My Scratched-Up Apple Watch Screen & Apple’s Refusal to Help!

When it happened to me, all it took was a quick Google search to find out that I was not the only one. In fact, I am nowhere close to the only person who bought the 1st edition of the Apple Watch Sport and shortly thereafter was shocked and dismayed at how quickly and how easily the glass of the watch-face was completely covered in scratches. Like the hoards of others, this happened to my Apple Watch without ever even knowing why or how. I never banged or scratched it against a brick wall, hit it with a hammer, took a steak knife to the glass, ran over it with a car, dropped it on the concrete or did anything at all to it except wear it, which is exactly what you are supposed to do with a watch. (This Apple Support Forum thread alone has 8 pages, 108 messages, of people who have had similar issues with their Apple Watch Sport scratching too easily soon after purchasing it. There are countless other message board full of similar comments.)

I lived my life wearing it all day, everyday for almost 4 months (read about my good experiences and all the things I love about wearing my Apple Watch), and I was always cautious not to bang it or scratch it on anything. Then one day I looked down and it was just covered with scratches from corner to corner. I had done nothing to it, but somewhere along the way during my everyday life of caring for my kids, running, eating and just living, my Apple Watch took on the look of something that was used for targeting practice. Just look at the pictures to see for yourself…

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The Apple Watch Sport watch screen is made from Ion-X glass. Here is Apple’s own marketing description of the Apple Watch Sport screen from their website

Ion-X glass.

Strengthened at the molecular level.

To keep the Sport collection models as light as possible, we used aluminosilicate glass — the same material used in the windows of space shuttles and high-speed trains. It’s fortified at the molecular level through ion exchange, with smaller ions being replaced by larger ones to create a surface layer far tougher than ordinary glass.

By comparison to other “ordinary” glass items at my house, see my post “Top 11 Things in My House That Scratch Less Easily Than My Apple Watch Sport” to get an idea of just how absurd Apple’s marketing claims are about the strength of their Ion-X Glass. Basically everything else in my house that is glass and gets used daily is in better shape than my Apple Watch screen.

THE APPLE CUSTOMER SERVICE NIGHTMARE

I 1st found my Apple Watch Sport screen to be scratched up about 6 weeks ago in August, so at that point I contacted Apple Support via their live chat feature on their website. I had read all the forum posts, and I knew it was a very common issue that was an “Apple problem” and not just user error. The online Apple Support refused to let me send my watch in to get it checked out, even when I offered to pay for my own shipping. They simply would not take it and even look at it. They kept telling me, “You must make an appointment with the Genius Bar and take your Apple Watch into an Apple Store. They will decide if it needs repair, and if so they will do the work in-store.”

LIE #1: The Apple Store absolutely does not do any repairs on Apple Watches in store. This was a flat-out lie from online support who was giving me the run-around.

I kept pushing the issue and telling the online support that I live an hour away (with no traffic) from the nearest Apple Store. I would rather pay $20 to ship my watch and get it looked at than to spend half my day going to the Apple Store. They were persistent in that they would not allow me to ship my Apple Watch to them. In my opinion they were giving me the run-around and making me jump through hoops hoping that I would just give up. It was a full month before I could fit in a long trip to Huntsville to go to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store at Bridge Street. My experience there was no better than what I got from online support.

*Let me pause for a moment and say that I have had wonderful experiences with Apple Customer Support in the past. When I broke the glass back on my iPhone 4 just 3 days after buying it, they replaced the back for free. When that same iPhone 4 had a defective home button, they replaced the phone for free. When our old white Macbook had about 10 different things wrong with it several years ago, they offered us a flat-fee of $300 to fix every single problem on the laptop. This was a very fair and affordable option compared to buying a new Macbook at the time. When I ordered a photo book through iPhoto of pictures from our honeymoon, Apple accidentally included several pages of other people’s naked babies in the middle of our photo book. Apple both refunded my money and gave me the correct photo book for free. Up until recently I have never had a complaint about Apple’s service and customer support. This leads me to believe 1 of 2 things has happened. 1) Apple’s customer service has taken a nosedive under Tim Cook’s leadership. or 2) Apple is so inundated with Apple Watch issues that they are playing hardball with upset customers because they know how bad it can hurt their bottom line.

