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Apple Changes Stance On Water Damage Policy 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the customer-is-occasionally-right dept.
tekgoblin writes "It appears Apple has changed its stance on whether an iOS device is actually water damaged. If you remember when the 13-year-old girl sued Apple in December, it was because her iPhone's moisture sensors had gone off and Apple voided her warranty. Those sensors have also been triggered by simply exposing the phone to low temperatures. Now Apple says that if the moisture sensors are red but the customer disputes and says no liquid has come into contact with the device, the warranty may still apply."
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Apple Changes Stance On Water Damage Policy

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  • Awesome! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday January 31, 2011 @05:52PM (#35061408) Homepage

    This will save me a lot of money on dry cleaning.

  • Unreliable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Monday January 31, 2011 @05:59PM (#35061480)

    Now Apple says that if the moisture sensors are red but the customer disputes and says no liquid has come into contact with the device, the warranty may still apply.

    In other words, the sensors are unreliable.

    • Escape clause (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lead Butthead (321013) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:05PM (#35061538) Journal

      the warranty may still apply

      In other words, nothing has changed; it is still at their sole discretion if they wishes to honor the warranty.

      • Re:Escape clause (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:26PM (#35061734) Journal

        No, something has changed. Previously a tripped moisture sensor would be grounds for an immediately voided warranty, now they'll take other points into account (presumably including, but not limited to, whether there is any other evidence of liquid damage, how convincing the customer's story is, how good a mood the manager is in that day, how attractive the customer is, how much fuss the customer kicks up, and the proximity of that day's lunch break).

        • by MobyDisk (75490)

          I have to clarify: There is no such thing as a voided warranty. This is a misunderstanding of you rights.

          Suppose the warranty says "This warranty will repair any damage due to improper workmanship." Or maybe it says "This warranty covers damage that is not the result of user negligence such as immersion in water, fire, ..."

          When you bring in a phone that was drowned and immolated they can refuse to replace it. They didn't void the warranty: they followed the warranty. A warranty is a legal contract. If y

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by interkin3tic (1469267)

        In other words, nothing has changed; it is still at their sole discretion if they wishes to honor the warranty.

        Or maybe someone realized that nothing works 100% of the time and maybe they shouldn't deny 100% of the claims where the sensor is red and the language is reasonably updated to reflect that.

        Or to be even more cynical so as to be more of a karma whore, this undoubtedly means that apple updated their TOS to where if you send your phone in for warranty repairs, they'll keep it if it has water damage. They're trying to encourage more people to send in their phones so apple can put them in pillow cases and beat

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          But if it isn't 100% reliable then it is useless. You would have to look for other signs of water damage or call the customer a liar; either way the sensor is of no value.

      • by Eivind (15695)

        It always is - until the point where somebody sues them.

        Anyone can ALWAYS say: "we don't cover that".

        At which point your options are: a) accept it. b) sue them.

        There's not really a realistic third option in most cases. Well, you can stop buying from them offcourse, but that doesn't force them to honor their warranty.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      In other words, at low temperatures condensation becomes a problem. Many modern electronic devices have heating circuits built in to prevent condensation, portable devices for obvious reasons do not.

      • Right. So it's unreliable. It's supposed to detect the thing getting dunked in a liquid, but instead it detects ambient humidity. It's unreliable for what it's intended for.

      • by vegiVamp (518171)

        > Many modern electronic devices have heating circuits built in

        Electronic devices have CPUs, film at eleven :-)

      • by Cytotoxic (245301)

        Here in south Florida we have the same problem. There are no untriggered moisture sensors on cell phones or other portable devices in South Florida due to the high humidity. After some initial resistance years ago, the companies now honor the warranties without real trouble - at least for us. But we have a million dollar telco account so maybe our experience is a little different...

