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back to article iPhone upgrades - a one-way control-freak street

For over 30 years, your personal computer has been, well, your personal computer. You could install whatever software you liked - provided it was compatible. After installing an app or an operating system, if you then decided you preferred the previous version, you were free to uninstall the new and revert to the old. But …

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Stop

Not just apple

Welcome to the world of Mobile

Ever tried downgrading Symbian? Want to try? You are welcome to. NO GO.

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And That's Why I'm An Ex iPhone Customer

I gave up on the iPhone in February of this year. It's a nice piece of tech but I'm from the old school where smartphones are concerned. I like to be in charge of what and how it does things for the most part. With Apple and the iPhone that's just not possible. But as long as the iZombies keep blindly tossing their dollars at Cupertino nothing will ever change. As for me, I gave my money to RIM and now to Google/Android. With their phones I can store my files wherever I want, I'm not forced to sync with their software, and I can get my apps from wherever I want and use an version I want. And at the end of the day isn't that what I should be able to do with "My Phone"?

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Stop

Going the Apple way

I was mulling the possibility of moving our small office to apple hardware, because of the 'Just Works' moniker, and the (at least on paper), perceived good value of the iMac i7 machines.

Of clourse, that would pave the way to purchase Apple software, and use iPhones

Then, as the decision times are looming ... the tide of reports of faulty hardware ( DOA iMacs ), bad customer experience, and closed environement for the sotware is making me reconsider the whole thing.

Probably we'll continue as we are now, purchasing build to order PCs from our friendly local store, with Debian, and perhaps, money permiting, some of those 30in HP displays, which, after all, is the MOST important part of any interactive computer (servers and embedded do not need no stinkin' displays)

Pitty, i was willing to play with a Snow Leopard .... and face it against a penguin ... but seems the Leopard has defaulted.

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Alert

Roll back to previous app version

It appears to be possible to roll back to a previous app version if you have the previous version synced in iTunes (ie your iPhone has not been synced since the upated app was installed)

1) Delete the offending new version of the app from the iPHone

2) Connect iPhone to iTunes

3) Sync applications

4) Old version back on iPhone

This has been necessary to do since the developer of the RedLaser app wrecked it with an update yesterday. The developer replaced useful search engines with one that appears to be less capable and offers erroneous results (particularly in the UK). Check out the App store's reviews and the developer's support forum since this update was released and you will see how annoyed people are with this update to a once great app.

You'll also see that many people have taken the steps above to get the old version of the app back

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Pint

No its NOT

BY the very own words, you are not the owners. Ties to Umbilical cords of software, you only own a piece of hardware. As Jobs would have said, its in the software, man!

The whole licensing regime needs to change for you to own the software (apps). Bcos the license can be revoked/invoked and you have signed to the T&Cs, its a binding agreement and contract.

Rant as much as you want, its not gonna change anytime soon, TILL the licensing regime is changed and be treated as a product, which can then come under consumer rights, Health & Safety, suitable for the purpose, etc etc..

"Customer experience" is such an abused and misleading term these days, anything goes under that!

Till then get stuffed guys. Its friday and drown your sorrows and find the meaning of life.

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Apps can be reverted

You can revert to an earlier version of an app, though it's a bit fiddly. Instructions here (for Mac users): http://www.ipodobserver.com/ipo/article/emoji_and_downgrading_iphone_apps/

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Silver badge

On the other hand...

At least you get updates... My WindowsMobile 'phone hasn't had any updates since the day I bought it. No bug fixes, no new features, no way to upgrade to the current version of Windows Mobile...

My iPhone, on the other hand gets regular updates and bug fixes... Guess which one I use the most?

So far I haven't experienced any major problems with my iPhone updates - the first 3GS I got was defective and was replaced; although German consumer law means that the supplier (T-Mobile) has to try and repair it 3 times, before it is replaced. After the third time it was returned as "working, no fault found", but died within an hour of receiving it, I kicked up a stink in the T-Mobile shop and got a replacement sent to me.

