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My Experience With Apple as a Photographer and Creative Pro: In Short, Not Good

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My name is Pye Jirsa, and I’m a wedding photographer and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. Before I get started, let me say that I feel like the most unlucky person when it comes to electronics and major purchases. But, even with my bad luck, perhaps you will find this experience odd and worth sharing.

What you are about to read is not doctored or manipulated to get more views — it’s simply my experience this past year with Apple products.

In the past, I respected and held Apple in high regard. However, I am by no means a “fanboy” of anything. I will use whatever it takes to get the job done, and I will tell you the pros and the cons of the tools I use. This is not a sponsored article, nor would Apple pay me to write this. They’d probably pay me not to. But that’s exactly why I feel it is important to share my experience using the new iMac Pro, MacBook Pro, and iPhone X.

Born Of PC

I was always a fan of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, but up until a year ago, I was by and large a PC user. Almost my entire world belonged in PC. It’s what I’d known since my teenage years, dividing my time between building my own computers, programming, and working at CompUSA (I really loved that job).

I really loved PCs for all the typical reasons. They are generally cheaper with plenty of DIY options for upgrades and more. Outside of that reason, I wasn’t particularly married to either side of the PC vs. Apple fence.

Over the years, I found myself having less and less time to build, modify and troubleshoot my own rigs. On top of that, Apple was consistently providing more reasons that made it possible to justify switching ecosystems. I loved their software to hardware integrations and the performance of Apple operating systems. A seamless experience between mobile and desktop seemed wonderful.

On top of that, there was the App Store. However, what I appreciated most was the fact that their hardware/software systems were of the utmost quality and extremely reliable. At least, that was my perception.

Either way, less than a year ago (late 2017), I had enough motivation and justification to completely make the switch.

Swallowing The Bitter Cost Pill

When jumping into the Apple universe of products, we each have to accept the fact that we’re going to spend significantly more money than we would on other devices. For comparable performance results between a PC and an Apple, expect to pay 25-50% more on the Apple side of the spectrum. It’s no doubt a significant difference in price.

However, we can accept this price difference more easily when we consider Apple’s sleek design, solid build quality, reliability, display quality, OS ecosystem, and more. That is until we can no longer expect those things from Apple. That’s where I stand today.

Let’s jump into the story.

Cupertino, We Have A Problem

iPhone X

My business partner convinced me to jump into the new iPhone X upon release. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t twist my arm. I’m always game for an upgrade. But, immediately upon receiving the new phone, I was frustrated by the fact that it felt as though Apple took a step backward in usability.

The lack of a home button, the swiping left and right and from corners, all felt more difficult. Even getting the phone to flip on and recognize my face seemed more cumbersome than the simple home button design. Not to mention the new button layout leading to all sorts of wonderful screenshot mistakes. Still, I was game for learning the new design. However, even today, almost a year later, I still find the iPhone 7/8 to offer a better user experience.

Regardless, that was a small issue. Let’s get to the bigger one. Within roughly two weeks of using my new iPhone X, the smartphone started having issues. It would often freeze and crash. Very soon after, it completely died. I took it in for service and they said that it had a logic board failure. Then, they replaced the iPhone X without hassle. The Apple store is wonderful in that department.

I also appreciated being able to take the phone into a store rather than having to mail it in for service. I made an appointment at the Genius Bar and they took care of it. Not a big deal.

Unfortunately, the issues haven’t stopped. The phone still crashes quite often. The OS is buggy, sometimes turning on and freezing for minutes. Now, with only a few months of use, my vibrate on/off toggle is also stuck.

Oh, by the way, my phone also fails to connect to the Internet quite often. Despite having a full LTE signal (as you can see above), I can make calls, but I can’t send/receive data.

T-Mobile and Apple do this amazing thing where they blame each other for the errors. T-Mobile says it’s the phone, Apple says it’s T-Mobile’s service. Odd, considering we have five iPhone Xs on the T-Mobile plan, and mine seems to be the only one having data issues. I’m siding with T-Mobile on this one.

