For the second time in just under three months, I turned on my iPod today and was greeted with the sad iPod graphic. Once again, I found myself at the Apple Store, where it was quickly determined that the hard disk in my replacement iPod had failed exactly as the first one had. Once again, my iPod was whisked away and replaced with a refurbished one. And once again, as I sat there syncing all my music to the new iPod, I watched as nearly a dozen people came through and had their iPods replaced in the exact same way mine was, all before noon.

Let’s assume that my local Apple Store replaced somewhere on the order of two dozen iPods today, that the customers at my store aren’t any different than those anywhere else, and that today wasn’t any different than any other day. Given that there are 126 Apple Stores in the United States, this would mean that Apple replaces roughly three thousand iPods a day, twenty thousand each week, and over a million a year. Could these numbers possibly be correct?


To make any kind of accurate estimate at all you’d need to spend more than a couple of hours observing. If you were in my store last week you’d think PowerBook displays fall off the computer frequently. We dealt with 5 last Monday. Until then I hadn’t seen one in weeks. Earlier this month we had a run on batteries. So maybe your visit coincided with one of those weird quirks.

One thing I will say with certainty is this: If we see a customer with a dead iPod we almost certainly will see him/her again with another dead iPod. In fact, last summer our manager put the cabash on a little game we’d developed called “iPod Return Pool” where we placed bets on how soon we’d see the customer again.

I don’t want to claim that dead iPods are due to customer abuse but there seems to be little doubt that it seems rare for a customer to return for a dead iPod and never been seen again.

• Posted by: David Benson on Feb 15, 2006, 7:59 AM

i don’t know… i have a G2 ipod (first touch wheel) and it’s *never* been to the shop… am i lucky? or was the build quality better at the beginning? or did you just happen to witness a spike in ipod replacements?

• Posted by: sam on Feb 15, 2006, 9:20 AM

David, you’re certainly right that I had a pretty small window to observe, but I’ve had that same window twice now (once back in November, and once now), and each time the Genius Bar was functionally an iPod replacement center. Back in November, I really was willing to say it was a statistical blip; having seen it again, it makes me wonder a bit.

I also can’t really speak to individual customers being more likely to break their iPods. Not knowing me, you don’t know that I am overtly anal about caring for my gadgets; my iPod lives in a cushioned case, never leaves either the pocket of my coat or the custom padded pocket inside my backpack, and overall gets treated better than even my Powerbook. I had a first-generation iPod that lasted well over four years; it’s only been this one (a 3rd-gen clickwheel) that’s now required burial twice.

• Posted by: Jason on Feb 15, 2006, 10:32 AM

there seems to be little doubt that it seems rare for a customer to return for a dead iPod and never been seen again.

They’re also giving out refurbs to people. Maybe the reliability of a previously broken product isn’t up to snuff.

• Posted by: smackfu [LiveJournal user info] on Feb 15, 2006, 1:35 PM

Actually, I think the number is higher. There’s an extraordinary concentration of iPod users in my social circle (again, conceding this isn’t a valid sample) and the failure rate over a 2-year time period approaches 100%.

• Posted by: anildash [LiveJournal user info] on Feb 15, 2006, 2:05 PM

I want to know why people go for iPods as there as much better players around.

• Posted by: [OpenID Commenter Profile] on Feb 18, 2006, 9:42 AM

Wow, Edward ( — that’s a real conversation-starter. Care to elaborate, or are we all supposed to just jump into a defense of the iPod?

• Posted by: Jason on Feb 18, 2006, 12:17 PM

I am sorry if I sounded rude, I didn’t mean to be and I was tried at time of writing. All that I am saying that iPod is a good mp3 player, but you could get a better one for the same price which last longer.

• Posted by: [OpenID Commenter Profile] on Mar 24, 2006, 8:32 AM
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