Apple Tech Support Trials Begets Better iPhone Headset + License Woes

It’s been quite a while since my last post due in large part to my dead MacBook Pro. Perhaps, unstable would have been a better choice of words as my trusty 15″ developed a very nasty power issue where it would just randomly power off without warning. The instability made it impossible to do any serious work and the ensuing extended service call forced me to rely mostly on my iPhone for keeping up with the happenings of the internets. Our household has other systems but they were all taken up by end-of-school-year projects or dedicated for other uses…or were Windows-based. While Safari made the Windows work slightly bearable, I found living in an all-Windows world (for personal use) to be a less-than-stellar experience (and, I’m a very experienced 3.1 through Vista user & developer).

It took three visits to the local Apple Store – over the course of 8 days – to finally get my machine back. Two logic board swaps and keyboard + top cover replacement later and my MBPro feels like new again. I definitely want to give kudos to the team at the Alderwood Mall Apple Store for doing everything in their power to get me back up and running. While a loaner Air would have been nice, the techs did a good job giving me updates and making things happen as quickly as Apple processes would allow. If you haven’t had to deal with Apple support, they really do an excellent job between online scheduling, in-store attempts at problem resolution and speedy return of items in repair. Even though this fix took a while, they definitely showed they cared at every step of the way.

Service Generates Sales

During the course of those three visits I had a great deal of time to hang at the Apple Store waiting to be processed by a Genius (scheduled times can be off a bit as they do make every effort to fix problems right there). Staring at the walls of Apple-compatible products, it was difficult to resist the urge to buy…everything. I did manage to successfully leave twice without a single purchase, but one item caught my eye: the Monster® iSoniTalk™ Microphone Headphone Adapter for iPhone

From one of my earlier posts, you should know that I’m ever on the lookout for the best accessory for the job when it comes to my Mac’s, iPhone or iPod. While the Shure adapter reviewed in that post has done a great job, it is far from an optimal product. The headphone cable is extended way too much and the weight of the cable + mic is a bit much for the clip to support well.

While I generally find Monster products to be overpriced and not always better than their “normal” counterparts, the iSoniTalk has some definite merits (and a few detractions). First, you can find it online for close to $10.00 USD, which is significantly cheaper than the Shure counterpart. Second, because of the combination jack & extension you do not have to deal with a ton of extra cable to manage. Third, there are built-in clips along the adapter cable which make it very easy to manage the cable from your existing headphone sets.

Lastly, the mic + clip + button combo control attaches securely and works very well (not nearly as sensitive as the Shure, which for me is a good thing). I probably should mention that sound quality for music and calls is not impacted in any negative way by the adapter.

There are a few “gotchas”, however. The same jack + extension dongle combination can be a bit unwieldy, especially if you use any type of case with your iPhone. It just doesn’t hold in as well given the overall size of the unit. The actual cable itself could use a couple of inches as it comes up short to most headphones I own. One extra clip near the mic would also be nice in the event you just want to use it without talking.

I’d have to definitely recommend it over the Shure on price and convenience, but I’ve only had it a few days and would really like to hear from TAB readers on your experiences with the product.

Hardware-tied License Woes

While Apple managed to get some additional hard-earned cash out of me from my free repair (1-year warranty FTW!), my support saga continued with the annoyance of hardware-based software licenses. At least two products on my system – iTunes and launch2net tie themselves to data that is specific to the logic board of the system they are installed on. I had to burn an iTunes activation (no time to deal with Apple online support just now) and e-mail the customer service folks at nova media to deactivate my old launch2net code from their database. This should serve as a notice to consumers to ensure you deactivate your hardware-specific licenses prior to service (if possible) and a plea to developers to find an alternate mechanism to secure software purchases. nova media may have lost a future upgrade sale since Leopard works fine with my 3G modem without their software and I do not need the hassle of waiting 3 days for tech support to reset a license. I understand Apple’s constraints, but they should make it easier to manage authorizations online rather than the “reset all” feature once per year.

If you have had similar experiences with license woes post-repair or want to provide data on software that you use which ties itself to hardware, definitely drop a note in the comments.

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