Adventures in Refurbing

Last fall, an eBay shop opened up offering Apple Certified Refurbished products at identical prices to those offered by Apple, with rumors suggesting that the shop was quietly being run by Apple itself. Recently, the shop began undercutting Apple’s own online store on some items, and I decided to look a little more closely at what this “Refurbished-Outlet” store might be.

I figured I could easily place an order to get access to contact information for the seller and data on where the orders were being shipped from, perhaps providing clues about who was actually running the operation. So I placed my order for a refurbished iPod touch and waited it for to arrive.

The first bit of information came in the form of a confirmation email from the seller listing a contact address at While there is no website located at that address, the domain is registered to Liquidity Services, the wholesale and surplus distribution company behind operates four warehouses in the United States, including one in Plainfield, Indiana just a few miles from the Indianapolis airport. Upon receiving UPS tracking information for my order, I saw that it was originating from the Indianapolis airport, bolstering the appearance that my entire transaction was being handled by Liquidity Services.

Two days later my order arrived, and I picked it up off of my front porch just as the UPS driver was pulling away in his truck. The package had a Plainfield, IN return address corresponding to’s warehouse, although it seemed rather lighter than I expected.

ipod_theft_1As I began to open the package, I noticed that cardboard at one end of the box had been torn and re-taped, and upon opening it up completely, I discovered that the white iPod touch refurb box itself had been torn open and all of the contents removed.

ipod_theft_2With that development, my investigation into Refurbished-Outlet became a bit more complicated as I had to deal not with a straightforward return but also with a theft claim. I notified UPS, who collected the package the following day, and also followed up with Refurbished-Outlet, who initially responded with an auto-reply email that included a link to Secondipity, another Liquidity Services business. Fortunately, the process was a simple one, with Refurbished-Outlet promptly offering a replacement shipment and only requesting some photos to help with the investigation.

So who is behind these sales of Apple Certified Refurbished products on eBay? If it’s Apple, they’ve outsourced essentially the entire operation to Liquidity Services. Secondipity notes only that it has “access to store returns and excess inventory from merchants from all around the world, including seven of the top 10 U.S. retailers.” Apple ranked as the 21st largest U.S. retailer based on 2011 sales numbers, but that of course says nothing about whether or not Apple has a direct partnership with Liquidity Services.

And in the most recent development, Refurbished-Outlet now appears to have shut down its eBay store, with the store page simply directing to an FAQ about what to expect from certified refurbished products. The eBay account remains open, but is currently offering no products for sale after having removed its remaining 25 products at 8:27 PM Pacific Time on March 30.

By Eric Posted in Apple

‘Apple is Foundering’

Luca Gattoni-Celli at The Motley Fool:

When Apple lost Steve Jobs, it did not lose its culture. It lost its soul. Apple as we know, love, and revile it was Steve Jobs, and the key to Apple’s future is resolving a disconnect between its past and present created by the void he left. Jobs was not a good manager. He screamed and swore at his employees until they delivered minor miracles. But as noted, he had vision. His brilliance, originality, even his technological savvy, are open to debate, but the direction of Apple’s product portfolio in the last two years clearly reflects his absence.

And what has Jobs’ absence meant for the company’s products?

The new offerings have lacked the trendsetting impact Jobs’ obsessed over, as well as the ethereality of something “insanely great.” The newest iPad is wonderful but derivative. Early customers experienced annoying power management issues, unable to operate at full tilt without battery drainage, even plugged into a power socket. A device that runs out of power plugged into the wall? Steve Jobs would have been inconsolably livid. The MacBook Pro with Retina Display is also a great product. It actually does set a new standard for top-end notebook computing. But integrating what is essentially an iPad screen into a super-thin, wicked-fast midsize laptop is hardly revolutionary. Anyone could have thought of it, which is a problem.

One problem…as we know from Bloomberg Businessweek, these were all Steve’s products.

Much about the company’s direction and even its products still reflects Jobs’s decisions and design preferences—the iPhone 5 was the last model to receive detailed input from Jobs, say two people familiar with its development. The company has yet to release any product Jobs didn’t personally bless. But Cook has executed Jobs’s plan even better than expected.

By Eric Posted in Apple

A Trust Issue

Davis MacMillan at Minyanville:

Apple Doesn’t Trust Owners of the New MacBook Pro

Well, Cupertino seems to have one-upped itself again with its latest MacBook. According to early reports, it’s the most difficult Apple computer to take apart yet. reports that initial attempts to take apart Apple’s new Retina MacBook Pro have yielded the lowest possible scores for user repair potential. The new computer is smaller than previous Apple devices, a factor that contributed to its inaccessibility.

Yes, it has everything to do with the fact that Apple doesn’t trust anyone inside their computers and nothing to do with the fact that its efforts at pushing the limits of technology to shrink its devices require making design decisions that make them extremely difficult to repair or upgrade.

97% of all statistics are fabricated, but I’ll wager that 99% of users have no interest in opening up their computers for any reason. But 100% of them will get to use a lighter, thinner, and more powerful MacBook Pro.

By Eric Posted in Apple

Revisionist History

Dara Kerr at CNET:

Apple CEO Tim Cook donates $100 million to charity

Apple CEO Tim Cook might just be taking some tips from Bill Gates–last week he announced he donated $100 million to charity, according to The Verge.

The teaser text for the article’s RSS entry is even better:

Apple’s CEO announces that he spent $100 million of Apple’s money on charitable giving–something Steve Jobs would not have done.


First, claiming that Cook himself made the donation is patently ridiculous. Any such decision would have to have been discussed and signed off on by a number of people. Apple donated the money, not Cook. While the CEO can certainly set the tone and direction in any discussion, he can’t just go rogue and give away the company’s money.

