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Did Apple kill my iPhone?

  • Posted by Tony Poulos
  • November 8, 2013 5:28 AM GMT
Could it be that my phone was deliberately disabled by the manufacturer in the hope I would upgrade to a new model. In this era of over-the-air upgrades it is a possibility, but would they?

I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories but my latest experience with Apple has me wondering. I appear to be one of the ‘lucky’ Apple iPhone 4s users that had their phone’s Wi-Fi capability disabled soon after the iOS7 upgrade was applied.

I use the word ‘lucky’ with tongue in cheek, of course, but maybe selected would be more applicable because not everyone with an iPhone 4s experienced the problem. Judging from the number of internet fora listings many, many thousands did. Strangely, Apple has yet to admit, let alone acknowledge that it is a problem it has caused.

I’m sorry Apple, but it is your problem and I can explain why. I had been using iOS7 since the first beta release. Updates two, three and four also worked fine so I had no problem moving to the final release. Whatever was different in that version caused my iPhone to get quite warm, run through battery capacity at a fast rate and grey out my Wi-Fi button with a loss of all Wi-Fi connectivity.

First port of call was the Apple support site that suggested a hard restart and network setting reset. If all that failed, which it did, they suggested taking the phone to an Apple store to have it checked. Great, I was in provincial France and heading to an area of Dublin with no Apple store in site en route to the USA for the TM Forum’s Digital Disruption Conference, so I had to wait until then.

In the meantime, I tried a myriad of ‘user solutions’ I found on the web. Let me tell you now, there were some bizarre options being mooted, including leaving the phone in the freezer for 15 minutes! I tried every single one including a full factory reset and restore. I could not roll back to a prior version of iOS because Apple had purposely disabled this and I was not comfortable ‘jail-beaking’ my phone as an alternative.

Believe it or not, the freezer trick did work, but only until the device warmed up again! The online ‘experts’ homed in on the Broadcom BCM4329 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller managing the phone’s Wi-Fi access. Users speculate that either a long-running Wi-Fi process, like that enabled by iOS 7's new background data transfer features, or a balky firmware update for the phone's Wi-Fi controller were to blame.

I was first in line at Apple’s Corta Madeira outlet near San Rafael on a Saturday morning but had to wait 30 minutes for a spare Genius Bar appointment slot to become vacant. After explaining my dilemma to Jim he went off to check what could be done and came back with the only option that could be offered. I was out of warranty but for $199 I could swap my dud iPhone 4s for an identical factory refurbished model that suddenly appeared in a plain white box. Or, I could just upgrade to a brand new unlocked 5c or 5s model for full retail price.

Sorry, I had a perfectly working phone in immaculate condition (never dropped, never scratched) that only went wrong after almost two years constant use after the iOS7 upgrade and I wasn’t the only one. I felt trapped, but $199 was the cheapest option so I agreed. Another 30 minutes went by as Jim and his colleagues tried to work out how to unlock the new phone and help me transfer my data over. In that time I got cold feet and felt I was being cornered so I stopped the process and aired my grievances at being victimized.

I attracted the attention of store manager, Tuppy, a delightfully friendly English lady who asked me to explain what had happened and after hearing my story said she could help out by swapping out the phone at no cost. I was delighted, but wondered why I had to get really annoyed to get what I should have been offered in the first place.

I left relieved but wondered why I was one of those that suffered the problem in the first place. Maybe, just maybe, they knew my phone was almost two years old, out of warranty and was due for an upgrade. Could they have thought that as a loyal Apple customer I would probably buy another iPhone if my current one died. And maybe, just maybe, my phone was selectively disabled to push me to an Apple store to be seduced by the flashy new models.

There is no rhyme or reason why some iPhone 4s models were affected and not others. It is strange that weeks after thousands have complained about this same issue Apple has yet to acknowledge the problem was theirs or even offer a solution. And why would the store be stocked with refurbished 4S iPhones in plain boxes? Hmmm…..

First published as The Insider at TM Forum

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