Since then, it has been working fine and the directors here are happy with their iPhones - they switched from Blackberrys.

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Thumb Down

It's irritating

I remember thinking just this when the update from 2.2 to 2.2.1 completely borked my iPhone. Whilst all appeared to be running just fine when I left for a family visit that morning the inability to send texts, immediately dropped calls and no access to Internet soon became apparent when I reached my destination. Being in the middle of absolute nowhere with no way or contacting anyone certainly didn't help. I tried for the full 3hrs of laptop battery to revert the damn thing back to 2.2 before giving up, getting back on the train and heading to the nearest populated town to find a phone box. Annoying as hell!

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FAIL

I love how...

Apple's definition of "best user experience" seems to include crashes and rapid battery drain...

I skipped the upgrade from 3.0 to 3.1 entirely so that I could avoid this "best user experience" after hearing about the problems with 3.1.

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Anonymous Coward

I predict a day

When your smartphone will transmit all it's data back to a central authority to verify you're being a good citizen, and when the microphone and video can remotely be turned on to confirm you are not discussing subversive things.

The law is in place to permit this (see that 2008 terrorism act, it permits any data grab for any reason), the technology for this is iPhone ready and the political will to treat citizens as criminals has been there for years.

http://www.labourlist.org/stand-up-for-dna-database

"“Do you want to live in a society where everyone is considered a potential criminal?”, asked Will Self on Question Time last Thursday. The reality, and I hate to break it to you, Will, is that everyone is a potential criminal."

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Paris Hilton

Trust is the issue, but not the way you think

I used to have a winmob device a few years ago, and it let me do pretty much anything I want. I hated it. I found I had little interest in the intricacies of the device and got rid of it in favour of a normal phone, a samsung d900. Bear in mind that whilst u claim no expertise, I work in IT so therefore have more knowledge most people I know.

The big success of the iPhone is that it has opened up the smartphone Market to people who have no real technical knowledge. The kind of people who are frightened of technology. The kind of person who scratches their head when you tell them they need to update their firmware. Tell them they can choose to remove that update and their eyes gloss over and they lose all interest. "Just make it work"

I accept that this is a ballache if a duff version of the OS comes out and you are stuck with it until a fix comes out, but if Apple keep dishing out unusable versions, then they have no in to blame but themselves if their figures go tits up.

Paris, because she just works

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Jobs Horns

If software makers were like spanners...

One of the most fundamental things to do in a regression suite, is an upgrade-downgrade test.

This whole thing just makes the analogy I put to a friend, all the more pertinent. (Just for the record I have no affiliation, or love for that matter, for anyone in the OS world)

If software makers were like spanners...

MS would give you a set of Imperial and Metric spanners. GNU/Linux would give you a full suite of adjustable spanners. Apple however, would sell you one spanner (because of course, "There's only one type of nut."); but you could have the spanner in one of a range of pretty colours.

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Paris Hilton

Point that seems to be missed.....

.....is that Apple aren't FORCING anyone to buy an iPhone. Although I personally don't like the over-control that Apple seem to be applying to the iPhone, it's not the only touchscreen smartphone/mp3 player/games player out there.

Paris as I am sure there have been times when she would have liked to revert to a prior version of herself.

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So get an Android

My HTC Magic free handset upgrade arrived from Vodafone with no network lock-in and I can install what the hell I like on it from either the Android apps marketplace or anywhere else that provides a standard installer package. The new monthly plan for the phone actually worked out cheaper by about 30 quid, too, compared to monthly bills on the previous tariff.

Quality job. Nuff said.

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Stop

Your point is?

Apple are crap, their products are over priced, over hyped locked down pieces of crap.

If you bought one and you cant do what you want with it - live with it or get a non apple device.

Doesn't anyone learn?

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One more reason

to go with an Android phone.

