A defective iPhone 4S and a trip to the Genius Bar

I got a warranty replacement for my iPhone 4S on New Year’s Eve. My original iPhone 4S had been acting wonkier and wonkier over time, rebooting itself occasionally for no apparent reason, freezing during phone calls, emitting a buzzing/rattling noise in the earpiece speaker during calls and other nefarious actions. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a volume problem that started a few weeks ago. I noticed that the volume would change by itself when I wasn’t even touching the phone (and there was no case on it to put pressure on the buttons) and I could watch the on-screen volume indicator dwindle down to zero or up to the maximum level without any input from me.

The first time this happened, I shrugged it off since I was holding the phone and figured I might have bumped the volume button or something. But then it happened more and more often. I concluded that my iPhone was either possessed or broken. Or it was trying in a very roundabout way to say that I talked to myself too much and silence was really the way to go, you crazy lady, you.

Regardless of my thoughts about the cause of the problem, I had a little WTFBBQ moment, punctuated by several, if not all, of the words on George Carlin’s list, each time it happened. This had to stop.

Investigating a little further, I realized that I could reproduce the problem myself simply by wiggling the volume buttons a little. Even though I never fully pressed them, the volume indicator would appear on the screen and keep adjusting long after I stopped touching the buttons. This made me believe that it was a hardware issue and so I made a genius bar appointment late last week. I was starting to miss alerts since my iPhone made itself silent regularly without my knowledge.

(A little googling revealed this thread in the Apple Support forum but there were no panic.plst entries in my iPhone’s diagnostic logs.)

The Apple store was absolutely crazy when I went in and the Genius Bar was running a little behind. When a genius finally appeared to help me out, I described my problem and wiggled the volume buttons  for him (why does that sound so wrong?) to reproduce at least one aspect of the problem. He took my iPhone from me and said he needed to take it into the back to “open it up” and see if he could fix it.

What? Open it up and fix it? Huh. I didn’t know they were doing repairs like this in the store but I shrugged and let him take it to the back room and troubleshoot away. I instantly felt naked without my iPhone as soon as he was out of sight.

I actually think he whisked it away more to inspect my iPhone to verify it hadn’t been dropped, abused, or doused in water before moving forward to find a resolution. He was gone for about 5 minutes before making his way through the crowded store back to me. He said he didn’t think he could fix it and was going to try to authorize a replacement for me. He asked me if I’d tried restoring it and I told a lie here – I said that I had but it hadn’t worked. He said that sometimes a DFU restore could help but since I was pretty sure this was a hardware problem, I didn’t want to drag out the troubleshooting procedure unnecessarily by endorsing that troubleshooting step. Plus, restoring an iPhone as a new device and getting it set up the way I need it, apps and all, is a bitch.

He left me again and went behind the genius bar to document my case and, I assume, to get authorization for the exchange. He came back a few minutes later and handed me a shiny new (most likely refurbished, of course) iPhone 4S. I was a little worried that he might not have given me a 64GB model and I wanted to double-check before I left the store. So, I started it up and went through the iCloud screens to restore from a back-up I’d made just before I’d left for the mall. That took a few minutes and I was finally able to go to the home screen to get to the Settings app to check the phone’s capacity. It was indeed a 64GB model. Phew. Paranoia effectively banished.

I have noticed that this iPhone feels a little tighter in that the buttons have less play than the first one. Also, that buzz/rattle noise during phone calls is gone, thank goodness and this one isn’t haunted or trying to send me not-so-subtle messages about my mental stability or lack thereof.

Of course, I realized after I left the store that I hadn’t prompted the genius to delete everything off my original iPhone 4S right then and there. It was passcode locked and I hadn’t told him what it was so I wasn’t too worried but I later went online to iCloud and used the Find My iPhone feature to prompt a remote wipe of it. Dang, that’s one handy service. Thanks, Apple!

I installed the second set of my SGP Steinheil EX Ultra Fine protector set earlier this week and my new iPhone is now just like my old one. Except not wonky and broken. Super sweet.

iPad tips and tricks

Did you just get a new iPad for Christmas? If so, you probably noticed that Apple doesn’t include a user guide with it and while it’s generally easy enough to use, there are a few tips and tricks that aren’t exactly intuitive to figure out on your own, especially if you’re new to Apple’s iOS products. Here’s a round-up of the most useful tips I use myself and that I’ve seen around the web recently:

Adjust screen brightness from the home screen

I do this often since I use my iPad primarily as an ebook reader and dimming its display at night is required if I don’t want to go blind while reading in bed. Double-clicking the home button brings up the app switcher bar and if you swipe all the way to the left (moving your finger from left to right), you’ll see a brightness control slider on the left side (the one on the right is volume). You can also mute the volume quickly here as well – just tap on the volume icon on the left.

