How to fix your iPhone

1st Jan 2010 | 13:00

How to fix your iPhone

What to do if your iPhone develops a problem

Restart, reset and restore your iPhone

Unless you've got a dud unit, the iPhone hardly ever has any really serious problems that can't be fixed by a few simple procedures (and most don't require you to reinstall your music or apps).

It's just a fact that with so many incredible features, once in a while an app on the iPhone is going to get stuck – just like they do on Mac OS X or Windows.

In this iPhone troubleshooting guide, we'll take you through the most common problems that can occur with the device and show you how to resolve them. So, whether you're having problems with 3G or SMS, booting or battery life, we're here to offer an answer to your SOS.

We'll start with the easy way to cure most iPhone ailments in the form of restart, force quit, reset and restore, and then address other handy iPhone fixes.

Restart

If your iPhone seems slow or sluggish in some of its operations (SMS typing, using Safari and even opening up apps), then a good old-fashioned restart is usually enough to sort everything out and get things working smoothly again.

To restart, simply hold down the Sleep/Wake button on the top of the iPhone, wait for the Slide to power off message to appear – and then slide to turn the iPhone off.

After the iPhone has switched off, press and hold the Sleep/Wake button until the Apple logo appears.

Force quit

Before the iPhone 3.0 software update, you could quit an individual application that had stopped responding by holding the Home button for at least six seconds, or until the application you were using quit.

Force quit

With the iPhone 3.0 software, pressing and holding the Home button activates Voice Control instead (on the iPhone 3GS). Now, to quit an app, first bring up the Slide to power off screen by holding the Sleep/Wake button, and then press and hold the Home button until the app quits (around six seconds).

Reset from settings menu

If your iPhone is constantly crashing, but you don't want to completely restore it to factory settings and then have to go through the process of resyncing everything, then it may be worth trying resetting it from the Settings menu.

Go to the Home screen on your iPhone and choose Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings. This will clear all of the preferences but keep the content on your phone. You might find that's all you need.

Reset

If an application has completely locked your iPhone and neither the force quit nor the restart methods shown opposite are working, then you can manually reset your iPhone by pressing and holding both the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons for at least 10 seconds, or until the Apple logo appears.

Reset

It's quite rare that neither of the aforementioned tricks work, so you'll probably only need to go through this reset process once in a while, but it's still a handy technique to know, just in case.

Restore

If all else fails and you want to take your iPhone back to its factory state, then the restore option is for you. You need to do this through iTunes.

Connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC and click on the iPhone in the Devices list on the left-hand panel in iTunes. Click on Restore.

If there's an available update, then your iPhone will be updated and all of your precious information, such as contacts, bookmarks and so on, will be backed up, so you can reinstate them to your device after the restore process has finished.

iPhone won't boot, GPS lock won't work

Stuck on the logo: fix this iPhone boot problem

An iPhone not starting up usually signifies something seriously wrong, but not completely fatal. The first thing to try is waiting. It may sound obvious, but being a little patient may be the key.

If you need to intervene, first, hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons until the iPhone turns off.

On your Mac or PC open up iTunes. Hold down the Home key and, keeping it held down, hook the iPhone up to your computer. Keep the Home key held down until you see an icon on the screen of the iPhone asking you to connect to iTunes.

iTunes will now recognise your iPhone, telling you it has detected an iPhone in Recovery Mode that needs to be restored. Click Restore.

Now you can restore from a previous backup, and all that's left to do is sync your music.

Software updates

There's no point complaining about the iPhone crashing and apps being unresponsive if you haven't updated to the latest version of the iPhone software.

Hook up your iPhone to your Mac or PC, open iTunes and then click on the iPhone in the Devices list in the left-hand panel. Next, hit the Check for Update button and follow the prompts that follow (if there's an update available) to download and install the new software version.

