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Apple Working On Tech To Detect Purchasers' "Abuse"

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the if-not-expressly-allowed-then-goto-prohibited dept.

Hardware Hacking 539

Toe, The writes "Apple has submitted a patent application for technologies which would detect device-abuse by consumers. The intent presumably being to aid in determining the validity of warranty claims. 'Consumer abuse events' would be recorded by liquid and thermal sensors detecting extreme environmental exposures, a shock sensor detecting drops or other impacts, and a continuity sensor to detect jailbreaking or other tampering. The article also notes that liquid submersion detectors are already deployed in MacBook Pros, iPhones and iPods. It does seem reasonable that a corporation would wish to protect itself from fraudulent warranty claims; however the idea of sensors inside your portable devices detecting what you do with them might raise eyebrows even beyond the tinfoil-hat community."

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I guess this could make sense (4, Insightful)

ls671 (1122017) | about 5 years ago | (#28976209)

Well I guess this could make sense, I know people that really abuse the vendors by returning products that have been used in non-warranty covered conditions and I have always known that I am indirectly paying for them when I buy a new product.

> however the idea of sensors inside your portable devices detecting
> what you do with them might raise eyebrows even beyond
> the tinfoil-hat community.

The line is thin, but I guess if different agencies or companies want to spy on people, they won't tell us in advance anyway.

Problems could arise in case the "abuse detection" device malfunctions and falsely report abuse by the consumer.

As stated in TFA this is already done anyway, I don't see public pressure stopping this.

might decrease the value of the warranty, though (5, Insightful)

oenone.ablaze (1133385) | about 5 years ago | (#28976341)

Apple would probably make money in the end through decreased support costs, but all the same I'd be a lot less inclined to get AppleCare if I felt that there was a significant risk of wear-and-tear getting interpreted by this sensor as "abuse."

Re:might decrease the value of the warranty, thoug (4, Insightful)

Aphoxema (1088507) | about 5 years ago | (#28976827)

I'm skeptical their products would get any cheaper no matter how much money they save. People have shown how much they're willing to pay, why charge less?

Re:I guess this could make sense (4, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 5 years ago | (#28976363)

TFA didn't mention the worst part. My friend is an Apple employee assigned to this technology and he told me that, among the sensors mentioned in TFA, there will be an additional "secret" sensor which will void the warranty and brick the device if it detects heterosexual sex.

The design of the secret sensor is widely viewed by insiders as a response to those who voted for prop 8.

Re:I guess this could make sense (1)

Miseph (979059) | about 5 years ago | (#28976873)

That's probably the funniest joke of the whole story. And given the genre, a pretty classy one too.

Shame that people are too PC and too Mac fanboyish to mod it the "+5, Funny" like it deserves.

Oh well.

Re:I guess this could make sense (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | about 5 years ago | (#28976381)

My iPod explodes/catches fire [timesonline.co.uk] . Apple's sensors indicate a severe temperature spike and a sharp jolt.

So here's the question, what exactly does this indicate? Cars have even more sophisticated black boxes and even then they rarely are able to piece together what actually happened using just that data. Does anyone actually think that these sensors are going to be used in any other way than blanket warranty denials?

Re:I guess this could make sense (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 5 years ago | (#28976555)

Don't worry, the terms of use will be altered by Apple's megalomaniacal support team that there'll be no legal way to contest any judgement that any failure in the iPod is due to Apple's own engineering flaws. What's more, when people bitch on Slashdot about it, a bunch of pathetic Apple fanbois will come in droves to defend the whole scheme. Isn't that how it's worked with everything Apple has done so far?

Re:I guess this could make sense (4, Informative)

FCAdcock (531678) | about 5 years ago | (#28976391)

Even cheap cell phones have submersion detectors these days to prevent people from turning in phones that got dropped into water. Although I have one that took a quick swim and yet works fine other than rebooting any time I type the word "economist" into a text message with auto spell on. (a samsung SGH A117)

Some companies are really good about returned items even with obvious misuse. I'll never buy any watch other than a citizen again after my last one got replaced. I sent the half of it that I could find back with a letter telling them it stopped a rifle round and thanked them for making such darn good watches and within a week I had a brand new one that I never even asked for. Plus never having to worry about batteries or time zones is a MAJOR plus for me. I just wish they made one with a vibrating alarm so I could use it in the field.

Re:I guess this could make sense (4, Insightful)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 5 years ago | (#28976709)

Even cheap cell phones have submersion detectors these days to prevent people from turning in phones that got dropped into water.

If enough people drop their phones in water to warrant sticking sensors in to void the warranty claims, I would have thought that demonstrates a consumer demand for waterproof devices rather than a demand for warranty voiding sensors...

