iOS 6 Bricked My iPhone 4S


Ok, so… maybe updating my just-over-a-year-old iPhone 4S to iOS 6 about a month or so ago didn’t “brick” it in the traditional tech gadget-sense of the word, but… it’s made the device often totally useless.

When Google finally released their maps app, I decided it was worth trying iOS 6. The new Do Not Disturb feature sounded intriguing and well… there’s no other path to security updates.

But my experience since the update has been… less than stellar:

  • Cell reception in the house—which, to be fair, has never been awesome the two years I’ve lived here, but has been usable—has become non-existent.
  • Battery drain up through 6.1.1 has been at least 20% more; the phone can lose as much as 20% just sitting on the night stand for a couple of hours. Admittedly, this problem probably isn’t helped by…
  • I have to reboot the phone anywhere from 6-10 times a day; through some yet-to-be-determined usage pattern, it will get into a state where it will claim three or more bars of signal, but no texts will send or receive and calls to my Google Voice number, which ring both the cell and a land-line simultaneously, no longer reach the iPhone. The only thing I’ve found to fix this problem is reboot.
  • Probably worse: the phone silently “freezes” when it gets into this state… so I often don’t realize I’m missing texts or calls until the landline rings or people ping me on GChat/Skype to ask why I’m “not f*@#$!ing responding to [them]!!” The phone thinks it has 3+ bars though!

Out in the world, I haven’t noticed reception to be better (or worse1) than previously, but the phone’s iOS 6 induced schizophrenia doesn’t inspire any confidence. And how would I even know I was missing the calls and texts2?

The whole situation is discouraging to say the least. But as a class of consumers, we’ve signaled to vendors for quite awhile now that we’re willing accept low quality in products and service.

What’s most frustrating about this is:

  • There is no real remediation process. I should be able to downgrade my phone to a stable, last-known working version of its OS3; but there’s no way to easily do this. And if I do it, then there’s no security story for that5
  • Apple really seems to be mishandling their iPhone business lately. I’m not sure why this is6, but when you have carriers texting their customers to wave them off of your software updates, there’s a serious problem somewhere. And we don’t need to delve into the iOS 6 Maps app debacle. All in all, I don’t know what consumers are supposed to make of it, other than two big companies pointing fingers at each other while they’re unable to use the product and services they’re paying monthly for… with potentially life threatening consequences7.
  • Apple and AT&T reps need to stop promulgating the myth that iOS updates are incapable of affecting reception. I have a CS degree, so I understand the techno-babble customer service reps spew8. But please: just stop it. Immaterial of the technical reason, people—numerous people—are unable to use their phones in the ways they flawlessly had for months previous to the update. Yes, the data may be anecdotal on a customer-to-customer basis, but you’re not fooling anyone, especially when you read Apple’s own update messages:

    Yeah… keep workin’ at it, gang…

I updated my phone again a couple of days ago, and the problems seemed better for the first few hours9. Lamentably, though, my phone is back to imitating that mostly-useless brick now… and I’m back to waiting for Apple to ship an update that unbreaks-for-realsies their non-iPhone 5 customers.

Because iOS 6.1.1 sure ain’t it.

(And if you have an iPhone 4(S) that you have yet to upgrade: save yourself!)

1 I do live in San Francisco after all…
2 Another lovely symptom of this problem: AT&T will batch 2, 3, 5-hour old texts for me: when the phone reboots, if I’m lucky, in the few minutes before it goes signal-deaf, I will get a stream of texts that has prompted my roommate to ask if I have Hector Salamanca hidden in my room…
3 Before you ask, yes: I ran a factory reset at home; I was dismayed to learn that it doesn’t actually reset the phone to the state it was in when I got it from the factory, i.e. with iOS 54
4 Also to my dismay, it blew away all my apps, including my carefully never-upgraded 3.x Twitter client
5 Because mobile-WebKit has no bugs, right? Right.
6 Enter the “Steve Jobs would never do this…”-chorus
7 The somewhat-obvious, but seldom discussed pink elephant in the room…
8 “The modem firmware is unchanged by the update, so it’s impossible for OS updates to cause these problems… they’re totally separate systems…”
9 Maybe that’s just because anything was better than iOS 6.0