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My 9th iPhone in Less Than 3 Years



Late last week I got my eighth and ninth iPhone.  I bought an iPhone the first day they went on sale back in 2007, an iPhone 3G the next summer and an iPhone 3GS last year. The other six were replacements for bad apples.

My most recent visit to the Apple store was prompted by a bad camera sensor. Starting about a week ago, my the view through my iPhone’s camera looked like it had a red filter on the lens. The above photo is the last one that I took with iPhone number seven.

I made an appointment to meet with a Genius at the Palo Alto Apple Store.The Genius offered to swap out my iPhone 3GS for a remanufactured one. While he was activating my new iPhone 3GS he told me about how remanufactured iPhones get new batteries and are meticulously inspected.

A few minutes later I was out the door and got in my car. I tried to sync my new iPhone 3GS with my car so I could call my wife, but the Bluetooth connection kept failing.  I dialed her number and held the iPhone to my ear. I immediately noticed a hum, similar to the 60Hz hum you hear when fiddling with home audio equipment. When she answered my call she couldn’t hear me, but I could hear her. I tried a second and third time with the same results. I tried calling my dad and it was clear that he couldn’t hear me.

I went right back to the Apple store.  After waiting for about 10 minutes spoke to the Genius who helped me the first time. He confirmed that my 8th iPhone was a dud and replaced it with what would be my 9th iPhone.

I have mixed feelings about getting two new iPhones within half an hour. I felt relieved that I had a fully functioning phone and appreciated the friendly service I received. On the other hand, what’s up with Apple’s meticulous inspection process? I’ve had a total of six replacement iPhones in less than two years and eight months of ownership. The first-gen iPhone was the buggiest and I was treated to three replacements. I think a new phone on average of every 3.5 months is a pretty poor track record by any measure.

I have had a love/hate relationship with my iPhones. I don’t think I’ve ever had a device (or series of devices) fail on me with such regularity. On the other hand, I really enjoy the iPhone’s UI and ecosystem.

My biggest frustration has been lackluster voice and 3G performance, but these regular trips to the Genius bar are starting to wear me down. The Geniuses I’ve dealt with have generally been very helpful.

iPhone buyers are generally required to sign up for a two-year AT&T contract, but the iPhone’s warranty is only good for a year. I don’t think it should be too much to expect hardware to last longer than a few months if we’re expected to have it for the length of the contract.

I haven’t run into an out-of-warranty repair since I’ve opted to upgrade to a new model for each of the past two years, but I’m sure that many people are. In fact, a lady that was next to me at the Genius Bar last week was told that her iPhone couldn’t be replaced because it was 15 months old.

In January I picked up a T-Mobile SIM card to use with my old Blackberry Pearl so I could place and receive calls when I couldn’t with my iPhone. I guess I should pick up a more robust smartphone to stand in for my next iPhone hardware failure.

You can read about how a lemon MacBook Pro was replaced after failing three times a little over a year ago at over at

Have you ever had to deal with so many returns on a single device or series of devices like this? Or do I have an Apple curse?



  1. Barwin

    03/08/2010 at 5:16 am

    Jump to Androïd I say! Not that these phones are indestructable but at least you got a choice…

  2. TateJ

    03/08/2010 at 7:48 am

    My Iphone had been chugging along just fine for over a year. No hardware problems and only had to reboot it once. Sounds like I got lucky.

  3. Absolutely NoOne

    03/08/2010 at 8:31 am

    I’ve had so many hard drive problems, it isn’t even funny.
    I already had to have the pen for my tx2 replaced, after only having the thing one month.
    BUT, I had an AT&T 8125, a phone with a bad track record, for two years without a single hitch or reboot.

  4. Scott

    03/08/2010 at 9:08 am

    Perhaps the ghosts of dead PowerMac 5260’s and 5500’s are haunting you….

    • Xavier Lanier

      03/08/2010 at 9:17 am

      That is a strong possibility. Whenever I tell devout Apple fan boys about my woes they don’t believe me. Some of them say it may have something to do with my Apple gear being surrounded by so much non-Apple gear.

  5. Dave

    03/08/2010 at 9:56 am

    so, should I get an iphone?;)

    • Xavier Lanier

      03/08/2010 at 10:19 am

      Like I said, I have a love/hate point of view on the iPhone. It’s the best phone I’ve had in a lot of ways, it’s also the worst phone in a lot of ways.
      It’s going to depend on how the AT&T 3G signal is in your neck of the woods and your mobile needs. I carry a Blackberry as a secondary phone these days.

  6. BurningOrange

    03/08/2010 at 11:23 am

    i had to replace my first iphone 3g because of a defective capacitive digitizer. the brand new replacement has a small problem (wakes up on strong accelerometer signals) but otherwise has been with me for two years now.

    however, in comparison, i’ve had windows mobile (htc magician and htc hermes for those who know) as well as countless pda’s since the palm III, and the iphone was the first time i’ve had to return a gadget for replacement.

    i have the same love/hate relationship with the iphone as xavier. but i’m a pc at heart and can’t wait for windows phone 7.

    • Xavier Lanier

      03/08/2010 at 12:00 pm

      It’s funny how many PCs (including Microsoft employees) carry iPhones. I am also anticipating the Windows Phone 7 series, but wonder if it’ll end up being the answer PCs are hoping for.

  7. Dr. Macenstein

    03/08/2010 at 1:13 pm

    It’s part of Apple’s plan to get you back in the Apple Store.
    – The Doc

    • Xavier Lanier

      03/08/2010 at 1:23 pm

      That thought has crossed my mind more than once- especially when the Geniuses are running behind and tell me to feel free to browse the store while I wait.

  8. Fleon

    03/08/2010 at 3:38 pm

    Have taken my iphone back a couple times, as well. Mine is now out of warranty and is having problems. I’m just going to limp along until someone else comes out with a decent phone.

  9. Bainbridge

    03/11/2010 at 12:44 am

    I think it stinks that you had to have your phone replaced as many times as you have had to. I have had to have my Iphone replaced a few times. I am so glad I purchased the apple support. I can say after owning 20 different smart phones in the past 10 years my iphone is the best and you can’t beat Apple’s service or replacement of bad apples! Dealing with a genius vs ATT or Sprint or T-mobile or with Palm/HTC/Samsung is heaven compared. My palm and blackberries had to replaced many times, the software was terrible as for google phone all I have heard is terrible things from friends who have one of them. Apple has a few challenges but nothing like other companies and the support can’t be beat!

  10. Ree

    03/12/2010 at 4:47 am

    I’ve had my iPhone 3G since July 2008. Never had to return/service it. Feels a bit slow now when the 3G S sets the standard though.. :)

  11. quick

    03/12/2010 at 11:09 am

    Kinda off topic, but how is it you are replacing your iphone so many times, is under some manufacturer warranty, or do you pay for some protection plan/insurance with AT&T, just curious.


  12. Brett Gilbertson

    03/15/2010 at 3:45 am

    I also have a love hate relationship with the iPhone.

    After 6 months my 3GS is looking very tired. The stupid proprietary charging / docking connector is falling apart internally and my charger sits in crooked. I had some apple fan tell me that the iPhone is very rugged and I must be doing something wrong of course!

    I am on the three network here in Australia and network roaming is impossibly slow. Sometimes up to 5 minutes to find a new network where a Nokia N71 (same place, time and network) takes 20 seconds (Three roams to Telstra which has extremely good coverage).

    The honeymoon is definitely over.

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