I hate rumor stories, especially on Fridays. The slowest news day of the week tends to magnify the smallest rumor into a gargantuan story linked and repeated across the web. Today's ditty: Apple supposedly is recalling Verizon 3G iPad 2s.
This is the kind of thing Apple simply doesn't confirm until there is some official statement.. So I didn't bother asking for comment right away. I started randomly calling U.S. Apple retail stores posing as a customer who had read about a recall on the Internet and wondered what he should do about it. At the first four stores, staff was unfamiliar with any recall -- or even trouble with Verizon iPads.
I hit pay dirt, sort of, with the fifth store, where I was first told that there was a problem with "refurbs." But after putting me on hold for a few moments, the Apple employee later came back and said that if my iPad 2 was having problems to "make an appointment at the Genius Bar, and we'll look at it." The employee then confirmed that some iPads suffered a "connectivity" problem, specifically 3G. I then asked if new units also were affected. Yup.
But I wasn't satisfied with the response. After all, the Apple Store specialist first said only refurbished iPad 2s were affected. It wouldn't take much for something small to become something big, if wrongly reported. What if the person answering the phone was misinformed, and there was no real problem other communication between us?
Next store I called, the specialist answering the phone asked for specifics before responding: "First I've heard of it." Now this employee had worked the Genius Bar, which was obvious from how he asked questions and responded to them. "I've learned from personal experience that one person has it happen, and people believe that thousands of people have it happen, when in fact it's two people." The specialist observed there are many external factors that can cause "lack of signal."
"I haven't heard about it," said a specialist at another Apple Store. "We'd be the first to hear about it." At a store five states away, another Apple employee shared similar sentiment" If there was a problem I'm sure we would hear about it first. Our technicians would know."
"We haven't had any customers in here talking about issues with the Verizon iPad," said a specialist at another store in yet another state. OK, I decided that the tenth store would be the last. The Apple employee knew of no problems. After I made a crack about not trusting what you read on the Internet, she directed me to Apple's website. "Apple.com is the news you can trust."
I picked the stores randomly and in different states. If there's a Verizon iPad 2 problem, I couldn't find it from calling stores. Possibilities: Perhaps someone else in the store other than the person answering the phone knew about a recall or general issue affecting Verizon 3G iPad 2s. Perhaps the problem is so new, Apple hasn't informed the stores yet. Maybe the specialists were instructed to lie, although everyone I spoke to seemed to give genuine responses. Or, maybe, there's no real problem at all.
9to5 Mac makes a fairly good case for something going on. Then follows up with a second post, with more information collected from readers. The Mac site reports Verizon iPad 2s being rerouted midshipment back to China and Apple Stores being given serial numbers for suspect tablets.
Before posting, I sent email to Apple asking for official comment, which I don't expect. After, I posted Apple confirmed (but not to me -- AllThingsD got) that some Verizon iPads had gone with the duplicate Mobile Equipement Identifiers. "Duplicate MEID numbers were flashed onto an extremely small number of iPad 2 units for the verizon 3G network," according to an Apple representative. Verizon would provide those numbers to Apple.
Well, hell, that's no recall at all -- and it's certainly not a defect. Duplicate MEIDs means someone is going to have either activation or connection problems or both.
If it really is a small number and presumably Apple caught most of the affected iPads before they reached stores or customers, no wonder store specialists responded as they did. See why I detest unsubstantiated rumors so much?