Big Picture Mode
Nathan Brown upgrades his iPhone, and instantly yg regrets it
My phone contract’s up in a few months. I can tell because this £400 device, which is not even two years old, is dying. Apps freeze up, the touchscreen stops responding, and while battery life’s never been great, that last bit between 20 and one per cent vanishes in minutes. This has happened with every iOS device I’ve ever owned, and whenever it does I picture Tim Cook in a brightly lit corner office, cackling and flicking a killswitch before turning back to a purchase order from the Bath branch of Carphone Warehouse. Or perhaps it’s the ghost of Steve Jobs, Apple’s former CEO spending the afterlife flitting over the air from iPhone to iPhone, freezing Facebook and draining that final 20 per cent of battery to power his jump to the next about-to-be-obsolete sucker. Really, it’s my fault. I should never have updated to iOS 8.
I held out as long as I could. I learnt long ago that Apple’s new operating systems are designed to make its new devices sing and its older ones wheeze. But the lure of Apple Music was too strong. I went for it. And then I remembered the thing I always forget: it’s not the post-upgrade process that’s painful, it’s updating the thing in the first place.
Because the bulk of my iPhone’s 16GB of storage is out-of-focus screaming-baby photos that I can’t quite bring myself to delete, I don’t have the 3GB or so Apple claims it needs free to perform the update. That means I have to update through iTunes, which I’m told is serviceable on a Mac but which I know is disgusting on Windows. Because I never use it, it prompts me for an update – you know, that little popup where Apple optimistically suggests that you might, in the year 2015, like to install QuickTime. I decline, and plug in my phone. It’s not compatible with this version of iTunes. I update, remembering just in time to untick the QuickTime install. Just 20 minutes later, the 80MB download and install are complete. I plug in my phone, realise I haven’t backed it up in a while and that my iCloud storage is full of baby photos, and decide that I should probably do a manual one. I back up through iTunes. Then manually back up the photos just in case. Finally, an hour or so later, it’s time to update.
Of course it fails. There’s no explanation of what happened or why, just a matter-offact message explaining that everything is fucked, we need to restore factory settings, you’re going to lose everything and this, Nathan, is what you get for saying no to QuickTime. Words to that effect, anyway. We reset, we update, we restore the backup we made, download all the apps the backup somehow missed (every last one of them), and then, an entire evening later, we have a phone that seems almost identical but runs like shit. Apple Music’s great, at least.
Amazingly, this still isn’t my worst Apple update experience. That honour goes to the time I tried to set up a new iPod on my wife’s ageing iBook. It needed a new version of iTunes, which in turn needed a new OS that had already been superseded and the laptop didn’t have enough RAM to run anyway – something I didn’t find out until I’d managed to source an installation disc at considerable expense. I hooked the iPod up to an eightyear-old Windows laptop running Windows XP and it worked first time.
I’m sure that by now some of you are wondering why I don’t switch to Android. Or Windows Pho– No, let’s be honest, no one’s thinking that. The thing is, I don’t want to. I love my phone, and my iPad, and my wife loves hers, and our family is so locked into the Apple ecosystem – years of app purchases, music downloads, and now Apple Music playlists – that switching now would be an expensive, inconvenient thing to do. It only gets more expensive and inconvenient the longer I stay. Is this really the way to reward loyalty? To put me through this every few years until I begrudgingly accept that this £400 device is about to give up the ghost?
If you told me a couple of years ago that Microsoft had the beating of Apple, I’d have laughed you out of the room. But the Windows 10 upgrade was free, meaningful and painless, and backwards compatibility on Xbox One is precisely the sort of thing we need more of – a reward, rather than a punishment, for loyalty. It suggests a company that values its customers, rather than seeing them as a coin-filled piñata to be whacked about a bit every couple of years, a turtle-necked executive cackling as the final few coppers dribble out, throwing a QuickTime disc on your shattered remains.
Switching only gets more expensive and inconvenient the longer I stay. Is this really the way to reward loyalty?