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Thursday, July 05, 2007

"iPod's Unreplaceable Battery Lasts Only 18 Months."

There is something both wonderfully renegade and depressing about "iPod's Dirty Secret." It provokes an ambivalent despair in iPod owners, many of whom had not yet considered the mortality of their new little electronic friend.
Ownership of an iPod -- a credit-card-size, white-and-metallic digital music player -- has grown a bit culty, especially when people talk about how it has completely changed their inner musical lives. This sounds like crazy talk, until you get one, and then you understand, because now you, too, are having an everlasting love affair with something very tiny.
Neistat bought his iPod in early 2002, not long after Apple introduced it.
He would usually listen to it on his daily bike ride to TriBeCa, where he and his brother, Van, 28, have a small studio and work together on films and other art projects, professionally calling themselves the Neistat Brothers.

In late October -- after about 18 months of use -- the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in Casey Neistat's iPod would no longer work.

So he went to Apple's enormous and terribly chic megastore on Prince Street in SoHo and asked to purchase a new battery. He was calm about it, and so were the clerks who dashed his hopes.

"I explained that it wasn't charging up anymore," Neistat recalls, "and they said, 'We don't offer a new battery. You should just buy a new iPod.'


The Neistat Brothers, who swear by Apple products (the movie ends with a credit to Apple's iMovie software and the Macintosh computers on which the brothers work), say they feel a little cheated by the company in which they'd placed so much faith.
With the rap group NWA's song "Express Yourself" as a soundtrack, they make a large poster-board stencil that reads: "iPod's Unreplaceable Battery Lasts Only 18 Months."

The Neistats' funky but wrathful movie www.ipodsdirtysecret.com shows Casey
merry-pranksterly strolling around Manhattan, spray-painting dozens of Apple's pretty pastel iPod posters with his warning, which the brothers consider "a public service announcement" to counteract Apple's current iPod advertising campaign.

(According to Apple, which recently shipped more than 300,000 iPods in time for holiday shopping sprees, there are about 1.4 million iPods in current use worldwide.)

Within days, thousands of iPod owners had downloaded the movie and, somewhat horrified at the news, forwarded it around the world.
Non-Fix Culture


Days after the movie made the rounds, Apple announced expanded warranties for new iPod owners to purchase for $59, and also introduced a new $99 battery-replacement mail-in service for others.

Casey says he got a phone call in response to a letter of discontent he'd written to Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, from still another minion, still advising him to just buy a new one. Days later, another Apple employee called, this time to make sure the brothers knew about the new battery-replacement price. "Are you calling because of our movie?" Casey said he asked. "And the person said he could neither confirm or deny that he'd seen it."

Apple officially denies that the brothers' movie had anything to do with the new battery price. In fact, says Natalie Sequeira, an Apple spokeswoman, the longer warranty and replacement price have been in the works for a few months.

"And I can't believe we're still getting questions about it," Sequeira says from the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. She advises calm, and ably tries to deflect the idea that Apple would like to sell iPods as a disposable, pricey item that music lovers who get a taste of the iPod Kool-Aid will just have to keep replacing.

What the Neistat Brothers have done to Apple, however, is almost sacrilege to the Mac congregation.

"We got close to 1,000 e-mails the first couple of days," Casey reports. "A lot of people were in my exact position and had to buy the new iPod. Eighty percent of our mail was positive, people saying that they liked the sardonically irreverent way we did it. But there were die-hard Mac fans who were mad at us, who were panicking because they feel like we might cause somebody to not buy a Macintosh." (It is commonly known that Mac fans are always waiting for the sky to fall.)

Apple generally enjoys positive PR in print media and perky goodwill in the marketplace, especially from younger, hipper demographics trained from birth to shun expensive labels or corporate identity, and who view the Apple as both superior product and finger gesture toward the prevailing Microsoft/PC worldview.
Anyone who wears disposable contact lenses knows how these things evolve: At first, having lived through the days of crawling on hands and knees in shag carpeting looking for a lost contact lens, you cannot immediately adapt to a future in which we now blissfully wash month-old contact lenses down the drain. After a while it doesn't seem like such a costly tragedy.
People now spend a few hundred dollars every other year or so on disposable lenses, but it took a slight mental shift to get there.

Same with electronics: Cell phone owners can replace their lithium batteries with relative ease, since phones are designed for batteries that snap on and off, but many consumers opt instead to get a newer, cooler, smaller phone at that point.
Some of the e-mail the Neistat Brothers received from "iPod's Dirty Secret" came from people who were quick to tell them "that we're [bleep]ing imbeciles, [because] you can buy a battery online and do it yourself," Casey says.

The brothers already tried that.

They Googled around and ordered the battery from a different vendor that came with complicated instructions and "these two plastic gigantic toothpicks," Casey says. It took a while to pry the back cover off the iPod's impenetrable design. Beneath that was "a gummy adhesive" which covered the mini hard drive, "and there were these two very tiny connectors with three prongs," in a work space "about the diameter of a needle."

He felt as if he was performing amateur neurosurgery.

The patient died on the table.
And soon enough, Casey Neistat went back to the Apple boutique and bought a new iPod for $400, which, he says, "is totally unfair." He took it back to the office and showed it to his brother, and they vowed to find a way, Casey says, "to get back at them." But the beat went on, and that's what counts most in a world gone iPod.


Libelrally taken from Hank Stuever Washington Post Staff Writer
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