Oh No! My iPhone 4s Is A Flop

Picture of the Verizon iPhone

Picture of the Verizon iPhoneHaving just gotten my new iPhone 4S I was depressed to see Daring Fireball link to an article listing the iPhone 4S as one of the top 6 tech flops of the year. OK, I wasn’t really depressed and fell for the  linkbait to read the orignal post. The iPhone 4S is listed third and begins…

While it’s no flop when it comes to sales figures the iPhone 4S remains one of 2011’s biggest consumer letdowns.

They go on with some more praise…

…is certainly nothing to sneeze at — it’s still one of the fastest, best-looking smartphones on the block…

The  reason given for being a flop is it didn’t meet the rumors and wasn’t an iPhone 5. They don’t actually define what they mean by flop but a best-selling device doesn’t meet any definition I can think of. Any “flop” would have been the tech blogs/journalists salivating over rumors and wish lists.

So now I’ll defend my purchase of a flop. I had an iPhone 4 but my Verizon contract is up for renewal and I could get the renewal discount plus another $30 rebate. I’ve no idea what the rebate was for (“customer loyalty”) or how long it would last. It’s actually been available for months. I’m happy with Verizon and I’m not looking to switch, having been with them for years. And having been on Android before Verizon got the iPhone I knew I didn’t want to go back to Android.

The main cost of the new phone would be the 2-year contract since I could (and did) sell my iPhone 4 for enough to cover my out of pocket expenses. OK, I didn’t quit cover but I upgraded to the 64 GB phone so it cost me a few dollars, if I stayed with the 32 GB I would have pocketed a few dollars. If I waited until the next iPhone in a year I wouldn’t have been able to sell my phone for much at all since it would be two versions old in addition to the extra year of wear and tear. Since there’s no change in form factor all my accessories can stay. So in effect the upgrade didn’t cost me anything.

So what do I get for my upgrade:

  • A better camera. I didn’t use the iPhone for photos very much at all. Prior to upgrading I made a conscious effort to use it more to get comfortable with it. I’ve been using it more and have liked using it.
  • Faster processor. I have some apps that ran slow on the phone but ran fine on the faster iPad 2. There could be several reasons for this but I have seen an improvement. It was most noticeable to me with apps like OminFocus which synced or loaded data every time I switched to it.
  • More storage. I probably keep too much on my phone but I was out of space. I’d rather add storage instead of trying to juggle what I want on the phone.

There’s also Siri of course. But it wasn’t a factor beyond curiosity and I haven’t been using it very much. I’ve used it so little it’s always ben available when I used it, unlike what I read from others.

Next year’s iPhone will almost certainly be out before I can upgrade at a discount and will almost certainly have significant hardware upgrades (NFC, 4G, higher resolution, better camera) so I’ll have to wait a couple months before I can upgrade at a discount (due to multiple plans I can basically upgrade once a year by transferring the upgrade between plans).

I’d agtree the iPhone 4S isn’t a significant upgrade over the iPhone 4 but it is an upgrade and if you want those features it would be worth it. I wouldn’t have upgraded if selling my current phone didn’t cover the costs or if I had to buy new accessories. Still, it’s certainly doesn’t meet my definition of a flop and it doesn’t disappoint me, but as an iPhone 4S owner I am biased.

iOS 5 and iCloud – Day 1

Try Again Message from iCloudI’ve had iOS 5 on my iPhone and iPad 2 for just about a day now. Along with these I’ve had two Macs on Lion 10.7.2 ready to see what iCloud is all about. I did have a couple issues with the iOS 5 upgrades and I still have an older iPad 1 that hasn’t been able to upgrade yet. I’m not overly anxious with that last iPad upgrade so I give it a try every few hours or so if I’m by my desk. But I’ve been completely unable to move my MobileMe account to iCloud, with the message in that earlier image being the end result when I run through the move wizard. If I actually needed MobileMe/iCloud I’d give up trying to do the move since this would probably be just the beginning of the problems.