GPS lock

While GPS is generally great, the iPhone sometimes has problems establishing a GPS lock – or showing you where you are on the planet like it's supposed to. Sometimes GPS gets it completely wrong, positioning you miles away from your actual position.

The iPhone uses A-GPS (Assisted GPS) to locate you; it uses cell tower triangulation (finding where you are in relation to cell towers or mobile phone masts) and Wi-Fi to help the GPS chip inside the phone to get a lock on your position.

iPhone maps

If you're experiencing problems with getting a lock – the Locate Me button in the Maps app continues to spin or the lock on you disappears – you'll need to turn the iPhone off and then back on again.

Performing a simple restart should get the Maps app and GPS functionality back on track. If you're being placed somewhere completely different in the world to your actual location, try force quitting Maps (by holding down the Home button for more than six seconds or until the app quits), then going to Settings > General > Network and changing Enable 3G to Off.

Now, go to Maps and hit the Locate Me button. Once it's found you, turn 3G back on (so you can load the maps quicker). This should make your GPS quicker to lock on and more accurate.

iPhone battery life: how to keep a bit of fuel in the tank

Global Positioning System (GPS) and 3G are great iPhone features. GPS enables you to pinpoint exactly where you are on the planet, as well as get directions, find restaurants and so on, while 3G gives you a faster data connection to load web pages, maps, email and other data-reliant services.

However, these two features also go a long way towards sapping your battery life. If you're going to be in an area with no 3G coverage, then you might as well switch it off.

This is hidden away in Settings > General > Network. As well as preserving battery life, this often helps establish a data connection – albeit EDGE or GPRS only in low 3G areas.

Secondly, disabling Location Services (Settings > General > Location Services) will save a bit of juice as GPS won't run in the background when using the Camera app (and other apps that use your current location).

You can also turn off Push mail. Do this by going to Settings > Fetch New Data and turning Push off or switching the Fetch Schedule to Manually.

Turning off Wi-Fi will also preserve your battery life, as will switching off Bluetooth and setting the brightness of the iPhone screen to its lowest level.

If you find yourself out of charge on the move, the iPhone can be charged from any powered USB port. This means that even if you're without a computer, as long as you have the USB-to-dock connector lead, you can charge from such devices as a PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Wii (or other devices with a powered USB port).

iPhoto won't import, iPhone not in iTunes

iPhoto won't import

On the subject of Location Services, one of the best uses is geotagging. This is basically writing the location where the photo was taken into the EXIF data in the image.

When you first open the Camera app, it asks if it can use your current location. The GPS co-ordinates will be written into the metadata of the photo and can be used on such sites as Flickr to show where the photo was taken. Great, huh?

Well, not so great if iPhoto won't import the photos. This leads to confusion and frustration as your photos just won't show up when trying to import (and iPhoto throwing up an error message saying it can't read the files).

It's easy to fix; make sure you use Mac OS X Software Update to update to the latest version of iPhoto '08, or iPhoto '09 . After a restart, iPhoto will recognise and import your photos. Panic over.

iPhoto still won't import

If your iPhone won't appear in iPhoto then make sure you're running at least OS X 10.4.11, since it requires the latest updates. You can also use Image Capture to import your photos from your iPhone.

No MMS after upgrade to 3.0

The iPhone 3.0 software upgrade added many great features to both the original iPhone (sometimes called the iPhone 2G) and the newer iPhone 3G – one of which was picture messaging, or MMS as it's also known. This gives you the ability to send pictures in text messages.

If you've got the original iPhone and you can't get this feature to work after upgrading your software to version 3.0 or above, then we've got some bad news for you – it's because MMS won't work on the original iPhone, no matter what you do.

MMS

While the chipset in the original iPhone is capable of sending MMS messages, Apple simply hasn't written the software necessary for it to work. It's also unlikely it ever will.

Your only option is to upgrade to an iPhone 3G or an iPhone 3GS. Of course, you can still receive MMS messages in a roundabout way – you receive a text linking to an O2 server where the picture can be viewed with Safari.

