What's wrong with your iPhone 3G?

Iphone3g_issuesI guess using the iPhone 3G as a tombstone on launch day set a self-fulfilling prophecy into action because I'm pretty much on the verge of killing and burying mine. Even though I turned my first-gen iPhone into an iPod touch after 5 months of use (I gave its SIM to my AT&T Tilt) and only planned to use the iPhone 3G for a few months before replacing it with the XPERIA X1, I didn't expect to be counting down the days before it wasn't my daily-use handset anymore.

The iPhone's screen size and internet experience are definitely superior to the Tilt, but my god, the instability. Even the newest software update (2.0.2) is still the most unstable and unreliable OS I've ever used, not just on a phone but on any device. It crashes and freezes even more than Windows Me! Look at my home screen, for example: stuck between two pages in an unresponsive no man's land.

Excluding phone usage, I use my iPhone 3G throughout the day for maybe about 1 to 1.5 hours total. I don't use any of the multimedia capabilities (I like dedicated DAPs with better sound quality for that), so if I'm not using the iPhone as a phone, I'm either browsing the web, using the App Store, or playing a third-party game. At least one of these applications crashes every single day.

I haven't experienced any of the 3G problems plaguing other users' iPhones, but I think I'd rather have poor reception or network issues than a crash-happy device that sometimes can't even be reset. Once the phone even got locked in an unprovoked vibrating frenzy that lasted nearly 10 minutes before it would let me turn it off.

Here are some screenshots (I do love the built-in screenshot function) of the kinds of things I see on my iPhone 3G every day.




The App Store, lovely as it can be, often either loads incompletely (no images), doesn't load at all, or shows conflicting information in the Updates section. Speaking of updates, why can't the icons stay where they're supposed to on the home screen after an update? Oh, and there should also be a sort option in the store to view apps by date added, price, and ratings.


This is the Calendar. I don't really use it for anything so I don't access it often, but this is the screen that often greets me when I do.


Ah, another example of the "stuck between two pages" phenomenon mentioned at the top of this post. You can see from the timestamp on both screenshots that they weren't taken in succession. The white dot above the dock shows that I'm on page 3 of my home screen, but that's actually page 2 you're looking at. The three half icons you see on the right side are on page 3.


What I see most often is this black screen. Instead of restarting the iPhone or kicking back to the home screen, crashed applications usually send me to this Black Abyss. Sometimes it stays like this for a few minutes before relaunching the crashed app (and if it was Safari, then the website is always wrong), but usually the loading icon at the top just spins and spins and spins until I force the device to shut down.

When the iPhone 3G actually works like it's supposed to, I genuinely like using it for killing time and getting online while on the go. Other handheld devices offer more capable browsers (e.g., UMPCs, Intel MIDs, Nokia ITTs, etc.), but Safari on the iPhone is great when I want to the leave the house with nothing but my phone. The severely limited Bluetooth capabilities annoy me, but I can work around them with my tetherable Tilt and HTC Advantage until the XPERIA X1 comes out (whenever that is!). The iPhone's @#$!% instability, on the other hand, is something I won't be able to stand for much longer.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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19 thoughts on “What's wrong with your iPhone 3G?

  • I think imma try the Touch Pro considering how long it’s gonna take for the Xperia to come out. Have you thought about trying that out?

  • I haven’t heard anything about when the Touch Pro might come out with AT&T, have you? It’s due next week with Sprint, I think, but aside from the rumored fact that the “AT&T Fuze” (I wonder what SanDisk thinks about that name) exists, the carrier and phone haven’t been in the news together very much. I did a comparison table between the two phones a few months ago and still liked the X1 better.

    But you’re right. It’s taking so long that the Touch Pro is worth a look.

  • I’m actually really shocked, considering the ravings the iPhone seems to get, and the fact that people always say that OS X is superior to Windows in everyway.

    Is it just me, or does this perhaps raise a few questions about what is happening at Apple? The iPod classic was buggy and unresponsive (unlike the iPod 5Gen) when it came out – for example, the problems with the scroll wheel being sluggish – and now the new iPhone. And you’re not alone – Chris Pirillo reported similar problems to you.