No biggie, though; it’s just a phone, and AppleCare will take care of this latest issue. I just have to make the time to go get my third iPhone X back to the store. Something I’ve yet to do. Let’s move on.

MacBook Pro

In late 2017, I purchased a new MacBook Pro, which represents my first major step into the Apple ecosystem. This was the 2017 MacBook Pro and I purchased it nearly fully upgraded. It came equipped with a two-terabyte hard drive, as well as the fastest processor available at the time, 16 gigs of RAM, etc. I think the only additional option was a four-terabyte SSD. This required an amount of money that I wasn’t willing to pay.

Needless to say, this was an expensive piece of hardware. With Apple Care, I was looking to pay around $5,000 for this laptop, compared to $3,000-$4,000 for a comparable high-end PC. But, the price didn’t matter. I knew I was getting a reliable machine that I could use for live broadcasts, content creation, and presentations with both CreativeLive and SLR Lounge. I expected a machine that could keep up with my need to edit images/video as I was preparing over 3,000 keynote slides over the next several months.

Unfortunately, a reliable machine is not what I received. Within a week of using the computer, I started noticing strange issues. For example, the mouse would regularly stutter; as I would move the trackpad, my mouse and keyboard would freeze temporarily as you can see in this video.

Later, depending on which USB-C ports were in use, the machine wouldn’t even start up which you can see here.

Shortly after, the laptop also started freezing and crashing on occasion. At the time, it was no more than a little odd considering it was a brand new machine and that it was an Apple. “Perhaps I just got a bad unit,” I thought to myself.

I took it to the Genius Bar to evaluate the situation. A day or two later, they said, “Your logic board is going bad and we need to replace it.” Just like before, when I took in my iPhone X, they replaced the logic board and it seemed like I had a new machine. Minus a day or so worth of time, I was back up and running. Sadly, within about week or two, it started having the same issues. This time, however, I started seeing other issues as well, like a graphics card failure. Here’s a video of the second machine.

Usually, when experiencing an issue with your computer, you can shut down the system or restart it. When I tried to do that here, the system went into a crazy, pixilated matrix view and it wouldn’t shut down properly.

Two different Apple MacBook Pros (2017 on the left, 2018 on the right), each with the same problem.

When I returned once more to the Genius Bar, they informed me that the logic board was failing again. They replaced the MacBook Pro, again. After having been replaced twice, it seemed to be operating pretty well until recently, when it started having the same issues once again as shown below.

I am on my third MacBook Pro, and it’s still not without problems. But, wait, you’ll find out that it gets even worse. For now, let’s move on to the iMac Pro.

iMac Pro

In January 2018, I made the final switch of upgrading my workstation to the iMac Pro. For the new workstation, I bought a specced out version of iMac Pro for roughly $7,000 with AppleCare. That represents a significant premium for what you’re actually getting.

It has a beautiful screen and a beautiful design, but even then, you’d only spend $4,000-$5,000 on the PC side for the equivalent of $7,000 worth of Apple hardware. Again, I justified the premium because I wanted the quality and seamless experience Apple was known for.

In less than two weeks from the time I received the iMac Pro, I started experiencing the same exact stutter issues that I had with my MacBook Pro. Once again, I called into tech support. The cursor would freeze and stutter as you can see in the video above. Early on, it happened only upon startup. Within a few weeks, it started occurring during regular use of the computer as shown below.

While my MacBook Pro was in service, I had to make the iMac Pro work as it was my only machine. When I got my third MacBook Pro back, I finally reached out to Apple Support regarding the iMac Pro. This is where things went further south.

The Mysterious Disappearance Of Apple Support

I reached Apple Support fairly easily. I was quickly given an Apple Case Support person who was assigned to my case from beginning to end. She ran system analytics and other diagnostic before stating that she would need to send the information to the engineers for analysis. She told me they would be in touch within the next week. Meanwhile, the $7,000 iMac Pro sat on my desk as it would freeze/stutter too often to be used.

