A bumpy iPhone 7 upgrade: Lessons to learn from a longtime Apple user

Unboxing and setting up a new iPhone is often an exciting experience, unless the process goes sideways. It seems there's room for Apple to improve the iPhone 7 upgrade.

Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

I was hesitant to replace an iPhone 6 that was operating reliably and properly when upgrading to a new company-provided iPhone 7, because there's much at stake when switching to a new unit. I've become dependent upon the iPhone, as it's a primary device for receiving, responding to, and monitoring customer service and internal communication within my business.

Planning my upgrade, I enabled iCloud backup before migrating from the iPhone 6 to iPhone 7 platform. Overall, the migration process went well, although several annoying problems arose. Apple's trained me to experience smooth operation with so many of its products and technologies that, when its devices or processes encounter trouble, the issues are particularly pronounced.

SEE: iPhone 7: The smart person's guide

Annoying problems with my iPhone 7 upgrade

The first problem I encountered--and I'm happy to accept responsibility for the seemingly minor oversight--is no recent iPhone backup was available. This fact only became apparent after I'd activated the new iPhone 7, migrated my telephone number to the new device, and attempted to configure the new iPhone 7 by restoring from an iCloud Backup.

Even though my iPhone is almost always connected to a Wi-Fi network, my most recent iPhone backup was approximately one week old; as a result, many recent changes to my old iPhone would not be included within the backup I instructed the new iPhone to restore. Tip: When migrating to a new iPhone 7, and restoring an old iPhone backup, you should manually force a new backup immediately before activating a new iPhone to ensure the most recent settings and data are transferred to the new device.

Then, the second problem occurred, but the error wasn't immediately apparent, which compounded the issue.

After activating the new iPhone 7, connecting to a wireless network, enabling location services, and instructing the device to restore an iCloud backup (only to discover the iCloud backup was outdated, prompting the need to manually force a backup on the old unit and then repeat all these processes), the iPhone 7 prompted me to install an iOS update. The iOS update required several minutes to download and install, at which point the iPhone 7 setup proceeded.

Among the device configuration steps I needed to complete were configuring Home button sensitivity, enabling and configuring Siri, setting up and verifying Apple Wallet configuration, associating the device with my Apple ID, activating iCloud, and verifying authorization from another device. Upon completing all those tasks, the iPhone was ready for operation, but the backup never restored. I suspect the iOS update wiped away the installation routine's instruction to restore the iPhone backup, so I ended up having to repeat the entire process of setting up a new iPhone to ensure the device was properly configured. Frustrating.

After accommodating the iOS update and restoring the iCloud backup, I was pleasantly surprised to find almost every app migrated to the new iPhone 7. Email settings were in place. Wireless network settings transferred. Keychain migrated frequently used logins. In short, the device was now performing largely as I had hoped. Except, at least one application was missing, which I was forced to manually locate within the App Store and download again, although the iPhone remembered my login information, which made restoring the app's functionality easier.

SEE: Apple's iPhone 7 review (CNET)

Subsequently, I went to bed, believing I was prepared for a busy workday the next morning. I soon discovered no Bluetooth devices, previously configured on the old iPhone 6, existed on the new iPhone 7, making it hard to drive hands free. Tip: When migrating to a new iPhone, you need to manually re-connect the new iPhone to Bluetooth devices. And, before someone responds with an accurate technical explanation as to why Bluetooth devices can't automatically be transferred to a new device, know that I don't care about that explanation. We've learned as a species how to instruct a car to drive itself; we need to learn how to transfer Bluetooth devices between smartphones.

If the need to reconfigure some 10 Bluetooth connections were the only remaining issue, that would be understandable, but I encountered more trouble.

My Apple Watch no longer operated properly. And again, before responding and saying that's my fault and I possess responsibility to first unpair and back up my Watch configuration using my old iPhone, I don't accept that explanation. I want my new iPhone to be smart enough to recognize the same Watch with the same settings and information and same security configuration mated to my old iPhone. Remember, I had to log in and verify my Apple account, username, and password several times when configuring the new device, and I'd already backed up the iPhone; authorizing those credentials and approving the backup restoration should have provided the new iPhone and Watch with all the information necessary to securely migrate the pairing behind the scenes, in my opinion.

Fortunately, I never overly customized my Watch, so it proved easier for me to recover simply by resetting the Watch and mating it to the new iPhone. Tip: If you're planning to migrate to a new iPhone 7 and wish to retain your Apple Watch's information, including Health data, you must first complete the prescribed routine by making a backup, unpairing the Watch, backing up the old iPhone, transferring the backup to a new iPhone, and pairing the Watch with the new iPhone.

SEE: Apple Watch Series 2 Review: A smartwatch I have no qualms recommending (ZDNet)

Last, I found some applications on the new iPhone 7 remembered username and password information, while other programs did not. Unfortunately, I could make no sense of which applications retained such credentials and which did not. I'm still being surprised when an infrequently used application prompts me to supply required credentials. Tip: When migrating to a new iPhone, you should be prepared to reinstall, and log back in to, some applications.

Final thoughts on using the iPhone 7

Using the new iPhone 7 is an overall pleasing experience. The display is clear and crisp, and the device performs common tasks more quickly.

While only anecdotal, battery life in my experience is improved. I previously needed to recharge my iPhone 6 once a day. With the iPhone 7 I can sometimes make it two days, but that may simply be the difference between using a new device with a new battery versus using a two-year-old device possessing a two-year-old battery that's been used every day.

The only remaining warning I have about using an iPhone 7 is with regards to the Home button. Previously I never experienced trouble unlocking an iPhone 6, but I'd heard colleagues complain of changes with the iPhone 7, and I occasionally experience the same issue. Often I'm greeted with the passcode screen instead of the Home Screen, at which point I again provide the thumbprint necessary to unlock the phone. Fortunately, the second effort usually works.

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