iPhone coma. Two words you never want to see in the same sentence! Yesterday I went to pick up my phone, and it wouldn’t unlock. Weird. I figured maybe the battery had died. That’s a common problem with the 3.1 iPhone software update. After 15 minutes […]

iPhone coma. Two words you never want to see in the same sentence! Yesterday I went to pick up my phone, and it wouldn’t unlock. Weird. I figured maybe the battery had died. That’s a common problem with the 3.1 iPhone software update. After 15 minutes I still had no response. What is even stranger? MobileMe said the phone was online, so I went ahead and called it. My iPhone never rang, yet the call didn’t go to voicemail until the fifth ring.

As Zapp Brannigan might say, “Kiff, we have a conundrum.” And it turns out I am not alone.

Apparently one of the new “features” of the iPhone 3.1 update is severe narcolepsy, colloquially called “the iPhone coma.” iPhones running 3.0 or 3.0.1 software are not affected, and the coma appears much more prevalent on the iPhone 3G than the 3GS. This issue seems somewhat widespread and there are several threads about this issue on the Apple discussion boards.

My particular situation of a locked phone that refuses to wake up or ring is but one of the many manifestations of this bug. Depending on when the iPhone becomes comatose, the screen may be on or it may be off. If the screen is on, the display may continue to update (i.e. the time changes) but the phone can’t receive incoming calls, nor do the physical controls or the touch screen actually respond to user input. If the phone is in locked mode (i.e. screen is off) then a comatose phone will show itself as being unable to be woken up by clicking the physical controls. In other words, it will have a black screen.

Triggering the problem is random. Since I updated to iPhone 3.1 on Sunday night, I’ve had the problem about three times a day. It’s never been in the middle of a call and it’s always been as I pick up the phone to make a call that I notice it won’t turn on. My observations of randomness and repetition are consistent with other reports on the web.

The short term fix to resolve the problem is to force a hard reboot by holding down the top and home button down for 10 seconds until you see the chrome Apple. This does not erase the data and the iPhone will reboot and be able to receive calls after a couple minutes. Removing the SIM card or restoring the iPhone from backup had no effect. Unfortunately, Apple does not provide any supported way to revert the phone to the coma-free 3.0.1 software, so unfortunately, iPhone users stuck with narcoleptic iPhones will need to wait for the bug fix from Apple.

If you rely on your iPhone 3G and haven’t installed 3.1 — wait. You’ll miss out on a few new features until Apple provides its fix, but that is a small price to pay for a reliable working phone! Those of you running 3.1, has your phone gone comatose or has it happily remained fully conscious since the update?

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  1. I’m running 3.1 and haven’t had any problems with a comatose iPhone. I have however had an issue with battery life which was mentioned by Darrell Etherington on September 21.

  2. I’ve had the coma-phone. Not sure if it’s related or just coincidence, but it happened 3 or 4 times a day at first and now only happens once in a while. the only difference is I freed up more space on the hard drive, so *possibly* that makes a difference, but more likely we are all waiting for a bug fix instead.

  3. Yep, seen this on my 3G. Exactly the symptoms you’ve described. Thanks for checking out doing a full restore, now I guess I’ll just wait for the new update.

  4. I had the same problem, when I first updated to 3.1 on the day it was released I had it happen almost twice a day for the first 3 days…but after that it hasn’t happened again so it might be an initial thing???

  5. Same problem here with the 3G. It happens 2-3 times per day with no warning. Also, the phone gets very hot when this happens. As soon as I pick it up and notice how hot it is, I know it’s in a coma.

  6. This happened to me when I was running iPhone 3.0 on my 3Gs. I thought the phone was bricked and took it into an apple store and when they plugged the phone into the mac it showed that the battery was just dead. Which made no sense because the battery had 80% left before it went into a coma.

  7. I think it has to do with the light sensor on the phone. I had this issue, covered the sensor and hit power. The phone came back on with no problem. Not sure, maybe that was a separate issue. 3.1 FTMFL

  8. Yes. Happened to me – plus the geo location is off, voice mail doesn’t show up (or is days late) and sometimes it just won’t ring to tell me I’ve got a call even though I’ve got the person standing next to me… dialing right there to test it.

    Oh – and AT&T ’nuff said.

    I wish I’d not updated to 3.1. Heaven forbid my iPhone will be there for me to oh… make or receive phone calls? Nyahh… that’s asking so much, but it’s a pretty phone, isn’t it?

    /irreverent sarcasm

  9. Has happened to me multiple times. It is very annoying.

  10. Some problem here with my 3G. This issue happen 3-4 times for day. I hope than Apple fix this bug quick.

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