How I Spent My Weekend (Hint: Technology Still Hates Me)

I have no news on the knitting front, because for the past several days I haven’t done any knitting. Instead I have been getting to know my new iPhone 5. The initial introduction did not go well.

On Wednesday we picked up our new phones from the Verizon store. My mother and I got iPhone 5s (hers a 16 GB, mine a 64 GB), and for a mere $1 my sister upgraded from her regular phone to her first smartphone – an iPhone 4. As soon as we got home we hunted down our Wi-Fi network password (I intelligently wrote it down for future reference – it’s almost like I knew it would be important later…), connected to our Wi-Fi network, and proceeded to download apps to play with. My sister and I both decided the My Little Pony app was our first priority, so off we went to play Ponies.

Approximately 8 hours later (yes I played Ponies for that long – don’t judge) I got a text alert informing me that I had used 50% of my allotted data for the month. Alarmed, I exited Ponies and checked my Wi-Fi connection on the phone. Sure enough it was no longer connected to Wi-Fi and had been using data to play Ponies for god knows how long. It hadn’t simply dropped my Wi-Fi connection though, it had entirely forgotten it. I had to re-enter the password and everything to get connected again.

After that I continued to play Ponies, but now I had a purpose. Every few minutes I returned to the home screen to check the status of my wireless connection. In the space of several hours I had to re-enter the Wi-Fi network password at least 3 times. When my mother came home from work she had to re-enter the Wi-Fi password too. Any time one of us turned off the phone and turned it back on we had to pull out that piece of paper with the password and enter it yet again. We checked in with my sister who reported zero problems with her iPhone 4 and cackled with glee at our troubles with our shiny new expensive iPhone 5s. Any time my mother or I complained her response would be to declare “Mine was a dollar!” while grinning maniacally. I think I deserve a medal for not punching her.

It didn’t seem to be a problem with our wireless network. My sister’s phone was working fine, my BlackBerry had worked fine the day before as had my mother’s Android. My laptop had no trouble connecting to the internet, neither did the Wii or the PS3. It was JUST the iPhone 5s. What the balls was going on? I Googled to see if anyone else was having trouble with Wi-Fi on their iPhone 5s and found that we were definitely not alone. Of course Apple has yet to actually admit to the problem, but thousands of customers can’t be wrong. Many theories about what could be causing the problem are floating around (including that iPhone cases are to blame which certainly doesn’t apply in our scenario since our cases have yet to arrive from Amazon), but the fact remains that the iPhone 5 seems to have trouble connecting to, staying connected to, and/or remembering it ever connected to Wi-Fi networks.

Since we bought our phones from Verizon we started by directing our calls there. The rep I talked to had heard about problems like this with the iPhone 5 and ended up connecting me to an AppleCare rep after promising to reimburse us for the extra data we’ve been using. The AppleCare rep gave us some homework to do so we could pinpoint whether the problem truly was the phone or if it had something to do with our wireless network.

We spent all day Saturday dutifully completing our homework. We restarted our router and modem, we turned off our phones and turned them back on, we turned off the wireless on the phones and turned it back on…no change. We then went scouting to see if other wireless routers produced the same result.

We went to Starbucks to test their free Wi-Fi. I played Ponies while enjoying their new Vanilla Spice Latte and was booted off their Wi-Fi no less than three times.

Starbucks

We went to Barnes & Noble where I admired their Game of Thrones display and could barely hold a Wi-Fi signal for more than a minute.

Barnes & Noble

We went to my boyfriend’s house to watch him brew up some homemade root beer for us and I was kicked off their Wi-Fi at least once an hour.

Root Beer

In every one of these locations my mother’s phone exhibited problems as well, but not nearly as often as I did. The problem was NOT our wireless router. When we returned home we re-entered our Wi-Fi password (now memorized) and awaited the callback from AppleCare to report our findings.

This time the AppleCare rep had new instructions for us: we needed to restore our iPhones. Seemed like an odd thing to have to do with phones that are only a few days old, but we complied. I followed the instructions for backing up the phones, restoring them to new condition, and then restoring the backups. The restore on my phone went smoothly. My mother’s did not. Her phone seemed to insist that the backup could not be restored without a valid iCloud email address…which she had. Oddly enough the few pictures and what-not that she DID have on her phone were restored just fine, the only thing missing were the apps she had downloaded. While in the middle of trying to resolve the weird iCloud issue the AppleCare rep attempted to put me on hold and hung up on me instead. He did try to call me back twice, but every time I answered nothing happened. When I tried to call the AppleCare number it said their offices were closed. So that ended that “helpful” consultation.

After all of that, there was still no change. We were still having to re-enter our wireless password any time we left the house or turned the phones off.

