Troubleshooting and Maintenance: Appendix C - iPhone: The Missing Manual

by David Pogue

The iPhone is a computer—and you know what that means: Things can go wrong. This particular computer, though, is not quite like a Mac, a PC, or a Treo. It's brand-new. It runs a spin-off of the Mac OS X operating system, but that doesn't mean you can troubleshoot it like a Mac. There's very little collective wisdom, few Web sites filled with troubleshooting tips and anecdotal suggestions.

Until there is, this chapter will have to be your guide when things go wrong.


iPhone: The Missing Manual, Second Edition book cover

This excerpt is from iPhone: The Missing Manual, Second Edition. With its faster downloads, touch-screen iPod, and best-ever mobile Web browser, the new affordable iPhone is packed with possibilities. But without an objective guide like this one, you'll never unlock all it can do for you. Each custom designed page helps you accomplish specific tasks for everything from web browsing, to new apps, to watching videos.

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First Rule: Install the Updates

There's an old saying: "Never buy version 1.0 of anything." In the iPhone's case, the saying could be: "Never buy version 2.0 of anything."

The very first version (or major revision) of anything has bugs, glitches, and things the programmers didn't have time to finish they way they would have liked. The iPhone is no exception.

The beauty of this phone, though, is that Apple can send it fixes, patches, and even new features through software updates. One day you'll connect the phone to your computer for charging or syncing, and—bam!—there'll be a note from iTunes that new iPhone software is available.

So the first rule of trouble-free iPhoning is to accept these updates when they're offered. With each new software blob, Apple removes another few dozen tiny glitches.

Remember that within the first 2 months of the original iPhone's life, software updates 1.0.1 and 1.0.2 came down the pike, offering louder volume, security fixes, bug fixes, and many other subtle improvements. The big-ticket updates, bringing more actual features, came tumbling after (1.1.1 through 1.1.4). Now that 2.0 is here, you can expect a similar flurry of fixes to follow.

Reset: Six Degrees of Desperation

The iPhone runs actual programs, and as actual programs do, they actually crash. (That's especially true of programs from the App Store.) Sometimes, the program you're working in simply vanishes and you find yourself back at the Home screen. (That can happen when, for example, Safari encounters some plug-in or data type on a Web page that it doesn't know how to handle.) Just reopen the program and get on with your life.

If the program you're in just doesn't seem to be working right—it's frozen or acting weird, for example—one of the following six resetting techniques usually clears things right up.

Note

Proceed down this list in order! Start with the easy ones.

  • Force-quit the program. On an iPhone, you're never aware that you're "launching" and "exiting" programs. They're always just there, like TV channels, when you switch to them. But if a program locks up or acts glitchy, you can force it to quit. Hold down the Home key for 6 seconds.

    The next time you open the troublesome program from the Home screen, it should be back in business.

  • Turn the phone off and on again. If it seems something more serious has gone wrong, hold down the Sleep/Wake switch for a few seconds. When the screen says, "slide to power off," confirm by swiping. The iPhone shuts off completely.

    Turn it back on by pressing the Sleep/Wake switch for a second or two.

  • Force-restart the phone. If you haven't been able to force-quit the program, and you can't shut off the phone either, you might have to force a restart. To do that, hold both the Home button and the Sleep/Wake switch for 10 seconds. Keep holding, even if the screen goes black or you see the "power off" slider appear. Don't release until you see the Apple logo appear, meaning that the phone is restarting.

  • Reset the phone's settings. Relax. This procedure doesn't erase any of your data—only the phone's settings. From the Home screen, tap Settings→General→Reset→Reset All Settings.

  • Erase the whole phone. From the Home screen, tap Settings→General→Reset→Erase All Content and Settings. Now this option zaps all your stuff— all of it. Music, videos, email, settings, all gone, and all overwritten with random 1's and 0's to make sure it's completely unrecoverable. Clearly, you're getting into last resorts here.