    • by Meski (774546) *
      But if the app store says it has the golden shower app downloaded, then the warranty's void.
  • Moisture sensors (Score:5, Informative)

    by Microlith (54737) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:00PM (#35061486)

    The funny thing is those papers are used in semiconductor bulk packaging to serve as a warning, not that the parts are unusable due to water but that a pre-bake may be necessary to drive water out that entered the packaging as a result of ambient humidity.

    So yeah, anything that involves thermal shifts resulting in possible condensation can set these off while not harming the phone in the slightest. I don't know why anyone thinks these are in any way reliable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because it used to allow Apple to reject a warranty claim when they should honor it...mainly because they could BS their way into saying they were infallible before all of this... It's all about the Benjamins, you know.

      • Re:Moisture sensors (Score:5, Informative)

        by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:36PM (#35061800)
        I know this is about Apple, but Nokia has (or had) the same policy. I know this from first hand experience with a damaged 5160 about 6 or 7 years ago. They also try to void your warranty of you change the face plate...
      • Yes, and nobody has bullshitted their way into getting Apple to repair their iOS device after they dropped it in the toilet/pool, claiming they didn't. This is in response to people abusing Apple's warranty.
    • by causality (777677)

      The funny thing is those papers are used in semiconductor bulk packaging to serve as a warning, not that the parts are unusable due to water but that a pre-bake may be necessary to drive water out that entered the packaging as a result of ambient humidity.

      So yeah, anything that involves thermal shifts resulting in possible condensation can set these off while not harming the phone in the slightest. I don't know why anyone thinks these are in any way reliable.

      A co-worker of mine has a waterproof phone. He can literally immerse it in a sink of water, hose it down, take underwater pictures in a swimming pool, etc. with no concern about damaging it. I forgot what model he has, but it was not particularly expensive.

      I doubt it would be infeasible for Apple to just make their iPhones waterproof like this. It should be easier than worrying about all of these unreliable sensors, defending against a lawsuit, and dealing with angry customers who expect warranty serv

      • Re:Moisture sensors (Score:4, Informative)

        by newcastlejon (1483695) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:31PM (#35061770)
        Setting aside the problems of maintaining the aesthetics while keeping it waterproof, I'll concentrate on one essential aspect of the iphone: ever notice how the touchscreen doesn't work when the screen gets wet?
        • by adolf (21054)

          That's an issue with many (most? all?) capacitive touch screens.

          My Motorola Droid acts the same way. In the summer, when it's hot out and I'm sweating like a pig, I keep it in a tightly-fit vinyl pouch to keep the touchscreen responsive. The rest of the year, it does just fine in my front pocket without any additional protection.

        • Doesn't work, or goes a little haywire (drop of water on my phone's screen had my lock screen sliding what seemed to be 4 ways at once). The fun of electrical current and all that jazz. Makes me wonder a bit how it actually really works, never really delved into it at all (yes, /., I am aware there is a Wikipedia article present, I'm too lazy to go there and/or click a link to get there right now).
        • Setting aside the problems of maintaining the aesthetics while keeping it waterproof

          I bet that issue is keeping the GPs co-worker up at nights.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        I bet it doesn't have a normal headphone socket though. There is no way to waterproof a 3.5mm jack socket.

    • by astern (1823792)

      Agreed, I've torn apart a fair number of iphones and the "sensor" (protip: it's a paper dot) had been triggered and the phone had NOT seen any liquid water.

      Hell, hot breath would void an applecare with those dots. At the very least, this is a positive move for the customer.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      And why do you think those bulk semiconductor parts need to "pre-bake" after being exposed to moisture instead of just being used immediately like, for instance, you might do with a phone that's already powered on?

  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:02PM (#35061512) Journal

    Translation: Our useless sensor is about to lead us into nasty litigation that will likely void our warranty-evasion scheme, so we better open the door a little bit.

  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:08PM (#35061566) Homepage Journal

    I know the cell phone companies (including Apple in this overgeneralization) are a bunch of greedy so-and-so's, but a quick perusal of the stories at (The Customer Is) NotAlwaysRight.com will show why the Water Damage excuse is rather valid.