Likes, Dislikes and Frustrations With iOS 5

By far my biggest like with iOS 5 is wireless syncing. I had read that the iPhone (or iPad) had to be plugged in to power which would be a hassle and the iPhone screen themselves imply this. Except the word “Automatically” is key. It requires power to sync automatically but can be synced manually anytime. I do have a dock for each on the night stand so do expect the morning sync to be slightly easier, saving a trip to the desk. I’ve found the wireless sync to be fast enough (I have 802.11N wireless). At this point there hasn’t been a backup done over wireless but I’m assuming it’s because the time for the next backup hasn’t rolled around yet as the last one was less than 24 hours ago.

One frustration was the re-organization of my app icons on the devices. Some of this may have been due to the Reminders and Newstand apps being added to the home screen, which was already full for me, I’ve read that others have had apps or folders removed completely but I didn’t experience any of that. (Or the app was used so infrequently that I didn’t notice). It was easy enough to fix, but still annoying.

Related to the moved icons I found that using iTunes to rearrange icons using the wireless connection was painfully slow and I gave up. As was scrolling through the app list to check and uncheck ones to install. I ended up doing this on the device itself, although connecting to USB would have been fine I’m sure.

I like the new notification drop down so I may actually turn notifications on for more apps. It’s taken from Android but it’s one of the features I missed from my Android days so I’ve no complaints.

It’s probably a frustration caused by iTunes and not iOS 5, but several of my smart playlists contain names of podcasts long deleted. They matched at the time but they don’t exist either on disk or in the podcast section. The main problem here is dead links in the playlists and sync errors since the files aren’t found. I had to delete the playlists.

On the other hand, one podcast related frustration was turned into a like with iOS 5. Previously the iPad did not sync playlists where the contents are podcasts. The playlists were there and the podcasts were there, but the playlists were empty.

One dislike is that the playlist display on the iPad shows album covers. In my case at least, the album covers provide little visual clue as the the playlist contents so I’d prefer the list names only, sorted alphabetically. I’ve yet to find a way to change this.

Frustration with iCloud and Apple Servers

Passed on Apple’s track record with “the cloud” I feared the worst. So I consider it a positive that they didn’t seem to break MobileMe.I don’t give Apple any slack for “unexpected demand” or launch bugs. This is the third cloud service I’ve used from Apple and all have had problems. I had no problem downloading the iOS 5 upgrade files themselves from Apple. It was only when the upgrade tried to communicate back to the mothership that I had problems. This is all before a couple million new iPhones hit the streets. It’ll be a long time before I trust Apple with any sort of cloud service. I’ll use it for convenience, but I’ll avoid having to rely on it always being there. Once they get this sorted out they’ll still have to prove they can do upgrades and enhancements without bringing the system down.

It may be a cute marketing ploy, but bringing down the Apple store every time there’s an update could be viewed as a inability to handle updating a live web service. Hopefully iCloud will prove this wrong, but it’s not looking good so far.

Wrapping Up

I’ve yet to be able to try iCloud and the trouble getting going doesn’t inspire confidence. So far my one liner is “lot’s of promise, little delivered”. No doubt iCloud will grow and get better I just hope it won’t be too painful. Anyone else using iCloud yet? What’s your favorite iOS feature?

Updates All Around

 

Guy surrounded by techIt seems like ever computer or computer-like device I have received significant updates in the past couple of days. The 8 security updates for my Windows 7 PCs and VMs were the least time-consuming updates, much to my surprise. Apple released iOS 5 today so the last couple of days have seen related updates from apps to operating systems. Let’s not forget all those iPhone/iPad apps that have been updated in the last few days. With new iPhones arriving on Friday (or before) I figured I better work on upgrading my phone as soon as possible, or wait a week. All this motivated to me finally upgrade my desktop Mac Mini to Lion.

Mac Mini To Lion

I’ll start with the quick and easy upgrade. My MacBook Air is already running Lion so I knew all the apps that mattered would work. I did allow time to get Synergy working again as I figured it would break. It kept right on working and Synergy was sharing my mouse/keyboard between my desktops – Mac Mini and Windows 7 PC. I installed Lion from the DMG file I extracted from my original Lion install rather than from the App Store.