GENIUS BAR

I made the hour-long drive to the Apple Store and waited for my turn at the Genius Bar. I was still feeling hopeful at this point that Apple would replace my screen or my watch based on comments online from others who had the same issues with their Apple Watches. However, I quickly hit a brick wall in my attempts to get my screen fixed as soon as I started talking to the “genius.” She immediately told me that Apple Watch screens are not covered under the 1-year warranty. When I pressed the issue bringing up the hundred of complaints online by other Apple Watch owners, I cannot believe the words that came out of this Apple genius’ mouth…

The screen is made of glass, and glass scratches. That’s just what happens with all glass products over time.

I was honestly in shock. I told her, that is not what Apple told me when I was buying this watch. They made all kinds of claims about how unbreakable and unscratchable the Ion-X glass screen is. Normally I ALWAYS put a screen protector and a case on every touch screen product in our house as soon as it comes out of the box. Apple honestly had me convinced that I did not even need a screen protector this time because the glass on the Apple Watch Sport was so scratch resistant that I could just wear it and go about my day without worrying. This is where I paid the early adopter penalty. If I got my Apple Watch 6 months after it was released instead of the very 1st day possible, then I would have read all the reviews like this one about how easily the screens scratch, and I would have put a screen protector on it before I ever put it on my wrist.

THE APPLE STORE FINALLY SENT MY WATCH IN FOR (NO) REPAIR

Despite online support lying to me and saying that the Apple Store would handle any repair issues internally, the Apple Store told me the complete opposite. After going back and forth over whether the screen scratching this easily was a matter of the customer abusing the product or a fault with the product itself, and after really pressing that it is clearly a very common problem based on online support forum comments, the genius at the Genius Bar finally agreed to send my watch in for free. She made it sound to me like my screen would be repaired or replaced under warranty. In fact, it said as much on the receipt for my work order.

LIE #2: The genius at the Apple Store told me that my Apple Watch was being sent in for repair, while Apple clearly had no intention of repairing or replacing my Apple Watch Sport screen.

At this point I have been lied to (or at the very least given terribly uninformed and inaccurate information) by the Apple online support, and now I have been lied to (even if accidentally) by the genius at the Apple Store. I left the Apple Store that day feeling good because I thought my Apple Watch was headed in for repair. I even left with printed confirmation in my pocket that this was the case. Let’s take a look at my work order receipt…

Apple Watch Work Order 1 (blacked out)

See the scratched display mentioned, along with the proposed solution "Send to depot for repair of scratches." *The OS issues are unrelated to the scratched screen, but apparently were caused by wearing my watch too loosely on my wrist, causing the passcode lock to occasionally initiate.

See the scratched display mentioned, along with the proposed solution “Send to depot for repair of scratches.”
*The OS issues are unrelated to the scratched screen, but apparently were caused by wearing my watch too loosely on my wrist, causing the passcode lock to occasionally initiate.

See the repair estimate of $229, which is apparently the going rate to get your Apple Watch screen repaired. See how the $229 repair fee was waved by the Apple Store, as the genius told me would happen under my warranty.

See the repair estimate of $229, which is apparently the going rate to get your Apple Watch screen repaired. See how the $229 repair fee was waved by the Apple Store, as the genius told me would happen under my warranty.

Based on my conversation with the genius at the Apple Store Genius Bar and the printed work authorization, I felt like it was pretty cut and dry that my Apple Watch was being sent in to have the screen repaired or replaced.

THE DISAPPOINTING VOICEMAIL FROM APPLE

My Apple Watch was sent in for repair from the Apple Store on Friday morning, September 15. On Tuesday morning, exactly 4 days later, I had a voicemail from Jeff at the Apple Store at Bridge Street (Huntsville, AL). Four days was a very quick turnaround, since 2 of those days were the weekend, and I was getting excited because I thought the voicemail would say my Apple Watch Sport was repaired and ready for pick-up. This is what the voicemail actually said:

“Hey Stephen this is Jeff from the Apple Store at Bridge Street. Just calling to let you know that we received your watch back from the repair facility. Downside is that they didn’t find anything wrong with it. So it has not been repaired or replaced or anything. It’s the same watch, and we can talk about why when you come back in…”

Yes, his voicemail said that the Apple repair facility “didn’t find anything wrong with it.” Maybe they were not looking at the same Apple Watch as the one in the pictures above, the one I brought in for repair. Knowing how common this issue is and looking at the scratches all over my screen, how can Apple tell me they didn’t find anything wrong with it at all?

