 4 when I sent mine to maxis, which is the telco who has the rights to sell iPhone in Malaysia? This is perhaps the number one question in everyone’s mind. The issue with refurb is that there may be scratches, dents and the most major concern: old batteries i.e. your refurb unit will not last as long as a brand new one.
Let me share my experience and observation.
Some background – in Malaysia, we don’t have an Apple Store nor a Genius Bar, so we can’t just walk in to get an Apple employee to look at problems with our iPhone. Everything is done through our telco, and the tech support people supports all sort of brands – Nokia, Blackberry, Samsung, etc – their role, based on my observation, is to confirm the problem, open a ticket and pass the hand set to the vendor to repair or replace.
Apple’s warranty states clearly that Apple has a right to replace the handset with a new or ‘like new’. I think that ‘like new’ means refurb.
I got my iPhone on 10 Nov and after 2 weeks of use, I discover that my Home button is acting up. Single click sometimes registered as double click and thus, it opens up the multi tasking tray, instead of going to the Home page or quitting the app as the expected behaviour of single click. It happens once a while, difficult to replicate and demonstrate and it’s just a slight annoyance. I contemplate whether to live with it or return it back to maxis for a replacement.
One of the most nagging question is will I get a refurb when my phone is replaced. What’s wrong with a refurb? Many people told me that the refurb goes through even more vigorous QC and usually works much better than the newly minted ones from factory. Look at the amount of issues that was reported on those new iPhones – yellow banding on the screen, patches or spots on the screen, proximity sensor issue, speaker problem, microphone problem, etc. These so called factory assembled handsets could also potentially give problems. So a refurb is no different, some say.
On the other hand, how many people actually have problems with their new hand set. Very low percentage as well. With this thought in mind, I decided to take my chance and get over the annoyance after about 40 days of using and living with it.
I went to maxis Taman Tun Dr Ismail. I told the tech support about my Home button issue. He reset the phone to factory default and tried to simulate it. After trying for like one minute, he was not able to reproduce. I told him that it is intermittent and I was struggling with myself on taking to maxis for repair. He took my word for it and log in a ticket. He said that normally, if he’s not able to reproduce it, that means likely the vendor whom they returned the handset to will not be able to replicate. In normal cases, the vendor will deemed it as having no problem and returned the handset but he’s going to log the ticket as him having seen the issue and that I will need a replacement. I believe he understands the annoyance and that sometimes we are not able to replicate intermittent problem.
His supportive nature and ease of getting a replacement in fact caused me to be suspicious. I asked if I will be getting a new one and he said yes I will. It is Apple’s policy to replace with new, he said. I doubted it.
I have a friend who works in supply chain. Her expertise is to fine tune process of managing returns and replacement. She said it is going to be very costly for a company to replace a new equipment for every defective item. It doesn’t make economic sense for the company so many of them implemented reverse logistics. Wikipedia: “Reverse logistics is also referred to as "Aftermarket Customer Services". In other words, any time money is taken from a company's warranty reserve or service logistics budget one can speak of a reverse logistics operation.”
3 working days later, I received a SMS from maxis. My replacement unit is available and I could go collect it from the Center. I went there and saw the tech support guy took a unit from their store. It came in a bubble wrap packaging with a “void if opened” silvery seal. He opened it and gave me the phone. It came in the two transparent hard plastic that covers the front and back. It looked new to me.
Looking at the serial number though, it starts with 5K043yyyA4T. The iPhone that I had had a serial number of 85043xxxA4T. Both yyy and xxx are different number. Many people in the Internet claims that a refurb unit starts with 5K. However, one Apple employee publicly stated in Apple discussion forum that 5K does not necessarily means refurb. This is one of the most debatable thing in the Internet and no one knows for sure.
I have a suspicion that mine is a refurb. However, what I am holding looked really new. No scratches or dent. Battery, after 2 days, is as good as the new iPhone I got in Nov. No problem with screen, speakers, mic, camera. When I went to Apple website to key in the serial number to check the warranty, to my surprise, the warranty ends on 23 Nov, 2011. The phone that I had, the one with the Home button issue, have a warranty that ends on 10 Nov 2011. This supposedly "refurb" phone is newer than my iPhone!
At the end of the day, as long as it worked, I am happy with this decision. Today is just the second day. Let’s see how it is in the next few weeks.
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