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All too eager to get cut and paste and a few other new features on my iPhone, I downloaded the latest 3.0 upgrade from iTunes not long after it was released.

However, after something like an hour of waiting, and just as the download was about to be completed, I get an error message on iTunes, and my iPhone screen looked like this:

iPhone error

I wasn't the only one: a quick Twitter search revealed that plenty of other users were experiencing the same problem, and nobody had a clue how to solve it.

The obvious answer was to head for Apple.com to find out what the error message meant, and how it could be fixed. However, Apple had completely failed to anticipate the problem.

A search on the iPhone support page for the specific error message drew a blank, so I searched for the more generic term 'unknown error occurred' and got this:

Apple support fail

With thousands of users expected to download the software update, you might think Apple would be ready to provide some online support in case of such problems, but even an hour or so after people starting having these problems, there was nothing on the website.

I was sent this link on Twitter a couple of hours later, from the Apple site, which does address the issue, but why did it not come up as a search result?

Also, though there is a link to the 3.0 software upgrade from the iPhone support page, you just get this list of new features, where it should link to the troubleshooting page.

Apple knew that thousands would be eager to get the latest upgrade, and that there was the potential for problems, so why they could not have anticipated such issues and provided clearer support on their website? Or else it could have had someone monitoring Twitter and responding directly to customer concerns.

This is something a lot of companies could do better, as customers will turn to a website for support and information when there is a major issue, and providing effective support and information online here can reduce pressure on stores and call centres.

In my case, rebooting my laptop and connecting to iTunes again solved the problem, but I wasted a lot of time looking for support from Apple when it should have been much easier to find.

Graham Charlton

Published 18 June, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

From the traffic that was going through Twitter about this, I think it was closer to hundreds of thousand of people that were trying to update last night without any luck.  With little information in support, many people were worried they might have bricked their phones.

I can't believe Apple didn't anticipate the demand for this update.  Good news is, it helped me make up my mind which to go for next month, an iPhone or Android handset :)

about 7 years ago

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Greg Power

Granted, Apple should've anticipated the demand, but surely common sense dictates that when an upgrade like this is released, it'se sensible to wait a day or two? I'm sure I can survive a little longer without copy and paste or MMS.

about 7 years ago

Jim Stevenson

Jim Stevenson, Managing Director at Bletchley GroupSmall Business

I understand your frustrations, I've had some with Apple but much more with HP, although many people have had good experience with HP, I think it is just your luck.  

More importantly is how a company goes about fixing these issues and I agree, from what I have read, Apple have been a little poor there.

Having said that I upgraded my iPhone last night without any problems.

about 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Perhaps I was a bit too hasty, and I'll be more patient next time, but if Apple is going to provide these upgrades then it should anticapate demand and provide support.

about 7 years ago

Jim Stevenson

Jim Stevenson, Managing Director at Bletchley GroupSmall Business

I completely agree, Apple generated the buzz around the OS3.0, as well as everything else, so they should know what the demand is and gear up for it.

about 7 years ago

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Rich

Updated mine with no problems too - 10-15 minutes and sorted!

about 7 years ago

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AdamC

it could be a problem with the modem or the router which for a brief moment stop working and then restart itself. 

I have this problem with my Linksys wireless router and the download will stop for no reason and the download menu will inform me that the download is completed but only with half the data.

about 7 years ago

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

At the risk of sounding like a smug person, i'm happy to say it was a seamless process for me.

I'm just really glad they've made these changes and turned this into the piece of kit we all deserve.

i forwarded a text message this morning - it felt good!

about 7 years ago

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Mook

it happened the same thing to me yesterday night trying to update my 3G to 3.0.

 has this screen (slide for emergency), started to panik, but i pulled off the usb plus and pulled in again on the computer and the iphone restarted without any problems and with OS3.0!!!

did you try that?

cheers from paris!

PS: thx for the blog!

about 7 years ago

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Kenneth Cutts

I needed to buy a replacement iPhone 3G on the day of the 3GS launch because I lost mine the night before.  Following instructions from an email that I could pick it up at any Apple store, I decided to join the throngs of people waiting in line for their new 3GS's (which was an interesting time so I don't regret it).

The possibility of getting the newer 3GS came to light when the store employees were confirming reservations down the line as the store began to open.  I explained I was buying the older phone, and two employees sifting through the people in line, and on separate occasions, said that I'd get to buy the 3GS if I purchased my original between July and September 2008 (which I had).  They also said I would be able to get the 3GS for $199 – all I had to do was talk to anyone inside. 

But the Apple Store employees quoted me an incorrect price (there's a technicality on how much your monthly bill is) on the new 3GS, and multiple attempts to set up a new phone they locked my account (meaning I'd have to jump through more hoops JUST to get any phone), and the best part is that the 3GS they were going to sell me wasn’t even allowable since the quantity in the store "needed to match those on hand for the reservations people made."  They also could not find my 3G purchase and since they locked my account I wouldn't have been able to buy one if they had.

So you're asking why this is a problem?  Bait and switch tactics.  They wanted to get me in the door, tell me whatever and then spring a $400+ surprise on me.  I’m very disappointed in my customer service experience at the SoHo Apple store. 

Here’s a link to my full story “No Go for iPhone at NYC SoHo Apple Store; A Series of Unfortunate iPhone Events”:

http://www.kencutts.com/myarticles/NOGOtoSOHOapple.html

about 7 years ago

Sonia Kay

Sonia Kay, Consultant at 120 Feet

I won't bore with war and peace, but iPhone or not I have been totally disappointed with the customer service I have received from Apple when I was purchasing a laptop recently.    An utterly painful experience where the offline left hand and the online right hand clearly belonged to completely different people, and they certainly didn't have a clue about what each other were doing.

Perhaps its not possible for these cute niche brands that we grow to love to retain all those great qualities when they expand into a super behemoth of a consumer machine?  Discuss?

about 7 years ago

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TJohnson

I found this while searching for info on Apple customer support.  I have been without a working comptuer for over a month.  My replacemnt most recenlty shipped to wrong address and now is back in China and I can not get a call or email returned.  I got lots of empathy but no one empowered to do anything when I do get a person.

Any idea on how to escalate to a manager or higher with Apple ?

about 7 years ago

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Frustrated Mary

I bought my computer in February 2007 and when Apple geniuses talk to me, they call my computer an "older computer."  Come on - Am I supposed to buy anew computer every year??? I bought the extended warranty -good thing.  The Apple Store has replaced my main logic board and the power supply, but I still had problems with the computer.  Brought the computer back in and it has been sitting in the back room of the computer store for over a week.  They just called to say, it will be another "48 to 72 hours" before they can fix it.  I have basically been without my computer for about a month now.  I don't want to hear another "Gotcha", "Absolutely", or "Awesome!"  The best was, "It's just as frustrating for us"  Oh, I bet it is...
Just fix it and get it back to me in good working order.  Is that too much to ask?  Evidently, yes.

about 7 years ago

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