    Such as, the borderline fraudulent:

    Why Contracts are a Gazillion Pages Long [notalwaysright.com] ...

    Me: "Thats right, but there are conditions, one being that the phone cant have any liquid or physical damage. I need to check for that."

    Customer: "Fine, here."

    (When I open up the phone, it stinks of alcohol.)

    Me: "Sorry, this smells like it has alcohol on it."

    Customer: "Oh, well, I dropped it in the sink and I know you wont fix it if it has water damage, but I didnt have any ethylated spirits, so I soaked it in vodka for 2 days to dry it out."

    And then, the just stupid:

    Beefed-Up Technology [notalwaysright.com]

    (I was a customer at a cell phone store, observing the following exchange.)

    Employee: "Im sorry sir, but your phone has water damage, which isnt covered by the warranty. You will have to purchase a new phone."

    Customer: "Thats ridiculous! I havent gotten the phone wet!"

    Employee: "Have you used the phone in the rain? Sometimes, thats all it takes to get the internals wet enough to damage the device."

    Customer: "Well, yes, but that doesnt make any sense! Cows are in the rain all the time and they dont die!"

    Employee: "..."

    Me: *interjecting* "Sir, cows arent electronic devices."

    Customer: *storms out*

    (Fair warning, though... My Ghostery plug-in shows a whopping 18 web-watchers on that site. No wonder it won't come up on my phone. Or maybe it's the water damage.)

    • by sjames (1099)

      The first one is bordering on fraud, the second is what a reasonable person would call "normal use" for a portable device. It's not like they couldn't anticipate that someone might get caught in the rain one day. A penny's worth of sealant could solve the problem. Perhaps they should have designed and/or built it better.

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      First example, fair enough. I don't know about the second, though; the customer was clearly a moron, but that doesn't change the fact that one could make a very reasonable argument that a mobile phone which fails in the rain is not fit for purpose. Obviously there isn't enough detail to know for sure - if they left it out in a monsoon then I'm certainly not blaming the company for the phone's failure - but the reasoning sounds dubious.

      • Right or wrong, love it or hate it, this is one of those places where Apple has chosen to do things differently in a manner that not everyone will agree with. Every phone I've had included little rubber dongle thingies to cover the power port, headphone jack, etc. Until my iPhone 4, which had none of them.

        I was talking to a friend while walking through the rain, and thinking, "Gee, it's good I have the headphones, or I'd get some severe water damage to this thing." While I initially started to curse A
        • by jrumney (197329)
          My latest HTC has all the USB and headphone socket open to the elements (SIM and SD socket are behind the battery, power is via USB). One I had 4 years ago had the rubber grommets, which as you note fall off quite quickly if you use them, but are quite good for sockets you never use. I never use the headphone jack on my current phone, as I have an iPod for music, and Bluetooth for handsfree, and being on the top of the phone, it is quite exposed to rainfall so a grommet would have been useful.
          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            Jack connections are standardized, as are many other connection types. Wouldn't it be possible to get something "generic" to close those gaps?

        • So basically, you are saying that apple just fucked you over and over with the iphone, and you are still calling other phones crap!?! Bravo!! Bravo!!

          • Not at all. They made a phone that clearly shouldn't be out in the rain, so in rainy weather I keep it safely in a pocket and use my headphones and voice dial.

            The other phones supplied rain covers, but since they break off with any level of use, they are actually just an illusion of protection; in real-world usage, they're no more useful than no covers at all.

            With the iPhone, I don't have the ugly broken covers poking out on all sides; I wish there were a better option for keeping the phone well seal
    • Some years ago, my original-version iPod Shuffle had an unfortunate meeting with a cup of coffee. The music playing functions didn't survive the event, IIRC because the battery got toasted, but it still works fine as a USB memory stick. Of course, a gigabyte of memory stick was a lot bigger back then than it is now, and I suppose I should try to hack something interesting with the remains.

