Battle of the Bulge

So I haven’t had the whining or the overheating but over the last couple of days, my early adopter tax is finally being paid :)

This past week I have noticed that when when I have been using my MacBook on battery it would get to about 30% charge and then the machine would just completely die! Power off, no warning messages or anything.

So yesterday it happened again and as I picked the machine up, I noticed this:

IMG_7153.CR2

and on closer inspection:

IMG_7150.CR2

MacBook Pro Battery Bulge

The battery is making a break for freedom! Not good!

I did a quick google for similar problems and sure enough, it seems like a problem found with early MacBook Pro’s (Mine is a “W8609” serial number which I am led to believe is one made in week 9 of manufacture).

So I decided to take an afternoon trip to the Apple Store in Manchester (at the Trafford Centre), I booked an appointment with the Genius Bar on the web site which was an entirely painless experience and sure enough when I turned up at the store my name was up in lights above the genius bar, this is an extremely slick process and the only flaw seems to be that not many of the people who were coming for help actually knew they had to book an appointment. Anyway the guys at the Genius Bar couldn’t actually help because apparently they don’t stock batteries for MacBook Pro’s they sent me away with instructions to visit http://depot.info.apple.com and order a battery replacement. Unfortunately you can only order battery replacements for PowerBooks and iPods there rather than a MacBook Pro so I ended up calling AppleCare phone support this morning where someone helped me through the process of ordering a replacement battery, so I could have saved myself a trip to Manchester but I am glad I didn’t (more about why I thought it was worthwhile later!).

I am guessing that this problem is limited to US MacBooks (I bought mine in California, nothing like going right to the source, eh? :) because everyone who looked at it had never seen anything like it before and the guy from AppleCare UK support was so interested in what was happening he has created an case for the engineering department to look into and wanted me to send these photos to them so they could investigate. I did mention that he should do a quick google as it was very easy to find other people with the same issue.

So what is my impression of AppleCare after all this? I have mixed feelings at the moment but generally positive. On the plus side in today’s culture of having to argue tooth and nail to get manufacturers to admit fault and provide hardware replacements it is a huge benefit to be able to easily book an appointment with a real person and to be able to go along and be able to show someone and say “Look, there, its broken!” rather than having to try and explain it to someone over the phone so I liked that a lot. On the other hand, if you are going to offer technical support at your retail stores then why would you not stock basic removable parts like batteries?

As for the phone support, well it was generally good and the guy I spoke to was nothing but polite and showed a genuine interest in escalating this problem to the engineering team. My only issue with it was the amount of time that it took to get this done, I was on the phone for 54 minutes (at my expense, of course) to arrange a battery replacement!

I will update this when the new battery arrives to finish the tale properly, in the mean time I am glad that I can still use the machine without the battery installed :)

Update 1: There is a wiki for Apple defects, see this battery article on it.

via Advocrazy

Update 2: The battery finally arrived today, 4 full days after reporting the problem. For a simple battery replacement this is not good enough. Lets hope that this one is better behaved at least :)

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26 responses to “Battle of the Bulge

  1. I am also an early adopter. I purchased my MacBook Pro 1.83 GHz on March 2nd. Last Friday night I noticed that my battery was bulging. I took it to my nearest Apple Store and offered me a replacement without a struggle. The Mac genuis wouldn’t come out and say there is a problem with other batteries however they didn’t have any replacement batteries in stock. I asked about other stores nearby and they were complely out of stock. I’m guessing there is a battery problem which has turned into a supply issue.

  2. HonorGuy7, are you in the UK or US?

  3. Pierce Glennie

    “I was on the phone for 54 minutes (at my expense, of course) to arrange a battery replacement!”

    Just a tip with Apple’s phone support (at least in the UK). You can easily get them to phone you back if you want – they always seem really happy to do so.

  4. I had a similar experience (http://edgerunner.co.uk/articles/2006/06/19/magic-blue-smoke) – my MacBook started blowing smoke out of the ports, at which point I was ready to become Mr. Angry Consumer down at the Apple store.

    I dropped the MacBook box on the Genius Bar at the appointed time, and said “I want a replacement” and explained about my toasted battery. I was totally disarmed when the genius – who looked genuinely concerned, I’ve got to say – just smiled and said “I’ll go and get you one”. Not only that, they swapped over the memory and the data from the old machine.

    Apple definitely knows how to do customer service right, at least in my experience.

  5. I have had generally god experiences also with their customer services after they accidentally charged me for a MBP i didnt buy (quite a suprise finding your bank account a grand or so short). My only complaint is that for such a hugh mess up which caused me to go overdrawn I wasn’t automatically offered any kind of compensation, if they had given me a £100 voucher form the apple store (which lets face it is nothing to them) I would have left the entire sitution way happier.

  6. “in the mean time I am glad that I can still use the machine without the battery installed :)”

    You can use the MBP without the battery??

  7. Mine is ok (still – knock on wood). However, i bought a spare when I was in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. I think I will have to use that to test if it will have these problems.

    BTW, got mine here in Manila.

  8. @Andres: Yes, I was a little surprised too :) If you have the battery icon showing on the menu bar it just changes to an X inside a battery but everything still works.

    Just make sure not to knock the MagSafe cord, they detatch really easily and you have no safety net without a battery :D

  9. HonorGuy7: It looks like the supply problem may be an issue here too, I was promised it would arrive within 48 hours but the tracking site says it is still pending shipment.

