So, on Friday afternoon, I went back to the downtown San Francisco Apple store, iPhone and receipt in hand. This time, the line was much shorter. And I had much more fun.
"I'd like to return this," I said, as I reached the check-out counter.
"The iPhone?" said the decidedly hip-looking twentysomething in the iPhone T-shirt. "Why?"
"I can't bear the network," I said.
"I'll have to take you upstairs," he replied.
[Gulp - Ed]
It seems that if you walk into an Apple store and ask to return an iPhone, you're hauled off to the in-store "Genius Bar." Presumably, one of the local geniuses tries to talk you out of it, giving you clever solutions to all your problems. But the genius I spoke to was at a complete loss.
"You're not happy with AT&T?" he said. "OK. You can return it."
The official policy at both Apple and AT&T is that you can return the iPhone within 14-days of purchase. If the box is unopened, you get a full refund. But if not, you pay a 10 per cent restocking fee. A 10 per cent restocking fee? Are they kidding?
Of course, I still had to cancel my wireless plan through AT&T. But that was relatively painless. As luck would have it, I'd signed up for a prepaid GoPhone plan that could be shut-off at anytime. I was stuck with nothing more than the activation fee and a single monthly payment. In all, I paid only $111.87 for life without an iPhone.
Standing there in the Apple store, as the decidedly-hip twentysomething handed me a new receipt, I couldn't help but ask if anyone else had returned their iPhone. "Yes," he said. "Several people have."
"Did they say why?" I asked.
"Little reasons," he said.
"You know," he said. "They're all upset because it doesn't do some tiny little thing that their old phone could do."
"Oh, I don't remember," he said. "Small things." Which seemed to sum up the problem. The iPhone is a worthwhile purchase if you're interested in doing the things that Apple wants you to do, if you're interested in doing the things that everyone else is doing. But you aren't given the freedom to do things your way. That's true where the wireless network is concerned - and it's true with the software. If you value your sense of self, returning the iPhone is far more satisfying than using it. ®