iOS beta : a cautionary real-life tale of stupidity.

Every Spring, a small community that includes Apple software manufacturers, tech news reporters and enthusiasts, bloggers and various kinfolk descends upon the Bay Area landscape in California to attend the most coveted of Apple events : WWDC. The event typically discusses iOS software updates, but this year included much more. An exciting time, to say the least if you are a self proclaimed fanboy/fangirl.

I’ve not yet attended WWDC (though I am a registered developer and plan to if lucky enough!), but I am someone who pretty much owns one of every Apple device and I keep my eye on this stuff. I like to get my hands on new hardware or software to enhance my daily life. “How much easier can I make things with this new release?”, I often think to myself around this time of year. I’m voracious with my approach to any beta, whether it be an app, or the entire operating system. If there is a small nagging bug, I’ll find it. If there is a new feature that will allow me to automate or circumvent a tedious process, I’m there.

On June 5th, 1pm EST, it was “go time”. The WWDC 2017 event was about to stream live from San Jose. I opened up Safari on my MacBook Pro, and on one half of the screen followed the event, while on the other, my favorite event-reporting Twitter feed. What a couple of hours. I mean, Darth Vader was there. Fantastic!

Having the aforementioned developer account, I immediately turned to the Apple Developer page as the final seconds of Tim Cook’s smiling and waving waned on the web-streamed broadcast. I always love hearing the words, “…and it’s available today (to developers)” about the new iOS system.

After jumping on to the iPad page to order my new 12.9” iPad Pro 2 (the Bowers household’s annual “hand me down” Apple tech cycle is in full force, where I give my wife my year-old hardware and that trickles down to my in-laws), I eagerly went to the Apple developer site to download my copy of iOS 11!

Of developer beta 1.

On my primary iPhone.

Your move, iOS11.

Beta 1

I was amazed at the new features on the iPhone. Calling worked, Messages worked (these usually have been shown to have beta bugginess). Everything seemed fine! I was ensconced in iOS 11 goodness with my iPhone 7 Plus.

As I was waiting for the new iPad Pro to arrive, I downloaded iOS 11 onto my existing 9.7” iPad Pro, with which I run a financial business in my day job. You know, the job that provides my livelihood. Why not take a chance with the software and just install it. I could always roll it back to the stable iOS 10 if something went wrong with it, right?

Not two hours went by, and I ad installed iOs 11 onto my primary iPhone, iPad and now WatchOS 4 was being installed on my  Watch, and High Sierra was finishing up the setup on my MacBook Pro. All primary machines. All in.

I used this shiny new combo for the next three days. Everything went well. “Man, these people that warn about not installing new beta software on your primary devices are worried about nothing”, I laughed to myself as the arrogance was overcoming me.

Ahhh. Now I have all of the cool features that all the kids want. Oh – did I mention yet that I had to take a business trip in the coming week, and that in my arrogance I thought that I didn’t need to bring my MacBook – that the iPad and iPhone were good enough? Grab your coffee, kids. We’re in for a bumpy flight.

iPad experience in Chicago

I flew from Philadelphia to Chicago on a Sunday evening. Though the iPhone was often warm due to obvious bugs, I had chargers with me, so I was cool. I landed and got my Uber, and off to the hotel I went. Monday rolls around, and both the iPhone and iPad are performing just fine. I finish my daily meeting, and back to the hotel I go.

I fire up the new iPad, which had arrived before the trip. All of a sudden, I am greeted with the worst greeting screen…an unwelcome icon, worse even than the spinning beach ball :

Uh oh. The iPad won’t restart. I obviously need to restore it to get it working again. But I was so sure that iOS 11 would not fail me that I left the MacBook 750 miles behind.

Now what do I do?

I searched from my iPhone for a solution to this issue. There were various YouTube posts telling me how to restore the iPad or iPhone by holding down buttons for what seemed an inordinate amount of time. It seemed as if the sun and moon had to coalesce for me to get this proper entry into DFU (safety) mode on the iPad without a Mac. Nothing I was doing worked. I felt like Twin Peaks’ Special Agent Dale Cooper trying to find the entrance to The Black Lodge.

