Thursday, August 07, 2008

My iPhone cracks. Of course. And a new restore glitch.

When I quoted TUAW's coverage of the 3G iPhone plastic crack problem last week, I heard the bells tolling ...

Gordon's Tech: Check your 3G iPhone for cracks
... Cracks 'appearing' in new iPhone 3Gs - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)
...The problem is not the plastic, but that the metal frame is too small for the plastic to lock on without causing the stress fractures.' It's pretty clear Apple has a manufacturing defect on its hands.
For those with cracks, taking it back to the Apple Store (or possibly the mobile phone retailer where you made your original purchase) is your only recourse. Several people have noted here and elsewhere that they've successfully had their handset replaced after a careful inspection....
I knew this would happen to me. Apple hates me.

Two thin cracks appeared today next to the volume control and the vibrate toggle switches. No trauma of course, so pretty much what others have seen.

I was near the Apple store getting my son his well earned summer Lego prize, so I figured I'd give 'em a try. A keen young floor staffer was ready to swap the phone on the spot, but since I'd bought it at AT&T I had to go through the "Genius Bar". That took a long time, the Mall of America store was very busy. I saw quite a few new iPhones going out the door.

Ben probably got an hour of computer game time in -- about twice what he's usually allowed. He was a happy camper.

The "Genius" was less keen on a swap, and seemed to be half-heartedly looking for a way out. Or maybe he was just tired and unsure of the procedure for an AT&T phone. Eventually they made the swap for another white phone -- you can't change colors.

I got the distinct impression that Apple has not yet defined a process for the cracks, that each store has to set its own policy.

This is what I learned about the swap process:
  1. You should wipe your phone beforehand. I am kicking myself that I didn't do this -- it could have been done in the store. Of course the "Genius" might have mentioned this too, but I think we were both tired. I changed my primary Google password last night.
  2. You need to clear any lock password.
  3. They want the receipt (of course) and all accessories, box, etc. Ended up though that only the phone was swapped.
  4. They tried to register the phone, but due to technical problems I didn't have my Apple ID available. This turned out to be unnecessary, with iPhone 2.0 a simple SIM swap activates a new phone.

So now we see if the problem recurs. Rumor has it that Apple knows what went wrong, and that only white 3G phones in a specific serial number range are affected.

Once I got home the restore process was a bit ugly. The standard restore wouldn't work because the phone had OS 2.0, and the restore wanted 2.01. I had to:
  1. Set up as a new phone. First of all I disabled the sync phone as it was trying to sync all the apps.
  2. Once it was on 2.01 I clicked the "Restore" button to set it back to factory status (wipe the name I gave it). This took a VERY long time and it included firmware restore.
  3. Then I let it mount again. This time I was able to go through the expected "Set Up Your iPhone" procedure, including the option to restore from backup.
  4. Then it said it was restoring the phone's settings, and the phone reset again.
  5. Once again I came to the "Set Up Your iPhone" screen, this time it said an iPhone had been previously synced. I had the option of restoring from "iPhone" (created at step 3) or my prior backup. When I selected my prior backup I got the "restoring iPhone from backup dialog".
  6. After a longer delay the iPhone displayed a ghostly numeric keypad with the message "voice mail password incorrect ... enter voice mail password". I also had to reenter our WiFi password, my email password, etc. Reassuringly, the backup doesn't store the passwords.
  7. Then it was done.
Or not.
After I restored I started trying to use the phone. None of my installed apps worked except Google Mobile. I think my dictionary settings have been lost too. Looks like the iPhone restore was a total fail.
I'm now going through another install. Time to backup my desktop calendar and address book!


Ok, I finally got the restore to work. Here's what I did:
  1. Let it register as a new phone. Now I stopped getting the "Set Up Your iPhone" screens. I think they're buggy.
  2. After my "temp" phone mounted, I right clicked and chose "restore from backup" from the iPhone context menu.
  3. That restore worked. I did have to reenter my AT&T voice mail PIN and all stored passwords. I also had to redo all sync from iTunes.
Update 10/21/09: About 10 months later the replacement iPhone developed a 1 cm crack in the top right back corner. No other cracks. This could easily have been traumatic. The phone seems fine otherwise.

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