In any case, I think all the phones I've ever had have got wet one way or another (2 of them soaked in sea water more than once). They all survived surprisingly well, coming back to life after being dismantled, soaked in deionised water and a couple of days drying out. The only device I've drowned which hasn't done so well is my "waterproof, nitrogen filled" Garmin eTrex Venture GPS, which turned out to not be so waterproof - it has mostly recovered, but the screen goes crazy every so often (percussive maintenance fixes it) so I think I need to dismantle it and soak it again. Oh, and a cheap waterproof Casio watch which survived many windsurfing sessions only to fill with water when I washed the car.

Re:I guess this could make sense (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 5 years ago | (#28976763)

If I made watches & one of them stopped a rifle round I'd make damn sure it got replaced, you'd be more likely to keep telling that story if you had a similar watch on your wrist to remind you. :D

Re:I guess this could make sense (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 years ago | (#28976431)

Our sensor indicates you took your mac book to a mom and pop coffee shop instead of a Starbucks.

your warranty is voided.

Re:I guess this could make sense (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 5 years ago | (#28976711)

Well, I do not use Apple products at all, I never have since my assembly for the Mac course in 1987 ;-)

Re:I guess this could make sense (2, Interesting)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | about 5 years ago | (#28976441)

"Sir, we can't replace your Iphone for the blow speaker because our system shows the device was in 120+ degree weather for longer than 30 seconds."

"I drove here in a car with no AC. It's 113 degrees outside.. I just called first and you guys said it would be fine."

"Sorry sir, our sensor doesn't record when the event took place, simply that the event took place. Have a nice day."

Re:I guess this could make sense (4, Insightful)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about 5 years ago | (#28976529)

and I have always known that I am indirectly paying for them when I buy a new product.

Do you honestly think that the company (any company, not just Apple) would charge you less if people did not do this? The difference is going to boost their profit margin, and since people already have no problems overpaying for a product, they will see no need to lower the price at all.

Re:I guess this could make sense (1)

Glyphn (652286) | about 5 years ago | (#28976687)

Do you honestly think that the company (any company, not just Apple) would charge you less if people did not do this? The difference is going to boost their profit margin, and since people already have no problems overpaying for a product, they will see no need to lower the price at all.

Are you suggesting that a company will not decrease their profit margin even when it allows them to maximize profit (by increasing sales)?

Re:I guess this could make sense (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28976603)

Lots of cars already do this... A friend of mine red-lined his Saturn Coupe several times, and when he got a regular servicing at the dealership they told him his warranty on the power train was no longer valid (though the rest of the warranty was valid, IIRC). This was back in fall of '94 or spring of '95, I'd imagine that this practice has become more extensively implemented and more widespread since then.

Personally, I'm all for it -- as you say, we all pay more for goods when people abuse warranties on them.

As for false-positives... going back to my friend's Saturn, the dealership told him that although any redlining supposedly voided the warranty, they gave their customers one (maybe two?) "free" redlines in any 12-month period. This would help with false-positives, but I don't think it would work for consumer electronics, since a single immersion would cause failure, unlike redlining a car. But I think the damage from false positives could be mitigated via good customer service policy (but now I'm fantasizing, I guess).

Re:I guess this could make sense (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 5 years ago | (#28976879)

I don't buy it. Most cars have a fuel shutoff that won't let you over-rev the engine. Why let the car rev that fast if it's bad for it?

And if he popped the clutch in low gear while going too fast to exceed the red-line, they absolutely should void his warranty.

Re:I guess this could make sense (1)

The Empiricist (854346) | about 5 years ago | (#28976613)

The line is thin, but I guess if different agencies or companies want to spy on people, they won't tell us in advance anyway.

You would think that putting cameras, microphones, wireless connection technologies, and autoupgrade technologies into laptops, cellphones, etc., would be more likely to give people the heebie-jeebies than a few accelerometers and other abuse-sensing devices. Is Apple going to use sensors in your iPod to tell if you take it jogging?

Problems could arise in case the "abuse detection" device malfunctions and falsely report abuse by the consumer.

You could probably reduce the number of problems by using multiple systems and only voiding the warranty if there are multiple detections of abuse. Or the impact of false reports could be reduced by only using the technologies to void warranties for customers who repeatedly return abused equipment.

One potential feature of abuse-detection technology would be that the vindication of the 0.001% or so of customers who, without fault, are unlucky enough to repeatedly get equipment that breaks. Instead of treating these customers with suspicion, Apple can continue to accept returns from them or even offer them compensation, content that they are not rewarding customers who refuse to take care of their purchases.

I believe that ... (4, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | about 5 years ago | (#28976243)

... as the abused get smarter, the abusers also get smarter at an equal or quicker pace.

Re:I believe that ... (1)

quantumplacet (1195335) | about 5 years ago | (#28976319)

except the abusers are generally morons who dropped their cell phone in a toilet then dried it with a hairdryer and returned it saying 'it just stopped working'.

Re:I believe that ... (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 years ago | (#28976587)

except the abusers are generally morons who dropped their cell phone in a toilet then dried it with a hairdryer and returned it saying 'it just stopped working'.

