Apple boosts 27-in. iMac shipping delay to 3 weeks

Some users on their third iMac after repeatedly returning defective systems

Apple yesterday increased the shipping delay for its 27-in. iMac to three weeks, the longest since the new model's debut last year.

As of Thursday, Apple's online store showed a three-week span between ordering a 27-in. iMac and the expected ship date. Until yesterday, dual-core iMacs sported a one-week delay for most of January, while the quad-core models were expected to ship in two weeks.

Apple did not respond today to a request for an explanation.

Problems have plagued Apple's biggest iMac since its launch on Oct. 20, 2009. Although the complaints initially centered around cracked screens, gripes about a wide range of graphics issues, from a yellowish tint to irritating flickering, soon took precedence.

Those problems prompted one Canadian Web developer to collate the complaints on a specially-built Web site, which now boasts nearly 2,000 entries, and almost 1,500 grievances. The largest number of complaints -- mentioned in 45 per cent of the entries citing problems -- involve a flickering display.

In late December, Apple issued a firmware update for all 27-in. iMacs, saying only that it was meant to "address issues that may cause image corruption or the display to flicker." After installing the update, however, most users commenting on Apple's support forum reported that the new firmware had not solved the problem .

Numerous users on the support forum have reported that they're on their third iMac, having returned the previous two for flaws. "Bought my 27-in. [iMac] i7 in October, received it late November, sent it back in December, received my first replacement in December, sent it back early January," said a user identified as "fmedery" Thursday on the longest thread dedicated to the problems. "My third i7 was suppose to ship yesterday. But now it has been delayed to early February. I do not know if it is a good thing or not. I am thinking of having a refund, simply because I do not trust this product anymore."

That thread contains an astounding 3,500 messages , making it the largest of any currently active discussion on Apple's support forum.

Scott Pronych of Nova Scotia, the developer who created and maintains the Apple iMac (Fall 2009) Issues site to track problems, is also on his third iMac.

Some customers claimed that they had been told by Apple technical support representatives that the iMac display problems had been corrected. "I have just been informed by Apple Technical Support that there is a confirmed defect with the new iMacs, this includes the 21- and 27-in. screens," said "MistaSmiff" today on the support thread. "The new batch of iMacs will be released February 5-6."

Others were skeptical. "I don't suppose they elaborated on what the actual defect is. No, I thought not," countered "Paul_31."

This isn't the first time that Apple's delayed shipping its new iMacs. According to some Apple authorized resellers, the company increased the shipping delay from 7-10 days to two weeks in mid-December so it could have time to troubleshoot the display problems.

U.S. resellers, including Amazon.com and ClubMac.com , currently have 27-in. iMacs in stock, however.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , send e-mail to gkeizer@ix.netcom.com or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed .

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