  • Restore the phone. If none of these steps seem to solve the phone's glitchiness, it might be time for the Nuclear Option: erasing it completely, resetting both hardware and software back to factory-fresh condition.

    Tip

    If you're able to sync the phone with iTunes first, do it! That way, you'll have a backup of all those intangible iPhone data bits: text messages, call logs, Recents list, and so on. iTunes will put it all back onto the phone the first time you sync after the restore.

    To restore the phone, connect it to your computer. In iTunes, click the iPhone icon and then, on the Summary tab, click Restore.

    The first order of business: iTunes offers to make a backup of your iPhone (all of its phone settings, text messages, and so on—see the section called “Backing Up the iPhone”) before proceeding. Accepting this invitation is an excellent idea. Click Backup.

    When it's all over, you can sync your life right back onto the iPhone—this time, if the technology gods are smiling, with better success.

What Else to Try

If the phone is still glitchy, try to remember what changes you made to it recently. Did you install some new App Store program, add a new video, mess around with your calendar?

It's worth fishing through iTunes, turning off checkboxes, hunting for the recently changed items, and resyncing, in hopes of figuring out what's causing the flakiness.

iPhone Doesn't Turn On

Usually, the problem is that the battery's dead. Just plugging it into the USB cord or USB charger doesn't bring it to life immediately, either; a completely dead iPhone doesn't wake up until it's been charging for about 10 minutes. It pops on automatically when it has enough juice to do so.

If you don't think that's the trouble, try the resetting tactics on the previous pages.

Doesn't Show Up in iTunes

If the iPhone's icon doesn't appear in the Source list at the left side of the iTunes window, you've got yourself a real problem. You won't be able to load it up with music, videos, or photos, and you won't be able to sync it with your computer. That's a bad thing.

  • The USB factor. Trace the connection from the iPhone, to its cradle (if you're using one), to the USB cable, to the computer, making sure everything is seated. Also, don't plug the USB cable into a USB jack on your keyboard, and don't plug it into an unpowered USB hub. Believe or not, just trying a different USB jack on your computer often solves the problem.

  • The iPhone factor. Try turning the phone off and on again. Make sure its battery is at least partway charged; if not, wait 10 minutes, until it's sucked in enough power from the USB cable to revive itself.

    Tip

    If you're having trouble charging the iPhone, make sure it's indeed connected to a USB charging cable—not one of the old FireWire cables (or charging docks with FireWire). If the battery icon at the top of the screen bears a little lightning-bolt icon, you're charging; the iPhone will be 80 percent charged in about an hour.

    But if the red part of the battery icon on the iPhone screen flashes three times and then the screen goes black, the iPhone is not getting power and won't charge.

  • The iTunes factor. The iPhone requires iTunes version 7.7 or later. Download and install the latest. No success? Then reinstall it.

Phone and Internet Problems

What can go wrong with the phone part of the iPhone? Let us count the ways.

  • Can't make calls. First off, do you have enough AT&T cellular signal to make a call? Check your signal-strength bars. Even if you have one or two, flakiness is par for the course, although one bar in a 3G area is much better than one bar in a non-3G area. Try going outside, standing near a window, or moving to a major city. (Kidding.)

    Also, make sure Airplane mode isn't turned on (the section called “Airplane Mode and Wi-Fi Off Mode”). Try calling somebody else, to make sure the problem isn't with the number you're dialing.

    If nothing else works, try the resetting techniques described at the beginning of this chapter.

  • Can't get on the Internet. Remember, the iPhone can get online in three ways: via a Wi-Fi hot spot, via AT&T's 3G network, and via AT&T's much slower EDGE network. If you're not in a hot spot and you don't have an AT&T signal—that is, if there's no , , or icon at the top of the screen—then you can't get online at all.

  • Can't receive text messages. If your buddies try to send you text messages that contain picture or video attachments, you'll never see them (the messages, that is, not the buddies). Ask your correspondents to email them to you instead.

