26 July 2010

Apple hobbled my iPhone 3G

On June 21st, Apple released its new iPhone operating system, the iOS 4. The new operating system coincided with the release of the iPhone 4. And an enthusiastic public enthused. Some of that public anyway.

I've been an iPhone fanatic since the first iPhone came out way back in 2007. From the start I couldn't believe that I'd finally found an electronic device that made good on every promise it made. In a very short time, that phone became much more than a phone, it was my connection to the world. So long as I had that phone with me, I could work from anywhere. I could manage everything in my life from a piece of electronic wizardry that lived up to the hype surrounding it.

When the 3G came out a year later, I upgraded to it immediately. 2008's 3G surpassed my first iPhone by every measure I could think of. If it were possible to love an electronic device, then that's what I would call what I felt for that phone.

In 2009, Apple released the iPhone 3GS. The 3GS had a video camera, an improved still camera, more memory and more storage. Since the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS used the same operating system, it made more sense to hold onto the year-old phone. I continued to love my 3G, and the operating system Apple developed for the 3GS made my 3G work even better than it did before. I thought that Apple was being forward thinking. Both their new model and their current model reaped the benefits of an operating system upgrade. Who needed a new handset? Mobile phones could improve every year with software upgrades alone. Brilliant.

On 21 June, Apple released the iPhone 4 and the new operating system, the iOS 4 at the same time. All iPhone owners were going to reap the rewards of this new software. Everybody on the train was going to get an improved phone. I still loved my 3G and since the operating system was going to make it even better, why buy a new phone and sign up for another two-year stint with AT&T?

It took three days to get my hands on the iOS 4 upgrade and when I managed to get hold of it, it took three hours to download and install. That was unusual, but it seemed like a small price to pay for all of the improvements I was sure to get.

When I finished the download and restarted my phone, something seemed odd. Most of my apps were missing and all of my photos were nowhere to be found. At first I thought that I had made some kind of a mistake when I followed the steps to run the upgrade. In iPhone speak, it was a restore not an installation. So I restarted my phone. When it came back to life, half of my missing apps reappeared. I restarted it again. This time, another handful of apps reappeared. I repeated the restart routine three more times. After five restarts, I had all my apps back, but my photos seem to have been lost for good.

I still thought that there was something I'd done wrong. After all, Apple surely couldn't have screwed up a software upgrade.

Whatever happened, my beloved iPhone 3G no longer worked with anything approaching the speed and efficiency it once did. I noticed that my battery life had been cut in half. It crashed regularly. It was enragingly slow. After a week I started asking around to see if anybody else was having the trouble I was having.

I was far from alone and my experiences were shared by many iPhone 3G users.

The more I dug, the more I learned that the new iOS 4 was never intended to be run on the the 3G. There was no warning anywhere on Apple's website before I "upgraded" my phone. Apple being Apple, there's no way I can go back and install the old operating system that made my phone work so well. It's almost as if I'm being pressured into buying a new iPhone and along with it, one of AT&T's onerous, new, tiered data plans.

It gets increasingly hard to think of this as a coincidence. Every time that I turn on my GPS and my phone checks my mail instead I start to question the train of planned obsolescence I've been riding since 2007. I used to think that Apple was one of the good guys. They represented value, sharp design and exclusivity. Now I'm beginning to see that I've been duped.

Whether this software problem was planned or accidental, I'm not happy and I'm not alone.

Maybe it's time to look at a Droid.

My friend Eric sent me this over the weekend.

As amusing as that video is, what's not in the least bit amusing is that Apple hobbled my iPhone 3G.


  1. Want to downgrade your 3G to iOS 3.1.3? Definitely possible, not even particularly difficult. Lifehacker put together a rather nice little guide....

    Good luck!

  2. You could also follow the steps here to try to recover your photos...


  3. the worst is the number of hours dealing w/ a frustration like this sucks up.

  4. Anon: Does this require that I jailbreak my phone? What about photo folders that weren't in my camera roll?

    Sharon: Tell me about it!

