Tech Support Showdown 2012

Apple

Apple Tech Support Results
Average Call Length 13 minutes
Phone Grade 2012 A
Web Grade 2012 B+
Overall Grade 2012 A-
Overall Grade 2011 A
Overall Grade 2010 A

apple.com/support
expresslane.apple.com
800-275-2273 

Each year that we conduct our tech support showdown, Apple bests the competition. This year it’s getting a run for its money from the likes of Samsung and Sony. The company’s secret weapon, Genius Bars, remain strong, offering reservations for face-to-face tech support. Plus, Express Lane remains one of the speediest and most effective methods for getting timely answers.

Unfortunately, another carry-over from previous years is the limited 90 days of phone support, unless you’re willing to pony up for AppleCare, Apple’s three-year computer protection program. AppleCare is $249 for the 11-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and $349 for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. You can also pay a per-incident fee of $49.

For our testing, we asked Apple about three-finger swiping on the trackpad and extending battery life as well as “How can I share a file through AirDrop?”

Web & Social Networking

On Apple’s support site (www.apple.com/support), simple menus lead you to select increasingly specific parameters until you land at the correct support article. It took us about three minutes of trial-and-error clicking before we arrived at the appropriate articles for two questions. For our third query, we had to type AirDrop into the search bar before finding the correct result within the first three links.

Apple’s Express Lane service (expresslane.apple.com) lets you enter your machine’s serial number, and then helps pinpoint answers by exploring various menus. As customers progress through the options, Express Lane either proposes a help article as a solution or recommends that the user speak directly to one of its specialists. When confronted with this suggestion, users have the option to call Apple or have Apple call them.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t have an official Facebook or Twitter feed to answer user questions or complaints. Apple also doesn’t offer email or live online chat.

Phone

For our first phone call, we filled out a Web form asking Apple to call us at 5:31 p.m. EST on a Wednesday. When the call came we were greeted with a recorded message: “To speak with an adviser, press 1. To reschedule this call, press 2.” We pressed 1 and the voice informed us of a 5-minute estimated wait time.

In less time than that Michelle from Oregon cheerily introduced herself (she already knew our name). For the AirDrop question, she genially offered expert advice. At the end, Michelle offered to email us a step-by-step help article before reminding us we had 57 days left on our phone support. She also mentioned that we had 330 days left on our limited warranty, suggesting we buy an AppleCare Protection Plan. The entire call lasted 17 minutes and 29 seconds, and we spent less than 4 minutes on hold.

During our second call, with John in Phoenix, at 12:10 p.m. on a Thursday, we asked about three-finger swiping. He correctly directed us to the Trackpad options under System Preferences and had us make sure the gestures we wanted to activate were checked off. The call took a speedy 5 minutes and 4 seconds total.

For our third question — how to make our machine’s battery life longer — we were connected to an amiable-sounding Chris from Salt Lake City at 4:21 p.m. on Thursday. At the beginning of the call, Chris wrongly told us our phone support had run out. Apple’s voice-to-text translation of the serial number had gone awry. But before we gave him the correct serial number, Chris had already offered to point us toward the correct answer.

He suggested we use the F1 and F2 keys to adjust our screen brightness, go into System Preferences to tweak settings within our Mac’s Energy Saver function, turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, disconnect peripheral devices and close apps and watch the battery status in the upper right corner of our display to make sure we had enough juice for our pending activities.

At the end of the call, which took 19 minutes and 24 seconds, Chris gave us a link to more in-depth information about Apple batteries from Apple’s support site.

Verdict

Apple’s technical support is still excellent. Online, Apple has amassed an almost dizzying amount of support articles, yet these are neatly filed away into clear and well-organized topics. While Apple’s phone reps didn’t always have the immediate answer on hand, they were always patient, cordial and determined to completely resolve our issues before we hung up the phone. And while Apple totally neglects social networking as a means to communicate with its customers, it uniquely offers in-store tech support from Apple Genius Bars across the country.

Tech Support Showdown 2012

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  1. Not Phil Says:

    Dell service stinks. They also don’t stand behind their equipment. I’ve had nothing but problems with Dell and will never purchase another.

