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Old Sep 4, 2014, 06:38 PM   #1
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Get an Inside Look at Apple's Early Field Failure Analysis Program Ahead of the iPhone 6 Launch




Ahead of the iPhone 6's launch, Adam Satariano of BloombergBusinessweek has shared some details on Apple's early field failure analysis (EFFA) program, designed to solve potential iPhone issues quickly and efficiently. The EFFA Program, which is run by Apple's AppleCare team, has been in place since the late 1990s.

As outlined by Satariano, shortly after any iPhone release, the EFFA program sees couriers shuttling defective units received from returns to a testing room in Cupertino, where they are inspected by iPhone engineers in an attempt to fix problems in a timely manner. As soon as a fix is in place, it's deployed across the company's global supply chain.

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"They take them apart to diagnose what's happening right then and there," says Mark Wilhelm, who helped lead Apple's returns program. [...]

Often, they jury-rig a hardware fix, then coordinate a solution across Apple's global supply chain. Sometimes the problems can't be solved quickly--remember Apple Maps leading people astray. "Every day they don't recognize a problem, they are potentially manufacturing more bad products," says Michael Fawkes, the former head of supply chain for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
With the EFFA program, engineers in Cupertino learn of a potential problem as soon as a return is made in a retail store, and the serial numbers of each device allow the company to track defective devices down to "individual workers on an assembly line."

An example of EFFA in action came in 2007, with the release of the original iPhone. Several devices returned with a faulty touchscreen caused by an earpiece flaw that let in a user's sweat. Apple engineers fixed the problem with a new coating, which rolled out to assembly lines shortly after and prevented a more widespread issue.

According to former employees, EFFA testing is most crucial during the weeks after a device first launches, but the team remains active for many months, and publishes a weekly report highlighting common issues reported by customers. Apple's EFFA team will be called to action in just a few short weeks, as Apple is expected to introduce the iPhone 6 at a media event on September 9, with a launch coming shortly after.

For additional details on EFFA, make sure to check out Satarino's full piece over at BloombergBusinessweek.

Article Link: Get an Inside Look at Apple's Early Field Failure Analysis Program Ahead of the iPhone 6 Launch
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 06:42 PM   #2
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Get an Inside Look at Apple's Early Field Failure Analysis Program Ahead of t...

In short. Apple has a good quality department.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 06:44 PM   #3
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That's pretty interesting. Seems like a quick and efficient way to deal with problems and fix them before they release a new version with the same problems.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 06:45 PM   #4
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I work for an engineering company that is slowly working toward this kind of culture in the QA department. It's slow going but, as Apple's customer satisfaction scores indicate, well worth it.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 06:45 PM   #5
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Any good manufacturer will do this. Car manufacturers do this all the time since lab testing does not equal real world conditions. Otherwise they are just churning out crap with no quality control.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 06:51 PM   #6
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*something about 2011 MBP GPU failures*
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 07:00 PM   #7
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EFFA comes after release.

Of course, in an ideal world, you find most problems BEFORE a product goes on sale. That's why carriers like extended phone testing.

And it's why Apple's penchant for secrecy can backfire, such as with that antenna flaw that was hidden by a required camouflage case.

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Originally Posted by gixxerfool View Post
Any good manufacturer will do this.
Yep. I've been part of a team that tracked returns / repairs after a new device deployment.

Last edited by kdarling; Sep 4, 2014 at 07:12 PM.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 07:22 PM   #8
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They must have been shi*ting all sort of bricks during antenna gate
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 07:54 PM   #9
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So being the early adopters is risky after all...
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 08:08 PM   #10
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Yet they still don't acknowledge heavily interlaced and flickering LCD screens since the iPhone 5.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 08:17 PM   #11
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Surely this isn't always the case. I went through several iPhone 5 units with faulty sleep/wake buttons. Either that or the solution really was that difficult.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 08:33 PM   #12
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I tend to be an early adopter and should have realized that this is exactly how they work, but thinking about this now makes me want to wait a while before I get this phone.

I have been on the "Toc" cycle for a while and thought I might get the 6 rather than wait for the 6S, but it's been working out for me so maybe I'll wait until 2 months after the 6S comes out to upgrade.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 08:41 PM   #13
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guaranteed the second batch of units has a slew of part value changes and tweaked internals...
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 08:46 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by iCore24 View Post
So being the early adopters is risky after all...
Well, it stands to reason that if there are going to be defects they're more likely to occur in the earliest batch of products, but it sounds like Apple works hard to identify and correct problems as quickly as possible.

It's important to realize that there are always going to be defective units of any mass produced device, but in all but the worst debacles they represent a small minority of the units shipped.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 09:28 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by groovyd View Post
guaranteed the second batch of units has a slew of part value changes and tweaked internals...
I would say the third generation at least!
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 09:58 PM   #16
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Man, I was so excited about the iPhone 6 prior to reading this. Now I feel like I should wait several months after release before buying one. :/
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 10:17 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by iCore24 View Post
So being the early adopters is risky after all...
Not really considering if there is something wrong you can just swap it out.
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Old Sep 4, 2014, 11:24 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by kdarling View Post
And it's why Apple's penchant for secrecy can backfire, such as with that antenna flaw that was hidden by a required camouflage case.
There was no such flaw, and cases were never required. That antenna design is STILL sold today (the 8GB, over 4 years later) and works fine. The phone got better reception than its predecessor, which had already been praised for its reception, and better than many competing phones (some of which also had externally exposed antennas--not an Apple first). Yes, as with any phone, the way you hold it can affect you when you're in a weak signal location.

There was a PR "flaw," of course! Lots of people without iPhones moaning on behalf of the supposed masses of iPhone users with problems. VERY few actual owners posting complaints for themselves. Which is astonishing, considering the media hullaballoo made people LOOK for a problem they could have seen on any phone in history.