Several hours later we seemed to enter a new circle of technology hell when my mother’s missing apps mysteriously appeared on MY phone while it wasn’t even connected to the computer. WTF?! Surely this was iCloud at work, but how? We have two separate iCloud accounts…

Sometime during the chaos of Saturday we also discovered that our wireless printer doesn’t want anything to do with my MacBook. I can print stuff, but only if I plug the printer directly into my laptop. If I ever want to print things wirelessly from my laptop, or if we want to print things from our phones EVER, we need a new printer. Fabulous.

Sunday. A new day, with a new call to AppleCare. I once again had to re-hash the entire history of our phone problems with a new AppleCare rep despite having a case number (what the hell are those for if not to prevent having to re-tell everything?) and for added fun, before I even had a chance to describe the problems the rep tried to sell me additional AppleCare coverage. I told him as politely as possible to shove it. After listening to his helpful suggestions to try turning the phones on and off again and try restoring the phones and perhaps our wireless network was to blame I informed him that all of these things had been attempted and unless the Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and another household’s wireless was ALSO to blame, the common denominator here was the iPhone 5. Finally he conceded that perhaps the phones needed to be replaced and how odd that BOTH phones are doing this. He made an appointment for us at the Apple store (30 minutes away, mind you) and off we went.

Apple Store

At the Apple Store we had to endure yet another round of Apple employees trying to figure out how they can avoid replacing our phones. This time it was the added charm that the employee absolutely refused to accept that there was any problem whatsoever with the product, that our TWO phones were simply a fluke and all of those customers complaining ON THE APPLE FORUMS are just trolls. They were able to replace my mother’s phone right then and there, but since mine is a speshul snowflake 64 GB they have to order my replacement.

Knowing there were some oddities involved with restoring my mother’s back-up I brought my laptop with me so we could do the restore right then and there and get some help when things started to go wrong. Trouble was, when the iCloud backup started to go awry the “helpful” Apple employee proclaimed that his next appointment was here and just left us! Awkwardly for him, his next appointment was sitting across the table from us, so we got to harass him until he brought out someone else to finish his job. The next person was immeasurable more helpful, but we’re still a bit mystified about what exactly went wrong. At least now we have some work-arounds to use which should (hopefully) prevent it from happening again.

We returned home, mom with a brand new iPhone 5, and me stuck with my (4 day) old iPhone 5. We connected her new phone with to our wireless network. Then, holding our breath, we turned her phone off and turned it back on again. And we waited. And waited. And waited. We waited more than five minutes after it finished restarting and still it had not recognized our wireless network. She had re-enter the password AGAIN. Could it really be that all THREE iPhone 5s we have been in contact with are faulty? Or is it just ALL of them?

Among the rumors floating around the internet about what may be causing this epic Wi-Fi failure are rumors for how it can be fixed. One rumor that seemed to hold the most weight and logic behind it was that while the problem really isn’t the wireless router, that these phones really should not be so sensitive that they can’t interact with the majority of routers out in the world, perhaps they would have a lot less trouble communicating with an Apple router. Since it is an Apple product it would be beyond ridiculous if it wouldn’t work with an Apple router, and certainly they would have tested their product with their routers (though it appears that is where their testing stopped).

We barely had enough room in the budget to upgrade to these phones and running out to buy a $100 router was not part of that budget. Nevertheless, we were so desperate to make this nightmare stop that we had resorted to throwing money at the problem. Mom went out on a mission to find an Apple wireless router (pretentiously named AirPort Express Base Station cause it’s the fuuuuuuuuture). Online Best Buy claimed it was in stock at our local store, but of course it wasn’t. The Best Buy iPhone “specialist” then confirmed to her that the iPhone 5 had a serious flaw that Apple had not yet admitted to. The “specialist” also said that getting a new router wouldn’t help (and really, they are there to sell stuff, so telling her NOT to buy something is very telling) and that we would probably be better off returning the phones and getting something else. After taking a break to sob uncontrollably in the car my mother returned and ventured into the interior of the mall to visit “The Mac Store” to see if they carried this elusive AirPort Express Base Station. They did. After being reassured that it could be returned for a full refund if this did not resolve the problem she bought it and returned home.

New Router

I spent several hours swearing like a sailor while trying to get the router set up and finally triumphed. Once a new wireless connection had been established, mom turned her iPhone 5 off. We held our breath and she turned it back on. Within seconds she had a wireless signal without having to re-enter the password! I tried it on my phone, and same result! Finally, after 4 days, 3 AppleCare calls, a tour of local Wi-Fi spots, a trip to the Apple Store, a trip to the local Best Buy/mall, and $100 later we have a stable Wi-Fi connection on our fancy new iPhone 5s. And my sister STILL has zero issues with her iPhone 4. Hers was a dollar.

I will still be replacing my iPhone as soon as the 64GB comes in since my Wi-Fi connections during our field trip seemed to be about twice as unstable as my mother’s. In the meantime I am taking a break from wrestling with technology for a few days. I need to knit. And drink. A lot.

 

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