iPhone 3GS to iOS6 just a year behind

iOS7 — the iPhone and iPad operating system is just a week or so away from release.
iOS6 has been out for around a year by now.
The other night, I finally updated my  iPhone 3GSyes, you read 3GS correctly and yes, it’s oldto iOS 6.
This is the story of why and of how it went.

The people who know me in the USA, know me as a tech person and would never expect me to be sporting an iPhone that’s this old. Indeed, if I’d remained in LA or in the US, working as I’d done prior to this trip, I’d have the latest Apple iPhone.
Here’s why:

When I left home in the summer of 2011 the current iPhone was the iPhone 4.  The iPhone 4S was soon released and I was still in the US, but I wasn’t going to be sticking around for the 2 years required by contracts in order to get the subsidized phone prices. I love the iPhone, but $1,000 or so for one wasn’t what I’d call a wise expenditure when I was heading off into unknown places to hike, sail, camp out and sleep in a wide variety of accommodations. At the time the 4S came out, I didn’t even know which countries I’d be going to or passing through but I did know I wouldn’t be in any for the duration of a contract. The alternative didn’t make much sense either. That is, getting a contract and continuing to pay the monthly bill didn’t make sense either as I’d be paying it for 1 1/2 years and not even using it. AT&T had a way to pay a reduced amount to retain my account while gone, but while that’s logical for a short trip of a few months, it wasn’t logical when gone over a year. Also, I am not sure that would have counted for a new phone.

iOS6 came out while I was traveling and I wanted to update but it was just too risky. I’d been robbed of my Mac and my other iPhone, so this 3GS was critical to me. I also lacked a Mac and wasn’t able to borrow one, so I’d have had no backup while attempting the update over wi-fi. (Plus, I wasn’t sure the phone would remain unlocked.)

The key is this: my 3GS ran perfectly well. It gave me a phone to use as I lived in and explored Central America. (I was able to legally unlock the iPhone 3GS, which was key.) It also worked perfectly well as my primary journal-keeping tool with PlainText and DropBox storing those pages. I had some important-to-me professional apps that worked well within the severe limitations of the iOS: FTP Client Pro, CodeAnywhere, Recorder Plus II. iCloud did an OK, not great or reliable job of keeping my calendar and contacts. And this iPhone gave me access to my 1Password files.

I did find the 3GS started to crash on a couple of TV-watching apps as this summer came around. (Easy enough to relaunch.) And I knew I wanted to be more up to date. So, updating was in my plans. I’d gotten my photos off, cleaned it up, etc, in preparation. It just wasn’t priority. And then AgileBits Software announced that their 1Password 3 would no longer sync via DropBox. This was the deal-maker for me. For those with a Mac handy, the sync-to-computer via wi-fi will help. But I am never going to put myself in the position of not having my passwords and important notes someplace secure and accessible. 1Password helped keep me sane when I was robbed — and it helped enable me to keep working as I traveled. I need 1Password to sync via DropBox.

So it was time to bite the bullet, shake the fear, back up my 3GS to my Mac (the one I still had safely at home while traveling), and click that Update button. I watched and waited, being sure to not shake the table and wiggle the cable that acted as lifeline between iTunes and iPhone.  It erased. It installed the update or was it the firmware. One verified, but one failed, despite three automatic attempts by iTunes. And then…

Oh no, error!

Oh no, error! Update failed!

Yep, the update failed. I now had a non-funtioning iPhone in Recovery Mode doing nothing but saying to connect to iTunes. I breathed deeply, on top of my long sigh, that is. I took a sip of water. I clicked More Information. Maybe the cable just didn’t maintain the connection. Moved the cable to the other port. I switched cables and USB ports and clicked Restore and Update.

Move to Recovery Mode...

Restore iPhone… Really no other choice.

And then I watched iTunes make multiple attempts until …

Another failure.

Another failure.

Yep, restore failure. This really couldn’t get any worse. Was I really looking at life without an iPhone? (Remember, I’m hitting the road again long before even close to completing a new two-year contract that would make a new iPhone affordable.)

The night turned to morning. I kept on pushing through, fighting fatigue. As “they” say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I did, swapping cables and ports, adding some more fervent prayers — and finally! — I saw a message of success.  I had a functioning iPhone 3GS again.

The first message of success.

The first message of success.

This phone had already been unlocked, but apparently it checks with the powers that be upon each total erase and reports this anew. I was able to breath again. And I don’t mean those long slow sighs. It was time to put the backed-up files back.

Ready to restore the backed-up files.

Ready to restore the backed-up files.

I am not sure if the update would have required so much deep effort on iTunes’ part if the phone had not been unlocked, but then again, I’d not have been updating if it hadn’t been.

At any rate, I report all this in order to remind you all that it’s worth trying again and again. This Apple hardware and software sure kept trying as long as I did. (I mean that; it makes multiple attempts.) When I’d done the initial unlock while standing at a demo Mac in Mexico, the process also required taking the phone totally down like this. That day I’d started as the store opened and barely finished in time for the store’s closing.

Now my good old travel pal — my iPhone 3GS — has yet another new life as I carefully select the apps that I’ll need for now and for my next trip. And I can run 1Password 4 and sync with DropBox again! App Store, here I come!

Still integrating my Mac since the theft:
I’m still dealing with a lot of confusion as the apps on my Mac’s iTunes account don’t reflect what I really had on the iPhone and my Mac’s contacts app and calendar isn’t synced with my iPhone, iPad, or iCloud because this Mac wasn’t part of my life for so long. I’ve been back at this Mac for some months now, so as you can see, I am taking each “back-to-normal” step slowly. (My first priority was having to review my websites line by line to get them back into shape in Dreamweaver too, because of Adobe’s validation limits.)

I still find the iPhone frustrating as far as what I believe it’s really capable of doing vs what Apple is letting it o, but it’s still a heck of a handy device.

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