Antenna gate was mostly myth. It died accordingly, and Apple giving out the cases (which would help ANY phone ever made, and which most people already use anyway) was simply part of their PR response.

I was glad to get my free case And I used it only when hiking, because it simply was not needed for reception.

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Not really considering if there is something wrong you can just swap it out.
Agreed. Normally I'd be worried, about first-release products from ANY company. (I never install x.0 of any OS.) But with iOS, backup-and-restore is SO painless and complete, the next day after a warranty swap it's like nothing ever happened. You're risking hassle, but (IF a Genius is near you), the risk is minor.

Scratch that! Apple has terrible products, terrible service and never fixes anything! Wait at least a month before you buy! That way you won't be ahead of me in the order queue

Last edited by nagromme; Sep 4, 2014 at 11:31 PM.
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Old Sep 5, 2014, 12:34 AM   #19
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Ear sweat? Eeewww!
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Old Sep 5, 2014, 12:48 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by iCore24 View Post
So being the early adopters is risky after all...
Well, it's always safer to wait a couple of months just in case, or if you really want to play it safe, wait for the 's' model. At the very least, don't pick up a first production run iPhone 6. I know it's hard to wait an additional couple of months, but waiting might mean the difference between a good experience and a bad one with a redesigned model.

----------

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Originally Posted by goobot View Post
Not really considering if there is something wrong you can just swap it out.
With the possibility that the new iPhone 6 you get has the same issue, which is something some people experienced with the iPhone 5.
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Old Sep 5, 2014, 12:57 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by nagromme View Post
There was no such flaw, and cases were never required. That antenna design is STILL sold today (the 8GB, over 4 years later) and works fine. The phone got better reception than its predecessor, which had already been praised for its reception, and better than many competing phones (some of which also had externally exposed antennas--not an Apple first). Yes, as with any phone, the way you hold it can affect you when you're in a weak signal location.

There was a PR "flaw," of course! Lots of people without iPhones moaning on behalf of the supposed masses of iPhone users with problems. VERY few actual owners posting complaints for themselves. Which is astonishing, considering the media hullaballoo made people LOOK for a problem they could have seen on any phone in history.

Antenna gate was mostly myth. It died accordingly, and Apple giving out the cases (which would help ANY phone ever made, and which most people already use anyway) was simply part of their PR response.

I was glad to get my free case And I used it only when hiking, because it simply was not needed for reception.



Agreed. Normally I'd be worried, about first-release products from ANY company. (I never install x.0 of any OS.) But with iOS, backup-and-restore is SO painless and complete, the next day after a warranty swap it's like nothing ever happened. You're risking hassle, but (IF a Genius is near you), the risk is minor.

Scratch that! Apple has terrible products, terrible service and never fixes anything! Wait at least a month before you buy! That way you won't be ahead of me in the order queue
The kool-aid is strong in this one.
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Old Sep 5, 2014, 12:58 AM   #22
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Any good manufacturer will do this. Car manufacturers do this all the time since lab testing does not equal real world conditions. Otherwise they are just churning out crap with no quality control.
Nobody has the challenge on turnaround time that Apple does, the fact they can do this while pumping out 10s of millions of products and make changes to the entire process within weeks of launch is simply astounding.

And I'm not trying to give Apple credit for this, specifically, but they are the only company producing this many of any electronics product out there.
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Old Sep 5, 2014, 01:33 AM   #23
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A lot of other companies mass produce then mass ship. Apple seem to make them as they sell them, so they can correct issues.

The defects bing talked about here arnt the ones that effect all phones, they are the ones that cause the 1 in 50 people to get a dodgy part and have to come back, if apple can fix it do no other phones suffer the same problem they can avoid thousands out of millions experiencing a similair problem.
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Old Sep 5, 2014, 06:17 AM   #24
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Reading this makes me want to wait a few months and not be an early adopter. But I'll continue being an early adopter for several reasons: a) I get AppleCare on my phones, so if my unit is faulty, I can always get a replacement; b) even if I didn't have AppleCare, the phone does have a 1-year hardware warranty; c) there's value in helping the hardware ecosystem by being an early adopter, I'll consider myself a hardware beta tester.
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Old Sep 5, 2014, 07:25 AM   #25
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There was no such flaw, and cases were never required. That antenna design is STILL sold today (the 8GB, over 4 years later) and works fine.
The antenna design was changed starting with the Verizon iPhone 4.

Quote:
The phone got better reception than its predecessor, which had already been praised for its reception, and better than many competing phones (some of which also had externally exposed antennas--not an Apple first).
Sure, it got better reception if you were not holding it. No doubt Apple did their internal testing with the iPhone in a dummy hand, and of course we know the external testing was done in a case that hid the problem. In those situations, it was fine.

In real life, as Anandtech found out, just putting it in your hand caused a 20dB drop in signal.

The previous model, the 3GS, only dropped 2dB in the same situation.

That means the iPhone 4 had 100 (one hundred) times the signal drop of the 3GS.

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Yes, as with any phone, the way you hold it can affect you when you're in a weak signal location.
We're not talking about death grips. We're talking about an itty bitty spot where a slight bridging touch would massively detune the antenna.

Name one other phone on the planet that can drop a call by placing your little pinky on a single slim line placed right where many people hold the phone.

As Anandtech put it:

Quote:
"The main downside to the iPhone 4 is the obvious lapse in Apple's engineering judgment. The fact that Apple didn't have the foresight to coat the stainless steel antenna band with even a fraction of an ounce worth of non-conductive material either tells us that Apple doesn't care or that it simply doesn't test thoroughly enough."

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/t...ne-4-review/16
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