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Summary:

It just wouldn’t be an iPhone OS update without the usual accompanying cries of anguish from end-users, now, would it? It seems Apple just can’t get the update process right; and there’s really no good excuse for it. Over on the Apple Support user discussions forum […]

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It just wouldn’t be an iPhone OS update without the usual accompanying cries of anguish from end-users, now, would it? It seems Apple just can’t get the update process right; and there’s really no good excuse for it.

Over on the Apple Support user discussions forum several threads are quickly growing around a common theme; the iPhone OS 3.1 update is causing iPhone 3G’s to slow down and, in many reports shared by frustrated users, handsets are simply shutting down, seemingly at random.

A selection of the most popular posts at this time go by the provocative titles; 3.1 turned my iPhone slow – unusable and lacking in all tasks, 3.1 Update Problem – Hangs, Two very strange bugs found in 3.1, 3.1 killed 3G – unable to restore, WIFI Issues and Mysterious random total shut downs following 3.1 update.

At the time of writing, the problems seem to be limited to the iPhone 3G. Users report that their phones refuse to respond after:

  • exiting applications
  • unlocking the handset after auto-lock has kicked-in
  • waking from standby with or without the passcode lock activated.

In all cases, only a hard reset returned the handset to proper working order, but only temporarily. Reading through the different reports shows that users have tried different ways to fix the problem, including removing and reinstalling all applications, wiping all personal data and settings and even full system restores via iTunes — all to no avail.

To add to the drama, some 3G owners report drastically reduced battery life since the 3.1 upgrade.

So once again, an iPhone OS upgrade is causing end users grief. Despite the fact it’s a closed platform developed by one company (not an open-source free-for-all). Despite the fact that there are only three platform configurations for this device. Despite the careful attention Apple would have us believe each third-party app is subjected to prior to approval (and let’s not forget the sandbox environment in which apps operate).

Despite all of these checks in place that ought to provide Apple with a foundation for trouble-free updates, the company seems to have extraordinary — and bewildering — difficulty releasing stable, bug-free updates to the iPhone OS.

I’ve owned each iPhone since the first generation device, and cheerfully installed each OS update the same day it was made available. Generally I’ve seen improvements in overall system performance, but battery life has been all over the place, sometimes improved by an OS update, sometimes made much worse. I’ve celebrated as the system performance steadily improved, then swore as it declined… until the next update put things back on track. And so on.

As I see it, there are really only two explanations for this sadly-familiar iPhone OS update drama; either Apple’s iPhone OS development teams are incompetent, or Apple’s quality standards are far lower than we like to think.

Harsh words? No, not at all. iPhones are either expensive, or extremely expensive. But we buy them because we know we’re buying more than a product; we’re buying a swathe of functionality, wrapped-in an elegant user experience other smartphones have yet to match. Apple keeps its underlying software under close guard, cautiously approving some third-party contributions while dispassionately denying others. Apple does this, it says, in order to maintain the integrity of the product, its features and the experience we pay top-dollar to enjoy.

Either Apple can’t follow its own rules, or it’s talking utter rubbish.

I’m fully aware the three different models of iPhone currently in the wild have different hardware configurations, but that’s no excuse. If Apple cannot its own software updates to work across all three of its own models, it should not make updates available for all three models. At least, not until it’s done the most exhaustive of stress tests to work out all the bugs.

It has been five days since iPhone OS 3.1 was made available to the public and iPhone 3G customers started experiencing problems with their handsets. Still no word yet from Apple. Not even a simple “We hear you, we’re looking into it.”

C’mon Apple. You can do better than that. You bragged last week that you’ve sold more than thirty million iPhones. How many of those sales are 3G’s? Don’t those customers deserve a little more respect?

  1. I figured you might like to know that my iPhone 3gs has been acting up with the same problems you mentioned that are only affecting 3g.

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    1. Two days ago downloaded 3.1. Hours latter phone went black. Came back by itself few minutes latter. Listining to ipod phone stops gose black. Pushed off button nothing happened. Pushed on off button few more times phone went on. Woke up next morning phone was dead. Pushed on off button time after time nothing happend, five minutes latter phone was on by it’s self. Looked for answers on web should of looked at commments before loading 3.1, will do from now on. Was told allot of people having same problem. Was told to go to a sight and download 3.0. Plug phone into compurter open itunes, open up summery page on my pc hold down shift key and hit restore. Go to 3.0 in my file and it will load into iphone. Process started got half way through go an errror message can’t continue for what ever reason. Hit ok. Process stopped in the software verson showed n/a. Hit restore button as last resort. It erased the whole phone reloaded new 3.1 upgrade then reloade all of my information from my computer file. Phone started up phone is working great just like before. No problems now for 48 hours. Didn’t plan on doing a complete restore just trying to get back to 3.0 but it wouldn’t let me do it. It downloaded 3.1 again. Maybe by clearing everything out of the phone and starting out like a new phone it fixed the problem.Maybe I just got lucky but the phone is working, and it’s been two days now. It may be worth trying to do the same. Hope this helps. Good luck!

