Top

Hospital for iPods: Milliamp review

ipod1I can’t be the only one to find themselves in this situation. My iPod, a 30GB 5th generation black iPod Video, bought in May of 2006, had developed a problem – the headphone socket only producing sound via the left channel – due to nothing more than normal wear and tear, and it was naturally long since out of warranty. However, since it otherwise worked well, was still a high enough capacity for my needs, and had all the features I still required, I was loath to scrape together the significant amount of scratch for a new one. Apple, the manufacturer of the iPod line (if you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so), famously regards its ubiquitous MP3 player as a disposable commodity and the design of every variant precludes so much as changing the battery without physically dismantling the device. So what is one to do? Why, turn to people who have made extending the life of treasured iPods their mission, of course.

Let me be very upfront with this for the benefit of every reader. Milliamp Ltd contacted me via Twitter after I made public my iPod’s problem on the same service, and offered me their repair service for free in exchange for a review of their service. They did not at any time ask for a specifically positive review, just for a review. This is no great secret; they are quite open about making these offers. As it turned out, I did have a small out-of-pocket expense, for the return shipping to me. Fair enough. I checked out several reviews of their service myself before I sent my iPod off; they were universally positive. As a customer, that was encouraging.

Milliamp's website is a little old-fashioned, but is clear, concise, informative and easy to navigate.

Milliamp’s website is a little old-fashioned, but is clear, concise, informative and easy to navigate.

Milliamp Ltd may be known to older iPod users as iPodJuice, and have been in the iPod, and latterly iPhone, repair business for five years now, according to their website (www.milliamp.com). As well as offering repairs in-house with a variety of shipping options, they also sell the parts for the fearless to tackle repairs themselves at home. Just about the only thing they don’t do is battery replacements on the tiny iPod Shuffle series, since “it is very hard to open the iPod Shuffle without breaking it” (source: milliamp.com FAQ).

The website provides clear, but extensive, instructions for packaging and shipping your iPod safely to Milliamp. It’s also kind enough to put the fear of God into you by showing exactly what can happen when suitable precautions aren’t taken – I dread to think how the phone call to the customer whose iPod escaped its standard letter envelope in transit (yes, really) went. After selecting my shipping and actual repair options, and checking out, I received a UPS shipping label in my email the following day (they did say processing that with UPS could take up to 36 hours; in my case, it arrived just shy of 15 hours later). I followed their shipping instructions, noting as I went how obvious, but also how easily overlooked, some of their recommendations were, such as placing masking tape over the hold switch, sealing the iPod in an anti-static or sandwich bag to prevent moisture damage in transit, the use of plenty of bubble-wrap but not messy and staticky packing peanuts, etc.

UPS did what they needed to do, and got my iPod to Milliamp in the stated time. This isn’t a review of UPS’ service, although it’s worth noting that they’re a company I generally trust as I’ve had nothing but good experiences from them. Milliamp also offers other shipping options, such as USPS or FedEx, depending on your preference.

This was just the summary of the conditon Milliamp received my iPod in. Suitably exhaustive!

This was just the summary of the condition Milliamp received my iPod in. Suitably exhaustive!

Milliamp then proceeded to be in near-constant contact with me via email, very clearly informing me of my order’s status, the extensive testing procedures they put my iPod through, and the results thereof. (They even noted a particular cosmetic addition I’d made to my iPod, strips of black gaffer tape down the sides to disguise the results of my own ham-fisted efforts at investigating its innards; which served to reaffirm that yes, it was without doubt MY iPod.) Oddly, they put down that my iPod was only producing sound from the right headphone channel, when my own experience (with multiple sets of headphones) was the opposite. Not worthy of concern, I thought, but worthy of note.

The turnaround was exceptionally quick; despite only needing a relatively minor part replacement, I’d been expecting for various reasons that my iPod might be with Milliamp for a few days. Not even. The day after they received it, it was back in the hands of UPS and winging its way back to me. Their contact with me, since I’d sent my iPod to them, had totaled seven emails in less than two days, just to keep me informed in exhaustive (but welcome) detail as to what was going on. Frankly, I’m almost surprised they didn’t include photographs!

The repair was completed swiftly, and communication was near-constant, but never became too much.

The repair was completed swiftly, and communication was near-constant, but never became too much.

My iPod was soon back with me; UPS again doing what they do. Milliamp had been even more thorough and agreeably paranoid with packing up my iPod than I had been. A UPS padded shipping pouch contained a surprisingly large cardboard box, inside which was yet another UPS shipping pouch, and inside that was a large quantity of bubble wrap securely surrounding my iPod, itself in a small Ziploc baggie. In another, smaller baggie was my old battery (Milliamp had very kindly fitted a replacement one, thus vastly boosting my iPod’s rapidly flagging battery life). Their website said old batteries are returned with your device upon request, although I hadn’t requested its return. Not that this was a problem, mind you.

Sure enough, my iPod was back to full health, and it was great to listen to music in stereo once again. I did notice that there appeared to be some very slight dark marks of usage in the replaced headphone socket and hold switch. I wondered if this meant the replacement assembly was a used part (although I should stress it worked perfectly, and neither the socket nor switch felt worn down at all.) I emailed Milliamp to ask if this was the case. They emailed me back as quickly as I could expect – early on the Monday morning following my late-Friday-night email to them – and told me that the assembly was new, but that the hold switch wasn’t fitting quite correctly, so they replaced the cosmetic white/orange part of the hold switch with my original one.

...and once again, all was well with the world.

…and once again, all was well with the world.

In conclusion, I can honestly say it’s been a long time since I’ve had such exemplary service. The job done was perfectly; the turnaround time was extremely swift; the communication was exhaustively in-depth, courteous and approachable; and the prices for the various services on offer seem to me to be very reasonable. Milliamp met or exceeded every possible expectation I could have for them in taking care of one of my most valued and heavily-used pieces of electronics, and I feel I can recommend their services without any reservation.

Milliamp is located in San Antonio, Texas, accepts walk-in customers, and can be found on the web at www.milliamp.com, or by phone at 1-800-809-8133.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,