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An Unhappy Customer

November 17th, 2011 - 8:21 am

The following appears exactly as I posted it just minutes ago to Apple’s iCloud feedback page. It isn’t pretty.

If you’re using iCloud to keep on online backup of your iOS device — STOP! Put your backup back on iTunes where it might — might — do you some good.

My copy of iTunes ran into a problem with my iPad, and I was advised to wipe my iPad and restore from iCloud. Well, fine, that’s what iCould is for, yes? Here are the problems I encountered, in order. And please remember that everything I went through, was done by Apple, by design. None of this was by mistake.

1. iCloud restore takes forever, even with a fat internet connection and 811N WiFi. About 12 hours, all in all. Keep in mind, that was about 18GB worth of apps. I have no idea how long it would take to refill a 64GB iPad. Supermodels will grow beards before that gets done.

2. Let’s say you’ve had a full day of work and then dinner and then tucked in your kids, and by now your iPad is fully restored. OK, maybe it’s fully restored by now, if you had a long dinner and a second bottle of wine. Now, it’s time to put your music and photos back on your iPad, right? FOR GOD’S SAKE, NO!!! Whatever you do, do not — do NOT — plug your iPad into iTunes. Because iTunes will very thoughtfully erase every single one of your apps. Yes: All of them. Erased.

3. Restore from iCloud AGAIN. That’s another day I’m not getting back.

4. Naturally, I called AppleCare to find out what had gone wrong. Why must I choose that iTunes give my either my apps or my media, but not both, after an iCloud restore?

5. First, I spent three phone calls dealing with AppleCare’s “intelligent” voice assistant. He’s very wordy, and doesn’t like being interrupted, even when you already know the answer. He’s like the econ teacher in Ferris Bueller, only less engaging. Also, he’s very hard of hearing. I work in broadcasting, have near-perfect diction when I choose, and could not make “him” understand even half of my answers. Twice I hung up so I could start fresh. The third time I finally made it understand — and was sent to the wrong department. I believe at Apple, this is what they say “just works.”

6. At long last, I spoke to “Jason,” whose name I’ve left completely the same to expose the incompetent. Jason’s idea of “helping” me, was to insist that I re-download each app individually, by hand, from the App Store. I explained to Jason — first softly, then eventually by yelling — that what he was suggesting wasn’t just a huge timesuck, but that it would also mean losing every single bit of precious personal data from each and every one of my apps. Trust me, I am not that anxious to begin Angry Birds anew from Level 1-1.

7. Having quickly soared far above Jason’s level of competence and then into the lofty heights of wanting to strangle him to death with a live mongoose, I demanded to talk to a supervisor.

8. My demand resulted in 30 minutes of Hold music, followed by being hung up on.

9. Yippee! It’s time for Round Four of Steve Versus the “Intelligent” Voice Assistant!

10. After two tries, the “intelligent” voice assistant put me through to LaTanya, who may or may not have been in the iPad department. I have no idea, because I very quickly explained my situation and that I needed to speak to a supervisor. LaTanya seemed lovely and, above all, competent. She put me through to Annie in short order and stayed on the line with me to make sure I didn’t get disconnected again. In my heart, I think of LaTanya as “the anti-Jason.”

11. It took a while, but Annie was able to explain that, yes, if you restore from iCloud, then iTunes will erase all of your apps unless you take some very specific steps. “Why?” I asked. There was no answer to that one, not even a bad answer.

12. First, you have to find the secret box to check, that says, “Prevents iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically.” Apparently, “not syncing” in this case means “not erasing.” But that doesn’t mean you’re finished — oh, no!

13. Because if you want to put little things on your iPad — little things like your music and videos and pictures, oh my! — then you’re going to have to jump through a few more hoops.

14. Hoop #1: Plug your iPad into iTunes, first triple-checking that you checked the box mentioned in Item 12.

15. Hoop #2: Hand-check each app that you want to keep on your iPad, in the little scroll box of apps that appears in iTunes. I have about 400 apps, 250 of which go on my iPad. I hope I check all the ones I need and none of the ones I don’t, but my hopes aren’t high. Also, if you forget to check a box, then VOOM! goes your personal data for that app. And there’s no getting it back.

16. Hoop #3: Did you get everything right in the last Hoop? Are you sure? OK, go ahead and press Sync, but say a little prayer first. I know I did. Now, I want you to marvel at the fact that your 250 apps no longer appear in all the nice, neat folders you made for them! Presto, change-o, it’s like giving your iPad to a spiteful eight-year-old. Only it isn’t a spiteful eight-year-old, it’s just iTunes!

17. This is really just a continuation of Hoop #3, but go ahead and re-arrange every single one of your apps into folders again. Do you have a good memory? Good enough to remember where 250 apps went, what their folders were named, and where those folders were located? Yeah, me neither.

18. Realize that you’ve been at this, on and off, for 48 hours, and that your iPad STILL isn’t back where it was when you backed it up.

Think about that: You just spent 48 hours almost-but-not-quite fixing your iCloud backup.

This is the single worst customer support issue of my adult life, and I was once a Dell owner.

iCloud is so bad, that if Steve Jobs were alive today, he would die.

ONE MORE THING: I just now discovered something. Yes, it’s another Hoop! How did you guess? Anyway, if you’re trying to redo all your folders in iTunes instead of directly on your iPad: DON’T. If you leave the iPad tab for any reason without hitting “sync” first, all your changes will come undone. I just lost 40 minutes worth of work.

OH FER CRYIN’ OUT LOUD: I know I said not to do this, but I just spent another 20 minutes or so in iTunes, putting all my apps back into folders for syncing back to my iPad where the apps were already in folders, but — oh, never mind. Anyway, I got everything organized and clicked “Sync.”

Very thoughtfully, iTunes noticed that I’d missed re-adding a few apps. It told me I could go ahead and sync, but that I’d lose some data. It even told me which apps were missing. Well, I didn’t want to miss any data, so I clicked cancel to go back and re-add those apps.

And when I clicked cancel, iTunes very thoughtfully undid all my work and I had to start from scratch. Again.

So I’d like to amend that mean thing I said about Steve Jobs a little while ago. Instead, I’d like to say: If Steve Jobs were alive today, we would pronounce iCloud “crap” and publicly humiliate the entire iCloud team.

Then he would die.

FINALLY: What Apple needs to do right.

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