    Before I got my iPod I was always under the illusion that Apple products “just worked”.

  • Jenn, your experience sounds worse than average. That said, I think there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes. The last firmware update seems to be an attempted fix for some kind of 3G network vulnerability that ATT and Apple didn’t account for prior to launch. There are problems with 3G connectivity that should not be present with a strong wifi connection. The faulty 3G network problems result in lots of app crashing in data streaming apps. There are lots of rumors but few official statements, but a lot of resources are being put into a fix for the networking problems.

    If you use iTunes at home, check out the Controller app. I stream music to it as often as I can using Tuner or LastFM; Pandora Radio is very popular, of course. Simplify Media’s app is also good. All these apps used to run perfectly for me before update 2.0.2, but now the 3G network problems make them crash. I use them anyway, though.

    Apple has a lot on its plate. They’re essentially turning their system inside out. They started with a music player and a music playing/ripping/synchronization application. Then they added a store, then video. With the iPhone 1st generation, they added some phone functions like ringtones and a direct-to-device iPhone/iPod Touch iTunes store. With the iPhone 3G, not only did they put apps on the iPhone and Touch OS and an App store, they also are trying to turn the old .Mac into a push email, data synchronization multi-platform and iPhone service, and support for phones in 55 countries or whatever. IMO, they should completely re-think the iTunes app; its organization was fine for media functions, but it doesn’t make sense to turn it into a phone synchronization app on top of that.

    Also IMO, Apple is having some kind of organizational problem specifically with ATT, maybe a dispute but at least a real problem around the 3G networking parameters around which firmware v2.0 was constructed, or around ATTs mis-management of its ability to provide 3G network resources. They have admitted publicly that they haven’t had and probably still don’t have any means of accurately monitoring the functioning of their 3G network.

  • Practically, I’ve seen in the support forums that if you’re having stability problems, backing up the phone and then restoring it may help. As for back-ups, the speed of back up seems to be dependent on the slowest device on the USB bus. I was skeptical, but I unplugged my keyboard and plugged it into my monitor’s USB port, leaving my computer’s front USB ports free except for the iPhone. The back-up was much faster.

  • Avatar of HG/ElCamino

    I have the iPhone 2G and only use it for all the features except phone. I also haven’t updated to the new 2.0.2 I have it unlocked and jailbroken and like the phone that way. Jenn about the Sony Xperia didn’t that get delayed because of Mobile 6.1 not running correctly on it?

  • Avatar of jean Pierre

    Jenn do you know what is happening to the SE Xperia x1: following this info from Mobifrance it has been delayed up to the end of 2008 or even 2009( bugs, freezing, crashes)…..!!!

    If it wasn’t bad enough…you can hear rumors of separation between Sony and Ericsson….!!!!???

    I considered this Phone to replace my MotoMing, but now i am now thinking to add a very efficient notetaker to my phone( Sharp D4 ) but seeing their use of thirld world…and “third hand batteries”, i am considering a far safer Zaurus which can be set in french through Mapping Accents or Gaim ::: and last forever, compared this Stone Aged battery lifetime.


  • This article is one of the rare description that fits my experience with the iPhone 3G. Although I haven’t had the chance of upgrading it to 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 (another story by itself, no more iPhone). In my experience with many platforms of computers and small devices, this is the most unstable so far I have ever seen. I thought Windows Mobile and PocketPC were unstable, but nothing can keep up with the iPhone 3G in its unstability. Worse, the unix os boots a lot slower than WM and other small devices (on par with the Nokia Internet Tablet, running Linux), so it takes a lot of time to recover (and only if you notice it). I have missed many phone calls because of this.

  • Avatar of orbitalcomp

    Sorry to hear about your problems with your 3G, Jenn. I have actually had the exact opposite experience with mine, it has been great. No reception problems, no 3G problems, no app crashes besides Safari every once in a while when I have too many windows open.

    I have tried not to go overboard and install every app I can find, only the ones I know I will use consistently. My phone is not jailbreaked, I’m just using it the way Apple intended.

    Does it have every feature I want? Not even close, but Safari is so much better than any other mobile browser, it’s not even funny. I wish it had Flash, but maybe in the future it will.