One of my former co-workers was tasked with setting up a wireless network for our academic department, but our boss didn't want to spend money on an enterprise-grade deployment. So my co-worker went out and bought consumer-grade APs, then hacked them to run at higher power using instructions he found on the net. Of course this meant components were being used out-of-spec, and a significant number of the units failed within the first year - at which point my co-worker - with our boss' full knowledge - returned them for warranty replacement.

So while I'm sure there are plenty of "morons who dropped their cell phone in a toilet", I suspect a fair number of the people that abuse equipment (and costs us consumers money in terms of higher prices) are right here on Slashdot - they're just better at not getting caught.

Re:I believe that ... (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 5 years ago | (#28976329)

That's true, but the abusers get smarter because there are fewer of them, since the not-as-bright/knowledgeable ones get weeded out. Everyone's happy; the techies get a "challenge"; the company gets fewer warranty abuses; and no one is really conscious of the change that just took place.

Re:I believe that ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976365)

Two words - Cattle Prod. Does a wonderful job, leaves behind no visible marks on circuitry.

Re:I believe that ... (1, Interesting)

PriceIke (751512) | about 5 years ago | (#28976621)

> as the abused get smarter, the abusers also get smarter at an equal or quicker pace

As an Apple consumer my whole adult life, I am getting fed up with their abuse. There is a freedom I am entitled to when I purchase their (or anyone's) products .. it is the freedom of OWNERSHIP, to do with it what I wish (that isn't outright illegal or causes harm to others), and Apple seems hell-bent on stripping me of that freedom. I expect this kind of draconian top-down use-policing from Microsoft .. not from Apple. It's getting to the point where I can't even tell the difference.

Just one problem.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976259)

What happens when the sensors themselves get hacked?

What about (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976273)

What about companies that abuse their customers with unrealistic and draconian EULAs?

Re:What about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976577)

People already have sensors for that. They just buy anyway. Study up a bit on branding, you'll get it I bet.

Re:What about (4, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | about 5 years ago | (#28976601)

Customer> I'd like to return my powerbook. It keeps overheating, I think the fan stopped working and burned itself out
Apple> Let's take a look.... I'm sorry, your warranty has been voided
Customer> Why?
Apple> Our sensors show you've subjected your powerbook to extreme temperatures outside of those covered by our warranty.

Re:What about (1)

domatic (1128127) | about 5 years ago | (#28976793)

I have to wonder about that. Suppose a faulty part overheated enough to trip the sensor? Or the thing just plain got hot. I've had perfectly functional laptops get damn near hot enough to burn my thighs.

These aren't your devices (1, Troll)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 5 years ago | (#28976275)

however the idea of sensors inside your portable devices

That is the mistake right there, the article is talking about sensors inside of Apple's devices. What you thought you owned that device you bought from Apple? That's not what Apple thought, they are just allowing you to use it, as long as you give them money and don't use it in any way that they disapprove of.

Re:These aren't your devices (4, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | about 5 years ago | (#28976345)

"That's not what Apple thought, they are just allowing you to use it, as long as you give them money and don't use it in any way that they disapprove of." ... if you want to make a warranty claim.

Re:These aren't your devices (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28976477)

Yeah, these things don't strike me as being a whole lot different than a difficult to remove, difficult to obtain, sticker (that makes it clear something has been opened).

Re:These aren't your devices (1)

RedK (112790) | about 5 years ago | (#28976383)

That's just a knee-jerk and it's not what the article is saying at all. It's saying that you can use the device you bought as you see fit, just that Apple won't want to pay for your mistakes when you decide your MacBook Pro made for an appropriate flotation device in your pool. Also, I don't see anything about remote monitoring, so this in essence would be a blackbox type system where if you take it in for repair, they will be able to access the logs. If you want no one to know that you spoon your Mac Pro at night, leaving biological traces all over the PCI-X bus, just don't take it in for repair.

Re:These aren't your devices (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 5 years ago | (#28976399)

> and don't use it in any way that they disapprove of.

Well, in my understanding, you would still be allowed to use it in any you want to use it. But if it breaks and that you have used it in non-warranty covered conditions, then you would have to pay for the repairs.

Similar conditions exists in many fields, for example, if you buy a car to modify it and take it to the race track, it usually voids the warranty.

Re:These aren't your devices (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 5 years ago | (#28976467)

If you send something in for warranty repair, you have to expect that those reviewing the device and making the repair can and will retrieve information about the device in order to determine how it broke. It's part of any continuous improvement process.

I devised methods to store records on my products, which can be retrieved when the products are returned for RMA. From those records I can help figure out how the product was used, and if that use affected the need for RMA.

We then use that data to either tell the customer (via friendly visit from the local FAE) that they are messing up their own products through misuse, or we use the data to fix a part of the design or produce a new product that fits the application better.

If you never send the product in for RMA, I never have access to your data. And if you're really paranoid (or a classified government agency), we provide a tool for you to scrub all data before you send the module to us. Just ask.