Second and more importantly, the original report from The Verge discusses two specific gifts: $50 million to Product Red and $50 million to Stanford University’s hospitals. Apple has participated in the Product Red campaign since the first red iPod nano was introduced in October 2006. Enough said on that issue.

As for the Stanford gift, Apple’s involvement was publicly announced in February 2011. Steve Jobs may have been on his final medical leave of absence at the time, but he was still CEO and you can bet discussions on the gift had been going on for more than the two weeks Jobs had been on leave, especially since the announcement involved coordination among Stanford and six Bay Area technology companies.

But who needs facts when there’s a narrative to be told: Steve Jobs was a cheap bastard and Tim Cook is a paragon of virtue.

By Eric Posted in Apple

Think, Period.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz at The Motley Fool:

It was difficult to see Apple moving so many tablets when’s Kindle Fire was doing what no other competitor had done in this niche by actually selling “millions” of its entry-level $199 devices. Adding to the bargain-basement pricing, Research In Motion was dumping PlayBook tablets for as little as $199. Even its high-end 64-gigabyte model is selling at a $400 discount to its original price tag these days. It was also during this time that Hewlett-Packard cleared out its inventory of webOS-fueled TouchPads for as little as $99 apiece.

Given all of this markdown madness, you have to wonder what the 15.4 million buyers of iPads at $499 or higher were thinking. It was a buyer’s market for tablets, yet they went ahead and paid retail. […]

I’m not asking iPad buyers to “think different” as much as “think,” period.

15.4 million idiots…what were they thinking?

(Apple noted on the conference call that sell-through exceeded sell-in by 200,000 units, so it was more like 15.6 million idiots.)

Early February Seems Too Early

Macotakara says that Apple is preparing for an iPad 3 introduction in early February. As I noted over at MacRumors, this would make for a roughly one-month wait from introduction to launch if rumors of early March availability are correct, and that’s where they seem to be coalescing right now.

One month is too long of a wait for an established Apple product unless they’re specifically trying to preempt something else with an announcement, and I don’t see signs of that yet. Early February is too early in my opinion, so my gut feeling is that this Macotakara report is off.

For the record, last year Macotakara claimed on February 5 that Apple was likely to hold a late February media event ahead of a March launch for the iPad 2. The media event actually took place on March 2.

An iPad 3 with LTE

Today’s big news is a Bloomberg report claiming that the iPad 3 has entered production and is set to launch in March. While that piece of information and claims of a high-resolution “Retina” display are consistent with circulating rumors, the report’s assertion that the iPad 3 will both carry a quad-core processor (presumably Apple’s A6 system-on-a-chip) and support LTE cellular connectivity are very welcome confirmations.

When it comes to the processor, Apple has been widely reported to be developing its next-generation A6 system-on-a-chip with a quad-core processor. But one analyst suggested last August that an A6-powered iPad would be unlikely before June 2012 based on the suggested development timeline for the platform. That claim naturally led to speculation about whether the analyst was simply wrong (a common assumption), or if Apple would be forced to decide between releasing an A5-powered iPad 3 in the expected March timeframe or “pushing back” the iPad 3 launch to the June timeframe.

On the LTE front, Apple executives stated several times last year that the company was unwilling to adopt LTE in that year’s mobile products due to “design compromises” that would have had to have been made in order to accommodate the necessary chips. In brief, LTE devices have so far required two-chip solutions to provide the LTE baseband on top of the basic system components. That arrangement requires additional space and power that Apple was unwilling to dedicate to the technology last year.

Qualcomm is in the process of delivering single-chip LTE solutions to manufacturers for sampling, and that has been expected to be the necessary step for Apple to adopt the technology. But reports had indicated that single-chip solutions such as the MDM9615 would not be ready for mass production until early this year, with some sources reporting a Q2 introduction. Consequently, there has been some debate as to whether they would arrive in time for Apple to squeeze them into the iPad 3 for a spring launch.

Assuming Bloomberg‘s report is correct, both of the potential issues regarding A6 and LTE availability are no longer a concern, and even the most demanding Apple fans can look forward to another enticing product launch in the not-too-distant future.

The China Telecom iPhone

From an IDG News report on Sunday:

IPhone Built for China Telecom Gains Regulator Approval

A version of the Apple’s iPhone built for China Telecom’s networks has received approval from a Chinese regulator, putting the iconic smartphone closer in the hands of customers of the mobile operator.

It’s not clear if the device is the iPhone 4S, the latest version of the iPhone. The China Radio Management office said on its website that it gave approval to an Apple smartphone built for China Telecom’s CDMA2000 network.

While the report states that it is “not clear if the device is the iPhone 4S”, it most certainly is. A quick search on the database of approvals reveals the device to be model A1387, which is in fact the same iPhone 4S released in the rest of the world and the one that GSM provider China Unicom will begin offering on Friday.

Oddly enough, the report has been picked up without question by a number of different outlets, including mainstream publications such as The Wall Street Journal, CNET, and Bloomberg.

All of the reports seem to leave the incorrect impression that this mysterious A1387 iPhone (if they even identify the model) has been developed by Apple specifically to run on China Telecom’s network. What none of them consider is the fact that the device was approved so that China Unicom can offer it beginning on Friday.

The iPhone 4S approval really says little about China Telecom’s prospects for offering the device. It’s been clear since the iPhone 4S launch last year that it would run on China Telecom’s network, just as the now year-old CDMA iPhone 4 would. Yes, technically the iPhone 4S approval is one less hurdle for a China Telecom iPhone, but that approval was essentially a given and was driven by China Unicom’s needs, not China Telecom’s. The absence of a China Telecom iPhone has been and continues to simply be due to a lack of an agreement between Apple and the carrier.