  • Can't send text messages. Make sure the recipient's phone number in Contacts has an area code.

Email Problems

Getting your email settings right the first time isn't easy. There are all kinds of tweaky codes and addresses that you have to enter—if they weren't properly synced over from your computer, that is.

If email isn't working, here are some steps to try:

  • Sometimes, there's nothing for it but to call your Internet provider (or whoever's supplying the email account) and ask for help. Often, the settings you use at home won't work when you're using a mobile gadget like the iPhone. Open Settings→Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and tap your email account's name to view the Settings screen.

  • If you're getting a "user not recognized" error, you may have typed your password wrong. (It's easy to do, since the iPhone converts each character you type into a • symbol about one second after you type it.) Delete the password in Settings and re-enter it.

  • If you're having trouble connecting to your company's Exchange server, see the end of Chapter 15, The Corporate iPhone.

  • Oh—and it probably goes without saying, but remember that you can't get email if you can't get online, and you can't get online unless you have a Wi-Fi or cellular signal.

Messages Are Disappearing

Strange but true: Unbeknownst to just about everyone but Apple programmers, there's a hidden setting that controls how many messages are allowed to pile up in your Sent, Drafts, and Trash email folders. And it comes set to 25 messages each.

If any more messages go into those three folders, then the earlier ones are auto-deleted from the iPhone (although not from the server on the Internet). The idea is to keep your email stash on the phone manageable, but if you're not prepared, it can be somewhat alarming to discover that messages have vanished on their own.

To see this setting, tap Settings→Mail, Contacts, Calendars; under Mail, you can adjust the Show item to say 25, 50, 75, 100, or 200 Recent Messages. This feature is intended to keep the number of messages in your Inbox to a reasonable number; most people don't realize, however, that it also applies to the Sent, Drafts, and Trash folders, in all of your POP and IMAP email accounts.

Can't Send Email

It's happened to thousands of people. You set up your POP email account (the section called “Free Email Accounts”), and everything looks good. But although you can receive mail, you can't send it. You create an outgoing message, you tap Send. The whirlygig "I'm thinking" cursor spins and spins, but the iPhone never sends the message.

The cause is very technical, but here's a nicely oversimplified explanation.

When you send a piece of postal mail, you might drop it off at the post office. It's then sent over to the addressee's post office in another town, and delivered from there.

In a high-tech sort of way, the same thing happens with email. When you send a message, it goes first to your Internet provider's email server (central mail computer). It's then sent to the addressee's mail server, and the addressee's email program picks it up from there.

But spammers and spyware writers became an increasing nuisance, especially people who wrote zombies—spyware on your computer that churns out spam without your knowledge. So the big ISPs (Internet service providers) began fighting back in two ways— both of which can block outgoing mail from your iPhone, too. Here's the scoop:

  • Use port 587. Ports are invisible "channels" from a computer to the Internet. One conducts email, one conducts Web activity, and so on. Most computers send email out on port 25.

    In an effort to block zombie spam, though, the big ISPs have rigged their networks so that mail you send from port 25 can go only to one place: the ISPs' own mail servers. (Most zombies attempt to send mail directly to the addressees' mail servers, so they're effectively blocked.) Your iPhone tries to send mail on port 25—and it gets blocked.

    The solution? Choose a different port. From the Home screen, tap Settings→Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Tap the name of your POP account. Scroll down to the Outgoing Mail Server. Tap the address there to edit it. Finally, tap On to open the SMTP screen.

    At the bottom of this screen, you'll find the Server Port box. Change it to say 587.

    Try sending mail again. If it's still not sending, try changing that Server Port to 465.

  • Use AT&T's mail server. When you're home, your computer is connected directly, via cable modem or DSL, to the Internet provider's network. It knows you and trusts you.

    But when you're out and about, using AT&T's cellular network (Chapter 6, Getting Online), your Internet provider doesn't recognize you. Your email is originating outside your ISP's network—and it gets blocked. For all the ISP knows, you're a spammer.