Re:These aren't your devices (1)

Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) | about 5 years ago | (#28976653)

They're your device. However, the warrantee doesn't cover the complete range of what you could possibly do with it. I see three main aspects to this. First is that if you want better warrantee coverage then you better start lobbying your legislators. No company is going to greatly exceed minimum requirements for meeting regulated "suitability for purpose" unless there's a great market impetus, and I don't see one here. Second, people try to get what they don't deserve. Whether you think that in this case it's Apple trying to get absolute assurances that you're not baking your iPod Touch to dry it after dropping it in the commode, or the consumer trying to get coverage after dropping it into said commode is up to you. Both parties do these kinds of things; setting the limits of what each party can do is for the public to decide with both laws and by determining the social norms (I think that Apple's going a bit to far, but then again they're doing it because people try to scam them. I'd love to be able to call bullshit on some customer's but without solid proof it's, well, hard to prove sometimes.) Third, what's the real benefit here for Apple? Are there really that many fraudulent warrantee claims that they will actually make money after the cost of installing these devices? On a $2k+ laptop, I can see the margin. On a $200 iPod? The cost of these devices would have to be quite marginal in order for this to make more sense than just trying to use judgment when issuing warrantee service. Is there really a business case for this, or is it just to have the patent?

Re:These aren't your devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976689)

What are you talking about? You can use it in any manner you like, however you may invalidate your warranty in doing so. Claiming on the warranty when you've used it in a manner that isn't covered is illegal and while it's not the worst crime ever, other consumers end up paying for it.

Liquid immersion detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976283)

AKA - dropped in toilet detector. Couldn't they just smell the fecal matter on it?

Re:Liquid immersion detector (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976519)

How would they be able to tell the difference from the smell of being dropped in the toilet and the Mac user's normal scent? Most Mac users are gays who fuck each other up the ass, and piss all over each other.

Panties STINK! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976287)

Panties Stink!
They really, really stink!
Sometimes they're red, sometimes they're green,
Sometimes they're white or black or pink
Sometimes they're satin, sometimes they're lace
Sometimes they're cotton and soak up stains
But at the end of the day, it really makes you think
Wooooooo-wheeeee! Panties stink!

Sometimes they're on the bathroom floor
Your girlfriend- what a whore!
Sometimes they're warm and wet and raw
From beneath the skirt of your mother-in-law
Brownish stains from daily wear
A gusset full of pubic hair
Just make sure your nose is ready
For the tang of a sweat-soaked wedgie
In your hand a pair of drawers
With a funky feminine discharge
Give your nose a rest, fix yourself a drink
cause wooooooo-wheeeeeee! panties stink!

Please patent it (5, Insightful)

kabloom (755503) | about 5 years ago | (#28976297)

Please patent it, Apple. Then I can buy my cell phone from someone else and know that this technology isn't included.

Re:Please patent it (5, Informative)

krlynch (158571) | about 5 years ago | (#28976409)

Many companies already include such devices in their phones. The one you have already may have passive water immersion sensors ... little stickers that change color if they get wet. I know for a fact that a number of LG and Samsung models have these, just inside the battery compartment. Google "cell phone water sensor" for a flavoring of what's already out there...

Re:Please patent it (1)

guyfawkes-11-5 (1583613) | about 5 years ago | (#28976633)

Many companies already include such devices in their phones. The one you have already may have passive water immersion sensors ... little stickers that change color if they get wet. I know for a fact that a number of LG and Samsung models have these, just inside the battery compartment. Google "cell phone water sensor" for a flavoring of what's already out there...

Mod up, a friend worked in a cellphone service center, it was one of the first things that was checked when it was sent in for service.

Re:Please patent it (1)

Znork (31774) | about 5 years ago | (#28976831)

Having not dropped a cellphone in water, do they actually reliably break from freshwater incidents? Most components should be water proof, and any stray currents due to, at least, freshwater conductivity should be far below tolerance and very unlikely to actually damage anything permanently.

I've had several keyboards, an mp3 player and flash memories subjected to various fluid exposures and none of them suffered more than at most temporary mechanical failures, easily dealt with by cleaning and/or room temperature fan-assisted drying.

Further, I doubt that the kind of water indicators they seem to be using would be any sort of reliable; chemical moisture indicators might very well get triggered by spending time outside on a foggy day and/or by simple condensation when subjected to temperature differences.

Re:Please patent it (1)

radtea (464814) | about 5 years ago | (#28976857)

The one you have already may have passive water immersion sensors ... little stickers that change color if they get wet.

Yeah, I immersed a cell phone a few years back, took it in for replacement and told them I had immersed it, and the first thing they did was pop that battery and say, "You sure did." There were a couple of stickers that were bright red, whereas the ones on the replacement phone were white.

That makes perfect sense to me, as lots of people will for some reason lie about this stuff, as I guess they are too stupid to realize that since everyone pays for the price of lying, their total cost, averaged over all of their economic activity, is the same either way: if everyone lies, everyone pays for everyone else's lies. If everyone tells the truth, everyone's average cost must be identical. The only thing that differs is the variance.

