If your iPhone 3G has lost all its data and your 3rd party apps crash on launch, clap your hands! - Macenstein

If your iPhone 3G has lost all its data and your 3rd party apps crash on launch, clap your hands!


Yes, that’s right, I bought me a new 3G iPhone this Saturday, even after all my whining about how I was going to wait for a 32GB model to be released before updating my 1st gen. And honestly, I would have waited, if not for a series of somewhat odd circumstances which occurred over vacation last week involving an emergency room. (If you care to hear about them, I’ll throw them at the end of this article, as it is not really what the article is about).

Above: Hmmm… What does my iPhone think is taking up all that space?

My first 3G crash, 4 Days in

So, you know those reports of the 3G iPhones not launching 3rd party apps and user data disappearing? Well, I had assumed I lucked out, as I had updated the iPhone’s software with 2.0.2 Saturday night (right after buying it) and had been using it trouble free until yesterday. That’s when my boss finally succumbed to my iPhone proselytizing and ran out yesterday afternoon and bought himself one. As we were about to leave for the day, I decided to give him a couple pointers on how to get out of any “buggy” behavior he might experience, knowing full well he’d come to me if anything went wrong. I showed him that holding down the “Home” button for 5-7 seconds would quit an app. That went fine. I then told him “Well, this new software so far has been pretty stable, but just in case you should need to reboot your iPhone, you just hold down the “Sleep” and “Home” buttons for about 10 seconds, and it will reboot the iPhone. I did it, showed him the Apple reboot screen, and then the iPhone booted up normally. So far so good.

So, having taught the man to fish, I head out to my car, hook the iPhone to my AUX jack to listen to some tunes on the drive home, only to be told told my iPhone no longer thinks it has any songs on it. Hmmm… I check “Videos”, as I know there are about 4GB of videos on it… Nope. It says I have no files.

I check the info screen for the iPhone and see that, yes, it really does think I have no media on the iPhone anymore, although it DOES admit I have about 11 GB of SOMETHING on it, it just isn’t sure what.

“OK,” I think, “well, I can make it home on Pandora or AOL radio”. Nope, both apps crash on launch. In fact, ALL my apps crash on launch, except for the standard Apple ones like Mail, Safari, etc. (Oddly, “Remote” also crashed, I guess only old school Apple apps are tough enough). So, I drive home in angry silence, knowing all too well from my previous 10 failed restores on my first iPhone that I am in for a long night.

S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that’s the way we spell Success!

I eventually got my iPhone back up and running, but it took 5 hours, so it would likely have been quicker to just restore the iPhone as a new device and reload everything (although I would have lost my awesome level 19 placement on Critter Crunch). But, on the odd chance this should happen to you or your friend, I will take you through my steps so you can see what I did, and hopefully it will help someone.

I had successfully let my 3G iPhone back itself up during one of my syncs about 2 days after I bought it, but despite my hopes of faster sync times, those backups take the same 2 hours as they did on my 1st gen iPhone. Since that sync was on Monday night, and it was now Wednesday night, I figured if possible, it would be better to try to find a way to keep my current data. When I plugged my iPhone into iTunes, the summary screen showed me that iTunes at least still knew I had about 11GB of media, so I tried just syncing (canceling out of the backup) and figured maybe that would jar my iPhone’s memory as to where all my media was. It successfully moved over some new files I added, so I ejected the iPhone only to find it had made no difference – the iPhone still thought it was empty, and aps did not launch. So I bit the bullet, and allowed it to do a full backup.

That back up took 2 hours, as it always does. But when completed, I decided to do a clean restore of the iPhone, and then restore from that backup image. I figured that since iTunes saw I still had all my media, there was a 50-50 chance that the backup would be a good one, and the “missing” files on the iPhone were do to the iPhone’s software not being able to find them. The iPhone software restore took about 40 minutes, and then I was asked if I wanted to restore my data from the backup I had just made. I said yes, and then waited.

I’m not sure how long the restore really should have taken, as after about an hour the progress bar seemed to hang at about 95% complete. I walked away and let it chug along, positioning my mouse pointer so I could see if any progress was made. I came back an hour later, and found, no, it was still stuck there, the restore seemed to have frozen at 95%.

Above: If all else fails, trying pulling a Process Sample to unfreeze iTunes.

Not really knowing what to do, I fired up Activity Monitor and checked out what iTunes was doing. It did not seem to be doing much of anything, so I decided to hit the “Sample Process” button. I knew I was not tech savvy enough to know what the hell the Sample Process was going to tell me, but I figured maybe it would either show me a bunch of text (meaning it was doing something), or be blank, and I might know if the app had truly hung.