Sure they aren't as quite as slick as iPhones (yet) but at least you have control and don't have to repeatedly drop your trousers and let Apple have its way with you.

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Welcome

master reset

They should just build in a master reset in like most phone manufacturers. Atleast it would revert to a stable verision of the os and everything should be backed up anyway on your mac / pc. This would seem a sensible thing but this would require apple to admit there tight controls might fail.* did i just see a pig fly*

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Jobs Halo

Quite right too

You only need to look at how much flack Microsoft catches for their customers not updating to see why an ultra-hard line approach is so appealing.

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Jobs Horns

Happy with the arrangement.

I am more than happy with the £1000 cost over 2 years for my iphone for a locked out device that can only use apple approved software. It suits my keen interest in not having any say in how i use my own stuff.

If you will permit me to use a "Homerism" on reciprocity.

- I help Steve Jobs and he, inturn, is helped by me!

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Flame

Or...

"If an update [to an iPhone app] introduces a bug, then you're screwed until the developer fixes it and the fix is approved by Apple (say 3 weeks)."

...or you restore your iPhone from a backup.

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Thumb Up

Exactly!

What does every sane person know to do before upgrading _any_ software? That's right: make a back-up. Apple even provide a mind-numbingly simple way to back up your data...

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Exactly x 2

And if you upgrade apps via iTunes on your desktop (as opposed to on the phone itself), it backs the phone up before applying the updates anyway. Not sure if you can even change that behaviour, which is what it defaulted to doing for me.

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It isn't though, is it?

Is it not true that, if you are on any sort of monthly phone contract, then you don't actually own your phone? Sure, the network will recoup the cost of it from you through monthly fees but if you read the small print the phone is their property.

The fact that no network ever attempts to recover phones when contracts end has maybe led us all to believe otherwise.

Or am I wrong? Shall I get my coat?

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Get your coat

Perhaps it varies by company, but I'm pretty sure you're wrong, certainly in the UK anyway. The phone is entirely yours from the day you sign the contract - it's that signed contract that commits you to paying £x per month for however many months, not your possession of the phone itself. Sure, if you don't pay, the phone might be one of the items the bailiffs eventually reposess to recoup the cost, but don't imagine they'll stop there. A mobile phone contract is *not* a hire contract, you're paying them for service and they're giving you the phone as a come-on.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry Tim...

Until you have paid off the contract, the phone is the operators. Think of it like a mortgage. Yes the property is yours on paper, but the mortgage lender owns the property until the mortgage is paid in full. Same goes for *any* phone bought with a contract.

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Hmm

You've persuaded me to check my contract to make sure, but I'm pretty sure you're wrong, and repeating a popular misconception here. If I default on my £30pm contract with 6 months still to go, O2 and their collectors are going to come and take £180 (or goods to the value of) plus costs - my phone (which I could easily have sold, lost, or broken along the way) is completely incidental to that.

Or are you suggesting that they'd also add the cost of the phone to any claim against me?

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My iPhone, not O2's

I'm just obsessive enough to follow this up with the answer, and I'm right - taken from the O2 terms and conditions for 3G iPhone contracts -

"2.4 The Equipment that we deliver to you or which is collected by you, become your responsibility once it is collected or received by you at which time ownership will pass to you, subject to paragraph 2.5. 2.5 If you bought your Equipment or SIM Card directly from us and it is defective, not in accordance with any description given to you by us, not reasonably fit for purpose or it develops a fault you will be able to return it for repair and, if appropriate, replacement or refund. Please contact Customer Services for details. You should call us as soon as possible if any of the circumstances above apply to you to ensure that you are able to exercise any rights you have. Alternatively, if you experience any difficulties with your Equipment within 1 year of purchasing it, you can contact the manufacturer for replacement or repair under the manufacturer's warranty service detailed in the User Guide(s). This does not affect your statutory rights."

