iPhone Defective? That'll Be $29 For A Loaner

Reader Jonathan’s iPhone just keeps breaking. The second time, rather than replacing it, they decided it would need to be repaired—and tried to charge him $30 for a rental phone.

He writes:

I went to the apple store today because a large portion of the touchscreen on my phone decided to stop working in the middle of writing an email. As a backstory, this is my second iphone. My first iphone had bad RAM or something and was replaced in 1 week after it would repeatedly freeze up and require a software restore.

The Apple “Genius” confirmed that it was a hardware issue, but that it would have to fixed at a depot which would take a few days. he then offered me two options: 1_ take the SIM card home and put it in another phone 2_ pay $30 plus a $500 deposit to rent an iphone while mine is being repaired.

I just sat there for a moment, then quietly replied “You’re fucking kidding me.” I told him that I flat-out refused to pay for their faulty hardware, and that I paid $500 for a phone that was expected to work for a year , not be fixed or replaced every few weeks. I wasn’t getting a battery replaced, I wasn’t dealing with user damage, I was dealing with faulty hardware which he had just confirmed.

I asked him to get the manager to waive the loaner fee. He refused as well.

So I immediately called Apple Care (in the apple store) , escalated it up a level, and went over four points:
1_ This is a hardware problem that is emblematic of poor quality control . This is the second defective phone I’ve been given. And I’m still way within the first 90 days of purchase !
2_ Apple did not announce a defect policy that customers would have to wait several days or pay $30 for a loaner until after I had purchased the phone. there’s no way in hell I’d have bought an Iphone if i knew that I’d have to rent one for $30 whenever an issue comes up.
3_ There are multiple class action suits against Apple concerning this issue, and apple tends to lose class actions.

With that in mind, the Apple Care agent finally agreed that it was only fair that they waive the loaner fee and try to keep me as a customer. They made a note in the file to waive the fee, and then I went back to the Genius Bar to get it swapped out.

People can say how bad AT&T is non-stop, but since switching to the iPhone from Sprint I’ve only averaged 2 dropped calls a week. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation on Sprint that didn’t drop out.

On the other hand, the Apple customer service has been nothing but awful. The phones have an obscenely high defect rate– just go to an apple store count at how many exchanges they do in a 30 minute period. These aren’t phones that are cracked or broken – they’re ones where the hardware is just screwed up and makes the phone half- work and be unstable. Some friends in SF said that so many people bring defective iphones to the apple store there, that they don’t even bother trying to charge people for a loaner.

I couldn’t find anything in the consumerist covering this yet. I think people should remember that if you can’t resolve something to your satisfaction in the Apple Store, you can turn to Apple Care, and eventually Apple Corporate.


We took a look at Apple’s site and sure enough there’s a $29 rental fee. As Jonathan demonstrates, however, it can be waived.


Edit Your Comment

  1. ry81984 says:

    I never heard of paying for a loaner phone.

    They alway loan you one for free.

  2. JHB800 says:


    CARRIERS loan you one for free, the MANUFACTURER does not. Since AT&T doesn’t handle the iPhone’s service, the replacement has to go through Apple. Whether or not you agree about the fee, this jerk went about the whole thing the wrong way. Bringing up the ridiculously stupid Class actions brought by morons that can’t read the manual for their phone? Not smart Jason, not smart.

  3. jmschn says:

    @JHB800: I’m confused..who’s Jason!?

  4. Scuba Steve says:

    @jmschn: He’s that guy in those Friday the 13th movies.. right?

    Anyways, the whole situation between Apple, AT&T and the customers is just asking for problems.

    You’ve got Buck passing that would make John Elway jealous, and customers who are used to service and quality from a $600 dollar phone.

  5. Christopher says:

    I ran into the identical problem when my iPhone’s speaker went out. I was shocked, to say the least. I might understand the charge if you were able to borrow a cheap phone from your local AT&T store during the interim, but since Apple handles all of the service process, your options are either to rent an iPhone or to be fucked and without a phone for X days.

    When the customer service person told me about the charge I simply said “Do you have my Apple account up? […] Good! Do you see that I’ve purchased not only an iPhone, but also a MacBook Pro, an iMac, and an iPod from you within the past 2 years? And Apple is going to be so PETTY to charge me a stinking 29 bucks for their own manufacturing problem‽” I hate pulling strings like that, but she did end up waiving the rental fee.

    What I REALLY don’t understand is that if most everyone can get the fee waived, why do they even try and charge it in the first place? This causes them to lose twice, once for pissing the customer off, and a second time because they don’t even end up getting the $29.