The fact that companies put simple sensors in devices like this tells you something: almost everyone lies. Ergo, there is not much point in anyone lying.

Re:Please patent it (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 5 years ago | (#28976493)

Except that they already are in most (well most expensive) phones. Motorola's have had them for at least the last 5 years...

Re:Please patent it (1)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | about 5 years ago | (#28976553)

Please patent it, Apple. Then I can buy my cell phone from someone else and know that this technology isn't included.
patent

You know that companies (even public ones) don't have to disclose their patent-licensing agreements.

Even the in the absence of an actual agreement, a manufacturer like Nokia or Motorola almost certainly have enough patents of their own to hold over Apple in case of suit. Mutually-assured-destruction is a stable equilibrium.

Time of event (3, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 5 years ago | (#28976301)

Simple devices offer ways to tell if a package has been dropped or turned upside down, but how do they prove that the event didn't happen before the device was in the hands of the customer. If they tell people to check them when the receive the device, then people are more likely to try to defeat them.

Re:Time of event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976491)

Mod parent up. I have no sympathy for people who void their warranty through negligence (oops, I flushed my iPod) and then try to seek a replacement under warranty. However, the potential for false positives in detecting customer abuse does concern me enough that I hope the technology doesn't become widespread.

Re:Time of event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976669)

I have found that some places will give discounts on replacement if you come in and say that you trashed it, as opposed to "er... it just stopped working."

I had a cell phone I just bought fall off a belt clip, skip off a pedestrian bridge to a road below. Rather than hem and haw and say the damage was due to just a 1m fall, I went in checked if there was anything that can be done with a phone that did a 15m nosedive. I was able to get a significant discount on a replacement.

Higher Prices (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 5 years ago | (#28976303)

This will hardly make Apple products cheaper since it will lead to higher hardware prices.

Re:Higher Prices (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | about 5 years ago | (#28976421)

Or reduce prices when they no longer need to subsidize fraudulent warranty claims...

Re:Higher Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976743)

Or reduce prices

Hahahaa! Nice one! :-D

Re:Higher Prices (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28976535)

The drop in warranty costs might make up for it.

There is no way to know what will happen without information about the cost and effectiveness of the devices.

Damn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976313)

You mean I can't fuck my iMac anymore?

Problem solved by Free Market Supply/Demand (5, Insightful)

newgalactic (840363) | about 5 years ago | (#28976317)

They can include whatever sensors they want. And I can buy whatever I want. There's no way I'll buy a smartphone that doesn't allow me to install software of my choice. This walled-garden crap is making me look to the HTC Hero, or whatever new Android phone is on the horizon.

Re:Problem solved by Free Market Supply/Demand (1)

stagg (1606187) | about 5 years ago | (#28976425)

"Voting with your dollar" only works if there are competitors offering a viable alternative. I don't think relying on the good grace of the competition not to pull the same dirty tricks is a particularly safe bet.

Re:Problem solved by Free Market Supply/Demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976481)

The Palm Pre has a fledgling homebrew community that's getting bigger by the week, and Palm appears to be making no effort to control it. The official App Catalog is stagnant, but there are new apps every day at the PreCentral.net forums.

Posted anon to duck anti-fanboy wrath.

Re:Problem solved by Free Market Supply/Demand (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 years ago | (#28976647)

This walled-garden crap is making me look to the HTC Hero, or whatever new Android phone is on the horizon.

I was really unhappy with the hardware of the HTC Raphael, in my case Fuze and not Touch Pro. The sliding keyboard cable had a known defect repairable with electrical tape, but instead of taping the cable into the connector so it wouldn't fail, they left people making repeated warranty replacements.

Cut them off at the pass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976323)

I'm working on technology to not sell shit to dumb asses, while still remaining profitable.

A patent for combining Retail products (3, Informative)

mpapet (761907) | about 5 years ago | (#28976325)

recorded by liquid and thermal sensors
I can get those already. Common in the shipping industry.
detecting extreme environmental exposures
How is this different than a thermal sensor? Common in the shipping industry, but not everywhere depending on the environmental element they are testing for.
a shock sensor detecting drops or other impacts
I can slap one of those inside any old box now. Apple puts it inside a laptop and it's a patent?
and a continuity sensor to detect jailbreaking or other tampering
Now, this *really* has been done. Permanent adhesives on a holographic label? Anyone? anyone?

Re:A patent for combining Retail products (5, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 5 years ago | (#28976677)

recorded by liquid and thermal sensors I can get those already. Common in the shipping industry. detecting extreme environmental exposures How is this different than a thermal sensor? Common in the shipping industry, but not everywhere depending on the environmental element they are testing for. a shock sensor detecting drops or other impacts I can slap one of those inside any old box now. Apple puts it inside a laptop and it's a patent? and a continuity sensor to detect jailbreaking or other tampering Now, this *really* has been done. Permanent adhesives on a holographic label? Anyone? anyone?

You're right. Obviously, the Slashdot Article Summary is not worthy of being patented.

