While the lawsuits over IP infringements and slanging matches over IOS versus Android platforms continue, my recent experience illustrates that despite the arguably superior Android-based ASUS tablet product offering (now superceded by the updated Transformer Prime), with its incredible battery life of up to 16 hours with the attached keyboard dock, onboard USB host ports and card readers, not to mention a UI vastly more flexile than the iPAD’s scaled up iPhone experience, what sets Apple ahead of the the crowd is the customer service one receives when things inevitably go wrong.
The sinking feeling one experiences in their chest when a much-relied upon device stops working is an emotional event. When one is then informed by the device manufacturer’s support hotline that although the only failed item is the device’s AC charger, the entire device must be sent interstate in order to access a warranty replacement for the charger, the sinking feeling is quickly replaced with red-eyed rage.
One’s rage is amplified when told that the process will take a minimum of 7 business days, and of course any data on the device will be very likely wiped in step-one of their diagnosis. The service representative at one point even told me to perform a factory reset on the device right then and there, which not only wouldn’t have helped, but would have deleted all my data which he’d not thought relevant enough to tell me. Thankfully I’m not your average user, so I pointed this out, but the rep didn’t acknowledge my point that they should really tell customers they’re about to lose all their data before saying “hold down the power and volume buttons”.
Were this an Apple device, I’d have walked into one of the several Apple Stores within twenty-five minutes’ drive from my location, presented my device for an on-the-spot diagnosis, and been handed a new charger right then. I’ve had this experience with an iPhone. Accustomed to HTC service, I expected my device to be taken from me and sent to some distant workshop, returned to me after several weeks either inadequately repaired, or replaced with a reconditioned device which hadn’t been as well looked after as my own. To my surprise, the Apple Genius replaced my screen right there and then, and two years later my son now uses that same device which is going strong.
Unfortunately the Transformer isn’t an Apple device, and either through inexplicably poor go-to-market planning, or simple contempt towards their user-base, ASUS have made replacement AC chargers as unavailable to Australians as Apollo Moon-rocks.
Since purchasing my cherrished Transformer, I knew charging would eventually become a problem. As Apple understands very well, information device purchases are soon followed up with various accessory purchases as users consider the various usage scenarios they’re likely to encounter. With the Transformer, due to its requirement for a minimum of 11V delivered via the propriatory charger, in-car charging lacks an easily purchased solution. User forums such as XDA-Developers (the font of knowledge for all things PDA Phone-related since HTC’s first PPC device rocked the world), abound with threads discussing user-built or modified charging adaptors, in response to astonished pleas by new Transformer owners for a charging solution.
These pleas are extended by a seemingly growing number of users who, like me, have discovered one day out of the blue that the very small charging brick, prone to over-heating, has ceased to function. Most users would then have no choice but to return the entire device to the ASUS service centre (in Australia, only their Sydney office can apparently work with the Transformer), and revert to pens and paper for their business meetings until their device is returned.
In my case, thankfully, I was a already aware of the Transformer’s charging requirements due to XDA-Developers threads, so I knew that a $30 universal charger with a USB interface from Jaycar would also do the trick. I’m now writing this post on my Transformer, freshly charged no thanks to ASUS Australia, who’d have had me twiddling my thumbs while they wasted everyone’s time wiping my data before bothering to simply plug in another charger to see if the simplest and most likely point of failure was to blame.
We become emotionally invested in these devices which we buy to make life easier. Many clients and co-workers have ooh’d and aah’d at my Transformer which allows me to bang out detailed meeting minutes on the excellent keyboard (sent directly to participants before I leave the room), show off broduct brochures and even present Powerpoint slides on the fly.
As someone who’s often asked (professionally and personally), which devices I’d recommend for various things, these are items which I consider in my answer. A killer product isn’t enough – you need to back it with customer-focussed service and a decent product distribution model so your product owners don’t have to feel that sinking feeling when they realise they are going to have to send their device away somewhere. That’s exactly why after owning five HTC pocket-pc devices, I eventually migrated to iPhone (despite the loss of some much-loved flexibility). Sending their devices to Queensland for service (as was necessary then), simply isn’t compatible with business use, and wasn’t worth the emotional turmoil.
I hope ASUS eventually realise customer service is the second half of a killer-product equation.
- Are Android keyboard-enabled tablets ready for business use? (codenix | blog)
- The Swift Rise And Sad Fall Of The Asus Transformer Prime Android Tablet (techcrunch.com)
- Finding your Asus Transformer Charger suddenly doesn’t work – what to try first! (transformerforums.com)