Full T&C's here if you can bear it - http://www.o2.co.uk/assets/O2HybridNav/Static-files/PDFs/O2airtimecontract1.pdf

The long and short of it is, the agreement to supply you with a handset is conditional upon you taking out the contract, but once that contract is binding ownership of the phone passes entirely to *you* - and I'm sure this is the case with pretty much every mobile contract on every network, at least in the UK.

Not sure why this is so consistently misunderstood by people.

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Badgers

Best experience?

"Apple always recommends that iPhone customers keep current with software updates for the best user experience."

It's a bit presumptive to say that the current version is the best experience. People, being people and code being what it is, surely even Apple might be forced to admit that for some the latest version of any given thing might not be the best experience. I can think of a recent example. That's what I'd like to see Apple say, if it's possible to break through the mantra of course.

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Pint

Not really a "right" though is it?

Did you really expect to be able to self modify your apple phone? Really? Of course apple wont support backwards upgrades. There are reasons for apple releasing 3.1 - probably some jailbreaking protection (I dont generally follow apple things for precisely the reason this "rant" covers, and I havent played with my wifes 3GS at all - outside of setting up IMAP for her ).

Apple are control freaks. Well of course they are, did you really think otherwise? The correct course of action if a forced OS upgrade degrades your phone is via consumer protection laws. That is the only way apple will budge and give you an alternative phone. Good luck proving that it was working perfectly before the upgrade though.

If you want to tinker with your phone then dont buy an apple phone. Buy a winmo or symbian phone. Hell ive taken my omnia to the brink of bricking before now. It is flashed with HTC touchflo and win6.5 sure its no jesus phone but I wanted a phone I could tinker with.

The average joe doesnt want to tinker in the same way I do. In fact they just want things to work, hence why apple is doing so well because (for the better part of things) it DOES work. Complaining that they wont let you choose which OS they should give you is a waste of time, of course they wont. I'm surprised they even let you change the battery....

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FAIL

FAIL

because as long as consumers happily keep buying iPhones by the iMillion, Apple doesn't have to (and indeed - won't) care what developers think.

Especially if the application upgrade introduces bugs - because consumers will blame the developer for a buggy app, rather than blame Apple for a iDiot software model.

Sad, but ultimately very true, and one key reason I won't by an iPhone (not that I imagine this upsets Apple in any way)

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Happy

Blimey Rik, take a chill pill mate

Have you heard of the Young Ones, a comedy show we had here in the UK many years ago? Your namesake got as angry as you do about control by an overlord (in his case, it was a fascist landlord).

You are expending far too much energy trying to take apart Apple's approach - I worked in mobile phone engineering for 7 years in protocol and UI, and trust me, the existing mobile phone manufacturers are frankly shite at software quality. If Apple's approach seems heavy handed, I think it may be the only way decent stuff gets out to market and stays there. At least it's simple - and that'll be one of the main drivers, not having to endlessly support old versions of your OS.

This is the same kind of anger vortex we keep seeing from geeks and hackers who seem to be incredibly upset by not being able to wrestle with the guts of the iPhone. But jailbreak it, install an SSH client and you've got yourself a worm unless you're bright enough to change the default password.

Find something else to rant about - there are plenty of other things like (in the PC domain) the security aspects of trying to keep a windows machine safe and still have it run reasonably, or trying to get newish hardware working with Linux, or (in the mobile domain) trying desperately to get SonyEricsson or Nokia to put out a mobile which doesn't have crap software at launch. The Satio and Aino (sp?) debacle from SE shows just how bad things are with the "old guard" of the mobile phone industry. Moto ain't doing a whole lot better although I with their foray into Android much success. HTC seem to be doing well, but skinning WinMo feels like silk purse / sows ear no matter how you cut it. Their android output looks good, mind.

Deep breaths. Relax.

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Gates Halo

And the story is?

Everyone knows that Apple are control freaks who don't view you as owning their device. If you don't like it, don't buy.

I'm sticking to my Windows Mobile 6.1, warts and all.