      Many years before, my Palm Pilot III had a similar misfortune, and the falling cup of coffee also took out the backup

    • by mark-t (151149)

      Actually, cows *ARE* electronic... well, electricAL, at least... all mammals are. The voltage levels are miniscule, but they are still there, and they are the means by which our muscles are forced to contract, and are even involved in the very thoughts that we think.

      It would probably be more correct to say that a cow's electrical architecture is simply much (!) more tolerant of the presence of moisture than typical consumer electronics devices are. We only started making consumer electronic devices in

  • by xTantrum (919048) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:10PM (#35061580)
    So im sure to get modded off topic but i'm reading /. on my 3GS right now and this new layout apple does not like. For some reason i can never see the top story. The title is always half cut off by the /. Masthead. wtf?? Its also unbelievably slow to load the page and safari seems to have a hard time fitting the content to the phone display so who am I to sue in this case, Apple or cowboy neal? ----sent from my ipho
    • I have an iphone 4 and it has the same problem with the top title being cut-off.

      Speed is just fine.

  • So, what Apple is saying, never take your iDevice anywhere, because we don't believe you that you didn't get it wet.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The problem with LDI stickers is that it just shows that the sticker was exposed to liquid. At the unnamed cellphone provider I work for failing a phone for a tripped sticker if they have insurance won't fly. We have to find corrosion or other signs of liquid intrusion on the circuit board.

    But seriously people. If you use your phone in extreme conditions and it fails, that is not something that should ever be covered under a warranty. I love how they are saying that the LDI's aren't fair because if you us

    • by sjames (1099)

      Given some conditions that have triggered the stickers, if they actually indicate conditions the phone can't cope with, they should withdraw it from the market. A humid day in NYC can set it off. A cold day in a major Canadian city can set it off. Just imagine all those stupid people who for some reason thought it was safe to remove a portable electronic device from the box and (GASP!) carry it around with them. The shame!

    • I love how they are saying that the LDI's aren't fair because if you use the phone in -20C and then go inside they can trip.

      Isn't the point here that you simply carry the phone in -20C and then go inside, and it trips?

      And -20C is not uncommon temperature in some regions where a lot of people live, you know. Russia commonly has a few weeks of that every winter, and I'm not talking Siberia here, but Moscow and whereabouts.

      • by fluffy99 (870997)

        No the point is that using the phone in temperature and humidity ranges conditions that Apple themselves state are acceptable may trigger the LDI dots. If being near a sweaty body is a problem, then they should stop advertising the ipod to people who run. Otherwise that's false advertising and the product is not suitable for the purpose for which it's being sold.

        • by fluffy99 (870997)

          I hate talking to myself, but I thought I'd post the ACTUAL SPECS from http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs.html [apple.com]. Unfortunately exposing the iphone to conditions within these specs can result in the LDIs turning red.

          Environmental requirements
          * Operating temperature: 32 to 95 F (0 to 35 C)
          * Nonoperating temperature: -4 to 113 F (-20 to 45 C)
          * Relative humidity: 5% to 95% noncondensing
          *

          • Ah, lovely - so iPhone is unusable outdoors whenever (and wherever) it snows. Good to know.

            • by Splab (574204)

              They are kinda like the Danish trains, they also only seem to be operating in the spring and early fall.

          • Well, that rules Florida right out. Summer high temperatures are commonly >95 degrees F, winters can get below 32 degrees F, summer relative humidity is 98% frequently. And going from summer heat to a building instantly makes that 98% relative humidity condensing.

            iPhone users in Florida (and similar states), be warned. Apple doesn't want their products used by the people.

      • by Petaris (771874)

        -20 C is -4 F, Thats not uncommon in WI, MN, MI, ND, probably a good part of the NE states, and even lower sometimes.

        It seems like a ridiculous spec for a mobile phone.

    • But seriously people. If you use your phone in extreme conditions and it fails, that is not something that should ever be covered under a warranty.