  6. JustIcedCoffee says:

    I’m glad they waived the fee.
    I’ve never had a cell phone repaired, but, but do they really have loaner treo’s and loaner blackjacks?
    It’s just something I would never expect, I would assume with some type of a problem that needs to be fixed I would have to use an old phone, or personally pay the 30 bucks to for an iphone.
    FYI – I’m on my second iphone – I lost my first one.

  7. savagesaladin says:

    Only expected to work for a year? $500? Pass.

  8. sleze69 says:

    Good thing he doesn’t live in Vermont or he’d really be screwed…

  9. Crazytree says:

    this is why you don’t buy products on the first day.

    this rule should be carved in stone on Consumerist… being an early adopter NEVER pays.

  10. Shadowfire says:

    I live in Vermont! :P

    So uh… people talk about dropped calls a lot. I’m just curios.. why? Is it a huge problem?

    I only ask because I can’t even remember more than a couple dropped calls in the 3 years I’ve been with Unicel (though that will probably change with the Verizon buyout).

  11. Buran says:

    @sleze69: Why is that?

  12. courtarro says:

    @Shadowfire: I feel the same way. I live in Atlanta and have Verizon as a carrier, and I can’t remember the last time I had a dropped call once it was established. I do occasionally get the “pickup then drop” at the beginning of a call, but that’s not such a big deal. Maybe it’s a bigger problem in less metropolitan areas.

  13. Skeptic says:

    this jerk went about the whole thing the wrong way. Bringing up the ridiculously stupid Class actions brought by morons that can’t read the manual for their phone? Not smart Jason, not smart.

    That’s funny, because if he hadn’t Apple was going to charge him for the privilege of having a defective phone.

    I’d say the jerk in this story is Apple.

  14. cozygal36 says:

    my iphone also died on me this past weekend. I could not get it to turn on and when I took it to Apple they said they had to send it in and offered me the replacement. I refused because I didn’t want to pay the fee. I would’ve fought to have the fee waived but by that time I was already tired from having to wait an hour to have my phone looked at that I couldn’t even put a fight.

  15. FuzzysFriedChicken says:

    So this is the product that is going to revolutionize the cellphone market? Glad to see the consumer has to look forward to getting fucked by both the carrier and the manufacturer – all well being told they are using the greatest consumer product ever.

  16. Onouris says:

    “since switching to the iPhone from Sprint I’ve only averaged 2 dropped calls a week”

    Wow, it’s a sad state of affairs when 2 dropped called a week is considered good, and the best you can get.

  17. iphonetroubles says:

    funny enough this comes up just the day after it happens to me… it is pretty ridiculous like CBRAGG mentioned, either pay the $30 to get a loaner or have no phone for who knows how long… iphone is definitely the coolest thing ive ever bought, but really, seems like they just dont have it all figured out just yet. i cant wait to see if i also get charged the huge deposit for a loaner too…

  18. dasunst3r says:

    I have been watching this iPhone from the sidelines, and I am definitely not impressed. OK… so let’s go over the list of why the iPhone is *defective by design*:
    1. 3rd-party program development practically impossible.
    2. iPhone plan is $60/mo at minimum.
    3. No discount on phone AND still be slapped with an ETF if you signed the two-year contract with the illegal, warrantless wiretapping participant.
    4. I can get a Windows Mobile phone that can do the same things (and more) for half as much.

    I, for one, welcome the a new addition to this list:
    5. High defect rate, for which Apple tries to milk their customers by imposing a rental fee.

    When I am paying this much for a phone, I should have to answer to *nobody* about what I do with it so long as I do not deprive other paying customers of the access they paid for. I am seriously looking into buying the FIC Neo1973 once it comes out.

  19. beyond says:

    Doesn’t the iPhone use a sim card? Just go buy a $18 GoPhone from Walmart and plug your sim in. It’s a first gen really complex phone…its gunna have problems.

  20. jwissick says:

    I agree. Apple has screwed the pooch with this one.

    $500 for a phone and everyone who bought one is a sucker who bought into the hype and wanted to be trendy.

    LOL. My Windows Mobile phone does everything the iPhone does and more… and better.

  21. floofy says:

    I have to agree with JHB800. When you go to a cell phone store, they are selling service, not phones. The manufacturers are the ones responsible for their equipment, not the retail store. I’m surprised that they even will offer to send it out or exchange an iphone. It has been my experience that for a phone that expensive you have to personally mail it back to the manufacturer yourself. He should be glad they even offered a loaner-fee or not.
    Whenever my car has broken down, I didn’t go back to the bank where I got the loan and demand they give me a loaner car, nor did I get one free from the dealership that I purchased it brand new from.