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    2. and i thought i was alone…my 3g shuts down at random also since i updated to os 3.1. i have restored it several times but the problem persists. im changed the autolock from 1 min to 2 mins hoping this will do something good. battery life has been a mess too since 3.0

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    3. Very unsatisfied with this 3.1 version, i lost everything i cannot recover my details, tunes do not even recognise my iphone. what to do, anyone can help!!
      thx

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    4. Spot on with this blog. My 3G was working just fine until 3.0 came along so I upgraded. I then noticed my calendar wasn’t matching up with Exchange. In hopes 3.1 would solve my problems I upgraded and then began to experience all symptoms listed above. I was beginning to think I had hardware problems as after I rebuilt the software it would work for approximately 24 hours and then begin to freeze, crash, skip more frequently. Hit and miss with a battery life of half a day. At this point, it’s pretty much useless. I shall attempt to downgrade.

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    5. At least Microsoft never FORCED everyone to update to VISTA.

      Minus 1 bazzillion points for Apple.

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    6. Okay, I seem to have my issues narrowed down to the mail client on the iPhone (by process of elimination). Seems that the device gets caught in a never ending loop utilizing all resources on the device until the battery drains or the app crashes. Similar to a computer subject to a broadcast storm. I am guessing that whatever component they use for a NIC is not consistent across devices (probably cheapest commodity at the time) thus the corresponding driver has issues with the network/data stack on 3.1. However, I will try the iTunes 9.0 suggestion although I see no correlation as I only sync OTA.

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    7. my 3gs is acting up too. downloaded the upgrade Saturday and seemed to work fine. Then today, Sunday, I could not open any of the apps I downloaded. Then the phone started freezing up and basically crashing. I hope this gets fixed soon or I bet there is more people than just me going to the nearest store demanding a replacement. This upgrade has turned my wonderful phone into the biggest POS ever.

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    8. yes I too think this is power related – reading many different post all over the net, does not matter what os version you are running everyone has the same problems with freezing shut downs etc. try this:
      plug in the phone and use it normally ,, does it freeze ?
      unplug the phone , does it freeze? how long have you had this iphone , long ? no ? maybe battery problems , it is the heart of the machine , try a new battery , still the same problem ? maybe there are a bad bath of batteries , a company will not re-call something unless it is safety related that would cost them too much money.
      Everyone needs to do these power related tests , if it turns out to be , then we have a stronger case .
      I dont think it is related to itunes or the OS , Does apple say anything about this problem , I dont think so, they keep quiet in the background and give out new phones to people who ask for it, in my industry it’s
      called a volunteer campaign .

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    9. Ive had my iphone for about a month now and have been singing praises for it, aside from its hate of acer computers which it constantly crashes… I decided to upgrade to this 3.1 OS which itunes kept reminding me of. Now my EXPENSIVE phone is nothing more than a picture of a usb pointing to a cd picture labelled itunes. Although i shall have to subject myself to a mess of calls, store visits and more, i just think this SHOULD NOT even be happening…. How can apple have so many software issues and 1# not even warn people of what could happen, or 2# charge so much for a gadget that doesnt even work properly… We, the poor consumer who have invested in this phone is left to surf the internet in search of answers… Its just not right.

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  2. I have a iPhone 3gs and my battery is quickly draining even as I type this. This is ridiculous. Apple needs to fix this pronto.

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    1. Completely agree. I cannot believe Apple is ignorant to these problems. And, assuming they were testing more than, say, ONE iPhone during the development of 3.1, they must surely be aware this update BREAKS iPhones everywhere.

      I wonder… was OS 3.1 released prematurely to make up for the abandoned-at-the-last-minute iPod Touch camera announcement? Was OS 3.1, in effect, just ‘padding’ for an otherwise fairly uneventful September “special” event?

      Just ideas…

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    2. I’m surprised from what i can reed it’s been only affecting 3Gs iphones. I had no idea about all this and this morning I installed in my 2G phone the 3.1 software and have been getting problems all day. Battery seems fine but can not make or get any calls. Sometimes it fixes by resetting it but just for a few minutes. It also shots down for no reason.

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    3. not only did this drain my battery in the first 30 min, but it also erased half of my contacts!!! thank goodness i backed them up on my gmail account. what is going on apple???