At some point during these 4 days, it would have been great if I got a call from someone at the Apple Repair Facility to explain to me exactly what they decided about my Apple Watch, rather than doing absolutely nothing and just sending it back to the store. At this point, besides the $450 I spent on the Apple Watch, I had invested 4 hours of my time (1 hour on internet support chat, 2+ hours driving and 45 minutes in the Apple Store), plus 100 miles and 5 gallons of gas on my car, just trying to get Apple to do anything for my watch screen. Now I get this voicemail that tells me, despite the printed work order to have my screen repaired, Apple has decided they will not honor their own work order, and they have no intention of helping me.

I called Jeff back at the Apple Store and very candidly expressed my disappointment and my issues with Apple over all of this. He was friendly, but he was unhelpful. He basically said there was nothing he could do for me. He said Apple absolutely will not fix or replace scratched screens under warranty, which once again is not true, unless dozens of other people on this Apple Support forum are lying about Apple replacing their Apple Watches for the exact same issue I have. Further he told me I would not have had this problem if I had paid more for the Apple Watch with the sapphire screen. Did he really just tell me that Apple had no intention of helping me, and then follow that up by trying to convince me to buy the more expensive Apple Watch next time?

Next time?

I have been a very loyal Apple customer for the last 8 years. In my home right now, in addition to the Apple Watch, we have 3 iPhones, 2 iPods, white MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPad 2 (with 3G) and iPad Mini. My kids have aging Google Nexus 7 tablets, as they were half the price of iPad Minis when we got them, but my plan was to eventually get all of them iPad Minis. I am not saying I will ditch Apple over this, but it makes me 2nd guess my future within the Apple ecosystem. I like the way Apple devices work together, but I am not a hardcore fanboy who thinks that I cannot also do everything on Windows and Android.

What I hope happens…

Apple has really let me down as a company, but I hope this is not the end of this Apple Watch fiasco. I hope that when I contact Apple again this next week and show them this post and all the pictures, including the work authorization form I received from the Apple Store, that someone will finally listen and do the right thing by fixing or replacing my Apple Watch Sport. If they do I will gladly update this post with the results.

Meanwhile, do not forget to read my post “Top 11 Things in My House That Scratch Less Easily Than My Apple Watch Sport.”

By the way, if you are going to spend anywhere between $350-$20,000 on an Apple Watch, buy a $6 screen protector and a $15 bumper case. Sure it might give your beautiful, expensive piece of wearable tech a cheap rubbery appearance, but at least the screen won’t get scratched! I’ve got the ArmorSuit MilitaryShield screen protector and the Poetic DuoLite case that I am going to install on my Apple Watch Sport this weekend to protect the screen in the future.

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  • Marcus Eiland

    Any update on this, Stephen? Just wondering if Apple ever came around or (if not) how satisfied you are with the Armorsuit screen protector.

    • Apple never would do anything about this, despite it being an incredibly common issue with Apple Watch owners. However, my ArmorSuit screen protector has been great! I still wear my Apple Watch Sport all day everyday, and I run with it 5-6 days/week (including high mileage and 1 marathon with the watch). I have 3 young kids, who play rough sometimes, and I wear it hiking and camping and playing outside. I do not abuse the watch, but I am not overly careful with it anymore either. With the screen protector and the bumper case, I have had no more issues with scratches or cracks. I cannot see the old scratches through the screen protector, and the screen protector itself seems immune to scratches.

  • Adam Finan

    Wow, 108 users out of millions who scratched their watch. You know, if you buy a Jaeger Le Coultre watch at $100,000, the glass will scratch, the case will scratch and none of that is covered under warranty. Perhaps you should stop whining about the fact that Apple will not replace an item you have damaged and ask Jesus to help you out?