The Lion install downgraded iTunes so I wouldn’t open after Lion was installed. I got an error that the library was an older version. Running software update allowed me to install the latest iTunes. It also presented the latest Lion update 10.7.2 which required a reboot. Once I installed those I was all set.

The iCloud configuration was presented after the 10.7.2 install but I ignored it for now since I wasn’t ready to tackle moving from MobileMe,

iPhone Upgrade to iOS 5

The upgrade to iOS 5 on my iPhone was more problematic. The upgrade sounded scary and complicated – a backup and restore that could take an hour or more according to the dialogs. The “upgrade” seemed more like a complete wipe and re-install as it included a backup and restore.

I upgraded shortly after I saw it was available (about 1PM ET) and received a “internal error” just before the restore part of the installation. The error implied old software or a security setting as the cause, but I suspected it was overloaded Apple servers. My software was already up to date so I removed backup encryption (since the error was just before the restore phase) and removed the passcode from the iPhone. It failed again one more time but then worked. At least it didn’t do the download each time but used the cache copy. Once the upgrade started it took just under 90 minutes to finish, including a very long sync after the restore.

iPad2 Upgrade to iOS 5

I tried the iPad 2 upgrade after the phone finished. I received a different error, but again right before the restore. Right after the progress message that it’s verifying the restore with Apple I received the error that the update server could not be contacted. By this time I’d seen enough blog posts and tweets to know it was in fact an Apple server load issue so I didn’t bother trying again. This is where I upgraded the Mac Mini to Lion, since it’s also my iTunes computer I wouldn’t be compelled to waste time trying the iPad upgrade.

I tried the upgrade several hours later and it went right through but also taking about 90 minutes. Although it seemed to be the luck of the draw as a second iPad upgrade after this failed with the same error.

Preparing For iCloud

All these updates were to enable iCloud in the Apple world. Despite that I’ve yet to enable iCloud on anything, First off, I have little confidence that the iCloud introduction will be problem free. Apple’s history with MobileMe and .Mac does little to inspire confidence, although the optimist would say they learned from their mistakes. I don’t use MobileMe for much, but what I do use it for doesn’t get migrated to iCloud. Namely syncing Transmit favorites, Text Expander snippets and OmniFocus data.

OmniFocus has their own sync service, OmniSync, which is in beta. I had used it months ago and had problems and OmniFocus syncing became my main driver for getting MobileMe. Despite this I decided to move back to it, mainly because I knew I had regular and reliable OmniFocus backups. This was actually more problematic than I thought. First off, I synced all my devices so they all had the same data. Then when I setup my first Mac to sync with OmniSync it failed silently so it was time to troubleshoot.

I went out to the OmniSync website and changed the password. The Mac setup didn’t prompt for a password so I though it might be wrong. I also deleted the registered devices (which hadn’t synced in months).This time it did prompt for the password and then it told me it was going to replace everything on the Mac with the server data – not at all what I wanted. I thought this might be a bad message so did a backup then did the sync. Yup, all my data was replaced with the really old data, So it was time for a restore. Then within the OmniFocus for Mac menu I found “File -> Replace Server Database” and that did the trick, uploading my data. For the other Macs and devices I let the server data update OmniFocus. Interestingly, the iPhone and iPad prompted to ask whether I wanted to use the local or server data, while the Mac software just takes the server data.

As for transmit and Text Expander I decided to go with Dropbox since both supported using it. I had cancelled Dropbox awhile back but signed back up for the free 2GB account. I don’t plan to expand my Dropbox usage, but for now this seems to be the best solution. The setup was simple enough as both apps have settings for Dropbox syncing, no hacking required.

Conclusion

It took about 8 hours (including breaks), but I got all my iDevices upgraded to iOS 5 and got my desktop Mac Mini up to Lion. Now that everything is upgraded I can finally start looking at what all these updates bring me. First off I’ll enable iCloud. While I don’t trust it will be smooth, I don’t have anything critical that will depend upon it. There’s still one older iPad left to upgrade but there’s no hurry and I’ll try again once things settle down.

Anyone actually using the new features? Is it going to be worth the trouble?