  5. No jailbreak required for either operation. Personally, I'd recommend recovering photos first and making sure they are safe in a known location on your computer...

    From my understanding, photo folders that were not in your camera roll should be saved to your My Pictures (or the Mac equiv) folder on your computer. I can doublecheck that when I get home. But if not, they might be saved in an old backup of the iPhone...in which case, you could try using a free program like IRfanview to load the pics from the backup and save them wherever you like.


  6. Similar experience 'upgrading'. tool about 5 hrs, and wasn't until after doing first sync that apps/pics/music/videos came back onto the phone.

    the video you posted sums up my current iEmedia handheld device (i can't even call it a phone anymore) experience to the T. except that it didn't show one of the all-to-typical crashes that occur on a daily basis with basic apps like mail and text messaging, or the 10 seconds it takes for the keyboard to show up when trying to send a text message.

    Paul, thanks for posting this message, seemingly on my behalf. it was excellent catharsis for a monday morning. It really is too bad that Apple & AT$T have managed to bend us lemmings over a barrel. I hopped on the Apple band wagon many years ago because of how much i loathe that kind of corporate conspiratorial disregard for loyal customers.

  7. Hey Paul, since my iPhone 3G is out of service, I will try the downgrade and see what happens (I have nothing to lose if it doesn't got well.) and let you know how it turns out. We both have similar computers, and identical phones, so I should be able to determine if it works well or not. Mike, nicely written response! Next question, is this going to make you upgrade to an iPhone 4, or jump ship like I did?

  8. Thank you Loren, you've given me an activity for tonight.

    Mike: I'm glad to be of service! There has been a huge amount of noise made about the relatively minor issues with the iPhone 4 but what's seemingly left out is the serious damage done to up to a third of all of the iPhones that are out there. I struggle to keep from believing in dark conspiracies but this has all of the hallmarks of one. There is no way that Apple didn't know the new OS would screw up the 3G, none. That it happened coincidentally with the roll out of a new, tiered data plan and the debut of a new handset makes the whole thing stink to high heaven. Add to that Apple's silence in the face of a very clear and widespread problem and it's left me considering seriously forgetting the whole thing.

    I get it that manufacturers stop servicing old models. But the 3G is still being sold and under the new OS, they simply don't work.

    Fury is about as close a word as I can find to describe how I feel about Apple at this point.

  9. Eric: Your live demo of the Droid over the weekend was as damaging to Apple as has been this OS screw up. Screw Apple at this point.

  10. I am telling you, this Droid Incredible is nothing short of Incredible. I also love the openess of the platform. You can install anything you want. You can customize it any you want as well. Apples fierce control of the App Store is nice, as you usually get quality apps. But, things like Google Voice, Free Navigation, and other things make Android a really compelling platform. The only issue is that you have to be a bit careful about what you install, since you can install anything. I'd much rather make the choice of apps, then have Apple tell me what I can, and cannot have.

  11. Its a little off topic, but for those of you that hate your iPhones, this might put a little grin on your face....


    I love it when companies do ads like this...

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  13. @Eric: I have a couple friends with iP4s and a couple with driod phones. I've been testing both every chance i get. at this point, the only thing holding me back from jumping ship is the ease with which i'm able to sync calendars, contacts, and media between my MacBook Pro and iEmedia portable handheld device.

    My neighbor recently purchased an AT$T repeater through his work so that he could get cell reception at his home. it has also improved my reception somewhat, not quite to the point where i would consider calling my non-phone capable iPhone a Phone, but it's getting closer...

    Would want to thoroughly test reception of driod phones on Verizon and/or Sprint at my place before jumping ship. not something i've been able to do yet.