However, that has very little to do with the limitations of this application, which include:

1. A system for detecting consumer abuse in an electronic device, the system comprising:one or more sensors configured to detect an occurrence of an abuse event;abuse detection circuitry configured to receive indication of the occurrence of the abuse event from the one or more sensors and to generate a record corresponding to the occurrence of the abuse event upon receiving the indication;a memory device configured to store the record; andan interface configured to facilitate communication between the electronic device and an external device.

That rules out the holographic stickers, at least.

It works really well (5, Insightful)

Alzheimers (467217) | about 5 years ago | (#28976335)

Those "submersion detectors" it work really well, right up until the local weather calls for 100% relative humidity. I've seen RIM deny multiple replacement requests due to triggered sensors.

Re:It works really well (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976439)

If a company's product cannot work in the environments you plan to use it in, don't buy the product... and don't blame the company if their warranties are voided by using the device in that environment.

Re:It works really well (2, Interesting)

sammyF70 (1154563) | about 5 years ago | (#28976629)

I live in the Caribbeans .. I guess I should stop using ANY product right now, considering the ambient temperature and humidity are ALWAYS close to the limits if not over them, unless you stay locked in a room with an AC. Similarly, people living in areas like Louisiana or Florida might want to stop too, et least during the summer.

Re:It works really well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976819)

It's a free market. Buy more resilient devices or start a business making them. Yes, they're more expensive, but it allows those devices to actually work as intended. Alternatively you could try moving north. I'm sure Canada would accept you.

Re:It works really well (2, Interesting)

RandomUsername99 (574692) | about 5 years ago | (#28976751)

So anyone who buys that product containing this technology anywhere on the east coast of the US including Boston and New York, where it regularly reaches 100% relative humidity, and technology companies such as RIM and Apple *heavily* market their wares, is to blame when they *haven't* submerged their devices and the company says that they have? That's absolute nonsense. You sound like someone that has "bad tech-support employer Stockholm syndrome".
It's simply justification for a company who doesn't know how to solve a problem so they want to pretend it doesn't even exist and reflexively say it's the customers fault.

Re:It works really well (1)

parcel (145162) | about 5 years ago | (#28976569)

That's my biggest problem with this... what's the false positive rate (hardware failure as well as unintentional triggers e.g. humidity vs. submersion) on the sensors?

Re:It works really well (5, Insightful)

cecille (583022) | about 5 years ago | (#28976643)

Indeed. I went in to the phone shop for a completely unrelated problem (my voice mail kept telling people it was full despite the fact that I had no saved messages on it). The sales rep asked for my phone, which I handed over despite the fact that the problem obviously had nothing to do with the phone itself. She opened the phone and pointed at a half-red (as in, half was red, half was white, not that it was pink) sticker and told me the voice mail was not working because my phone had liquid damage. Notwithstanding the fact that the reason she gave is obviously not right, the supposed water damage never actually happened. That was the only phone I've managed to keep until the end of its contract without dropping it in a lake or a sink or a toilet. So I asked her how exactly one would drop the phone into liquid such that half the sticker would get wet (it's not large) and she said she didn't know but humidity might cause it and the stickers on that phone model were a bit sensitive because the cover was thin.

So as much as these measures protect the company from fraud, they open the consumer up to fraud because the company now has more reasons to deny warranty repairs even if the supposed incident never happened.

Smart choice (0, Offtopic)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | about 5 years ago | (#28976373)

I can't argue twice here, haha. I'm already in heated debate on MacRumors. :D

Is it worth it? (4, Insightful)

stokessd (89903) | about 5 years ago | (#28976375)

It must be worth it, but it seems that it's a rare bit of abuse that hurts the internals but leaves the exterior shell and windows etc on the product free of teltale signs. That would rule out:

High-G impacts - which require a hard surface to stop the motion of the unit very quickly. This would leave a tell-tale blemish on the case.

Imersion in liquids - This would leave dried residue unless it's immersed in de-ionized water or other pure substance that wouldn't leave any residue. With no residue, the unit may not be damaged when it dries out.

Jailbreaking sensor - BINGO! This is the real money maker.

The only reason to include these things is to improve product reliability (nope), customer satisfaction (nope), profit (yup). And I don't see a whole lot of profit increase in anything but preventing jailbreaking.

Sheldon

Re:Is it worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976627)

I guess I'm just not sure how the continuity sensor would work. Shouldn't I be allowed to switch firmwares whenever I want? As a developer, shouldn't I be able to test my application across multiple firmwares to be sure that it works?

Summary is wrong (5, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 5 years ago | (#28976729)

Jailbreaking sensor - BINGO! This is the real money maker.

The only reason to include these things is to improve product reliability (nope), customer satisfaction (nope), profit (yup). And I don't see a whole lot of profit increase in anything but preventing jailbreaking.

No, the summary is wrong (as usual). The tamper detection circuitry is for physical tampering - adding or remove chips, etc. Software jailbreaking won't trip it.

