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

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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?

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