  22. Scazza says:

    Okay, not to be a dick, maybe its just us backwards canuks, but I recently started working for a canadian carrier, and I can say that we infact DO charge for loaner phones, 25cdn + 100 deposit, and usually 25 shipping and handling… if its in the 1yr warranty or if you got an extension… If not, its 70 (for loaner, quote and shipping) and 100 deposit… This from what I can tell is normal practice up here, all the carriers do it. So I don’t get it, is it different in the states? Does no one charge loaner fees?

    Don’t get me wrong, I certainly DO NOT agree with them, bloody rip off for sure…

  23. Transient says:

    Gasp and egad. Negative press on Apple’s unblemished support. AT&T not cited as “Great Satan” multiple time in comments.

    Next up: Apocalypse.

  24. rolla says:

    c’mon, this is Apple…it doesnt surprise me that their phone sucks and they would charge you for a loaner. Just look at the early ipods with all of its problems. So you think the phone would be any different?? Stupid consumers fall for the marketing hype of Apple, rather than make an informed decision. But for the iphone, would you really join AT&T (cingular)? I doubt it…so why would the iphone make any difference?? cause of all the marketing and hype around apple products. I, for one, do not feel sorry for any iphone owners with problems…if you checked apple’s history, you would have foreseen this and passed on the phone.

  25. Honestly, he should be glad he was offered a loaner phone for $29. Most cellphone carriers do not offer loaner phones for defective phones, but for damaged phones they do on ocassion and they charge a loaner fee. With any other Apple product you would have sent it in for repair and would not have been provided a loaner. I give Apple credit for allowing the customer the option of getting a loaner phone and why wouldn’t they charge you a $500 deposit?? Apple knows that if you do not charge a deposit or put a hold on a credit card that the customer will not bring back the loaner phone. Who wouldn’t take an iPhone for $29 fee? Cellphone providers do not require a deposit because if you do not return the loaner phone, they just add it to your monthly bill.

  26. Optimistic Prime says:

    What’s up with the $500 deposit? They have his phone, so even if Jason runs away, they aren’t really at a loss. At&T should probably credit his “time without service” from his contract since he’s without “his” phone, just to play nice with a “loaner fee.” Seriously, the dude’s already paying for the phone service, he paid for the phone, he’s clearly not getting what he paid for.

  27. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    They offer loaners when you take your cell phone in for service? New one on me. (Well, I have only had cell phone service for three months… I simply haven’t needed it before now and I’m happy with my prepaid plan.)

    I don’t want the IPhone. I have a perfectly good PDA that has Bluetooth and Web and plays games and MP3s. I can get thousands of tested programs for the Palm OS that do things I never even thought of. I bought an unlocked Motorola KRZR K1 because a) it’s quad-band and I do some European travel for work, b) it has great ratings, c) it looks cool, d) it has a flip cover, e) did I say it looks cool? f) it is supported in the USA.

    Let me say that one more time. It’s supported in the USA. I just fired my Samsung phone that was so cute it stopped traffic, but that I had to call overseas to get support for, and that I couldn’t get the right data kit for no matter what language I spoke. Do not make this mistake. Buy a US-version phone if you live in the US. Trust me.

  28. Starfury says:

    Rules to use when buying Apple products: Never buy the first release of a product. Wait until the bugs are worked out and an updated model is released.

    But I’m also a person that won’t buy an iPod and don’t want/need a $500 phone.

  29. MeOhMy says:


    Whenever my car has broken down, I didn’t go back to the bank where I got the loan and demand they give me a loaner car, nor did I get one free from the dealership that I purchased it brand new from.

    Maybe you got screwed then…I thought by now most mfgrs/dealers offer a free loaner car for warranty work that will take longer than a day.

    But either way, this is Apple. They’re supposed to be the BMW to everyone else’s Honda. It doesn’t matter if anyone else is doing it – you paid a lot of money to join what you and Apple consider to be an elite club. The BMW of handsets should include BMW-quality service – including a free loaner when it goes in for warranty repair.

    Of course the rest of us know that Apple doesn’t really provide much above and beyond a high price tag. It’s too bad, too…such good ideas, such poor execution.

  30. bigTrue says:

    People may say Verizon is the devil, but I’ve had 5 dropped calls in the last year.

