iPhone investigate

Glitches continue to plague iPhone 3G and its software and services

The iPhone 3G's hype and buzz has quickly turned to discontent as the product's software and services have struggled with a variety of bugs, crashes, and outages. The latest is an outbreak of iPhone 3G boot failures.

The iPhone 3G's hype and buzz has quickly turned to discontent as the product's software and services have struggled with a variety of bugs, crashes, and outages. The latest is an outbreak of iPhone 3G boot failures.

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A month ago, the technology world was all aflutter over the release of Apple's iPhone 3G. However, the honeymoon is definitely over.

The iPhone 3G and the iPhone 2.0 software that powers it -- plus upgrades the original iPhone and the iPod Touch to the 2.0 platform -- have been plagued by a rash of errors, crashes, software problems, and service outages since the widely-hyped launch on July 11.

The latest problem is an outbreak of iPhone 3G boot failure complaints, as reported by ZDNet (TechRepublic's sister site). Journalists, IT professionals, and users have reported other problems as well, ranging from multiple software crashes that require a full device restore each time, to bad applications that lock up the device, to general bugginess that has resulted in an unstable device that is user-hostile.

When Apple released its first major software update (2.0.1) on August 4, Engadget Editor-in-Chief Ryan Block wrote (on Twitter), "Freaking FINALLY. This 2.0.1 firmware update can't load up soon enough. Take the pain away!" Also on Twitter, Macworld Editorial Director Jason Snell reacted by writing, "iPhone 2.0.1 update: 'Bug fixes.' No shit, Apple."

Both of those guys do a lot of coverage of Apple products, so their informal remarks paint a pretty clear picture of the kind of frustration that has been bubbling up over with the second generation iPhone platform.

However, the worst problems have been with Apple's MobileMe service, which was supposed to provide e-mail, contact, and calendar syncing for users that don't have an Exchange server. The service has been a complete fiasco. It tried to launch on July 11 with the  iPhone 3G but Apple couldn't get it up. Once it finally did go live, it suffered through a string of outages, lost e-mails for thousands of users, and lost calendar data as well.

In an internal e-mail to Apple employees this week, Steve Jobs wrote:

"The launch of MobileMe was not our finest hour.  There are several things we could have done better: MobileMe was simply not up to Apple's standards – it clearly needed more time and testing... It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store."

In his article Apple: Shut down MobileMe immediately, Jason O'Grady ran a poll asking whether Apple should shut down the service. Over 3,000 users responded and the largest group of them (36%) thought that Apple should shut it down and wait to reopen it until the service was truly ready for prime time.

Jobs ended his message to the Apple troops by saying, "The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year."

It looks like Steve needs to apply that same approach  to not just MobileMe, but the entire iPhone 2.0 platform.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

9 comments
michealrand
michealrand

One of the problems with these products that I have noticed since the mid 1990's, is that more work is being sent to sub contractors and third parties. This is a complex product, requiring a handset and a mass of products over the wireless and hardwire networks to make it function. My concern is that nobody does a final and complete sanity check that everything works and so in the end it won't. I was discussing data exchange rates back in the early 2000's and it was clear that the mix of handset to tx/rx station requirements was not going to be met for 3G and I doubt the expectations of copper connectors will ever meet the needs of 3G; similar problems will develop within handset software and interface needs and the software/ hardware interface is assumed to work when in fact in needs much more dedicated resources.

pgnewey
pgnewey

Mine is also full of bugs that I'm hoping the update will fix at least partially. Lock-ups, calendar data going missing, a complete wipe of my contacts list and applications working for a short time then doing strange things. I've subscribed to mobile-me but only on a trial period and I think I'm going to unsubscribe as I'm not really using it anyway. I do like my iPhone but I'm really hoping the bugs get ironed out soon, if not completely in this update then certainly on the next.

fhou
fhou

I don't agree with what the writer stated as I've been having a great time using my iPhone 3G. The writer didn't sound like he/she even had a iPhone; secondly, what the writer was complaining about was the MobileMe. I don't use MobileMe service, which is not an issue with iPhone at all. On our campus, there are 6 or 7 people who've purchased iPhones; my un-scientific survey shows that they are as happy or happier with the Exchange ActiveSync feature as they can be. I think it may be just a sour grape effect...

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

TechRepublic has an iPhone and an iPhone 3G and I've done a lot of testing with both. Everyone that I know that has the 3G has had problems of some kind.

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

fhou: You mentioned that your unscientific study showed that some users were happier with the Exchange ActiveSync feature? My understanding is that this feature is pretty much the same as the one in WinMo. From what I've heard the iPhone's implementation has a few minor missing features. I'm just curious, is it the interface with which your users write their emails and interact with the phone that they are happier with?

Great_Wind
Great_Wind

I've deployed 7 3G's in our organization. User base varies from technically competent to technically inept. Formal survey of users Wednesday was quite positive. Power seems to be major concern - and I agree. Crashes and seizures haven't occurred. I'm curious to know what apps are loaded on the devices that are experiencing issues.

janndt
janndt

I never load 1.0 version sofware on my PC, why would I on my mobile phone? I am having no troubles with my 3G phone, but am taking a wait and see approach to downloading software.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

and good to hear. I may contact you for further info, if you don't mind.