    Your ISP may have a special mail-server address that's just for people to use while they're traveling. But the simpler solution may just be to use AT&T's own mail-server address.

    Once again, from the Home screen, tap Settings→Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Tap the name of your POP account. Scroll down to the Outgoing Mail Server. Tap the address there to edit it.

    Here, you'll discover that the iPhone 2.0 software lets you set up backup mail-server addresses. If the first one is blocked or down, the iPhone will automatically try the next one in the list.

    You'll notice that the AT&T SMTP server should be listed here already. (If you tap it, you find out that its actual address is cwmx.com, which, at one time, stood for Cingular Wireless Mail Exchange.)

    If you're like thousands of people, that simple change means you can now send messages when you're on AT&T's network, and not just receive them.

    Tip

    If you're having trouble connecting to your company's Exchange mail, see Chapter 15, The Corporate iPhone.

Problems That Aren't Really Problems

There's a difference between "things not working as they were designed to" and "things not working the way I'd like them to work." Here are a few examples:

  • Rotation sensor doesn't work. As you know, the screen image is supposed to rotate into horizontal mode when you turn the iPhone itself. But this feature works only in certain programs, like Safari, the iPod music-playback mode, and when viewing photos or email attachments.

    Furthermore, the iPhone has to be more or less upright when you turn it. It can't be flat on a table, for example. The orientation sensor relies on gravity to tell it which way you're holding the phone.

  • The phone volume is low—even the speakerphone. That's true. The original iPhone's ringer, earpiece, and speaker aren't as loud as some other phones—and not as loud as the iPhone 3G. (P.S.: With all due respect, did you remove the plastic film from your brand-new iPhone? This plastic, intended to be on the phone only during shipping, covers up the earpiece.)

    Tip

    The speaker volume is a lot better when it's pointed at you, either on a table or with your hand cupped around the bottom of the phone to direct the sound.

  • My fancy headphones don't fit the jack. That's because the original iPhone's headphone jack is recessed. See the section called “Audio Jack”.

  • I can't attach more than one photo to an email message, or copy and paste text. The iPhone doesn't let you do those things. Yet. Bummer.

  • My Notes don't sync back to my computer! True. But the army of iPhone geeks has come up with an ingenious solution—don't use Notes for your notes. Instead, use the Note field in Contacts!

    To do so, create a new Contact and name it, say, To Do list. To this otherwise empty Contact, add a Notes field and fill it up. From now on, you'll find that note on your computer, filed under the proper name.

    Tip

    If your computer's address book program lets you set up contact groups, create one called Notes to hold all of these fake memo contacts.

iPod Problems

The iPhone is a great iPod, but even here, things can go wrong.

  • Can't hear anything. Are the earbuds plugged in? They automatically cut the sound coming from the iPhone's built-in speaker.

    Is the volume up? Press the Up volume key on the side of the phone. Also make sure that the music is, in fact, supposed to be playing (and isn't on Pause).

  • Can't sync music or video files to the iPhone. They may be in a format the iPhone doesn't understand, like WMA, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, or Audible Format 1.

    Convert them first to something the iPhone does understand, like AAC, Apple Lossless, MP3, WAV, Audible Formats 2, 3, or 4, AIFF (these are all audio formats), and H.264 or MPEG-4 (video formats).

  • Something's not playing or syncing right. It's technically possible for some corrupted or incompatible music, photo, or video file to jam up the entire syncing or playback process. In iTunes, experiment with playlists and videos, turning off checkboxes until you figure out which one is causing the problem.

Warranty and Repair

The iPhone comes with a one-year warranty. If you buy an AppleCare contract ($70), you're covered for a second year.

Tip

AT&T tech support is free for both years of your contract. They handle questions about your iPhone's phone features.

If, during the coverage period, anything goes wrong that's not your fault, Apple will fix it free. You can either take the phone to an Apple store, which is often the fastest route, or call 800-APL-CARE (800-275-2273) to arrange shipping back to Apple. In general, you'll get the fixed phone back in 3 business days.