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but an iPhone is a cellular telephone, right?

      I'm just wondering. If it is, then it needs to handle temperatures and humidity that a cellular telephone might normally encounter.

    • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Monday January 31, 2011 @07:25PM (#35062248)

      "I'm a cellphone tech at one of the US Big 4" ---

      Guess what -20C is BAD for your electronics.

      My data center is held at constant temperature and humidity for electronics. I DON'T intend to stay in a data center to use a phone. In Alberta, Canada it routinely gets to -30C (as it did this morning in fact) and I expect the phone to work. Did I say, after it thaws out? No I meant in -30C weather.

      You know what's BAD for a car engine? -30C
      You know what's BAD for plastic? -30C
      You know what's BAD for plants and animals? -30C

      Sure its not good but it should still work.

      • by russotto (537200)

        My data center is held at constant temperature and humidity for electronics. I DON'T intend to stay in a data center to use a phone. In Alberta, Canada it routinely gets to -30C (as it did this morning in fact) and I expect the phone to work. Did I say, after it thaws out? No I meant in -30C weather.

        Don't buy an iPhone then. It's only rated to operate down to 0C. Below -20C, it explodes, leaving a puff of vapor which forms into Steve Jobs's head, laughing at you.

      • by chiguy (522222)

        You know what's BAD for a car engine? -30C
        You know what's BAD for plastic? -30C
        You know what's BAD for plants and animals? -30C

        Sure its not good but it should still work.

        Plants and animals generally don't "still work" at -30C. Only very specialized plants and animals do.

        If you purchase a pack of alligators to pull your Iditarod sled across Alaska, not only are you operating them outside their design specs, the clerk has every right to deny you a warranty replacement when yours dies.

        You should use specialized, extra-insulated alligators. But they aren't mass produced, so they cost more.

  • What I don't understand, is how Apple can get away with using the "moisture" sensor to void all warranties. If the damage was likely caused by moisture, sure, but I've heard examples of Apple stores refusing repair of broken buttons or other defects that clearly are not related to water in any way.

  • by caitsith01 (606117) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:21PM (#35061702) Journal

    What I love in stories like this is the implication that Apple actually gets to CHOOSE when the warranty applies. This is wrong for at least two reasons:

    1. You have private rights against Apple which you are entitled to enforce.

    2. You have statutory rights which Apple cannot simply declare to be null and void.

    On #1, you have the right to hold Apple to the warranty and to the contract of sale. Depending upon how it's expressed at the time you buy the device, the mere fact that a little sticker changes colour does not mean that Apple gets to unilaterally walk away from its obligations to you any more than you can unilaterally alter the terms of the warranty or agreement yourself.

    On #2, in many places there are statutory warranties which do not give a flying fuck what Apple's opinion about a little sticker is. Again, they are likely to depend upon whether the device actually was damaged by the user through misuse, or whether it was in fact designed or manufactured in a defective way. Obviously these rights varies by jurisdiction.

    The common thread is that Apple's arbitrary statements of "fact" do not in any way affect your right to have a defective product repaired or replaced, or to obtain a refund. The fact that a sticker changes colour does not somehow alter reality to mean that you did drop your device in a glass of water when you didn't, any more than a device which has been carefully half dipped in water would lead to a refund simply because the sticker hasn't changed colour.

    I also wonder whether Apple implying that it is their random declarations of policy which determine whether you have refund rights might not be illegal. Certainly under Australia's new Australian Consumer Law it will be a serious offence to make false or misleading statements about what rights consumers have, and as of 2012 goods will be required to include a statement from the manufacturer confirming the consumers rights under the legislation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    is a droid that understands the binary language of moisture vaporators

  • I dont know about AT&T's smartphone insurance, but when I got mine from a nameless company that rhymes with Lint, the person at the store actually told me "If it fails due to water damage, dont tell us, dont bring the phone in, call the warranty number and say the phone was lost, you'll just have to pay $50 for a refurbished one, but they wont flat out reject the warranty".

