By all accounts (check out the Apple Community Support boards) the just released and hotly awaited Apple iOS upgrade 6.0 is causing major problems, users report. Many, though not all, users of devices that now have the upgrade available at the push of the button, including the Apple iPhone 4S, the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, the new iPod touch and the Apple iPad 2 and iPad 3 are reporting issues such as Wi-Fi bugs, performance problems, the lack of Google Maps and YouTube, battery drain, Passbook compatibility problems, and other issues, just for starters.
Without an official Apple-supported method to downgrade, IT pros hoping to downgrade enterprise users who've already upgraded to the new iOS 6 back to the more stable Apple iOS 5.1.1 are out of luck -- unless they borrow a page from Apple jailbreakers and use tools like TinyUmbrella or CYDIA to back up essential files known as SHSH blobs.
As it turns out, upgrading to Apple iOS 6 automatically wipes the blobs for Apple iOS 5.11, making a downgrade, should problems arise, impossible. Before you let anyone else upgrade, here's how to make sure you've got those blobs. It isn't pretty, but it's the only way, at least for now, to guarantee you can downgrade unhappy Apple iOS 6 users later.
But doesn't Apple save older iOS versions - especially the latest (the current one until just last week) iOS 5 - on its servers? That's what everyone else is wondering in the support forums.
"It's true Apple does host the old iOS version on its servers -- here is the IPSW file for an iPad 2, for example -- but unless your users thought ahead to save the blobs, restoring it will just throw a 3194 error back at you. Your problem will be missing SHSH blob files and tech pros need to do those backups before users upgrade, given the problems reported with Apple iOS 6", says Dino Londis, an IT pro at a large law firm in NYC.
Londis, a technologist at aNewDomain.net, emphasizes the problems IT pros face if users upgrade to Apple iOS 6 before the Apple iOS SHSH blob files are backed up.
Otherwise, there's likely no going back, as Apple iOS 6 is not signing in with firmware. So how to back up the blobs before issues with Apple iOS 6 plague your help desk?
One option - the best, in Londis' view and other tech pros, I interviewed - is Notcom's TinyUmbrella. It is a free, lightweight utility familiar to jailbreakers, which will save the crucial SHSH blobs. Upgrading to Apple iOS 6 via air or Wi-Fi iTunes destroys those Apple iOS 5.1.1 files, making a downgrade practically impossible unless a backup of the blobs is available.
The free TinyUmbrella utility will let you save the critical SHSH blob files for Apple iOS 5. Only with those files is it possible, if necessary, to downgrade users from Apple iOS 6. The install of iOS 6 wipes those files, making a downgrade impossible. Apple has sealed its firmware.
Another, albeit more hairy option, is to get for the beta version of the redsnOw iOS 6 jailbreak tool, which will let you restore Apple iOS 5.1.1 provided you've saved SHSH blob files with Tiny Umbrella or another recognized SHSH blob-saving tool, like Cydia.
Developers at iPhone Dev just released the beta version of RedSn0w, a jailbreaking tool for Apple iOS 6 that will let you restore Apple iOS 5.1.1 to users' devices. The catch? Aside from all the issues associated with jail breaking - i.e., customer support from Apple down the road - it won't work until, you guessed it, you've backed up SSH blob files with SHSH blobsaving freeware Tiny Umbrella, which Londis recommends above, or another utility SHSH blobsaver like Cydia.
So why the big problem?
Apple reps have as yet to return calls for comment, but as Charlotte, NC tech pro Ant Pruitt points out, there's no real mystery here. Apple iOS warriors in BYOD shops know and have known for awhile that Apple has pretty much locked up the ability to downgrade from Apple iOS 6 by deleting those key files and not "signing" the firmware inside.
Tiny Umbrella unveiled its tool for backing up the SHSH 5.1.1 files for Apple iOS 5.1.1 this week. It is available for download from here in two versions: TinyUmbrella [OSX] and TinyUmbrella [WIN] (These are zipped executable files).
We'll keep you updated on an Apple fix for this issue if it arrives. If you have tips we missed, please leave them in the comments below. In the meantime, back up the blobs, or your users will find that like the Eagle's song, "Hotel California," you can check in, but you can never leave.
Gina Smith is a NYT best-selling author of iWOZ, the biography of Steve Wozniak. She is a vet tech journalist and chief of the geek tech site, aNewDomain.net.