Note

Sync the phone before it goes in for repair. The repair process generally erases the phone completely—in fact, Apple very often simply sends you back a new (or refurbished) iPhone instead of your original. In fact, if you're worried that Apple might snoop around, you might want to erase the phone first. (Use the Restore option—the section called “Reset: Six Degrees of Desperation”.)

Also, don't forget to remove your SIM card (the section called “SIM Card Slot”) before you send in your broken iPhone—and to put it back in when you get the phone. Don't leave it in the loaner phone. AT&T will help you get a new card if you lose your original, but it's a hassle.

While your phone is in the shop, you can sign up for a loaner iPhone to use in the meantime for $30. Apple will ship it to you, or you can pick one up at the Apple store. Just sync this loaner phone with iTunes, and presto—all of your stuff is right back on it.

You can keep this service phone until seven days after you get your fixed phone back.

Out-of-Warranty Repairs

Once the year or two has gone by, or if you damage your iPhone in a way that's not covered by the warranty (backing your car over it comes to mind), Apple charges $200 or $250 to repair an iPhone (for the 8- and 16-gigabyte models).

The Battery Replacement Program

Why did Apple seal the battery inside the iPhone, anyway? Everyone knows that lithium-ion batteries don't last forever. After 300 or 400 charges, the iPhone battery begins to hold less charge (perhaps 80 percent of the original). After a certain point, the phone will need a new battery. How come you can't change it yourself, as on any normal cellphone?

Conspiracy theorists have all kinds of ideas: It's a plot to generate service fees. It's a plot to make you buy a new phone. It's Steve Jobs' design aesthetic on crack.

The truth is more mundane: A user-replaceable battery takes up a lot more space inside the phone. It requires a plastic compartment that shields the guts of the phone from you and your fingers; it requires a removable door; and it needs springs or clips to hold the battery in place. All of this would mean either a much smaller battery—or a much bulkier phone. (As an eco-bonus, Apple properly disposes of the old batteries, which consumers might not do on their own.)

In any case, you can't change the battery yourself. If the phone is out of warranty, you must send it to Apple (or take it to an Apple store) for an $85 battery-replacement job.

Note

See the section called “Battery Life Tips” for tips on conserving battery power.

Where to Go From Here

At this point, the iPhone is such a phenomenon that there's no shortage of resources for getting more help, news, tips, and information. Here are a few examples:

  • Apple's Official iPhone User Guide. No, it doesn't come with the iPhone. But yes, there is an actual downloadable PDF user's manual. http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/iPhone_User_Guide.pdf

  • Apple's Official iPhone Help Web Site. There's a lot going on here: online tips, tricks, and tutorials; highlighted troubleshooting topics; downloadable PDF help documents; and, above all, an enormous, seething treasure trove of discussion boards, where ordinary iPhone owners complain and solve each other's problems. www.apple.com/support/iphone/

  • Apple's Service Site. If the thing is really, truly broken, this site lists all the dates, prices, and expectations for getting your iPhone repaired. Includes details on getting a replacement unit to use while yours is in the shop. www.apple.com/support/iphone/service/faq/

  • iPhoneBlog. News, tips, tricks, all in a blog format (daily posts, with comments). www.theiphoneblog.com/

  • iLounge. Another great blog-format site. Available in an iPhone format, so you can read right on the device. www.iLounge.com/

  • MacRumors/iPhone. Blog-format news; accessory blurbs; help discussions; iPhone wallpaper. www.macrumors.com/iphone/

  • iPhoneAtlas. Discussion, news, applications, how-tos. www.iphoneatlas.com

  • Gizmodo. Snarky, funny, sometimes raunchy—the commercial bloggers' take on the iPhone. www.gizmodo/iphone

If you enjoyed this excerpt, buy a copy of iPhone: The Missing Manual, Second Edition.