  2. don Says:

    then if the sony is the top 1 at tech support..

    what is the brand that is best for gamings..

    i mean which brand is best for gamings..

    including the price the kind of specs the kind of products.

    which is the best brand of laptop that is good for gaming..

    mostly and surely about durability and performance through out the year.

  3. Al Says:

    “Acer Tech Report Results” is shown as the title on the Sony page.

  4. Karen Says:

    I have to agree with Not Phil – I’ve never in my life encountered such appalling “service” as I just did from Dell! Will never buy from them again (not that they care).

  5. graham (australia) Says:

    ive got a couple of asus notebooks and also a netbook, over the yrs ive had a couple of minor warranty issues and asus support has been brilliant, the asus techs seem enthusiastic about there products and are more then happy to take the time to show u little things or answer questions,

  6. Cappy Says:

    I’m with Karen and notphil…….. Dell is terrible. Half the time they give you the wrong information and if you have continuing problems… too bad.

    I say this as a person who has purchased 4 computers from them in the past, and will not in future.

  7. a person Says:

    the thing about dell is their consumer products suck they have for a long time and they probably always will. That said buy the same computer relabled vostro, pay the extra for pro support and your phone wait time is 2 minutes max and they’ll have a US based technician solving any problem have and they’ll drop off the part you need within 4 hours. but if you expect to pay $400 for a laptop that costs $375 to build ship and market. you’ll get crap support.

  8. Steve Says:

    I’ve had had Dell XPS’s since 2004. That came with a dedicated phone line only for the XPS line, it was India sometimes but not all. The support was decent.
    Prior to that I had Dell Dimension’s 8400 and their tech support was as good as dealing with monkeys.

    Recently I bought a Lenovo Desktop. Tech support is located in the U.S. for my model and I just read yesterday that all tech support is coming back to the states. I also bought a 5 yr. Priority Service upgrade so I am good till 2018 if I still even have this them?
    Having U.S. support is one of the reasons I bought this system. I liked another one a bit more, same price.. more of a gaming system with support in India and no Priority Support like I do here in the states. I do get next day service with this one too and they will only warranty it for 3 yrs max, (what’s that tell you?)

    I am still within the time frame of returning this system exchanging it for the other and dealing with India.

    Also, Lenovo does not use refurbished parts when repairing your computer, completely new parts are always used.

  9. Dom Says:

    Let me just say that I will NEVER EVER buy a DELL product again! I just had the worst experience with tech support. I have had continuing problems and they said pretty much what I have already heard on here…too bad. I told them that you all just lost another Dell customer and it didn’t really phase them too much. I was supposed to get a new laptop from all the problems I had with this one and they told me “it won’t get approved from all the departments here and plus we need more information.” Really?? Like you don’t have a ton already with all the problems I’ve had??

  10. sam Says:

    Let me just say that I will NEVER EVER buy a DELL product again! I just had the worst experience with tech support. I have had continuing problems and they said pretty much what I have already heard on here…too bad. I told them that you all just lost another Dell customer and it didn’t really phase them too much. I was supposed to get a new laptop from all the problems I had with this one and they told me “it won’t get approved from all the departments here and plus we need more information.” Really?? Like you don’t have a ton already with all the problems I’ve had??
    and then i took help from axes pc care they are the genuine people their number is 1-877-509-8360

  11. JDE Says:

    I’m stunned to see Sony get first place in tech support. That doesn’t reflect my experience at all, and I’ve been on the phone with them as recently as a few months ago. I think they’re no better than any other manufacturer, and they’re all terrible.

    I also think that Apple’s tech support, while probably better than everyone else’s, is overrated. I’ve had at least two negative experiences with them over the past couple of years, one of them requiring intervention on the part of a supervisor who was embarrassed by the ignorance and unprofessionalism of his subordinate.

  12. She Says:

    When will Laptop Magazine release the showdown results for 2013?

  13. Anna Attkisson, LAPTOP Managing Editor Says:

    We are putting the finishing touches on this story now. It will be coming in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned!

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