Blog Post

iPhone OS 3.1 Update Causing Crashes On iPhone 3G’s


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 (s aapl) 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?

166 Responses to “iPhone OS 3.1 Update Causing Crashes On iPhone 3G’s”

  1. THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to post a comment, I wonder, can you add in a fresh comment – did you try removing and reinstalling iTunes 9?

    I have a “fix” story to share that worked for me, but it involves removing then reinstallingiTunes 9 and I wonder what experiences other users have had if they’ve tried doing this…

    If enough people try it and have a positive experience, I’ll write an article detailing what I did. But my evidence for a successful fix is entirely anecdotal at this point, so I’d love to hear if it works for others as well…

    • I have an original iPhone, which had the ‘coma’ issue after the 3.1 update.

      I removed and reinstalled iTunes 9 as you suggested, and (so far!) all is now well.

      Thanks for this – I had exhausted the other possibilities (restored both from backup and as new, to no avail)

      Hope my response helps. Cheers.


    • I have just removed itunes and reinstalled after having been unable to get out of a loop – an error message – there was a problem installing this hardware – apple mobile device usb driver. An error occured during installing the device- can’t find file specified.

      Still no luck – iphone still shows the usb cable & itunes symbol and computer unable to recognise the phone.

    • I have a question : I too am having many troubles with my 3g iphone I use 3.1.2 and itunes 9.0.1 .ihone shuts off , freezes all day long , but not when plugged into a power source like the wall or usb.I seem to think it may be power related ? but have not finished my testing yet on this.
      I want to try to completely remove itunes and re-install, clean BUT will I lose my back ups ? I have multiple iphones backed up on the same itunes ?and I am afraid of losing the info . How can I make sure this does not happen ,how do I do a remove and clean install for pc ?

      Mr. Cassidy please give me your 2 cents.

      Thank you.

  2. I also have a 3G and since 3.0 upgrade I was not able to connect to any wireless network. Tried everything, the iPhone was not jailbroken, and in my country there is no Apple Genius. Tough luck :(

  3. I have a 3 week old 3GS and have many of the same problems since downgrading to 3.1 on Saturday.

    Most significant is that frequently I can not place calls and when people call they go directly to voice mail with no auditory or visual notification to me (the latter sounds almost like AT&T thinks the phone is still on a call). But this has to be related to something in 3.1 along with all the other problems…signal strength randomly changes when sitting in same place, battery may start draining for no obvious reason, and many of the other problems listed above.

  4. I too had to use to different pc’s to revive my iphone 3g. After the succesfull update my battery life now sucks. Another problem is that my iphone wont go into 3g speed after the update. its anybody having the same problem.

  5. Same problem here. My iPhone has been working flawlessly until the 3.1 update. It has crashed literally 8 times. (Crashed as in, when I try to turn it on, it is dead). Once tonight the phone got really hot in my pocket and I tried to turn it on and it was dead again. Without using my phone, my battery went to 20% within a matter of hours with the brightness setting at almost zero.

    Hopefully a fix soon?

  6. Updated the day 3.1 came out and had no problems until yesterday. Last night in the period of 3 minutes my battery dropped from 83% to 27%. When I turned it off and back on, it was back up to 81%. Today my battery was reading 57% and within minutes it was dead. I plugged it in and it would not charge. I left it charging for almost 20 minutes, unplugged it and it was still dead. Left it for about 20 minutes while I ran into the store, came out and tried to restart it. Started right back up with 57% battery. Driving home within 3 minutes it dropped down to 28% and stayed there for over 3 hours until it plummeted down a few minutes ago to 6%.
    This is crazy.

  7. as James said, it started in iPhone OS 3.1b3 and I too filed a bug for it. Seriously didn’t expect this to stay in the final release. A friend got the exact same problem with his iPhone 3G too after updating to 3.1. Sucks.

  8. My apple iphone

    MY 3GS problem since update 3.1…Annoying pop-up that says “,This accessory is not made to work with iphone”. I have nothing plugged in and never have other than power cord. I restarted it twice and still pops on even when it is sleeping …… Any help?????

  9. Chuck Norris

    Is this an Apple issue or an AT&T issue with Apple?

    Me thinks the later. It was widely the week leading up to the update release that AT&T was taking a haircut with the iPhone.

    Myself, I have the original and my wife the 3G and we’re both having numerous issues regarding call quality, dropped calls, missing voice mail, et cetera so it’s definitely not limited to 3G phones. But it is however, limited to iPhones.

    Can someone with a jail-broken phone comment?

    • Hi I have the original and it has been having problems since this time I still can not get the thing to work. What did you end up doing? I am seriously ready to buy a blackberry and call it quits with Apple.

