Thursday, May 17, 2012

iOS Restore problems: App Sync failure and missing Google Contacts

Fresh off discovering iOS Restore problems with In-App purchases and video podcasts I was called in to help a friend transition from two 3GS to two 4S iPhones.

He had a different set of problems, some familiar, some weird, some new to me:

  • When restoring Mail, Calendar and Contacts from Google Active Sync, the best option is to delete the Google account and restart. I've run into this several times, and reentering a password on a restored Google Active Sync (Exchange) data set works about half the time.
  • He ran into a real mess with AppleID vs. ID. I think he'd started out with one Apple ID (Store Preferences) on his iPhone, then switched to another. As a result he had apps on his iPhone that no longer matched his iPhone Apple Store ID. They'd run, but they wouldn't sync to the desktop or the Cloud. When we did a restore they were gone. There's no way around this; he either has to switch to his old ID (but it's lost) or repurchase the apps that were owned by the lost ID. Yech.
  • He and his wife share one instance of iTunes, but their apps have different Apple Store IDs. This can be done, but it requires a mixture of Cloud and iTunes sync. Double Yech.
  • To enable email delete on Gmail with delete, we had to rediscover the insanely obscure setting that makes Gmail behave like a rational piece of software.

Those are the familiar bugs. Yes, Apple Store IDs and App DRM are a mess. Apple isn't a genius every day of the week.

The weird bug was, I think, a Google bug. After we reentered his Google credentials and synchronized, we found several missing entries in his Phone shortcuts. That's because the Contacts were missing. After a few cycles of removing/restoring Contacts Sync I could see the missing entries varied.

Turns out that Google was giving us exactly 100 out of 216 contacts; but the 100 varied. It seems Google was throttling the phone update.

Maybe if we'd waited a while we'd have gotten the rest. Instead I changed Sync from Push to Manual. Tried a few manual updates to no effect, then switched back to Push and we had all 216. A real pain, and I found zero hits on this problem. (Now there is one.)

The iOS user experience could use some work. In particular, the Backup story is pretty feeble.


Martin said...

I have never used Google Contacts via iOS and ActiveSync since too many contact fields are missing. Doesn't that bother you?

Some time ago, I mentioned I have tested the service for some time now and it seems to work reliably, however, it costs per user and month, and iOS sync is not automatic since Apple does not allow for that. I have therefore not yet switched to and still sync my contacts between Mac and iOS devices via iTunes.

JGF said...

To be honest so far Emily and the Kids have been syncing to Google Contacts. I'd been using MobileMe.

I haven't given enough weight to your concern.

I'd also frankly forgotten that it was even possible to sync contacts via iTunes!