iOS 4.3.3 isn’t going to give your iPhone any new features. It won’t give you any bragging rights the next time you’re comparing your smartphone to your friend’s Android or BlackBerry handset. But it might just give you some extra peace of mind, and keep Apple out of the courtrooms.
That’s because this update to Apple’s mobile operating system addresses a “bug” with how these devices (including the iPhone 3GS, 4, iPod Touch 3, 4 and iPad 1/2) collect and store information about their locations.
If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s what happened:
A few weeks ago, two researchers announced that Apple’s iOS devices were storing relatively large amounts of location information; that this information was being stored in an unencrypted fashion; and that this data was being copied to people’s computers every time they synced their device via iTunes. Most worrisome was that if you knew what you were doing, you could use this data to create a very accurate map of where the device’s owner had been over a period of time, which was up to 10 months in some cases.
Needless to say Apple was put in the hot seat over this and subsequently apologized for a bug in their software and promised to make the necessary changes.
Today they make good on that promise.
But is it a good thing?
Apple says in their description of the update, that it “reduces the size of the “crowd-sourced” location cache, no longer backs up the cache to iTunes, and deletes the cache entirely when a user turns Location Services off.” What this means, is that if you opt-out of all location-based services on your device, it will no longer keep a record of where you’ve been.
Take careful note of this statement: “By using any location-based services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its partners’ and licensees’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data and queries to provide and improve such products and services.”
This means that you agree to the collection and transmission of your location data even if you only use one location service-based app. The Maps app for instance, that comes standard with every i-device. I don’t know about you, but even if I turned off location services for every one of the apps I’ve installed since getting my iPhone, I’d still want Maps to show me where I am :-)
I hope that this update doesn’t in any way reduce the speed or the accuracy of the location-based services on the iPhone or other i-devices. I wasn’t upset about the data being kept on my phone and would happily allow it in return for a great user experience.
To update your i-Device with the latest OS, simply launch iTunes, plug in your gadget and follow the prompts.
Though the problem doesn’t appear to be affecting all iPhone 3G owners, a number of people have reported that since upgrading to iOS4, their phones can no longer connect to their carrier via 3G or EDGE. Other are saying that MMS capability has been knocked offline.
Apple has acknowledged these issues and has offered advice on how to fix the problems. But even after trying these recommendations, our video editor, Steve F. found himself with a phone that refused to connect.
Steve was among the first in Canada to upgrade his 2-year old iPhone 3G to Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS4. After completing the upgrade, he provided us with some of his thoughts on the process. To say he wasn’t impressed is an understatement. “If I could go back in time and make the decision to upgrade over again, I’d probably decide to keep my OS 3,” he lamented. But he chose to stick with iOS4 to see if the few improvements it offered him were worth the compromises.
Two weeks later, it happened. His iPhone wouldn’t connect to his carrier, Rogers Wireless.
“At first I though it was something I had done”, he said. Steve, who is very familiar with the inner workings of the iPhone, might have been more freaked out by the incident, but as luck would have it, a friend of his had experienced the same problem a few days before hand. He called Steve to see if his problem was unique. “Turns out [he] wasn’t alone,” said Steve.
Frustrated by the fact that Apple’s remedies weren’t correcting the issue, Steve reached out to the web and found a possible fix on appletoolbox.com. Unfortunately, this option is of the thermonuclear variety: Doing a full restore of your iPhone using the “setup as a new phone” choice. Such a drastic measure results in all of the data being wiped clean, with no way to bring it back. Your downloaded apps are still available within iTunes to re-sync to your phone, but any data those apps might have saved locally including contacts, high-scores, or favourites are gone forever. It turns out that in these cases, simply doing a routine restore procedure doesn’t purge the bad data that causes the connectivity issue in the first place.
Ultimately, Steve did perform the full restore and found that doing so brought back his 3G connection as promised. And though he did lose all of his data, there was a silver lining: His iPhone 3G now runs iOS4 very quickly – much faster than it did after performing the original upgrade.
Has this made Steve a fan of Apple’s iOS4?
“No. I’m still frustrated,” he responds. Despite the improved speed of his now-squeaky-clean iPhone, he feels let down by the lack of advantages offered by the OS for iPhone 3G owners.
“I just don’t see the point.”
Readers: have you been caught unawares by a recent iPhone upgrade? If not, has this cautionary tale persuaded you to stick with your current OS? Let us know.