Keep in mind that during this time, I was using my MacBook Pro as my primary machine. I purchased external monitors just to be able to work more efficiently. Needing more screen real estate as I was creating content for the Complete Business Workshop, which we are currently releasing! (shameless plug).

At this point, taking the MacBook Pro or iMac Pro onto a production set was causing me severe anxiety. We always film with an in-studio audience, or via live online broadcasts. During each presentation and production event, I was constantly worried about the machines crashing or stuttering mid-presentation. My worries were justified when it did indeed happen. Oh, and by the way, the MacBook Pro we are currently editing this article on is also stuttering through nearly every word we type.

Back to the iMac Pro. After a week of waiting without any follow-up, I reached out to my caseworker. I could not get a hold of her, but I did leave a message and informed her about the status of my iMac Pro. She never responded, and I couldn’t get ahold of anyone who could help solve the issue. I soon found myself busy with productions for clients, Creative Live, and SLR Lounge. All of which took me out of the studio for a couple of weeks.

When I got back, I still hadn’t heard back regarding the iMac Pro. In total, I sent four follow-up emails starting on March 23rd going to April 8th, and none of them had been responded to. The final email was sent to an escalated Case Manager to show them my experience (which we will discuss shortly).

Eventually, I just made an appointment with the Genius Bar and took the machine into the store. Apple of South Coast Plaza said that they needed a bit of time to run diagnostics, so I left it there. There was no loaner, despite the experience I had thus far. I was left without an office workstation while they attempted to fix the situation.

During that time, it was back to using the MacBook Pro as a primary machine. Something that I am not a fan of considering it’s far more efficient to work from a more powerful desktop. A week later, I was informed that the issue was software related and that I’d have my computer back soon.

I relayed my doubts to them about the issue being software related. “If it’s just a software issue, why is it experiencing the same problems as my MacBook Pro?” I asked. I described to them the same stuttering, crashes, and graphics card failures, which mirrored what happened on the MacBook Pro when its logic board went out, not once, but twice.

Regardless, they repeated that it’s just a software issue and they told me I’d have my computer the next day. When the next day rolled around, they called to confirm that it was indeed a hardware issue, not a software issue. The said that the computer would soon be back with the engineers in Cupertino, and would take a few more days to complete. It took close to three weeks before I could get the iMac Pro back into my office, fixed and ready to go. And guess what? They had to replace the logic board and internal components once again.

Unfortunately, the story isn’t even over. The instant that I first turned the computer back on, I could see that my information had been wiped (this wasn’t the problem). The problem was that upon startup, it required an Apple ID set to an administrator Apple account that I wasn’t given the password to. Nobody from the store explained this.

I soon found myself back on the phone again, calling Apple support, who then called the specific store at South Coast Plaza to provide me the password. Later that day, I was contacted and given that password to log in. At that point, I had to log in, restore my account, then remove the administrative account manually. Typically, Apple support has always returned the machine ready to restore via Time Machine.

Finally, A Breakthrough In Customer Service

After getting my computer setup, I reached out to customer service to let them know that I needed to talk to somebody about my overall experience with Apple. They sent me to a manager and I explained everything that’s happened. That’s when I also forwarded along the ghosted email correspondence. I also calmly shared with her my experience with my iPhone X, MacBook Pro and now iMac Pro.

In return, she responded with regret and asked, “Well, are there any products that you would like in the Apple store?” I initially declined the offer. I told her, “I kind of own what I want already. The only thing I don’t have is the HomePod, but not sure if I want that.”

She then said, “How about I send you out a HomePod to thank you and compensate you for your troubles?” I explained the countless hours through the year that have been wasted on tech support. She responded back that sending me a HomePod was the best that could be done.

Honestly, I was grateful that they were willing to do even that. Few companies would do anything to acknowledge such an experience. So, that’s a small plus there. I knew there was nothing that could truly compensate me for my time or experience over the year. I accepted the HomePod, and just hoped this whole thing was done.

