He thought iPhone users were stupid. Then his Google Pixel stopped working

A business executive makes a difficult confession when he endures what he thinks is outrageous treatment at the hands of Google's customer service.

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Some people love Pixel phones. But is the customer service as good?

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

One of the simplest measures of a strong brand is how easily it earns forgiveness.

For some, just a quick Our Father and Hail Mary will do. For others, uttering the whole rosary for ten hours a day won't assuage the ire of a disappointed customer.

Please, then, let me introduce you to Phil Grace. He's the managing partner of MarketSignal.ai. He's also a private equity investor. So he's keen to have a working phone at all times.

Grace contacted me in a state of, I judged from his words, exasperation. You see, he'd become so frustrated with Google that he'd penned what he called a confession.

"It is difficult," he wrote, "when you have such a strong belief that it permeates everything in your life."

No, you haven't accidentally switched to the God Channel. Would you mind staying with me?

I Love You. Why Are You Doing This To Me?

"You feel you have all the facts and all the arguments on your side," Grace continued. "You feel like it is a true faith, maybe even a calling."

Honestly, not the God Channel. Instead, Grace was channeling his absolute certainty that Google's products were far better than Apple's.

His primary apps, he said, were Google-made. Android gave those apps a better experience. Google's maps, its phone cameras, its prices.

This was a zealot. Whenever one of his kid's friends asked him what phone he had, he'd offer a disquisition "as my daughter would take a deep breath and sit back and prepare herself for yet another dad diatribe as to why people who use the iPhone are stupid."

Grace insists he didn't use the word stupid. He merely meant it.

But then came the day that all zealots dread. The one where their beliefs are shattered by their own experience. His Pixel 3 died.

"After an hour and a half 'chatting' with Google support because I could not make a phone call, Google informed me of the good news," he said.

It takes Google that long to deliver good news? Perhaps they had to wait for their lawyers to approve it.

The good news was that Grace's phone was under warranty. He'd get a new phone in 3 to 5 business days. 

This represented existential pain to Grace. It would mean 5 to 7 actual days. He travels. He has needs. And so it was that reality knocked on his door, invited itself in and took a seat on his sun lounger.

"If I had an iPhone, I would simply go to the Apple store and have a new phone immediately," he said. As long as you were anywhere near an Apple store, that is.

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You.

As with many a loyal zealot, Grace continued with Google for another 18 months. Then he broke his Pixel 5.

"Luckily, I always buy the device protection plan from Google," he said. "On June 24, 2021, I filed a claim with www.mydeviceprotect.com, as instructed by Google. I immediately received an email stating that my claim was approved, and I would be notified when the replacement device was shipped. On July 12, I still had not received an email stating that my replacement device was shipped. So, I called Assurant, as they are the company contracted by Google to process the replacement phones."

Then, he said, the entertainment began. Assurant, he said, told him it couldn't get a response from Google to approve the shipment of a new device. A help ticket was filed, which would take three business days to resolve. There he was, then, more than three weeks after his request for a new phone, sans phone.

When I first contacted Grace, he still didn't have his replacement phone after weeks of waiting. He'd tried hurling objections on social media and said he received a pained call from an Assurant executive.

Said Grace: "She said that all Assurant does is accept the claim and pass it on to Google. Google sets the price of the insurance. Google sets all the terms and the conditions of the insurance, Google sends the replacement device from a Google facility, and Google receives the broken device and repairs the device in the house. The person from Assurant corporate said the only reason Google uses Assurant is for their insurance license."

Is This Goodbye, Google?

Naturally, I contacted Google to ask for its analysis of what may have happened. 

A company spokesman told me: "There was a technical issue that delayed the processing of the claim to Google support." Google is conscious, though, that this may not have been a perfect experience for Grace.

"This appears to be an edge case," the Google spokesman told me. "But the team is reviewing to see if anything in the system needs to be updated." 

It's long been an issue with Google that many of its phones are excellent, but much of what surrounds them -- the marketing and the customer service -- are slightly less than excellent, drifting toward the really not very good.

You'd think the company would fully commit, one way or the other. Yet it's constantly seemed to resist, preferring to hang in slow, suspended animation.

Perhaps it has too many other things going on.

As for Grace, he's still stunned that all his evangelism for Google has come to this. He told me he'd likely switch to an iPhone.

"I may wait for the 13 since we are so close," he said.

He knows how much his daughter and her friends will be laughing.