Updating an iPhone

– a cautionary tale

With the recent arrival of iPhone 6, I decided the time was ripe to see if I could find a good deal on a nearly-new iPhone 5. Whether your phone is included as part of your contract or you pay for your own phone, you are going to end up paying for it somehow, and the price of new iPhones just makes my eyes water.

iPhone 5 64gbSo, I had a good look along Tottenham Court Road last Saturday for a second-hand iPhone 5 with 64gb storage. What I saw was disappointing. Everything of the right specification at the right price was spoiled by scuffs, dents, scratches, and marks that looked as if the phone had been kept in a pocket with loose change and keys. I just don’t understand why people spend so much money on a nice piece of technology and then treat it with contempt. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

Now convinced that I couldn’t survive without an iPhone 5, I set out on Sunday for Kingston and eventually came across Computer Exchange (CEX). Their two shops in Central London (Tottenham Court Road and Rathbone Place) are small, noisy, and rather intimidating places for anyone over about 15 years old. The Kingston branch is bigger, cleaner, and just a few decibels less noisy.

I found the right phone, in first class condition, at the right price of £330.

iPhone 3GS
iPhone 3GS
Prior to my Sony Xperia smartphone, I had been using an iPhone 3GS. This won’t run the latest version of the IOS operating system so isn’t any good for me in keeping up with Apple developments: I can’t provide computer support on things I don’t know about. However, I knew that most of the apps that I wanted were on the 3GS and knew that the way to transfer from one iPhone to another is to use iTunes to “back up” the old phone to the computer and then “restore” that backup onto the new phone.

As recommended, I made sure that the old phone had the latest version of the operating system that it could support, and then backed it up. When I then connected the new phone to the computer, iTunes recognised what was happening and invited me to “restore” to the new phone. “Here we go”, I thought, and told it to continue.

Then all the wheels fell off. For the next three hours or so the screen on the new iPhone oscillated between displaying an Apple and displaying nothing whatever – just a depressing black nothingness. Knowing that there was no way that it could possibly be taking all this time to restore, I eventually disconnected it and tried to re-start it by hand, first by just depressing the button on the top and then by depressing it at the same time as depressing the “home” button. Nothing happened. No re-boot. Nothing. Just this same oscillation between an Apple and nothingness.

This is how my phone looked during a “restore”
The next day I was able to get back to Kingston and explained what had happened to the person who sold it to me (more of whom later). He suggested that I might like to go off for a coffee while he looked at it. When I got back he explained that there’s a further level of re-booting an iPhone that I didn’t know of. While it is still connected to iTunes, you depress the two buttons as detailed above, but then release the top button while still depressing the home button. When he did this, the phone reported that it had been interrupted while updating to the latest version of the operating system (IOS 8.1). Thereafter, he was able to re-install the operating system and default apps.

At no time either before or after I started the “restore” process did I get any warning that it would update the operating system at the same time as restoring the contents. And neither did it warn me that I would grow old waiting for the process to finish. Had I known what I was in for, I would have just left the phone to its own devices – overnight if necessary. And there’s nothing on an iPhone to tell you that anything is actually happening if the screen is black.

The moral of this story (for me, at least) is twofold:

    1) If you are going to restore the contents of an old iPhone to a newer one then make sure that the newer one has already got the latest version of the operating system before you begin. Just go to “Settings” and then “Software Update” to see if you need to update it.

    Computer Exchange in Kingston
    Computer Exchange in Kingston
    2) Don’t assume that everyone under 30 working in a technology shop is bound to be surly, contemptuous, incommunicative, and patronising. The young man who sold me the phone and who sorted it out for me after I broke it was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. He gave me perfect service at the sales stage and again after I broke it. I don’t know how he spells his name, but he pronounced it as “Manu” or “Mano”. My advice is to go and see him if you’re looking for a good, used, smartphone.
(Last updated 08/09/2023)