The realization that without a Mac to wipe and restore this brand new iPad, I was stranded for any note-taking that I wanted to do in the next day’s work session. I promptly booked a Genius Bar appointment in a Chicago suburb to see if I could use a Mac to restore both the iPad and iPhone, so as to have some parity in features. So the next day after work I went to the Apple Store to use their Mac and I was fully restored back to iOS 10 sanity, with a brand new, buttery smooth iPad, and a cool-to-the-touch iPhone.

Of course, my  Watch was now stuck in WatchOS 4, as Apple has a policy that you cannot roll back the watch operating system without their invention, via a Genius Bar appointment (they then have to send the watch back to an Apple repair tech and mail it back to the store upon completion). Seeing as I was not home, I decided that it was good enough to have the watch in Power Reserve mode for now, utilizing it as just a timepiece.


Beta 3

For the next few weeks, I stayed in iOS 10, High Sierra on the Mac, and Power Reserve on the watch. The fact that I knew that I was missing out on features that I had once already seen was starting to bug me when, finally, Apple released an iOS 11 beta update : iOS 11 Beta version 3.

I thought that surely by now Apple was able to work out all of the bugs in the first two rounds. The temptation to update was killing me. I waited a few days, and then…downloaded iOS 11 on the iPhone and iPad again. And updated WatchOS. By the way, I should mention that on WatchOS 4 beta 1, Siri was dictating everything like this : “Let’s Have Dinner Out Tonight. I Have Planned Something Special. ”, which looked like a ransom note entered by a serial killer as each word was capitalized. I found that in WatchOS 4 beta 3 this was fixed, so I was once again thinking all was right with the world. I continued using the betas for about another 10 days.

iPhone experience 2 hours before meeting

Ah, a sunny afternoon. There I was, walking down Market Street in Philadelphia, about to hop the train for a meeting in 2 hours when my phone started getting hot. I mean, it was 88º out, but this was abnormally hot. I restarted the phone.

I was greeted with the Apple sign, and then…you guessed it :

Oh no.

It happened again – no Mac near me to restore the iPhone (at least I was in the town of my residence, right?) At this point I have become a muscle-memory master of the restoration process, but a meeting was upcoming.

Thankfully, I used the iPad, which is my weekday workhorse, for the meeting. However, I work in finance, where I am always on the phone. For the next three hours this would totally hinder my work until I could get back home and restore.

WatchOS 3 or bust

I was able to restore my iPhone and iPad back to iOS 10, determined not to go back. For real. I finally determined that it was craziness to try and install betas on my primary machines, just as all of those people on the internet clamored about. But my watch and Mac were still stuck in “beta land”, and I had to get them out. I took care of rolling the Mac back to Sierra with a fresh install of the entire operating system and hard disk (after, of course, backing up to Time Machine).

But the problem of the Watch still existed. It was still on watchOS 4, and frankly, I didn’t want to be without my watch for a week as Apple rolled it back. I usually am carrying a coffee and a bag (a Tom Bihn Co-Pilot, which by the way, puts up with a beating) and use my watch a lot, so I did the next logical thing. I marched into Apple, bought a brand new  Watch Series 2, (identical to the one that was stuck in watchOS 4) and then sent out the older watch for restore while at Apple.

My wife was not that upset, as when I got the old watch back it supplanted her  Watch Series 0 (having had this since May 2015, it was time for an upgrade).

What did we learn?

What did this whole roller coaster ride of installing betas on primary machines cost me? Well, after spending $430.92 on a new watch, many hours restoring, trips to the Apple Store, and interrupting business…I have lost count.

I love my wife dearly, and recently entered into a contract as a result of the whole experience, which you can find time-stamped here:

I am happy to report that I am on iOS 10, Sierra, and WatchOS 3 – and everything just works.

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