    @Paul: i'm not all to happy with Apple about the whole iOS4 debacle, but it hasn't got me to the point where i'm ready to write off the company as a whole. considering how far they've come in such a short time as a cell phone manfr (compared to the samsungs, nokias, etc of the world) i am still grateful to them for revolutionizing the cell phone space and forcing the industry to evolve. I do think they are making some very disturbing mistakes, and the shroud of secrecy and denial that they're living behind is totally lame. My sincere hope is that they pull their own overly engorged heads out of their asses over there in the iPhone department and firstly just COMMUNICATE the fact that they're even listening, and then follow that up with some acceptable form of action.

  14. Well I haven't written them off yet but I'm damn close. I don't mind the mistakes so much as I mind the deflection and avoidance.

  15. Wow, makes me glad I got a Droid. Took a lot for me to give up my Blackberry. The Navigator App alone was worth the price of admission into the Droid family. I'll never switch back. Just the saw latest Droid today and it's performance smokes my DROID Eris HTC.

  16. Hey Paul, were you able to recover any of your pics? When I checked my computer last night, I didn't see any pics synced to the My Pictures folder so apparently I was wrong about that. Must have worked the other way, pics in that folder were synced to the iPhone. Ah, well, sorry about that. Hopefully you can still grab your pics from a backup...

    Also...just a word of caution from someone whose been doing this a while...Don't go from idolizing Apple to idolizing the Droids. No sense making the same mistake twice. :) They will both make mistakes with hardware and upgrades and everything else. These things are not easy undertakings; they are in fact an utter triumph of hardware and software engineering and design.

    In particular, the pace with which they are churning out new Droid devices is not sustainable and will, inevitably, result in some craziness when it comes to new OS versions and new hardware. See how they handle their mistakes. The diversity of hardware vendors will both help and hurt, here. Some will do well, others will fare awful; good luck figuring out in advance which will be which.

    Essentially comes down to this: no matter what device you use, protect what you care about and sync/backup contacts, pics, and data to a third party service. Perhaps more than one. :)


  17. I'm going to follow your advice this afternoon and try to recapture what's been missing from my phone for the last month. As happy as I'll be to get my old photos back, I'd trade them gladly for a 3G that works as elegantly as it used to. Apple needs to let 3G users go back to the old OS, but in order for that to happen, they'd have to admit that there's a problem.

    I'm not going to rush into the waiting arms of Droid any time soon, I'm just running my mouth out of anger. I went through the process of signing up for an iPhone 4 on AT&T's website just to see what it will cost me and as soon as I'm done being obstinate, that's probably the route I'm going to take.

  18. "After all, Apple surely couldn't have screwed up a software upgrade."


    Surely, you jest?

  19. I blame the Stockholm syndrome.

  20. Hey Paul, Sorry to hear about your iPhone woes. I too was an iPhone devotee, but my husband forced me to try the HTC Evo last month promising that if I didn't like it I could get an iPhone 4. Well, I'm sold on the HTC now. I love it more than I loved my Blackberry (which was a lot) and more than I loved my iPhone (which was a ton). Have you seen this video? It's funny to me because it's exactly how I would respond to my husband.
    P.S. We moved to Sprint which I was scared to do and I have to say I'm sold on them as well!

  21. Steph, that video was funny up until they had to insert expletives after every other word.

  22. Lighten up. Steph, I thought that video was hilarious.

  23. I KNOW!
    I was shocked that I love Sprint too. I know service is very different in every state, but here in Utah Sprint rocks. We had Sprint when we were first married about 9 years ago and it sucked. So we've been very loyal to Verizon since then. I've had work phones on T-Mobile & AT&T in that time and I've never been as happy as I was with Verizon.
    Until now.
    We get awesome service, great phones and we are saving $50 per month with more minutes, more data, more texts, etc. I'm an advertisement for Sprint now.
    And to Anonymous....there is a "clean" version of that video if you can't handle the language. I thought Paul would be fine with the grown up version though so that's the link I put here.

  24. Thanks for the testimonial Steph, I'm getting a wandering eye these days. And I can definitely handle the language. Geez. Never let the risk of offending me stop you from posting anything you'd like. I have unbelievably thick skin.


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