For those asking, “how was the HomePod?”: Well, I don’t have much positive to report there. The speaker sounds great. It looks nice. But, beyond that, you shouldn’t be expecting much else. The HomePod is tricky to set up with the iMac Pro and once online, Siri can’t really do much. She can’t even play Spotify as she responds with “I’m sorry, I can’t do that” and requests that you use iTunes instead. Unfortunately, Siri has a long way to catch up to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

It was in that moment, listening to this glorified speaker that I began wondering, “Where has Apple gone in their quality and product development? Where is the Apple that we all once knew?”

If Only It Were Over

I so desperately wished this was the end of this article, and of my experience. Unfortunately, it’s not. If you think I want to write/post more, you are wrong.

My third MacBook Pro is now experiencing the same issues that lead up to each of the previous logic board failures as can be seen here.

In addition, the iMac Pro has begun stuttering, freezing and crashing just as it did prior to being replaced. Now, it’s simply a matter of time before each machine stops working entirely, and has to go back to be serviced again.

Now, you won’t believe this part. I had an opportunity to upgrade to the 2018 MacBook Pro. A family member, knowing the issues with my 2017 model agreed to purchase it from me since it’s still so new and has AppleCare. So I bought the 2018 MacBook Pro.

Can you guess what’s happened?

Yep, already started to see issues with the 2018 MacBook Pro as can be seen in this image. This was, by the way, the same shutdown screen that we previously showed side-by-side on the 2017 model above. I see this lovely image every time I shut down the laptop.

Do I feel stupid? Yes. I feel like the idiot who’s made the same mistake repeatedly while giving Apple the benefit of the doubt that they clearly don’t deserve.

Conclusion

Apple, as I once knew it, no longer exists in my mind today. In my opinion, the company that we all looked at as the pinnacle of innovation and quality control, is quickly vanishing.

If Apple were reading this right now, I would say that at a point in time I very much understood why someone would pay the extra money to buy Apple products. I understood what came with the Apple brand and you could say at that time that “you get what you pay for.” But today, that understanding, quality, reliability, and goodwill behind the Apple brand have been completely eroded away. At least, in my experience.

When Steve Jobs passed away, I had my doubts about whether the company would continue to do what it did so well. Year after year, we’ve seen product lines receive modest updates as Apple throws out marketing terms like “revolutionary” for a touch bar that is anything but. Premature and underdeveloped products are released to capitalize on Apple’s goodwill (the HomePod). In the least, I expected Apple to keep up with the quality and reliability of the products that they have come to be known for. Unfortunately, it seems that year after year, quality control has dwindled as well.

On top of this, Apple’s product lines have expanded and become more complex. This goes directly against Steve Jobs mission to always simplify and focus on their core products and customers. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the Bluetooth AirPods. These were sold to me from a salesperson quoting a Steve Jobs line of “they just work.” Well, they work, most of the time. Sometimes I have to put them into the back into the base, reconnect, take them in and out of my ear, and after all of this… “they just work.” But, like all Apple products, when they work, I sure do love them.

Today, I buy AppleCare on every Apple Product I purchase. It’s not because I want it, it’s because I’m fearful that everything I’m going to buy is going to fail. This is a deceptive consumer practice. Apple has made each of us pay $300-$500 more for each product we buy because like me, other people are afraid that a day past their warranty they will fail, and they do!

As it stands, I will use these products until they quit and AppleCare has expired. From there, unless Apple has changed, I have no reason to stick to a platform that has caused me so much more grief than the world of PC.


This has been my experience without bias or exaggeration. I will continue to always be open about my experiences with each of these companies and their products. I will also say that it’s not all negative. Beyond the hardware issues I’ve faced this year, I can honestly say that I love Apple’s ecosystem consisting of their OS, App Store, and software suite. In my mind, this is a huge reason to stay with the platform, if they can get everything else back on track.

I genuinely hope that they are able to do so.


About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge, which offers photography content, tutorials, and training. This article was also published here.


Image credits: Header illustration contains Facebook like icon by Enoc vt and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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