Image courtesy of TechCrunch

Customize the function of the side switch

That little switch above the volume rocker can do one of two actions and you get to choose which. It can either lock in the current orientation of the iPad’s screen so it won’t change as you move, or it can serve as a mute switch to immediately make your iPad silent. You can access this in the Settings app under General:

I have mine set to lock rotation since this is something I need more often than muting the volume (I use the shortcut mentioned above for adjusting screen brightness to mute the volume when I need to).

Enable Emoji

You know those cute little smiley faces and other emoticons that can be handy (and fun) to use in your text messages on your cell phone? Well, they’re available on the iPad too. You just need to go to the Settings app and then to the General section and choose Keyboard. There, tap on International Keyboards, then Add New Keyboard and tap on Emoji in the list on the next screen. If that seemed confusing, see a more detailed step-by-step guide on Apple’s support site here. (This trick also works on the iPhone in iOS 5.)

“Restart” unresponsive apps

While most apps run without any problems most of the time, you’ll need to kill one every now and then and open it again to get it work right. TechCrunch covers how to do this in this guide that also contains a few other useful tips.

Starting from the beginning – complete guides

If you’re an absolute newbie to the iPad, check out this complete getting started guide by my friend Patrick Jordan over at iPad Insight.

A coworker at my day job, Nissa Campbell, has written an iPad/iPhone getting started and tips guide over at everythingiCafe here.

[frame]If you received a shiny new iPhone 4S for the holidays, be sure to check out my iOS 5 and iPhone 4S Tips & Tricks and iPhone 4S Camera Tricks articles for more useful information.[/frame]

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays!

everythingiCafe: the show “Happy Happy Joy Joy”

Chris Meinck and I recorded our last podcast episode of 2011 earlier this week and it’s now available through iTunes.

We talked about Apple’s rumored purchase of Anobit, a flash memory company, the latest iPhone 4S commercial featuring Santa Claus, more rumors about the Apple Television and the iPad 3 and more.

Chris’s Teh Suck of the week was the Hipstamatic Disposable app and its sleazy in-app purchase tactics, which he talks about in this article.

My Teh Awesome of the week was my new 27″ iMac that I got (after saving up for a while) to replace an aging Mac mini. I purchased it directly from Apple and it’s one of their refurbished models. It’s the base model of the current generation (with Thunderbolt) and it’s super fast. Working on it is a pure joy, full of much less yelling and frustration compared to my Mac mini.

Also, I apologize for my audio quality in this episode. I failed to ensure my shiny new iMac was using the external microphone to record instead of the built-in one. :( I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again in future episodes.

Christmas is just a couple of days away and I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season! We’ll be spending Christmas at home with friends and family and hope your holidays are filled with warmth, happiness, and good food and company.

How soon we forget (a fangirl confession)

A few days ago,  I noticed that a teammate in my volleyball league had a shiny new Windows Phone (I think it was an HTC Radar). I asked her how she liked it and she frowned, complaining that she couldn’t set custom text message tones for individual contacts.

I laughed in response and said, “What? Really? That’s silly. ”

“Yeah,” she replied, “I was finally just able to set custom ringtones after the last software update but still can’t change text tones. This phone is the suck.”

I’m a little ashamed of my reaction here since the ability to set custom text tones just became possible in iOS 5. Which means that as an iPhone user for more than four years now, I have only been able to set a custom default text tone or specific tones for individual contacts for a little over 2 months (since the gold master release of iOS 5 in October), a small change which has thrilled me to no end.

Why was I so quick to ridicule her Windows Phone for a limitation I experienced with the iPhone myself (jailbreaking aside) for more than 4 years?

Oh, well. At least I’m earning my iPhone fangirl stripes. Is there a Game Center achievement for that? XP points? Anything?

everythingiCafe: the show “Stupid Front Row”

Episode 45 of the everythingicafe.com podcast is now available in iTunes. In this episode, Chris Meinck and I talked about the latest iOS 5 beta, the Mac App Store’s latest milestone, rumors about the iPad 3, and more.

Chris’s Teh Awesome this week was Apple’s Cards app to send a thank-you card to a family member. Cards let him personalize it with a picture and text easily, and even notified him when the card had been mailed.

My Teh Awesome was the retro cassette tape case for the iPhone 4/4S that I mentioned earlier this week. It’s superbly cute and nostalgia-provoking (for those of you like me with fond memories of cassette tapes)and is well worth the $3 or so it costs.

[frame]I still have some free codes to get Smule’s MadPad music creation app to thank you for writing a review of our podcast in iTunes. Just write your review (or update an existing review you wrote before) and let me know which one is yours and I’ll send you a code. These codes work for U.S. iTunes store accounts only.[/frame]

We’ve got one more podcast on the calendar for 2011 before we take a break for Christmas and pick up again in January. You can join us as we record live at everythingicafe.com/live next Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.