updated 09:00 pm EDT, Wed September 5, 2007
iPhone price drop redux
Many users are fuming over Apple's substantial 33 percent price drop (of $200) on the 8GB iPhone just a little over 60 days after the product was introduced; it has left hundreds of thousands of users, enthusiasts, and other customers wondering whether Apple was just gouging its faithful customers when it priced the popular device at $599 and $499 at its launch at the end of June. Early adopters of the device helped make the iPhone the most popular smartphone in July. At least one reader claims to have been able to obtain a refund of $161--the difference in price minus a 10 percent restocking fee--even though it was outside Apple's standard policies. The refund policy offers price protection for any product purchased within the last 10 days and requires users contact the company within 10-days. Dozens of other unconfirmed reports of refunds have also surfaced (and here) on Apple's own support forums.
Most users, however, seem to be out of luck with thousands of anti-Apple threads appearing in various forums, including Apple's own support area. The company's 14-day return policy allows users to return products for the full price minus a 10 percent restocking fee, effectively allowing users to trade in a 4GB iPhone bought within the last two weeks for an 8GB version and still save $160. Apple stores contacted by MacNN staff reiterated that they would only honor a 14-day period for refunding the difference and that customers who bought outside of that window would be "out of luck." The stores, however, confirmed they were not officially told of the price drop until about 90 minutes after the keynote and were selling the device for $599/$499 up until that point.
Although unconfirmed, a few users have reported receiving Apple store credits for the price drop, the offer of Apple hardware equivalent to the price drop, and other innovative price compensation from the Apple Store online, corporate customer relations, or Apple's customer service center. Apple remained mum and refused to provide any comment on the matter.
Earlier in the month, Apple offered refurbished iPhones for a $100 discount and is now selling the 4GB iPhone for $299.
AT&T officially providing little relief
Most users who bought the phone from Apple's mobile network partner AT&T appear to be out of luck as well, although some are reporting success. The telecom giant's retail sales representatives also expressed frustration saying that Apple's stringent OEM terms forced them into shortening the traditional 30-day window on its returns to 14-days.
"Unfortunately, we are not able to offer returns or price protection on any Apple product beyond the 14-day Window," one store manager told MacNN when asked about Apple's 33 percent price cut. "I'm sorry but even as a store manager I am unable to do anything but sympathize. A $200 price drop in two months is a lot waive in front of customers who purchased the device."
Despite similar stories from at least three retail store managers--all of whom asked to remain anonymous--some AT&T customers claim to have received up to a $200 credit on their bill -- of the few ways the company can circumvent Apple's unforgiving return/refund policies. Postings to Apple's support forums indicate a few success stories by calling the telecom giant's customer service.
In the past Apple has compensated early adopters of its products by giving users a credit at the Apple Store. In April of 2006, Apple have early adopters of Aperture, its management software for photography professionals, an e-coupon of $200, after it dropped the price by the same amount (from $499 to $299).
Apple has continued its aggressive policy of deleting anti-Apple threads from frustrated customers: hundreds of users report that their posts had been deleted, while one reader claimed in thread that Apple support staff had deleted over 2,200 posts over the course of the day. Dozens of readers and posts around the Web have called on users to provide feedback on their iPhone, to their Apple retail stores, to various media outlets, send direct emails its CEO Steve Jobs, and call various consumer agencies.
Although most iPhone users have been voicing frustrations, some have chalked up the "over-priced" purchase as an experience or as price of being an early adopter. Apple has traditionally not cut prices on its products, but usually offered "upgraded" or improved products at the same price points, so the unusually early price drop came as a surpriese to many and many users indicated that they would likely avoid purchasing new Apple products at launch.
"Apple didn't really fix the bugs in the the iPhone software until the end of July, so the early adopters not only paid $200 too much, they were beta testers," one reader wrote. "The second update in mid-August was also a bug-fix and improvements. Where are the feature updates they promised us?"