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When life gives you lemons

Find out if your device is defective


By Mark Isaiah David


Congratulations – your new device is finally here. You’ve saved up for months, researched all the reliable sites for compelling reviews, compared and contrasted it against competing models and brands, found the best deal available in your area, and you’ve exchanged your hard-earned money for the gadget of your (recent) dreams. You know this baby like the back of your hand, and you can’t wait to take it for a spin.

But after several days of bliss, you notice some things are amiss.

It starts with the small stuff – an app hanging for no reason, a mini delay when you press the Home button. You ignore it at first, because after all, didn’t you get the best of what’s out there? And then you notice the battery emptying earlier than it should, and pretty soon, you have to admit the painful truth: you didn’t get an Apple – you got a lemon.

lemon mb1

Faulty devices, Dead-On-Arrival (DOA), lemons – they all mean the same thing. It’s your brand new, paid-for-with-blood-and-tears device malfunctioning. And while sometimes it’s painfully obvious – phone won’t start, car keeps belching big black smoke after you hit the ignition, printer only prints in blue and pink – sometimes, the signs can be subtle. Here are some things you should do to find out if your device is broken when you got it:

Check every Feature

We love that our gadgets, especially our smartphones, do all sorts of stuff. But we don’t always use all the features that our gadgets are capable of. And then there are times when we choose a particular model because of a feature we know we’ll eventually use, but we’ll need it in the future, so we tend to forget to test it now. I remember a friend who specifically bought a printer capable of DVD printing. The printer was superb in printing on paper, but since my friend didn’t need to print a DVD right away, he didn’t find out that the printer had a problem in that area until it was too late.

When you buy a new device, test everything. Is the WiFi working? How about data connection? Even if you won’t use your tablet to listen to music or play games, test it anyway by syncing music and playing games. Are the cameras working? Is the speakerphone clear? Is the SD card slot functioning? Are all the lights that are supposed to blink doing their job?

Even if what you find is only a minor issue, it’s good for you to know.

Exploit the Honeymoon

There’s usually a honeymoon period when you buy a new device – that magical period (usually 7 days) when the vendor promises to outright repair or replace your purchased item if it’s found defective. Be sure to take advantage of this honeymoon period. Test the hell out of your gadget before this period ends – to use a metaphor, you want your device to pass boot camp with flying colors before being deployed in the field.

Every time I buy/build a new computer, I run various programs on it and don’t even bother turning it off for a whole week. If something will break, you want it to break NOW – before the honeymoon period ends, before you have all sorts of personal data in the device, before it becomes a critical tool in your life. If it breaks now, replacing it will be a relatively easier endeavor than if it breaks later.

Double the Research

Buying brand new affords you the luxury of replacement or free repair. Getting something pre-owned usually does not. So it makes more sense to be extra careful and double the research before you commit to purchasing something pre-owned – especially if it’s something as substantial as buying a car.

Spotting potential problems can save you a ton on repair costs, so before buying a pre-owned car you have to do some investigation. Select a brand and model with good reliability. Read feedback and reviews on the internet. Check the interior, exterior, under the hood, and even the tires of the car you’re eyeing. Give everything a try – the steering, the acceleration, even the suspension. Check if there have been recalls that apply to the car. If possible, bring a trusted mechanic with you. It might cost you to pay for the professional’s time, but it’s certainly better than being blindsided a few weeks down the road and incurring major costs for a problem you failed to see.

Diagnosis is Key

Your manual tests of every product feature may not be enough. To be doubly sure, it’s better to run diagnostics and stress tests on your new device. The idea of ‘stress-testing’ is to force your new device to work as hard as possible. As I mentioned in the earlier paragraphs, if any internal component possesses a defect, you’d want that part to break now while your device is still under warranty. Stress tests will help you in that area. While it may sound scary, stress testing is a convenient way of discovering potential issues in your device.

For smartphones, you can use Android Sensor Box to check your phone’s sensors such as the gyroscope or accelerometer. Stability Test, on the other hand, will put your phone’s CPU to the wringer. Run it for 30 minutes max – if your handheld reboots or crashes while the test is running, something might be wrong.

When it comes to computers, at the very least, you should run CPU-Z to verify that the hardware you paid for is what’s actually installed in your computer. As for stress testing, you can use Prime95 to give your rig a workout. Again, don’t let it run for an extended amount of time – because this program can cause problems if you run it for prolonged periods. But there are many other tests available in the Internet. Do a Google search to find one that suits you.

Sense Me

Last, don’t forget to use the God-given diagnostics tools at your disposal: your senses. Touch, inspect, listen, smell your device. Is everything as it should be? Do you smell spilt gas on your car? Is there an acrid smell inside your printer? Should there be a ticking sound in your phone when you shake it? Is your tablet supposed to be as heavy as it feels? Should your eyes be hurting when you watch your new 4K television? Don’t dismiss how your gadget feels to you just because your body doesn’t have a digital readout where you can see an error message. If something feels wrong, investigate.

Much as we’d wish otherwise, lemons are a fact of life. Even the most reliable brands with the most diligent QA teams will miss some bad units. It’s up to you, the customer, to make sure if you had inadvertently purchased something defective before the warranty runs out.

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