Before the inevitable claims of prior art... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 5 years ago | (#28976403)

... and specifically the citations to stickers over seals that would say "void" when broken, or the like, only the claims matter. In this application, Apple is claiming:

1. A system for detecting consumer abuse in an electronic device, the system comprising:

one or more sensors configured to detect an occurrence of an abuse event;

abuse detection circuitry configured to receive indication of the occurrence of the abuse event from the one or more sensors and to generate a record corresponding to the occurrence of the abuse event upon receiving the indication;

a memory device configured to store the record; and

an interface configured to facilitate communication between the electronic device and an external device.

Not saying this is necessarily new, more to attempt to keep the discussion on track.

prove it to me (3, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | about 5 years ago | (#28976407)

Normally, shock sensors like this are placed on the outside of shipping crates or pallets. If I am going to shell out money for equipment that can tattle on me with hidden sensors, I will have to have them open the device and prove that none of the tattle-markers are already spoiled.

Re:prove it to me (1)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28976777)

Between the time you come in and 'sign in' at the cell phone shop and when your name is called, you've got about 30 seconds to state your problem or desires before they lose interest and move on to the next person. If you say you're interested in the phone, they see a sale. If you want them to take the phone apart and void the warranty, they see multiple lost sales in the hour it will take the sales person to fumble their way around the inside of the phone.

So they'll just ignore you and move on, and let the horde of uninformed people buy their phones instead.

This should do well in Europe. (0, Troll)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | about 5 years ago | (#28976435)

Because Europe is a land where people enjoy having their actions and lives dictated to them under the guise of protecting themselves from themselves. Which for the record, is not possible with anything less than handcuffs, force fed tranquilizers, and 24 hour supervision. I'm so glad I'm the age I am in the country I'm in, knowing that very soon I will be dead and shortly after my country will end up just as FUCKED.

No story here (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | about 5 years ago | (#28976449)

I think that the submitter wrongly believes that these sensors are going to report back to Apple over the internet or somesuch. Hence the faux concern.

Some are ok... (1)

Dirty Fool (1611901) | about 5 years ago | (#28976465)

I can see why Apple would want things like submersion/heat/shock sensors to be included to counter warranty fraud, but going as far as continuity sensors to detect jailbraking and whatnot is wrong. The phone is yours when you purchase it and you should eb ablet o do what you want with it. The sensors are only a small part of the overarching issue of Apple trying to exert too much control over their products. With any luck Steve Jobs will die soon and someone will have the balls to take the company in a new, not control-freaked, direction.

Yes, but it's Apple (5, Insightful)

WCMI92 (592436) | about 5 years ago | (#28976471)

Apple gets forgiven for everything, but if Microsoft even hinted of this they'd get flamed.

Had Apple won the PC wars of the 80's they'd be a far greater satan than Microsoft ever tried to be.

Its harder and harder to be an Apple fanboy... (5, Insightful)

Dr_Ken (1163339) | about 5 years ago | (#28976503)

I can see the economic rationale for going this route but the "hip & cool" aspect of Apple stuff is going to be diminished by it. I want innovation and technical progress that lowers the price, increases the functionality, is ergonomic and looks cool as hell. It is for that reason I buy Apple products. This crap on the other hand doesn't help me that much if at all. It might lower the price a few pennies but it'll make it that much harder to make a warranty claim too and so there goes a big chunk of good will down the tubes. I hope the few pennies they save with this equals what stand to lose. Sheesh.

Re:Its harder and harder to be an Apple fanboy... (2, Interesting)

tool462 (677306) | about 5 years ago | (#28976833)

It won't lower the price. That is set by external market forces--supply and demand. The company's goal is then to minimize their costs to improve their margins. This will get them a few extra pennies of profit. You, as a consumer, will only see a benefit if you happen to be an Apple stock-holder.

Good and bad points (3, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | about 5 years ago | (#28976525)

The biggest problem I see with this is that these sensors won't be 100% accurate. Very few things in this world are.

But manufacturers will almost certainly treat them as if they are.

So let's say you have a faulty moisture sensor in your laptop and the laptop fails through no fault of your own - it goes back and you get a rude email a week later saying "You let it get wet. Go away."

Obviously you can take the "sue the bastards" approach, but let's be real here, they're going to stand up in court and say "There is a moisture sensor in this unit which was triggered, therefore it got wet". How do you prove that in your case the moisture sensor was faulty without spending a small fortune?

Re:Good and bad points (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976765)

You make them prove that the sensor is infallible. Make them show you the testing results on the sensor showing that it's accurate 100% of the time, that there are no false positives.

Re:Good and bad points (1)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28976845)

You're not going to be able to prove it without doing testing on them, and you probably can't get your hands on a supply of them to test.

Like most things, the spec was probably sent to China, the fee for so many units paid, and then the design was 'changed' to be cheaper, without letting the purchaser know. It's standard practice for companies to only test a few units, and usually only the units that are specifically given to them for testing.

