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Major, minor iPhone 3.1 upgrade problems and how to fix them

Over the past few weeks, iPhone Atlas readers and users on Apple's discussion forums have reported various problems with iPhone OS 3.1 upgrade.

David Martin
David Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant.
David Martin
4 min read

Apple, Inc.
A number of iPhone Atlas readers, and numerous more on Apple's Discussion boards, have reported a bevy of problems--some large, some small--after upgrading to iPhone OS 3.1. The following two procedures work to solve a number of the reported problems:

  • Reset your iPhone by holding down the sleep and home buttons until the Apple logo appears.
  • Restore your iPhone: In iTunes, click the Restore button under the Summary tab. Restoring the phone will erase contacts, calendars, photos, and other data on the phone, but will restore automatically backed-up information including text messages, notes, call history, contact favorites, sound settings, widget settings, etc. Of course, make sure that you back up your phone before restoring.

However, some issues--chronicled below--persist:

Podcasts are listed in random order for some users who are reporting that podcast episodes are not being displayed properly by date. We encountered this problem in one out of seven podcasts on a test iPhone 3GS. This bug has been confirmed by Apple, so look for a fix in a future firmware update.

Podcast sort bug. David Martin

Random freezes or shutdowns are a major complaint for users after upgrading. The problem is the source of heated discussions within a huge Apple discussion thread containing nearly 900 posts. The problem seems to manifest itself whenever the iPhone goes to sleep, the user locks the display, or just randomly. When the user next tries to use the phone, he or she will find it completely unresponsive--the display remains blank and pressing buttons won't wake it. The only recourse for the user is to perform a reset as described above.

Battery life is another major complaint for users after upgrading and one we've encountered ourselves. So far, none of the usual fixes have resolved a problem some are claiming happens even when the iPhone is idle. Regardless, we've noticed on our own iPhone 3GS that battery life is significantly poorer after upgrading to iPhone OS 3.1. It isn't unusual to commute home at the end of the day with 25 percent or less battery life.

Apple is clearly aware of the battery problem and is actively trying to resolve it by engaging iPhone users in a study. Participating users will receive a special BatteryLifeLogging.mobilecongfig file that will capture Powerlog files from the iPhone when syncing with iTunes. The user sends the log files to Apple via e-mail or http://bugreport.apple.com. Hopefully with enough input, Apple will find the root cause of this problem and issue a fix in a future firmware update.

In the meantime, we suggest that you look at our guide to getting the most out of your iPhone battery for suggestions on improving battery life.

Slow or sluggish performance is a complaint from some users, blaming the problem on MobileMe syncing. According to a post by Skid on the Apple forums, you can resolve the issue by performing these steps:

1. Launch the Settings App
2. Go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars
3. Go to your MobileMe account
4. Turn off contacts and calendars
5. When prompted, delete them from your iPhone
6. Reset your iPhone by holding down the sleep and home buttons until the Apple logo appears.
7. Perform steps 1-5, but this time turn contacts and calendar syncing on.

If the above steps do not resolve the problem, another alternative is to delete your MobileMe account from your iPhone, perform a reset, and set up your MobileMe account from scratch.

Unknown error (-50) was an error we encountered when syncing from iPhoto to our iPhone 3GS on another computer. According to Apple, all we needed to do was sync using iTunes 9, which we had not installed on the second computer. After upgrading to iTunes 9 the problem disappeared.

A problem with Exchange is a source of complaints about the OS 3.1 upgrade manifested by 2G and 3G iPhone models failing to connect to Exchange 2007. Details about the issue can be found in the article, "Apple explains iPhone OS 3.1 Exchange changes."

Bricked iPhones caused by the OS 3.1 upgrade failing to apply was a source of complaints by some unhappy iPhone users. Fortunately, there is a fix for most "bricking" incidents: take the following steps to do a factory restore of your iPhone:

1. Press and hold Sleep/Wake and Home until the iPhone resets.
2. When the Apple logo appears release Sleep/Wake, but do not release Home until you see the prompt to connect the iPhone to iTunes.
3. Connect your iPhone to its USB sync cable.
4. iTunes should launch. If it doesn't, launch it manually.
5. Perform a restore of your iPhone's firmware, settings, apps, and media.

A handful of other common problems were reported with the OS 3.1 update for Wi-fi, the compass, and other small items. We've covered many of these in the posts "Major, minor iPhone upgrade problems and how to fix them," and the follow up post "More major, minor iPhone upgrade problems and how to fix them."

If the above fixes don't help with your OS 3.1 issue, consider following the Apple iPhone Troubleshooting Assistant before investing your time in calling AppleCare or visiting the local Genius Bar.

Tell us about your iPhone OS 3.1 upgrade problems in the comments.