State of the Mac

Fred Morris likes Macs. He liked them enough to buy an original Mac Plus back in the day and a Special Edition iMac later on. Neither machine ever gave him a problem. So when it came time to buy a new computer in 2006, he didn’t hesitate to pick up a brand-new 20-inch iMac Core Duo. But this time, Morris ran into trouble.

Seven months after he bought the iMac, it started spontaneously shutting down. For a while, things would be fine after a reboot. But then the spontaneous shutdowns started coming with greater frequency—every four or five days. After Morris made a couple of visits to his local Apple Store, the Apple folks scheduled his iMac for a power-supply replacement. But that didn’t help. So he returned to the Apple Store, where both the power supply and the main logic board were replaced. Two days later, the iMac shut itself down again—and this time, Morris couldn’t get it to power back up.

He turned to the AppleCare support line, where he was able to run through his repair history with an upper-level service representative. Morris asked if he could simply get a replacement, and that’s exactly what the rep agreed to—two days later, a FedEx shipping label and a box arrived. Morris used them to return the dead iMac. Three days later, a brand-new iMac—a slightly newer model—arrived in its stead.

“My tale of Mac woe turned out to be as woe-less as one could hope,” Morris told Macworld .

Morris’s misbehaving iMac is not at all typical—but his satisfaction with Macs in general and with Apple’s customer service certainly is. At least, that’s the conclusion we came to after surveying more than 5,000 Macworld readers about reliability and satisfaction.

We conducted the survey because reports do occasionally surface about Mac problems—yellowing cases, faulty batteries, and flawed displays. But how can those reports be put in context? How widespread are the problems? Are they happening to lots of Mac users or a vocal few? And how hard is it to get them resolved?

So with the help of market-research firm Karlin Associates, we sent out surveys to the Macworld Reader Panel—a pool of thousands of Macworld readers whom we regularly poll about issues of interest to the Mac community. We received responses from 5,129 panelists, who gave us feedback on the 7,167 Macs they use as primary Macs at home and work. (Survey participants could select primary machines for both home and the workplace—that’s why there are more Macs than respondents.)

About four out of five Macs owned by our survey respondents got top marks for satisfaction. An equal percentage of those Macs earned similar scores for reliability. And when troubles did flare up, more than 60 percent of Macs that had problems received top-notch service. (We summarize the survey’s findings on satisfaction and reliability, repair incidents, and quality of customer service on the next three pages of this article, but you can also download a PDF of the reliability survey.)

That Mac users love their computers will come as little surprise. And that Mac laptops and desktops are pretty reliable machines won’t raise too many eyebrows among longtime Mac users. But it should be very comforting to learn that when problems do happen, Mac users can generally count on high-quality service.

It certainly was a comforting discovery for Fred Morris. “Apple didn’t have to replace my iMac,” Morris says. “They certainly weren’t obligated to give me a better model than I returned. Nevertheless, they did—and made this longtime Apple customer damn glad he stayed with them.”

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