    This guy is happy because he only had two dropped calls A WEEK since getting the IPhone, and then says he had every conversation he ever had on Sprint drop out.

    Wow. I mean, sure, I can’t use bluetooth data transfer on my RAZR, but my calls never drop. Do people on other carriers really think 2 dropped calls a week is a good thing?

  31. Onouris says:


    They already have the phone he paid $500 for. Another $500 means they’re up :S

  32. Pomme-de-Terre says:

    My wife and I each bought an iPhone opening day.

    Because Louisiana does not have an Apple store, all service work requires a lengthy phone call to AppleCare.

    In my experience — both from iPods and iPhones — the AppleCare telephone technical support reps are clueless; not so much technical support as note-takers and ticket-openers. Any problem will result in parting with the device for repair.

    I have come to terms with this.

    It means, however, camping out for the FedEx guy (for the empty return box), shipping the device, waiting for the device to be repaired, and camping out for the FedEx guy, again.

    The first time I sent my iPhone in, it was for a dead pixel and a Smurfing camera that mysteriously tinted everything blue.

    (I was offered the 30 dollar loaner, and declined. I find the charge insulting, frankly, and can’t bring myself to give Apple money for a problem they engineered. I feel stupid enough spending $1200 on cell phones.)

    Four days later, I received my “repaired” phone. The completion ticket read “No issues found”, and sure enough, the pixel was still dead and the camera was still blue.

    I called AppleCare again, and explained to the representative that neither of my issues had been resolved. In fact, it seems as though the only thing Apple did was erase the device, slip it into a styrofoam bag, and give it back to the FedEx guy. They didn’t even bother wiping the screen of fingerprints!!

    (This was the Texas repair facility, incidentally.)

    The AppleCare rep was sympathetic, and explained that my original ticket was blank. No problem was listed!

    This was doubly insulting, because with the device I included a note detailing precisely where the pixel was dead, and left multiple pictures on the device in varying lighting conditions illustrating the problem.

    Obviously, they didn’t read the note, and if they did, completely ignored it. They saw a blank ticket and an opportunity to be lazy and move on to the next sucker.

    Upon hearing the news, I was very polite to the AppleCare rep, expressing my “disappointment” rather than my thermonuclear fury. She sent me to the next support level.

    That guy, Tom, was also very sympathetic. He said I would have to send it in again, and asked if I wanted a loaner phone. I did, and said I wasn’t paying for it.

    He agreed, and opened a ticket (not blank, I presume, although one never knows).

    I received my loaner phone yesterday — three days late, mind you — and shipped the device shortly thereafter.

    Whether it gets fixed this time, I do not know.

    One thing I do know is that the Reality Distortion Field is dead.

  33. Mojosan says:

    So I should have been angry at Maytag since they didnt deliver a free loaner dishwasher to my house when mine needed repair? Sony must have misplaced my loaner plasma TV last month as well.

    So every company that sells a product gives the consumer a free loaner product when warranty work is performed…except Apple? Hmmm.

    Or, is it just the haterade talking?

  34. silverlining says:

    I know others have said this, but I just can’t believe it… Apple thinks it’s okay to charge a customer for the privilege of having a malfunctioning, **expensive** phone that should have worked in the first place, if the customer wants to have uninterrupted phone service (silly customer!), like they’d have if their phone hadn’t malfunctioned? Really?!?!!?

    I understand that a lot of other cell phone companies’ policies are the same or worse, but that just means they’re all substandard; it doesn’t excuse Apple’s abhorrent policy.

  35. djwoodyphl says:

    Wow, all the Apple haters and people saying their Windows Mobile phone can do everything the iPhone can. I gotta tell ya, people find every opportunity they can to smack around a company that constantly brings innovation to the table in comparison to our friends at Palm who have recycled the same phone shape for, oh, 7 years or so now, and just keep changing the model number. And yes, I read the blogs and know what the Palm Centro looks like … and I’d say, eww.

    A few things to point out here. One, I have never had someone hand me a loaner phone that was equivalent in value to the phone I’d broken, on the rare occasion I was ever offered one. I think maybe T-Mobile was the only company that ever did, and they gave me the crappiest thing they could find in the bottom of their drawer that would hold a charge and place a call. If you expected that Apple was just going to hand you a loaner iPhone out of the goodness of their heart, knowing the phone costs $600, then you probably need to seek help for your dillusion. That doesn’t make good business sense by any stretch of the imagination. I’d also point out that if you walk into your local AT&T store, as a new customer you are able to participate in whatever garden variety free phone after rebate promotion they have going on, and take that phone and put it in reserve just in case you break your iPhone. This is the case because the iPhone is not subsidized, and you signed on a contract with AT&T that would have entitled you to a subsidized phone if you wish. Pop the SIM out of the iPhone and into the freebie, and there ya go! You just got yourself a free loaner. So stop your damn whining.