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    4. Agreed! my phone shuts down at random. Has happened twice now! I missed a phone call because my phone shut down and I did not know it! This sucks!!! I am hope they fix this soon!

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  3. Thanks Barton. I wrote this on Friday, when the reports were all pointing to it being limited to the 3G. Over the weekend more reports have come in concerning all models, it seems, and I had my own special adventures this weekend with my 3GS that I’ll write about shortly (including my fix).

    It’ll be interesting to read whether other iPhone users (of any iPhone model) have had problems since upgrading to 3.1…

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    1. My iPhone 3GS went into an unrecoverable Restore state while trying to upgrade to 3.1. Tried DFU mode blah blah blah. 45 mins on the phone w/Apple Tech support and a 2 hour round trip to the Apple Store netted me a refurbed 3GS.

      Everyone is friendly and helpful but in the end I feel like I was abused by the process and ended up trading in my perfectly good 2 month old 3GS for someone else’s reject. What kind of customer service is that? They screwed up my phone and I get a used device?

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    2. yes it only happened when i tried to update it.

      instead of trying to find out why it happened cant apple just tell us how to fix it?

      i mean if its happened to so many people then what are all of us going to do without phones?

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  4. I have an iPhone 3G and I haven’t problems with Os 3.1
    Same battery life, apps are working like in Os 3.0

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    1. Interesting… I’m glad to hear your hone remains unaffected. Did you also upgrade iTunes to version 9?

      My own experiences this weekend are hinting iTunes 9 plays a role in this silliness…

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    2. I too havn’t had any issues. I first upgraded to iTunes 9 and then to iPhone OS 3.1. The only noticeable difference is the UI is back to the 2.2 snappy speed (3.0 was a little sluggish)

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    3. I JUST bought the Iphone 3G not even a month ago, and it’s randomly shutting down…i’ve tried restoring 5 times now, and have even been able to downgrade back to 3.0, but same thing…it’s still shutting down randomly, I have to leave it plugged into a power source in order for it to work, etc. My husband did a bit of research and said that apparently, the 3.1 software embeds a code in the phone that makes it so you can’t jailbreak it and even if you downgrade software, that code is still there…I don’t even want to jailbreak my phone, but I’m thinking that it may be the “code” that is causing issues….who knows. I just think that Apple needs to fix this right away… WTF am I paying for a data plan for if I can’t fricken use it?? I’ve got an appointment at an Apple store tomorrow after work to see what the “geniuses” have to say. I’ve already called tech support, and they told me to go to the actual store…had to wait 2 days for an appointment too, so they either better have a fix for me tomorrow, or give me a new phone!!!

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  5. I have this problem on my 3G and most of the original reports fingered MobileMe as a common denominator also.

    For anyone in the same boat, I’ve noticed that the iPhone really doesn’t perform well since 3.0 when you get within a GB of the top of the storage, but that since 3.1 this is even more pronounced.

    I had this freezing/shutdown thing happen four times on the first day that I updated to 3.1, but when I freed up some space (1.2GB) on the phone, the incidence dropped a bit. It still crashes, but more like once every day or two, instead of three or four times a day.

    Maybe it’s a memory issue and the extra space helps? YMMV

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  6. I have 3Gs with no problems at all.

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  7. I have a 3GS with 3.1 and iTunes 9 and no problems.. I have a a couple of mates with 3G & 3GS and they don’t seem to have an issue.

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  8. I’m having a similar problem on my 3GS (32 GB). It was running PERFECTLY on 3.0.1, but since the 3.1 update, there’s been nothing but trouble — and of course IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO DOWNGRADE. WTF APPLE?

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    1. It’s not impossible to downgrade. Some enterprising developers have figured out a way… No guarantees, but it worked for me… ;) Check out this webpage…
      http://jaxov.com/2009/09/revert-back-from-iphone-firmware-3-1-to-firmware-3-0-1/

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  9. i have the 3g model, since the upgrade nothing but problems. this phone has never been hacked or had issues in the past. immediately upon installing OS 3.1 battery life dead and worse the phone shuts off or permanent sleeps randomly. if apple doesn’t provide a patch to fix this week they will lose my good patience and product recommendations/referrals.

    I can understand some of the high end features having issues after an upgrade etc… but for the basic function of staying on and not shutting off I have no patience. missing calls on my phone, this is after all supposed to be a phone as well.

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  10. I have the 3GS and ran into a problem during the upgrade to OS 3.1 which required a reset. Since then it’s been random shutdowns happening every hour or so. Battery life is also poor. Not sure what’s happening but I am not impressed at all. Apple better get its act together real soon and come up with a statement.

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