All things are not rosy with my new 3G iPhone, as I've expressed in some posts on Twitter already. Having eagerly anticipated the App Store now available with the iPhone 2.0 software on new and existing iPhones and iTouch iPods, I'd downloaded and installed over 60 third-paid and free applications (aka Apps), onto the new device in the last week (image source).
And I've paid a price in device instability ever since. My brand new 3G iPhone has crashed and hung up on the boot screen, about five times now. Each time it happened while I was playing or trying to wirelessly update an application installed on the device.
Each time, after turning off the device and turning it on, I faced the famous shiny Apple screen, with no further response from the device. I even took it in to the Genius Bar at the Apple store on the first crash, and they couldn't revive the device other than a full reset.
That involves taking the device back to the factory installed settings, wiping out all the customized settings and newly installed applications. A full restore takes about two hours, even though all the applications and iTunes content are stored locally on my iMac. It's just a slow, slow process.
Well, I've had to go through five of these now, and have just finished and customizing the iPhone with all my favorite settings, bookmarks, mail accounts, and applications for the sixth time. And I'm planning to be much more careful in how I use the third party Apps, and how I go about updating them wirelessly (NOT).
Now, this post is not to complain about Apple, the new iPhone or the App Store. It's just to highlight one user's experience with brand new, version 1.0 software, whether it's on a device or in the cloud.
MacWorld makes this point particularly well in a recent article:
"With the release of the updated iPhone software, Apple flung open the doors of its new App Store. On its first day, the App store was populated with more than 500 programs, and that number is growing rapidly.
Think about that: 500 programs, all of them at version 1.0. On a device that had never before supported software written outside of Apple. It’s exciting, seeing the birth of a brand new software ecosystem. But it’s also scary. If people were worried about the first-generation iPhone hardware and software (many vowed they wouldn’t buy an iPhone until the second version arrived, for fear of buying a buggy 1.0 product), how should they feel about more than 500 programs on a brand-new platform, all at version 1.0?"
They go on to make the broader point of how the unique circumstances around the 3G iPhone introduction complicated the normal quality-testing process for third-party App developers:
"Unfortunately, there was no way for iPhone programmers to beta-test their products before the App Store launched. The software used to create iPhone programs was a secret. And only a select group of programmers were able to run their programs on real hardware, rather than in a Mac-based simulator. Developers in countries without iPhones could only test their programs on the iPod touch.
Even worse, Apple’s cloak of secrecy around the iPhone software programming tools prevented programmers from sharing tricks they had picked up during their work. The programming community, especially on the Mac, is remarkably collegial—programmers post blog entries detailing things they’ve learned all the time, and the quality of all the programs in the Mac ecosystem benefit as a result. Without blogging and Google searches, the only way iPhone programmers could share what they’d learned was through the old, inefficient medium of one-on-one conversations."
So, the reality is that early buyers of Apps on the Apple store on the new iPhone 2.0 software, are in for some continued instability. It doesn't mean we have to like it, but at least we may be prepared to grin and bear it...for now. It's Apple after all.
Update: After experiencing a 7th crash and hang yesterday, I decided to do a full restore of the iPhone WITH all the Applications, but WITHOUT turning on syncing with MobileMe, the upgraded version of Apple's old .Mac (aka dotMac) service. I especially didn't turn on the wireless, over-the-air "push" upgrading of my contacts, calendar, and email data via MobileMe, to see if this would stop the crashes.
It's been 12 hours since that restore, and so far so good. The iPhone seems fairly stable, and am able to run any of the 65 or so Apps without any problems. I still haven't tried to wirelessly update any of the Apps. For now, will hold off any wireless data syncing and/or updates. At least until the next firmware release from Apple.