Troubleshooting Skills are always helpful

So got a new iPhone on Monday as I had worn out my last phone, the buttons actually stopped physically working and well it was crashing hourly. I was not able to get the model I truly wanted in terms of color, but a non-functioning phone kind of pressed the issue. I tried to configure the new phone and left the phone connected to my computer to synchronize. It did not seem to work. I decided to deal with in on Tuesday. Tuesday it was still not working, called customer support to ask for troubleshooting advice. They said, try smaller chunks of songs. I said not likely the cause as it the same system synchronized with my previous phone and would still synchronize with my iPod. They say try cycling power, yes I was actually told to turn it off and on again. I explained I had done that. Shared the screen and showed them what was happening. They once again said the data set was too large, try the smaller batches. I said the problem would not be solved until I can synchronize fully everything as I could on the old hardware. They indicated to reformat and reinstall the operating system.

The case was left open but I was off to restore the phone and start again. Turn it off and on again and format the entire thing again. Still not functioning, I started to think it was possibly the computer I was using. I moved my iTunes library to a second computer and tried to synchronize. Same issues. I called Tech Support on Tuesday and they moved it over to hardware not software support. Same type of answers of trying to solve it by cycling power, changing the cables, trying smaller synchronization batches, different ports on the computer reformat and reinstall again. Same issue of not synchronizing completely.

Please keep in mind that each one of these sessions takes about an hour then the recovery and loading process again. So I was spending two or three hours just troubleshooting. I made sure to make only one change at a time, and documented which steps were successful and which ones caused the issue. I would try again and see if the same thing happened. Once again only one change at a time. Same methodical process as I use in troubleshooting an audio, control, or lighting system during my day job; one change at a time.

Call back on Thursday again, as the issue still exists and now has interesting tidbit of hard drive space just being filled by “other”. By filled I mean about 40GB so it is a sizable error. I explained to the agent that the issue is still occurring and none of the two answers were any different or showing any results. I indicated I believe it is the software and hardware not working together correctly but not sure where the issue. After a few minutes they indicated to try the restore and try again. I expressed my feeling that it would not make a difference. I had tried different computers, different cables, small batches, formatting and restoring, formatting and starting as new. The issue followed the iPhone, an older iPod continued to function on the same systems. She indicated that I should try again but would schedule a follow up call for Friday.

Friday came and the call arrived. However when I tried to press 1 to accept the call, I accidentally pressed 2. This errant press was not confirmed so now I had to reschedule. I scheduled it for 45 minutes later. Sigh here we go again…

This time the call was elevated as indicated. I explained everything that I had done to troubleshoot including finding that it was only the iPhone that was the issue as everything else had been eliminated. The agent still asked to screen share again, I told him all the troubleshooting items I had done. I then explained that I had gotten the steps to make it fail figured out and could reproduce it.  As we went through the process I explained what would happen at each step and the results. After about 45 minutes or so, at the point as I said it would, the iPhone crashed while being viewed by the agent. It was refreshing and disappointing.

It was refreshing as I was able to reproduce when the agent was seeing it. They were able to see that troubleshooting had been done and the problem was real. What I was disappointed about was that it took four calls to get to that point. Yes, four calls with same results. It was disappointing how much effort and time I spent to troubleshoot the issue without customer support elevation until after the third incident.

I am also disappointed about the idea that I might have to wait to replace a product that is currently on back order for 7 to 10 business days. It would be helpful if companies actually kept some reserve stock for those defective out of box new product launches. Or perhaps this issue is systematic and a product defect. Anyone else having problems synchronizing an Apple iPhone 6 128GB or having large amounts of storage being marked “other”?

You may ask why I am sharing this story. There are a few reasons:

  1. I will remind my coworkers of the frustration a customer feels when being told the same steps over and over.
  2. For people to understand the disappointment of purchasing something new and hot having it work, perhaps having spares in stock makes sense.
  3. Most importantly the process of determining and describing the problem is important to be able to fix it. Saying something does not work is not enough. Explain the symptoms and the steps to reproduce it. Without doing that the problem is near impossible to solve.

Troubleshooting process for the win.

UPDATE (Saturday Oct 11, 2014):

Apple made iPhones that are not full kits, just for warranty issues like mine. Saturday morning the agent called me back to confirm that they had a replacement in stock and I was able to pick up a new one. However I am still having the same issue, so back to troubleshooting. Still one change at a time… creating a new iTunes library.

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