Particle Debris and a New iPhone (2G)

/> Because I write about what's going on with Apple, most often I have to jump in and experience what the readers are experiencing. So with some trepidation, on Friday July 11th, when all hell was breaking loose, I went ahead and updated my iPhone 2G to the iPhone 2.0 software.

That's when the trouble began.

The update appeared to go well with no error messages, but when the iPhone 2G finally rebooted, I had no icons on the home screen. The text under the icons was there and gave hints about where to touch, but the icons themselves were gone. I tried making a call, and I found to my surprise that as I touched each key on the telephone keypad, that key would completely disappear.

It's not often one makes a call in which every number is different.

There are several things one can try in this case. My initial update was through a USB 2 powered hub and a standard iPhone dock on a PowerMac G5. I had some problems in the early updates of the iPhone, but they disappeared in the recent updates. But just to be sure, I used only the cable and connected the iPhone directly to the USB port of my MacBook Pro.

Same result.

Since the iPhone was under AppleCare, I called AppleCare support. They told me something which, in hindsight, doesn't sound right. The technician told me that the software update on Friday was having some problems and I should try later, maybe Saturday, to update again when perhaps a later version of the software would be available.

On Saturday, I opened iTunes and clicked on the Restore function.
To my dismay, the Restore seemed to be pulling the update from somewhere on my hard disk rather than downloading it from Apple. I rummaged around and found some stuff in

/Users/john/Library/Caches/Cleanup at Startup

but that didn't seem to be the source of the file -- just a temporary holding spot.

I searched the Apple forums and Internet in vain for anyone who had the same problem. No luck.

On Sunday, with a completely hosed iPhone and armed with my Applecare paperwork, I went to the Aspen Grove Apple store in Littleton, Colorado, expecting to get the iPhone repaired.

But that wasn't enough. The store was fairly crowded, and the Apple salesman told me that I could get immediate attention if I had ProCare ($99/year), but with merely AppleCare, I would have to make an appointment. The earliest appointment was Monday evening at a location closer to my house, Park Meadows Mall. But the salesman did give me hint. The iPhone software downloads are located in:

/Users/john/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates

[Replace "john" with your own user name.]

If I delete the file inside that folder, that will force iTunes to download a fresh version. On Sunday evening, I tried that and got the same version of the file, iPhone1,1_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw -- and the same result. Hosed up iPhone.

I also discovered that if you hold down the CMD+OPT keys when clicking Restore, you'll see a navigation box that shows the previous updates. I tried to back up to 1.1.4, but that failed. Some people in the forums suggested that backing up the firmware from 2.0 to 1.1.4 would not be possible.

On Monday, July 14, at 5:30 pm I went to the Apple store at Park Meadows and waited for only a few minutes before "Tim" saw me. I showed him the problem, and he didn't even try to run diagnostics. Tim said that I won the award for the most spectacular iPhone failure of the day.

For a second, I thought he was going to invite me to take an iPhone accessory off the wall as a prize. No such luck.

After looking up my AT&T phone number, Tim said, "I see the phone is over a year old but you have AppleCare. Would you like a new phone?"

"Sure," I said. "Thank you."

Tim pulled out a refurbished iPhone 2G that looked good as new, swapped the SIM card, connected the new iPhone to his Mac and activated it. Then he started an erase function on the old phone that writes all zeros to memory. (I didn't have any personal data on the phone anyway thanks to all the update attempts but no backup completed.)

In five minutes I had a new working phone, but with OS X iPhone 1.1.4. Tim said I'd have to do the update myself, but if that didn't work, bring the new phone back. Or wait for the next update after 2.0.

I went home, downloaded a fresh copy of the 2.0 update (but same version # again) and conducted the update. Voila! The update took, and the phone was working perfectly, just as before the whole adventure started.


1. I have no idea what deep, lurking secret caused my fresh-as-a daisy iPhone, bought on July 1, 2007, to work perfectly up to 1.1.4, then fail spectacularly at 2.0. I'll never know, but hopefully some Apple engineer who plays with it might figure it out.

2. I was frustrated with how long it took to get the iPhone repaired on a weekend when there was pandemonium in the Applesphere. Indeed, it might have been wise to release the iPhone 2.0 software a week earlier than the iPhone 3Gs.

3 When I finally got to see an Apple Genius, it was a great experience. Tim was sharp, smart, courteous, and fast. He had my iPhone replaced and working in no time at all.

4. Finally ... if you don't believe it yet ... get AppleCare on your iPhone. Don't even think about not buying it, even on the cheaper, subsidized iPhone 3Gs.

I learned a lot about the iPhone update process, painfully. But, hey, that's what we do here at TMO.