  10. Please mention about our strange wifi problem also. There had been over 150000 views and 1000 posts in apple discussions forum but nobody cares. I changed my crashing iPhone under warranty but not sure new one will not crash after another OS update. What will you do if your phone crashes because of Apple’s unstable update and it is out of warranty? Do we have to pay for a repair? If the probem caused because of their OS development team they must recall and replace all our crashing phones even we do not have warranty.

  11. Dave McKee

    I have a 3GS running 3.1 and I’m Canadian. Seems a lot of Canadian 3GS owners are experiencing a corruption of the App store with all Categories shortcutting to the featured tab, and repeating label “App Store” instead of the usual categories – Games, utility, productivity. Some reports claim that the Apple Canadian App store database has been corrupted. Another Apple screwup, who is giving Apple high scores in product quality ?

  12. Ruben Pueyo

    To be fair, my iPhone 3G 16Gb is working fine with OS 3.1.0 on Movistar Argentina.
    I don’t use WiFi at all. My iphone is using 3G for internet 24hs a day and it seems that the battery last a bit more under heavy use.
    May be the problem is related with the WiFi stack or with AT&T carrier configuration profile.
    Good luck for everyone that have problems!

  13. James Young

    I’ve been having issues as well, with my iPhone 3G. The phone was indicating that it was connected to AT&T with full bars, but w/o any predictability, after sitting for a while I would not be able to make outgoing calls, and incoming calls weren’t causing my phone to ring – eventually just going to vmail!

    The problem was temporarily remedied by restarting the iPhone, but then it would eventually happen again. I tried their trouble-shooting suggestions, like turning Airplane mode on, then off again. That didn’t work. Finally, I had to do a Restore (pulling data from backup).

    This may have fixed it, but it has been quite a time-sink. Apple has it’s own “Blue Screen of Death” and it’s this cumulative effect of this kind of stuff, across its product line.

    • hot sauce

      This was exactly what happened with my iPhone 3G. I read it somewhere that turning off 3G was the only fix for now and it worked. And then someone mentioned over at howardforums about resetting the network. After resetting the network, the phone reboots itself, since then I have 3G on, wifi on and it is WORKING! So if you are having this issue, try resetting network, it might work. :)

  14. My iPhone 3gs failed when updating to 3.1, error 1602. Then later when I tried to restore it from recover mode it gave error 1604. I tried 3 times and I even completely removed iTunes, etc from my pc then reinstalled it an it still didn’t work!

    In the end I used my other computer, installed iTunes 9, Downloaded the 3.1 software again and it finally worked!!!! I simply connect back to my normal pc and sync my iPhone with my previous backup. Took a few hours but I got there in the end, it’s been a few days now and I have had no problems at all, thankfully.

    I hope this helps anyone having problems.

    P.S. Check out my site for an easy way to make some money online, thanks.

    • Nazdrovje

      This was exactly what happened with me (except I didn’t notice any specific error numbers). iTunes just hung during the update, processor load to 100%. Reinstalled iTunes, DFU boots, nothing worked. On a second PC it worked immeadiately.

  15. The Random Shutdowns (or failure to come out of standby) have been happening since 3.1 beta 1 I raised a bug (as did a number of people) but nothing was done. I still have an open bug from the 3.0 beta phase.

    3.1 was terrible in the early beta’s, and the final release, although a lot more stable still has a number of issues

    • honest joe

      People,i have just been given a brand new 3g 8gb at the mk apple store as my original iphone “had battery issues” according to the fat assistant with man boobs!
      funny how it came pre loaded with the previous 3.0.1 software(that actually works) not the “faultless” 3.1 software.have connected it to my itunes account & ignored the offer to upgrade to 3.1(sorprise,suprise) & it’s working just fine.
      the moral of this story is, as we already know, apple are denying there is a fault,but are blatantly lying,but more important………every 3g owner has now got the oppotunity to obtain a brand new iphone.
      if your 3g is still under warranty simply call the apple helpline,follow their pointless advice on restoring/re-registering your phone,& then like me,explain nothing has worked & ask for a “genius” appointment at your nearest apple outlet store,let them play about with your phone for 10 minutes,& then give you a brand, spanking new iphone.
      if your warranty has expired as mine had,simply pay £59.99 for their extended warranting(cheaper than £450-£500 in the shops) & you too can go through the process above & receive a new iphone with software that actually allows your phone to operate!
      it’s a real pity we the customers have to resort to devious methods to obtain decent a service,but as long as apple keep denying their faults what else can we do?
      i hope all 3g owners do this,& please tell everyone you know as well,perhaps after apple have lost millions replacing handsets they might actually come clean & admit THEIR! mistake.good luck to everyone!

  16. O, No – now you have me worried – I’m about to – hopefully- get a new s 32g – my first Apple product after having had enough of Nocia N95 problems! – now it sound if this is not going to be much better?

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. goestoeleven

    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?

  20. 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

    • 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!!!

  21. 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…

    • Patrick Flynn

      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?

    • 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?

    • 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…

    • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • blacktortoise

      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 .

    • 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.