Well, perhaps it was a coincidence, but the second I hit the Sample Process button, the progress bar disappeared, and my iPhone booted back to the Apple logo screen and then fired up. All my files were there, the apps all launched, they remembered my passwords and scores. The only problem was that the icons were all out of order, but I could live with that (although with 6 screens of apps, rearranging them all actually adds a good 20 minutes to the process).

So, that’s my story, and my advice to anyone experiencing this funky behavior depends on what type of data you will lose by not restoring your iPhone from a backup. Honestly, I could have reset the iPhone as a new phone and played Critter Crunch for an hour and gotten back my score, and maybe spent another hour re-entering all my info and settings into my apps like MySpace and Pandora and such and have been better off. But if you have a big commitment in hours of gameplay and highscores, I would recommend letting your iPhone back up overnight maybe every other night. Also, if your restores seem to hang, try running a “Sample Process” in the Activity Monitor on iTunes, see if that scares it back into action.

And actually, my main piece of advice is don’t force your iPhone to reboot just to demo for your boss if there isn’t a problem, as it apparently can cause one.

Now, as for that emergency room story…

We were on vacation last week with my brother’s family (sorry for not posting as frequently) and my wife’s RAZR began dying. Now, as luck would have it (good for me, bad for her) on the last day at the shore, my 6-year old got hit in the face with a metal golf club by her rather “over zealous” cousin while playing mini golf, breaking her nose and causing probably the most amount of blood I have ever seen in my life (with the exception of some zombie movies) to puddle in a pool by her feet on the 8th hole.

So, how could this possibly be good news for me? Well, we happened to be playing “Pirate” golf at on the lovely Point Pleasant NJ, boardwalk, and my 4-year old son was scared of the pirate skeleton statues and wanted to play mini golf on the wussier rooftop golf above the arcade. So my wife and I decided to split up, they went to wuss golf, we went to the Pirate golf.

Once my daughter got whacked, I rushed her to first aid with many a startled onlooker who must have assumed she’d been shot (my God, there really was a lot of blood for such a small girl!). For the next half hour I tried to get a hold of her mother on the phone, but since her RAZR had been going in and out all week, it was pretty much dead. She eventually got a text message from me and we hooked up, but she was so pissed at her phone that she agreed I should get a new iPhone when we got home, and she would take my old one.

Incidentally, my daughter is doing fine now, thanks for asking, and she loves that there are now 2 iPhones to play with in the family so she doesn’t have to fight with her brother.

The funniest thing about this whole experience (and I am one of those annoying people that finds every horrible situation to be funny) is that when my son saw his bloody sister waiting in the First Aid station, he said “I knew one of those pirates would come to life and attack us!”

16 Responses to “If your iPhone 3G has lost all its data and your 3rd party apps crash on launch, clap your hands!”
  1. Brad says:

    I’ve just about had it with my 3G. It’s so full of fail it’s absurd. What really sucks is that I didn’t jailbreak my 2G specifically because I was waiting on the new phone/firmware and I figured it would perform better.

    If they don’t have this crap sorted out by the fall, I’ll be picking up an Android phone for sure.

  2. Bride of Macenstein says:

    LOL! then he asked for ice cream- remember that?

  3. slashd0t says:

    Clap Clap Clap Clap..

  4. Jonathan Chan says:

    this dude has more bad luck/issues w/ apple products than anyone on this earth, he needs an apple genius as a roomate.

  5. macsoda.com says:


    I have been posting about this issue on my blog, Mac Soda, forever! This has been driving me crazy, and two phones, 4 emails to Steve Jobs, 22 restores, 17 re-installs of all apps, and 31 calls to Apple later, nothing has changed. Hopefully they fix this in 2.1 ASAP.

  6. krism says:

    I wonder if the computer you’re syncing with is effed up. I have a 16gb 3g and have had zero problems with it.

    Or if somehow one of the apps is hosing things. I admittedly don’t install a lot of them (grand total of 1 right now plus a couple I’m developing).

  7. Matt C says:

    Hey, I emailed you a screenshot of my Nokia e65 a few weeks ago and said I was waiting for 32gb… I caved, got a 16gb white. I’m glad I did.

    I’m not having any issues!

  8. Richard says:

    I have this vision if you and the Bride of Macenstein holding your daughters head back racing for the car, not talking about which hospital to goto or how you can sue, but debating the need for another iPhone in the family!

    Glad to hear she it going ok, I think id loose the plot if it happened to my 3 year old..

