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iPhone 3.1: Unresponsive and No Vitals, But Not Dead?

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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?

120 Responses to “iPhone 3.1: Unresponsive and No Vitals, But Not Dead?”

  1. I had this problem for about a week. I would do a complete reboot about 4 or 5 times a day. I even did a complete restore. After doing some research, I did a reset of my network settings which did the trick. I dont know if anyone else would have the same results however, I did it about a week ago and the sluggishness has yet to return.

  2. Herb Toby

    My wife and I have both had the same problems with our 3G’s. I had 85% battery life and had to re-boot the phone. As soon as it re-booted, it was at 15% battery. I also have re-booted more since the 3.1 update than in the entire time I have had the phone, which is over a year. We have an appointment at Apple tonight and I hope they can come up with a solution.

    It is hard to work without knowing if the phone is working or not.

  3. Paul Andrews

    My wife’s 3G did this today, she picked it up and it was dead, no amount of button pushing could bring it to life. 1/2 an hour later with no additional charge it worked as normal. It hadn’t powered down just wouldn’t wake up. My 3Gs hasn’t had any such problems.
    We installed 3.1 on both phones on the day of release.
    My 3GS is now suffering from terrible battery life, my wife’s 3G is the same as before.
    My Apple bluetooth headset, even when fully charged shows as in the red on the 3GS all the time.

    Sort it out Apple…Please.

  4. I’m lucky enough to have the trifecta.

    1. Hit the home button and nothing. Then I hit it again, and nothing. I try to reboot it, nothing. It’s like it’s fully dead. Put it on the charger, still nothing. 5 minutes later, it’s fine and 100% battery.

    2. One night at 100% charge I went to sleep. Woke up, same thing, this time though the battery was gone. Not even enough juice to SHOW me that it needed charging. Not good to have your battery die from 100% over about 6 hours with the iPhone sleeping.

    3. Phone functionality stops working. Just won’t work. Happened 2 times now on me since 3.1. I have rebooted this phone more times in the last 2 weeks than I have in the previous 3 – 4 months.

    • Have u figure it out? THis is exactly what’s happening to mine. Ive reboot my phone more times in the last 2 days that i have never reboot it it before! Its driving me insane. I thought it was just because i charge it with my mac, but even if I charge it the normal way, still wont work!! Agh Im going cuckoo!!!

  5. i had this too right after updating to 3.1. it happened 2 or 3 times a day at first, then up to 4 or 5 times in one night. after reading the support forum (1000+ post thread) it seemed like nothing was helping anyone so i didn’t fiddle with it. i haven’t changed a thing (i haven’t even synced with itunes, bought apps or done anything else other than normal use) and haven’t had a coma for 3 days now. who knows.

    i was a bit freaked because i had to be on call for work for the past few days and was terrified about missing calls at 3am.

  6. I have had all the issues with my G3 iphone with the 3.1, really bad battery time and the coma thing that I had to reboot it!! I also get 4 of the same text message at times, and calls never make it to my phone. People say they called me but my phone shows no missed calls or anything like that.

  7. This happens to me 2 or 3 times a day. Iphone 3G running 3.1. It *seems* to happen mostly when I turn off the screen while sending or receiving a SMS message. Holding Home & Power button always reboots it.

    Definitely frustrating, I figured there would be an update within a couple days.

  8. I had all the 3.1 upgrade problems with my 16GB 3G, tried a restore as new phone, didn’t work, took it to the Apple Store told them what I had already done and they replaced (with another 3G, not Gs) it citing a hardware problem if the restore didn’t work.

  9. 1. How could Apple have missed this bug. If my phone doesn’t work, I don’t make money. This is a big enough problem for me to quit the iPhone if Apple doesn’t fix it fast..
    2. Apple hasn’t even acknowledged the problem. Do they have their head in the sand?

  10. I’m getting this too. It’s real evident when my bluetooth cuts in my car while my iPhone sits idle.

    What I’ve been noticing on my end is that if I leave an app open and lock the phone, I’ll have a chance of it unable to wake up. But if I make an effort to go back to the home screen and lock the phone, it wakes up every time.

    At first I thought it was the Facebook app, but other apps, including mail, were also culprits.

  11. Yep. Mine started goin’ coma 3 days ago. Right at about 50% battery. Nothing can bring it back except my iMac. Plug it in for about 10 minutes..charge to full. Back up and running. Driving me nuts!

  12. Has happened to me multiple times.
    This has been a known, wide-spread bug for weeks now and Apple still has not acknowledged it.
    I suspect that the acknowledge battery issue could be the same problem, since the iPhone Coma could be draining juice while in the comatose state.

    • I am now certain that the Comatose status and the battery drain are related. The battery is getting drained while it’s in this Coma status. Some process or network search or something is running constantly, hogging the whole CPU, not allowing any of the interface screen or buttons to respond. I did one time push the home button and got no response and set it down and then like a minute later a slowed unlock screen came up, as if it took a minute for the home button push to take effect.
      I’m going to try turning of 3G and see if that eliminates the problem as some are suggesting.

  13. I also came to suspect the anti-phishing feature. Turning that one off did decrease the incidents but they still happen. I think that turning notifications, syncing etc off would remove this “feature”. This seem to happen only for 3G only and i’m pretty sure it happens when sceen is suppose to do something like show notification or in coming call etc. That could be that device runs out of memory. Strange that Apple removed all memory apps couple weeks before 3.1. Luckily i have one and that one shows real weird amounts of memory after update, sometimes more than it’s possible (physically). I have seen that this bug has been reported to Apple since first beta in iteration 3.1. So it must be something hard to find but on the other hand they should have found it or push release futher

  14. This exact thing happened to me several times after I updated to 3.1. A bit of research led me to believe that it was related to the new Safari anti-phishing feature trying to update it’s list. I disabled that feature and it hasn’t happened since.

    Coincidence? I don’t really care because I have my iPhone back and coma free!

  15. And here my jailbroken phone works just fine. It’s just enough of a PITA to go through the process again that I haven’t bothered going beyond 3.0 and having to reinstall everything, especially with Cydia crashing on every second or third install.

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. J. Sparrow

    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.

  19. Michael Hartline

    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.

  20. 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???

  21. 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.