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Boffin

How to revert iPhone Apps

1) You need the old version, this is placed in the Trash when you update so if you haven't emptied it you can drag it to your desktop, otherwise use your backups* to restore it to the desktop.

2) Delete the current App from your phone and iTunes (Right click on App).

3) Double click previous App you dragged to the desktop, it will be imported to iTunes.

4) Sync.

*you do backup right?

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More bl33ting..

With contract iphones doesn't it technically belong to the telco until the contract expires?

I general, given that is Apple's stated policy, it seems incongruous to suggest they would provide mechanisms or support that go against that policy. Whether that policy is the one we may want (or indeed is sensible) is a separate issue to that. Apple has that policy and all the systems it develops follow that policy. I for one am not entirely surprised by that.

At the end of the day, if you don't like the way the Apple system works, there are plenty of alternative phones you could get that do more or less the same job.

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Nope

No. At least in the UK the phone is yours. Part of the requierment of being given the phone is that you take out the contract, but once the contract is final the phone is yours to do with as you wish. The problem is apple don't see it that way.

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Jobs Horns

Simples!

Just don't get yourself tied into the Apple ecosystem in the first place. Personally I would never give my money to a company that wants the level of control that Apple insist on. My device, I bought it outright (NOT licensed) I will do what the hell I like with it

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Jobs Horns

All your iPhones are belong to us!

Seriously, what did you expect? You can't know better than apple, otherwise you'd be working for them. They know best about all aspects of their kit, and an ignorant pleb such as you could never hope to understand! You should be honored that St Jobs allows you to even gaze upon one of his creations.

For the final word on this, it's over to the Daily Mash

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/science-%26-technology/apple-tightens-grip-with-launch-of-itold-20071027495/

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Shiny toy

Yes, Rik, it's your iphone. You bought it and now you are stuck with it. I hope at least you got it cheap. No?

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Jobs Horns

Time Machine?

Being a scaredy-cat and not wanting to muck up my lovely new iPhone 3GS I've not tried this myself, but I'm wondering if Time Machine would help here? If you can roll back any file or folder to a snapshot at a previous point in time, if an App Store upgrade fails then could you restore your iTunes library to the state it was in before the update? Or would the newer version on the iPhone overwrite the older restored version at the next sync? Because as we know, Apple always recommends that iPhone customers keep current with software updates for the best user experience...

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Good article, spoiled somewhat by being disengenuous.

Let's take the phone out of the equation and repeat the question in hand (for at least one aspect of the article anyway):

I upgrade my computer from AmigaDos 23, to AmigaDos 24. Then I back it up. Then I decide to downgrade my computer back to AmigaDos 23 using a fresh install. Then I try to restore my data using my AmigaDos 24 backup software and dataset. Anyone see a problem here?

I have an extra step which spoils your results - before upgrading to AmigaDos 24, take a full backup of AmigaDos 23 including your apps, and save it somewhere. Then, when you need to revert, revert using a restore from this backup, not a fresh install!

The fact that you have to downgrade iTunes is a bummer, but it's no different to needing to restore a Netbackup backup for a server using a client that matches the server that was used to make the image.

This is all perfectly normal behaviour for any computer system, the phone is not particularly different.

Also, there is no need to do the DFU finger dance to revert to a previous OS anyway, just click Shift-Restore in iTunes and choose the version you wish to use. Done.

The Apps is another matter, but there are ways of doing it that again are not so different to doing it with any other app on any other OS. The trouble is that iTunes will only hold 1 version of any app you have downloaded, and because you choose the file and it downloads it for you, you don't exactly get a choice of filename or location, so a new version always overwrites the old one. Also, iTunes will only hold the very latest, not an archive of previous versions. This doesn't mean you cannot re-install the old one - on the assumption that you are a sensible user who takes backups, you can just restore it into this area from your own backup, remove the app from the phone, then sync again. On a Mac this is as simple as locating the directory where the apps are saved, firing up time machine, choosing your app file, and rolling back until you find the older one. Shouldn't be much different on Windows assuming you actually take backups (and if you don't, you have no right to complain about the lack of ability to restore to past versions...)