    I am very happy with my 3G so far, even with its limitations compared to my other phones that have so mnay more features. Also, I’m like you, I don’t even use the iPod portion at all because I am hooked on Pandora and I use my ibiza Rhapsody for my DAP listening.

  • @ Jamie: Oh my, Chris Pirillo’s problems are much worse than mine!

    @ HG: Yes, I believe that was part of the issue. News today, though, indicates that the X1 is still on track for a Q4 release. I hope that’s true because I don’t want to wait until January!

    @ orbital: I’m glad your iPhone has better genes than mine does. Safari crashes on me when I just have ONE windows open. Do you know how much RAM the iPhone has? I’ve only found conflicting info on this and have recently been seeing the “low memory warning” message. There needs to be some sort of force quit setting that really closes an app when it’s closed (it keeps it running in the background for a bit, doesn’t it?).

  • Avatar of orbitalcomp

    Jenn, you can force quit running apps on the iPhone, but you have to do them individually. Go to the particular app and hold down the Home button for at least 6 seconds, this will return you to the home screen and release the memory being used.

    I know this works for Safari, but it should also work for most other apps that keep running in the background, like Mail. Many apps do fully quit as soon as you return to the home screen.

    Maybe you have more stuff running in the background that is zapping your phone’s resources? It’s worth a try to see if this helps, and it sure is quicker than a power cycle.

  • Avatar of Bruno

    Hi Jenn,

    I am sorry to hear about your trouble with the iPhone. I have to say that mine has been quite stable (I have come across a website or too that, when opened in Safari, will slow the phone to a halt so I have to restart it, but that is pretty much it).
    This may be due to the fact that I am quite picky with the applications I install – I had installed an app that was causing trouble so I deleted it and all is good now.
    Having said that, my fiancee has a Touch Pro (after having used HTC Diamond) and it is a wonderful little toy. I was lukewarm about Xperia to start with and now having played with the Touch Pro I see no reason to wait for Xperia at all!


  • Avatar of cobalt

    Jenn, after thinking about it, I would suggest exchanging your iPhone 3G for a new model and seeing if that works better. They might suggest what I suggested earlier: doing a full back up and a full restore. But, if I were an Apple employee and met someone blogging about an Apple product, I’d give you a new phone and hope it worked better.

  • orbital, your well of tips/tricks just never runs dry! I had no idea apps could be force quit like that. I’m going to do it all the time from now on. I’d rather have an option in the settings to see what’s still running in the background and close whatever I want to manually, as the 6-second minimum feels quite long, but this is definitely better than nothing. Thanks for the tip! :-)

  • @ Bruno: I’m definitely warming up to the Touch Pro (I didn’t like it very much before), but if the XPERIA really isn’t going to be delayed until Jan 2009, then I want to wait for it. There are so many gadgets coming out that I’m interested in right now that I need to be more careful about my spending. I’ve been a tad reckless lately, so the current price of an unlocked Touch Pro (around $900 or so, I think) isn’t sitting very well with my gadget budget. BTW, I thought your fiancee was using an iPhone 3G too?

    @ cobalt: Good idea. I think I may have to do that if the problems get worse. I’m hoping that force quitting every single app I launch will help matters.

  • Avatar of Bruno

    @ Jenn: She does use an iPhone 3G, we both do, but we are way past the stage where one (or two) mobile phones were enough for us :-)
    I rather like the iPhone but I have to say that I have been very impressed with the Touch Pro. It is a nice little device and the screen is by far the best I have seen on a smartphone!

  • Iphone can’t do MMS so I miss out on a lot of pics sent to my phone they go into the abyss. The senders think I have received them. Email client is nice but not many cell phone users can send email and if they do there is no way for me to save the pics I get in email. (No cut and paste function). Can’t pop out the battery and put it back in when the device locks up. Does not accept memory cards. Cant forward text messages. Can’t connect to YouTube any more no matter how I try.
    The silence switch breaks easily and gets moved by accident often.
    Send button too small when sending text. No flash on camera. No Video.
    Comes locked to AT&T.


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