  10. @macnewbie
    you can do that with all laptops i think, after all, the power supply has to supply enough power to run the computer and charge the battery :)
    i did it for quite some time with my pc, and the only negative aspect was it cutting out in a

  11. You said that you had mixed feelings about “AppleCare”, to impove those feelings a bit – just think back not so long ago to your ‘PC’ days…

    See your feeling better about “AppleCare” already!

  12. Lets hope my battery dosn’t bulge. I’ve got enough problems as is..

    I got my MacBook Pro from the Canadian Online Apple Store. ;)

  13. @thefireguy: I dunno, I would quite happily take Dell tech support over this at the moment… It is now 4 days later and I still have no replacement battery…

    Apparently it has shipped now and is on its way so it should arrive today or tomorrow but the Dell on-site support (which is CHEAPER than AppleCare) would have had this fixed next-day.

  14. @Tom; It depends how it is all wired up inside i guess :) I have had Dell laptops that have needed the battery in to work even off mains power.

  15. @macnewbie: my experience (including that of friends of mine) is that it largely depends on the people, and much less so the company.

    I know people who have had terrible, shitty support from Dell; I know people who have had great support by them.

    I know people who have had quite poor support from Apple; I know people who have had fantastic support (including myself, and also, see comment #4 above)

    Some Apple Stores have much better people working there than other stores do. For instance, in the Minneapolis->Rosewood Apple Store, they were incredibly friendly and helpful, and I even managed to get a 15% employee discount through the aunt of my friend who worked there (for Photoshop, making it possible for me to buy it at all as I just didn’t have enough money otherwise).

    However, I’ve heard from a few sources that Apple Stores outside of the US — i.e. Canada, UK, and some Apple Centres in the NL (= resellers, not official Stores, but still) — can have quite poor staff. Unfriendly, unhelpful…

    Thing is, they have quite a bit of authority over their own management. The Store Manager can (apparently) decide whether or not to just replace a broken MacBook.

    Fortunately, most stores are reported to have fantastic customer support (consumer reports have shown that Apple Stores in the US have some of the best customer service of all).

    It’s a mixed bag for every company out there, I think.

  16. In my opinion, the Apple Stores are worthless. I’ve never left the store satisfied. I’ve been to the Genius Bar a couple of times (with my old iBook), and both times I ended up having to call AppleCare anyway to solve my problem. One of the “geniuses” even tried to plug the power adapter into the audio jack.

    On the other hand, I have been very satisfied with AppleCare; although I did purchase the AppleCare Extended Warranty, which probably makes a difference.

  17. @ macnewbie, Can I do that with a PowerBook G4 (12″)?
    Not that I’m gonnna remove the battery to run t with the Power supply, but it’s good to know these things.

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  19. Just a quick hint, phone the Apple Store 0800 number (free) and ask them to put you through to technical support…bypass the 0845 number altogether!

  20. Thats a good tip John, thanks :)

  21. Andre Morgan

    I purchased my MacBook Pro late Early April. A few weeks ago I noticed that the machine was not resting flat on my desk. To my surprise my machine had caught a case of the…the……..the BATTERY BULGEEEE!!! Well since then my machine started shutting down after about 10 min if running on battery power and now its so bad that the battery can’t fit in the computer anymore! This is not good and is veryyyyyyy hasseling. Its good that Apple is taking responsibility though. I hope this problem is solved ASAP in future machines.

  22. Pingback: Lone Locust Productions » Blog Archive » A Visit With A Genius

  23. Hey there

    Have you got the number for Applecare UK, I have lost my paperwork and surprise surprise, it is not on Apple’s website as that would make it too easy for you to claim…..

  24. With regards Apple Centres in the NL… and Apple support.

    My MacBook Pro is an NL supplied model, from April 2006. I had identical battery problems to those reported by Dave (sudden shutdowns when on battery), and had a great deal of difficulty getting a replacement. The Apple telephone support service actually tells you to contact an an Apple authorised support centre (option 1 on the telephone menu), but when I did, they simply referred to an OLD Apple battery problem (the ‘old’ battery issue affecting specify battery serial numbers for the period April – May 2006).

    see: https://support.apple.com/macbookpro15/batteryexchange/

    My battery does not match those serial numbers, but the latest battery issue has nothing to do with that original problem. The 4 conditions/tests to see if your battery needs replacement for the current issues are described on the Apple support site. Even on the NL site (updated around 16 May). These have nothing to do with a specific set of serial numbers, and relate to batteries delivered between feb 2006 and april 2007.

    see: http://www.apple.com/nl/support/macbook_macbookpro/batteryupdate/ (dutch)
    see: http://www.apple.com/nl/support/macbook_macbookpro/batteryupdate/ (uk)

    I gave up on the local Apple authorised support centre (thanks CARD services – for nothing….), and contacted Apple support on a 0900, 10 €cent per minute number. After +/- 10 minutes listening to muzak, I then spent +/- 50 minutes or more going through the symptoms with a support engineer, and eventually was offered a replacement battery. It was not an easy process.

    I am still waiting for the battery to arrive (3 days so far).

    One more thing: yes, I can confirm that the the MacBook Pro runs without the battery installed. During my long conversation with Apple, I was asked both to provide information from the screen (running Mac required), and to provide the battery serial number (remove battery). Good job that it works with the battery removed. Clever those Apple designers.

    I think Apple should make the replacement process much more simple: for the ‘OLD’ battery problem (2006) you can simply fill in a few pieces of information online, and the replacement is ordered. For this current problem, despite Apple stating on-line that they have extended the warranty to 2 years to cover the battery issue, and giving clear diagnostic information, it does seem to reply on each individual victim persuading an individual Apple/Apple Support employee to help you. This should not be necessary for such a basic issue.