Make of this what you will, but keep in mind that humidity can and does set off moisture detectors on a regular basis, and no positive outcome can come from someone who has a faulty sensor.

Artificial scarcity and strong arm tactics. (1)

stagg (1606187) | about 5 years ago | (#28976539)

Apple has been having a hissy fit over jailbreaking for a while now. This is the natural evolution of the failure of their fearmongering about random text messaging and malfunctioning cell towers. How do you sell overpriced software? Force people to pay for it. Outlaw the alternative.

Who's more evil? (3, Interesting)

neokushan (932374) | about 5 years ago | (#28976595)

Is it just me, or is Apple more Evil than Microsoft these days?

Re:Who's more evil? (1, Flamebait)

stagg (1606187) | about 5 years ago | (#28976655)

Corporate bodies do whatever they can get away with to make money, they're not bound by some kind of moral calling. It's hardly their fault that there are fairly few efforts being made to regulate them.

Re:Who's more evil? (1)

Duradin (1261418) | about 5 years ago | (#28976661)

Apple is the new Microsoft for what's in fashion this season to bash on /. .

Say what? (1)

djupedal (584558) | about 5 years ago | (#28976617)

> "...however the idea of sensors inside your portable devices detecting what you do with them might raise eyebrows even beyond the tinfoil-hat community."

Seems someone has overlooked that fact that certain cars have had their computers ratting out crash info to dealers and insurance agencies for years now....speeding? Didn't hit the brakes?

Get off Apple's back unless you want to pay for abusive users yourself....jack.

Whew, I thought ... (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 5 years ago | (#28976671)

For a minute I thought they meant violating some terms-of-service buried in the 10th page of a click-through agreement I had to click though after getting the device home from the store.

As long as "abuse" is defined as common-sense, "this voids just about every consumer-grade warranty known to man if you do it" kinds of things that's fine.

Oh, just make sure it doesn't record more than it needs to. An indicator that permanently changes colors when it experiences a 20G shock is fine, a log of when that happened and how many times is overkill. Bonus if the indicator is visible through the product's packaging, so you can return it unopened if the shipping monkeys abuse it in transit to the store or your house.

Stay outta my goddamned business Apple! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976683)

I'm getting tired of this. As an aged millionaire I have few pleasures in life other than making toboggans out of top of the line macbook pros. I don't need apple telling me what I can and can't do with my property. I'd sue them, but I'm also eccentric and don't have a phone to call a lawyer.

Just stay out of my damn business Apple!

Cheaper devices! (1)

hypersql (954649) | about 5 years ago | (#28976719)

This could reduce the prices, because there is less fraud. Only if the detectors are cheap however.

Re:Cheaper devices! (1)

stagg (1606187) | about 5 years ago | (#28976797)

Why would they reduce the price?

API's for the sensors (2, Interesting)

cprocjr (1237004) | about 5 years ago | (#28976769)

If they are actual sensors (like a thermometer) and not just sensors that detect if you have gone past a threshold they should allow developers to use the info that they gather. Cause it would be kinda cool to have a thermometer and a moister sensor app.

Pre-broken sensors void your warranty, then what? (4, Insightful)

cjeze (596987) | about 5 years ago | (#28976791)

When my headphone jack started failing I investigated the issue on-line. I found several similar cases on line and thought this would be a breeze to get fixed on my warranty. It was a well known issue with the sensor inside the iPhone detecting whether the headphone was plugged in. So I sent in the phone for repairs but apparently the water sensor on the docking connector was slightly "not white" (translated: they believe that the water sensor is triggered) thus rendering the warranty void. The repair service log showed me that the repairman used less than 2 seconds deciding that my warranty was void, even though the phone was working perfectly - except for this error with the headphone jack. This "2 second job" gave 3 alternatives for me online: 1) scrap the phone, price: free 2) return the phone unrepaired, £70 service fee 3) repair phone (new phone £550) I chose alternative 2, it was the only real option for me. Adding more sensors/detectors is probably great for Apple. But they need to inform and disclose this in their user manuals, clearly visibly in your warranty. I didn't find out about the water sensors until after it was repaired. The problem with these sensors is if they are triggered without you doing anything wrong to the phone, and this mean that if a sensor is triggered and you get a hardware error not at all related to the sensor being triggered you will not be able to have your device fixed because the warranty is void. Another important aspect is that any sensor could also be triggered BEFORE you even open the box. WTH are you supposed to do if the phone is pre-broken. How can you check your sensors is not triggered?

Cost (1)

bcmm (768152) | about 5 years ago | (#28976811)

The sensors and logging infrastructure must cost money

Who in their right mind would pay the inevitable higher price that a device with such sensors would have?

Oh, wait... We're talking about Apple here...

all fine and dandy but... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28976851)

I hope these dont work like the submersion detection on my ipod touch does..

live in mississippi, walked outside with it in my front pen pocket and broke a sweat, it went red. Of course the ipod still works, but the warranty is now void because it was somewhere with the temperature above 80 degrees.

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