Hey Apple, Why So Kafkaesque?

How an Intractable Bug Ended My Relationship with Apple

How I feel as an Apple customer
Kafkaesque: Situations in which “bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation.”

All relationships with this much passion eventually end. I know that. I just didn’t expect this one to end the way it is. I was so in love. I fell so hard ten years ago. And everything was great for so long. But then, all of a sudden, apparently because of a musical obsession, she changed. I could no longer install apps. And that was a deal-breaker for me. I’ve given her until tomorrow to change, against my own better judgment. I know it’s over. Things haven’t been good for months, since at least early July. I hate to admit it but I’ve been seeing someone new these past few weeks. And she’s an Android! What else could I do?

Allow me to rant for a minute, will you?

Here’s the crux of the issue: The Apple ID I use for apps, music, movies, and TV shows is broken. It’s broken in a way that prevents me from using it on iOS devices (it works fine on the desktop and Apple TV). What’s so disappointing is that it’s been broken for months. And Apple can’t seem to fix it. They’ve tried. They’ve replaced my iPhone. They’ve run me through just about every troubleshooting permutation you can think of. I’ve spent literally dozens of hours on the phone with them. Three visits to the Apple Genius Bar for a total of 8 hours there. I’ve been patient, even hopeful. No longer. We all know the definition of insanity.

Because I need a phone that “just works,” I switched to the Samsung Galaxy S6 two weeks ago, hoping against hope that it might just be temporary. Apple now has one day left to fix it before I can no longer return the Samsung. (That experience has been mixed at best. But that’s a whole other post. For now, I’ll just say I agree with Walt Mossberg that Google should make their own smartphones.)

I sit here wearing my Apple Watch, typing this on my MacBook Pro, looking at my iPad and my Apple TV, my three Airport Expresses, and I think about the enormous expense of leaving the cozy Apple ecosystem. All that music. All those movies. All that hardware!

It’s ironic that the thing that made me an Apple devotée is the thing that appears to be pushing me away: (Apple) Music. Like so many, I first discovered the wonders of the Steve-Jobs-era Apple through the iPod (Classic) circa 2004. As an engineer and a music lover, I marveled at the design. And how it just worked. It wasn’t long before I was hooked. I even became the only lawyer at my firm who used a Mac in the office. I waited in line for the first iPhone. I bought the first iPad and several more since. And, like I said, I have the Watch. These products used to “just work.”

My Apple ID problems appeared to coincide with the release of Apple Music and iOS 8.4 in early July. Apple Music never worked right on iOS for me. I mean, I know it was broken for most people in various ways. But, talking to Apple support, mine seemed especially broken. And then it got worse—it would constantly forget what I wanted to store locally and then never successfully download anything. As I optimistically installed the various iOS updates hoping they’d fix it, I started having problems installing apps. What good is an iOS device where you can’t install apps?

Now, anything that’s even remotely Apple-ID-related doesn’t work. I subscribe to Pandora through my ID so that app never gets past the loading screen. My beloved NatureSpace app, where I’ve spent probably $60 on in-app purchases, doesn’t work because it can’t authenticate my purchases. I can’t watch movies or TV shows on my iOS devices, or use Apple Music of course.

I have another Apple ID, one that I use for iCloud. That ID works great. I can download apps no problem when logged in with that. But none of my thousands of dollars of purchases are on that ID. And Apple can’t transfer all that over apparently.

Months into this debacle, when it’s clear that engineering needs to perform some fix, some magic, on my Apple ID on their end, level 2 support is still asking me to try things like restoring my iPhone. Can’t they do that on their end? We’ve already established that it affects all iOS devices.

I’ve been through three upper-level support techs at Apple. Two of them just gave up, stopped responding to me. I can understand the discouraging futility of supporting a customer whose problems are so intractable. My current support engineer, Jessica, seems determined to resolve my issue. But there isn’t much time left. It’s too late. And I’m busy. I work at a startup. I miss the days when one could email Steve and he would forward the email to engineering. I successfully took advantage of that twice in 2006–2007.

They tell me I’m the only one who’s ever had this problem. I’m not sure what to make of that. It’s left me feeling disoriented, and helplessness at times, lacking a clear course of action.

If I were an Apple shareholder, I would wonder about the future of the company.

Anyway, this Android has promise. She’s different. Requires a lot of swiping. A little rough around the edges. Claims to be open. We’ll see. I’m not rushing into anything. Just taking it one day at a time.

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