This isn't ideal, it passes the responsibility for archiving to the user, but it's perfectly possible, and no different to keeping hold of old downloads that eventually get removed online (I have versions of Skype saved from way back, because they are Win98 compatible and are no longer downloadable - don't ask!).

What the article doesn't touch on, which is worthy of further investigation, is the whole business of storing your user data within the actual application bundle. Restoring an app to a previous version may well have the effect of restoring your data to the same point in time. This is more of an issue than having to understand a little about backup and restore for the OS and apps, as most people are probably not aware of how all this works. I don't fully understand it myself to be honest, because many apps seem to be able to retain my data on an upgrade, so it's not as simple as just swapping over the binary for the new version. I suspect that the single downloadable file contains a data area inside that iTunes knows to pull out and copy into the new download, and that any new version must be written to be able to understand that data if there have been changes to the underlying structure - theoretically if may be possible to pull the data (if you have changed it and want to keep it) from the new version, and shoe-horn this into the old version, but there's nothing to see it will work or the old version will understand it.

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How about a 'skip this upgrade' option for apps too?

This can also be annoying if a developer decides to release an update that adds things you either don't need (eg additional language support), or don't want (ad feeds fro example).

If you upgrade to find that adware has been inserted to one of your apps, you are stuck with it. If you choose not to upgrade, you will permenantly be stuck with an update badge on your App Store icon, and you can never use the 'Update All' option again.

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Flame

Yeah

That's why I quite like my WinMob phone. It's MY phone. Not Apple's.

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FAIL

Check your licensing agreement!

The *hardware* is yours, but the software that runs on it is the property of the developer.

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Silver badge

yes

but you can freely change the software as you see fit.

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FAIL

well....

I for one can't see why anyone would buy a computing platform that doesn't allow you to install the software you choose. Silly silly Register. Right I'm off to install a web browser on my xbox, ciao.

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Paris Hilton

Of course it's my choice

Of course it does! Both Apple and the iPhone.

The applications I have running on my Mac aren't those that Apple have forced upon me - they're ones _I've chosen_ to install.

Paris - because she thinks that Apple chooses her software, too.

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FAIL

Of course it is ypour choice pandy06269

You can install any spoftware you choose to, from anywhere, withput any restriction being placed on what you canm install in any way whatsoever.

Oh wait, that's right. You own an iPhone, so you can only install software thaty has been approved by His Holy Exaltedness Steven Jobs through his cult of Jobscientology.

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Jobs Horns

Control

"there is a finite number of devices on which an Ad Hoc build will run". What is it, I wonder, which controls this?

There is a solution to this, but it's one that Apple probably wouldn't like. And that's to do as Firefox does. There's an App store. Installing and upgrading from the App store is trivial. But you can install an App from a 3rd party website providing you mmake a couple of extra clicks to say "I know this is dangerous, but I want to do it anyway".

I don't buy the "security of the phone system" argument. If the iPhone exposes APIs that are dangerous and could affect the security of the phone system, then it's broken and should be fixed.

As for one way upgrades, I think this really applies to all software thes days. We want automatic or at least painless upgrade systems, and the price for that is that there's no going back. It doesn't really matter what software environment you're talking about.

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Wouldn't you be able to use time machine for this?

Since iTunes stores a copy of applications then wouldn't you be able to delete it from the phone, restore a pre-update backup of your machine then resynch the old version of the app onto it?

Obviously a PitA, but surely worth a try?

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Anonymous Coward

Can we get over the iPhone

It's a consumer device. Apple treats it like a consumer device. My geek friends treat it like a consumer device (they don't own it). My non-geek friends treat it like a consumer device (they do own it). If you want to talk tech, let's focus on Android or Nokia or SE.

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