How Apple Repairs iPhones

They do it very well. Recently, the on/off (aka “sleep”) button of my iPhone started acting weirdly. It didn’t work sometimes. Other times, it triggered multiple times. It actually seems like a common problem and there are lots of crazy homebrew solutions on YouTube. But since I still had warranty, I decided to send it in.

And BOY was I impressed. Apple gives you two options – you can either send it in by yourself or you can let Apple send you a paid-for shipment box. The first one is faster, the second one is more comfortable. I decided to use the paid-for shipment box. It’s a great piece of design. The box itself looks actually very good, not unlike the box the iPhone is sold in. It improves the quality of the experience but I wouldn’t get persuaded by such details if they were all just superficial. What surprised me is that the box came with an entire manual that explained exactly how to ship your iPhone. The manual includes very precise, step-by-step instructions. It is written in different languages and the instructions actually even differ from country to country because shipping is sometimes handled differently.


The black box is actually the box the iPhone came back in. The shipment box was almost the same but white. Also included was a bigger cardboard box with padding to put the smaller, good-looking box in. Again, may be over-the-top but it communicates the concept of “security” pretty well.

An entire manual seems over-the-top but it’s not. Shipping a broken device is a very unpleasant experience. The customer has a lot of questions on his mind. What’s wrong? How long will this take? Do I have to send in the cables? Will they just repair it or replace it? What happens when it arrives and I’m not home? It’s a situation where the customers feels very insecure. Pieces like a well-designed manual communicate that the process is something the company has put a great deal of thought into. They help re-establish a trust that things will turn out to be fine.

In this case, they did. I sent the iPhone in on Monday. It came back the same week in Thursday morning. It’s a new device. I can’t remember if I ever had a service issue solved SO quickly and SO well. I didn’t even have the time to miss the device. It pretty much blew my mind.

It seems to me like Apple thoroughly embraced making sure the service experience is as pleasant as humanly possible. It’s a well-known but seldom-practiced wisdom and I’ve posted about it before. Customers will always judge a company by the worst experience they had with them – The Moment of Truth. An effective way for a company to win the loyalty of customers is to invest in the least pleasant part of the user experience. The ironic thing that this strategy works because it genuinely creates a fair and humane service. The best way to appear sincere is to actually be sincere. You can say a lot about how Apple is full of crap and how they are too expensive. But experiences like that really show that all the disadvantages can be worth dealing with.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

6 responses to “How Apple Repairs iPhones”

  1. Thomas

    I had to send in a Nexus One for a similar issue. Since Android uses memory cards and cloud syncing, they just sent me a new phone overnight, and I swapped over to it, then sent the broken phone back in the same box. Granted, the box was less attractive. But no downtime! I was very impressed.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Sound awesome! My Girlfriend has a Nexus One. I hope things will go equally well, should it somehow need repair.

      But let’s face it: the best phone is the one that doesn’t break in the first place.

  2. Wiley Wiggins

    I went into a local store back when my first gen iPhone had a bunch of stuck pixels, and they handed me a new (assumedly refurb) phone within a few moments. Double-plus-good experience. The only slightly irritating part was having to make an appointment to come in, but once I got there it was frictionless.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Problem is: I live in Germany. There are just two Apple stores in the entire contry (Frankfurt and Berlin). Where I live (Cologne) there are just resellers and their service is typical German style – it sucks beyond repair. :(

  3. Alvaro

    YES ! Thats apple, great service. I had a problem with an iPod 2nd gen bak in the day once and exactly the same procedure they send a box and you get it back in like 3 days.

    What do you think about tomorrows announcement on the iPhone 4 problem and the antenna. Its kind of annoying having calls dropped. I imagine that they didn’t have any idea of the problem until they began to ship the units to costumers. Think about it, all iPhone 4’s outside Cupertino where taken in cases, so there was no direct contact with the iphone outer edge, so avoiding having the problem. What about inside Cupertino? … well AT&T has a bunch of antennas to boost signal at Apple campus, making it harder to detect it. Just my personal thoughts.

    About the announcement probably a quick fix-visit-apple store send it in kind of deal. A recall? hummm … $$$$ … too much. But who knows, we will find out tomorrow.

  4. One A Day Picks of the Week 12th – 18th July « rudderless

    [...] crew have suffered¬†unusually bad press of late, but Krystian Majewski was quietly impressed with how they repair iPhones. Siobhan O’Dowd, the woman who set up the ‘RIP Raoul Moat You LEGEND’ Facebook [...]


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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