iPhone Beta Software: A Cautionary Tale

4 minute read

I know I’ve been working on all these high minded posts, about big hand wavy topics, but sometimes I guess blog posts can just be about your day. Especially when your day has some helpful lessons that other people might learn from.

I’ve had every iPhone since they first came out. I am an unapologetic Apple Fan Girl. I do my work on MacBook Pros, have iPods aplenty, and just generally live in iOS or OSX all the time. I frequently run beta software, and the Universe has generally protected me from the pitfalls of such behavior, but apparently this is not a given.

I have a new iPhone, which I got so I could switch to Verizon. Not because I hate AT&T, although they certainly deserve any amount of hatred folks want to dish out. I’m just not really a hater. But I wanted tethering. And I like shiny new things. And I like unlimited data. So I got the new phone and I switched. And other than the weird no-data-while-voicing rule, the phone has been pretty well behaved. There are times when it gets confused, after I’ve finished talking to someone, about how to be a data providing mobile device, but it generally remembers how after a few minutes. I just figure it’s trying to teach me patience.

This phone, though, does have a problem. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, it just shuts down. It’s going along fine, I’ve just finished a conversation, my battery is over half full, I do a couple of app-y things and look away, and when I look back the screen is black. Poking at the button doesn’t help. Pushing the power button and the front button to reset it does nothing. It’s just… gone. It tends to do this at really inconvenient times – when I really *need* it to do some sort of task that’s time sensitive. Once about 15 minutes have passed, plugging it into a computer brings it back to life as if nothing had happened. This happens about once every couple of weeks, and it’s really kind of annoying.

The last few days at work have been really stressful, and as a result my critical mind seems to have gone on walkabout. So when it performed this awesome maneuver yesterday when I was trying to log my bike ride to work, I got annoyed and decided to… upgrade it to the iOS 5 beta. Sadly, nobody was around to tell me what a colossally stupid idea this was – my phone was doing something that looked a lot like a hardware problem, so I decided to put some unstable software on it in case it might help.

Shockingly, it did not help. It turned my phone into something resembling a brick. My coworker Jeremy finally did manage to get it to upgrade to iOS 5, and I was happy with my phone for several hours, until… I plugged it into my laptop. Which didn’t have the newest version of iTunes on it. And my phone turned into something resembling a brick that knew a single trick – if plugged into a computer, any computer, it would boot to the Apple logo over and over, but wouldn’t do anything else. I pouted and poked at it, but to no avail. My phone wouldn’t recover for me. So I made an appointment at the Genius bar in Los Gatos for the morning and went to sleep.

The Genius bar in Los Gatos was spectacularly unhelpful. Since I had upgraded to a beta OS, they claimed, they couldn’t possibly do anything with the phone. They suggested I try restoring it on my computer again, and sent me on my way. So I went off to work, hoping that Jeremy could fix it again. He tried valiantly, for much of the day, with only minor scolding for thinking that installing unstable software on broken hardware was anything resembling a good idea. To no avail.

The story does have a happy ending, though. I made *another* appointment, at the Valley Fair Apple store, and the genius there was supremely helpful. And somehow, he convinced my phone that it wanted to be back on 4.28. Which was fine with me. If it starts doing the weird crashing thing again I’ll take it back without attempting any bizarre maneuvers next time.

So the moral of the story here is… don’t put beta software on your broken hardware. You know what, just don’t put beta software on your primary mobile device. It sucks to have no phone. Especially when it’s your own fault. iOS 5 is really cool, but you can wait a couple more months until the kinks have been worked out… trust me.

Posted in “Don’t be an idiot…” – actually, in Geek Stuff. On G+ I’ll send it to my Friends circle.