    Second, Apple has been pretty generous with their swaps outside of the typical return policy, basically addressing issues up until around the 30 day mark, instead of their usual 14. I think that’s reasonably fair, and although it is an inconvenience to have something go wrong that requires service, the iPhone is no different than any other piece of consumer electronics on the market in that things can, and will, go wrong until the recipe is perfected.

    And for anyone (and there were a few) who said Apple doesn’t provide anything … I’d point you to customer service surveys, and to their ever-growing market share in the personal computing business. It would appear to me if your brilliant deductions were correct, then Apple wouldn’t be announcing record breaking quarters every quarter, and sending more people home with Macs than ever. Again, Apple haters, it’s great to be on a bandwagon … but please make sure you have your facts in order before you decide you are an expert in the field.

    And finally … one last fact to correct. Apple doesn’t charge you a $500 deposit for an iPhone loaner. They make you agree that if you don’t RETURN the phone back to the returns center after 10ish days (the average iPhone repair turnaround takes 3) that you will be liable for the cost of the phone, which is $500. Please, please make sure you have your facts straight, since you are fanning the flames instead of sharing the facts.

  36. elf6c says:

    He he he, every time an Apple Fan Boi reads this thread, he dies a little on the inside.

    Buck up, defective $500 cell phone buyer- your money is helping pay for Steve Jobs backdated options, lawyer fees and black turtlenecks. Oh and smug commercials. Think Different indeed.

  37. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @Mojosan: Well considering that a lot of people depend on thier phone for thier employment yeah they should give you a loaner. You can live without a washing machine or a TV for a week or so, but if you need your phone for work like I do well…your just SOL? And for the $500 deposit…ummm don’t they already ave your phone which was worth $500 when you got it. Unless they think its so crappy it isnt worth keeping as collateral?

    And no I am not a hater I just know better than to buy 1st gen anything. I am sure once they work out the bugs it will work fine but for now no way would I even consider buying it.

  38. ks9angel says:

    They should also give you a loaner considering you are paying for a monthly service. You don’t pay monthly service for a dishwasher or tv (if it was the cable box they would give you a loaner without charging) or laptop or car.

    Either they should not be charging a loaner fee or they should get AT&T to give you a credit for the time you do not have the phone.

  39. MeOhMy says:


    Wow, all the Apple haters and people saying their Windows Mobile phone can do everything the iPhone can.

    Telling the truth doesn’t make you a “hater.” It’s true – a WM phone really can do much more than an iPhone currently can. Now the iPhone certainly does what it does do in a better, prettier way. I can’t speak for “fanboys” and “haters” but for me limited functionality – no matter how intuitive and visually pleasing – is precisely what lured me away from the otherwise wonderful Hiptop platform.

  40. gsmumbo says:

    Wow. This was badly handled by the customer in question. Before the iPhone even came out I was aware of the replacement fee. I actually find it to be a good deal. Insurance…. you pay every single month just in case something is to happen to your phone. Then once something does, you pay another fee to get a replacement phone/get your phone fixed. This fee can be as much as $50. With AppleCare, you pay $60 for an extended year. That means for a one time fee(not recurring monthly) fee of $60, you can be protected for the span of your contract. Instead of keeping your broken phone while waiting for a new one, for $30 you can get a phone to use while your phone is off to service. This way you are never without your data. So lets look… we are going to say that you purchase insurance for the two year contract, and in that time, your phone messes up once. With a regular phone… $6.99 per month for 2 years. Thats $167.76. Your phone breaks. That’s $50 for a new phone under insurance(well, a refurb probably). Total of $217.76. As for the iPhone… one year is covered, second is $60. Your iPhone breaks. You pay $30 for a temp phone and your iPhone gets fixed/replaced. That’s a grand total of… $90. For those two years. To me, this looks like a great deal. 147.76 savings. Right?

  41. akalish says:

    Re AT&T dropping calls, the real question is why Apple chose to partner with them in the first place. AT&T is so far from being an industry leader in any respect–that was definitely bad decision making. AT&T probably paid them a lot of money to ensure the contract because why else would Apple not pick Verizon or T-Mobile or any other company with lots of customers and tremedous growth?…Talk about poor management decisions!