    But, I know some providers wont insure smartphones, because they're so "Expensive". And if you're worried about data...remember th

  • I dropped my original iPhone in the tub. I was taking a soak and reading/answering emails -- one of those hell weeks where I was working around the clock and getting 45 minutes of sleep a day, if I was that lucky. I dozed off for a minute and startled back awake, and had let the bottom of the phone drop into the water. It was dead, dead, dead. I tried drying it out with desiccant, but no luck. It had *not* triggered the sensor (it was still pure white). I was honest though, took it to the store and to

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      They replaced it with the 3Gs for $100 and a re-up on my AT&T contract.

      that is the normal rate for a new phone
  • Environmental requirements

    * Operating temperature: 32° to 95° F
    (0° to 35° C)
    * Nonoperating temperature: -4° to 113° F
    (-20° to 45° C)
    * Relative humidity: 5% to 95% noncondensing
    * Maximum operating altitude: 10,000 feet (3000 m)

    So, do you k
    • by meerling (1487879)
      didn't expect it to screw up the post like that, didn't look screwed up in the preview either.

      op temp 32 to 95 F, 0 to 35 C
      non-op temp -4 to-113 F, -20 to 45 C
    • by isj (453011)

      Right now where I live: 1C and 97% relative humidity.

      The important thing about humidity is that it is non-condensing (i.e. not raining) and that the temperature of the device is kept above the dew point (otherwise water condenses on and inside the device). So:
        - dropping it in the bath tub: bad
        - using it in fog: bad
        - taking a cold device (eg. 5C) from the outside to the inside where the temperature is higher but relative humidity is also high: bad

      • by Cimexus (1355033)

        And outside right now here, it's outside of the official operating conditions too. Currently:

        Temp: 38 C / 100 F (outside operating range)
        Dewpoint: 3 C (giving a relative humidity of ~10%, which is OK but not far from outside acceptable range)

        Having said that I've been using my phone outside all day and I don't think anything bad is going to happen to it. It's on the cold/moist side of things that you might trip the sensor, not the hot/dry side. I wonder what the maximum operating temp is set so low for actu

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      I would say that you would only be able to use your device about 70% of the year in the average U.S. city based on those requirements. Do they stop charging you for service in the winter as well? Somehow doubt it.
  • What is a 13 year old doing with an iPhone? Does she even have a job? Are her parents aware of the ongoing worldwide economic crisis? Don't they know how difficult it is for us practical parents to keep telling our kids that they can't have what is essentially a toy until such time as they are old enough to need one and can take care of it properly?
  • They refused to fix my 3GS.

    I had only the bottom sensor tripped and this was due to having a long call AFTER getting out of a jacuzzi and having a rather sweaty head. Still, it at least gave me the motivation for taking my iphone apart and scratching away at metal bits inside it until it started working again.

    This is the one issue that means my next phone will be Android.

    • They refused to fix my 3GS.

      I had only the bottom sensor tripped and this was due to having a long call AFTER getting out of a jacuzzi and having a rather sweaty head. Still, it at least gave me the motivation for taking my iphone apart and scratching away at metal bits inside it until it started working again.

      This is the one issue that means my next phone will be Android.

      Because now you know how to fix water damage when your Android phone maker will refuse a warranty repair because of water damage.

  • this is my experience with apple: i have a debilitating medical condition not dissimilar to chronic fatigue. it makes me severely lethargic and has impacted my life greatly. i am currently on disability. i also have a late 2006 macbook pro which i use logic on. it heats up & shuts down so to prevent that i put a casserole dish of ice under it. hey it works. anyways one night i had extra ice so i threw it in my trash can which has a plastic liner. i never throw liquid in a trash can like that but due t
  • So not only was Apple the only company picked on for this wide-spread warranty void practice - they are also bashed when they are the only ones hinting at changing something.

There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"

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