  9. Alan says:

    CLAP CLAP. So far I have had 2 full restores on each update. after 2.0.2 I had it loose its mind. Was listening to iPod function on 3G phone, but one song would not play. I reboot and then no video, no audio found, but only had 5GB free on a 16GB phone. Restore again. Damn

  10. Paul says:

    I too have very little trouble with my 16GB model. This was my first iPhone and so I didn’t do any migrations or restores from another iPhone. I still wonder if that’s what is causing a majority the wonky behavior for people. I also haven’t downloaded very many AppStore apps- just a handful of the popular ones (including NetShare!!!).

  11. Max says:

    I’ve had no problem with my 3G so far, and it’s jailbroken on 2.0.1 and I have some stuff like SSH and Scrobbler running in the background. Just sounds like bad luck for some people.

  12. digiprod says:

    Can I clap about 38 times and for 4 iPhone 3Gs that I have had. Correct I am on iPhone 3G number four. Syncing with three different Macs and four different accounts.

    Welcome to MY world! Some may remember me from your “Where the #$%@ is the iPhone 2.0.1 firmware?!” post where I reported all my problems with my iPhone 3G crashing like a long gaming session of Paradise City.

    Some of your readers gave me a hard time as if I was making it up (..cough. cough.. Lane..) and we had a bit of a back and forth in the comments where basically I was told it was somehow my fault and there was nothing wrong with the new iPhone 3G.

    Well I am on my 4th iPhone 3G now and the apps crashing and iPhone 3G needing restores is not nearly over yet.

    In fact, I now have a senior support engineer from AppleCare as my personal daily call or email for the last two weeks. I have an Executive Relations Director who now calls me by first name trying like hell to get to the bottom of the problems. Apparently, Steve Jobs does read his email. I am now one of the people giving them daily feedback, we talk often.

    So I guess the problems with iTunes, iPhone 3G and the 2.0.2 firmware DOES exists and it is NOT just 3G reception problems. Quitting apps and iPhone crashes are way more common than first realized. My girlfriend’s iPhone 3G also has crashed.

    The good point here is that Apple is trying very hard to fix these problems and it IS a big priority. They have already spent many many hours with me.

  13. Joe says:

    I have a black 16gig iPhone 3G and haven’t had many issues at all. Occasionally it needs a reboot when apps crash, but once the apple screen does it’s thing, everything is good. Thank God. Hopefully this post doesn’t jinx me and make my iphone die. The only thing I hate is when Apps update and they forget everything I’ve save on them. That is why YouNote sucks!

  14. Ethan says:

    *Claps hands*. Well, with my iPod Touch anyway.

  15. Before 2.0.2 my iPod Touch would crash any time I updated an appstore app and occasionally already in the backup state.

    I must be one of the luckier ones because after updating to 2.0.2 I have updated 8-9 apps and installed 3-4 extra and not had any problems yet.

    This *is* with a clean slate as starting point, reboot of iPod Touch before and after most iTunes syncs and after some hellish weeks in 2.0.1 land where my iPod didn’t last much more than a day or two at best. That was before I suspected the updating of apps to be the problem, though.

    As long as iTunes is far, far away from my iPod Touch, all is well — and apparently with 2.0.2 in my case, iTunes is OK again.

    I have deliberately set iTunes to not sync automatically *ever*. I manually back up when I feel like it. This has worked well for me, but may not be the cure for everyone.
    It probably isn’t, given the many variants of issues there seems to be….

    Just thought I’d mention it. You can see my frustrated tweets on twitter and the sigh of relieft this weekend when the updates did not crash my iPod, if you care to. Twitter name: martinm_76

  16. Shelby says:

    HELP!!!! A apple rep told me today that my problem is not a problem it’s just how it works BS!!! My husband and I both got the new iPhone 3g s. We brought them home and backed up all the data on our 3g. I called AT&T told them of the change, gave them the new IMEI numbers for each phone number, they told me all I had to do was put our sim cards in the new 3gs and activate the phone which will sync all apps, data in the apps and so on. I asked 3 times if I was going to lose ANY app data or anything for that matter and was told no! So I plugged my new phone in followed the instructions and all went well, so I thought. All my apps were there but all app data GONE! Games that my husband spent 2 months getting to level 100 were all lost apps were launching like they were brand new. I had a year of fertility & cancer data that I would share with my Dr ALL GONE! someone help! Two days prior I upgraded to 3.0 on old phones with no lost data & no problems what so ever. I’ve called AT&T & Apple and they tell me “they just don’t know” told me restore from backup should work? I DIDNT and I know it should bcs I have friends that had no problem. Someone tell me what to do..

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