Doesn't appear in iTunes

If your iPhone just doesn't appear in iTunes, there are a few things to check. First, is the battery dead and does it need a little bit of juice before it'll kick in? Secondly, is it your USB port? Try connecting to a different USB port on your computer.

Finally, the tried and tested method – just switch the iPhone on and off and see if it appears. If not, use the technique described to restore the iPhone.

If iTunes still isn't saying hello, it's time for you to visit an Apple Store and get your iPhone fixed.

Importing photos: when iPhoto just won't do

When you plug in your iPhone on a PC it opens a dialog box that asks which program you'd like to use to import your photos. That's simple enough to understand.

On a Mac, the default behaviour is to open iPhoto, but many people find this overkill for dealing with the photos they've taken on their iPhone. iPhoto can be slow and is often reserved for photos taken with your 'proper' camera.

iPhoto import

The way to stop iPhoto from opening by default when you plug your iPhone into your Mac is to open iPhoto '09's Preferences and look in General. You'll see that Connecting Camera Opens is set to iPhoto.

Change this to either Image Capture or No Application. Image Capture is a great alternative to iPhoto – it's small, lightweight and enables you to select only the photos you want to import from your iPhone.

Also, with older versions of iPhoto (such as iPhoto '06 and '08) the only way to change what happens when a camera is connected to your Mac is through the Preferences pane in Image Capture. You'll find Image Capture in your Applications folder.

How to convert media in iTunes so it will always play on your iPhone

1. Try to sync

Convert 1

Using tools such as Handbrake on the Mac, you can convert your videos into iPhone-ready MP4 files. The problem is that sometimes these files won't sync to your iPhone – even if they're in the right format and play in iTunes. Luckily, you can fix this.

2. Convert selection

Convert 2

First, select the movie in iTunes you want to sync. ≈-click (or right-click on Windows) and select Convert Selection for iPod/iPhone. Look at your playlists (on the left-hand side of the iTunes interface) and you'll see a Converting playlist. Click on this.

3. Finish converting

Convert 3

When iTunes has finished converting your movie file, you'll have two copies of the same movie. Remember that when iTunes converts the file it does take some of the quality away – so it's a good idea to keep the original movie around for future use.

Mail account information

Mail is pretty solid but you may find that when you set up your account you didn't enter all of the password information necessary to send mail. The iPhone doesn't tell you this; it just says that the password is incorrect.

Check to see if your outgoing mail server needs a password and, if it does, enter it by going to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and choosing the mail account. Tap the mail server under Outgoing Mail Server, and then the Primary Server, and finally enter your authentication details.

Other common iPhone problems

One thing that happens quite often is that the iPod controls – both on the iPhone screen and with the inline mic – lose the ability to play, pause and skip songs. The solution is simple: just quit the iPod application and relaunch it.

Another common complaint is that there's no sound coming from either the speaker or receiver on the iPhone. The simplest solution to this is to unplug and then plug in the headphones around five or six times. A more conventional way to fix this problem is to go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Settings.

Safari is generally a lot better than it was in earlier versions, but still occasionally quits when loading graphics-intensive pages. Aside from a reboot, you could try clearing the cache, cookies and, if you wish, history.

Another thing that sometimes happens is the touchscreen becomes completely unresponsive to links. This can happen at any time and means you can't navigate away from the page you're visiting (unless you have more pages open, that is).

Again, the fix is easy – just force quit the application. A restart is better, but more time-consuming. If you experience any other problems with your iPhone, such as freezes, crashes and any abnormal behaviour, try the Reset option.

Happy iPhone

So your iPhone is having a few problems? Well, before you restore, there are a few things you can do to keep your iPhone in top shape. The first is to avoid overfilling it. Leaving about 2GB on a 16GB or 32GB model (and 1GB on an 8GB model) seems to do the trick and keeps apps that are prone to crashing – such as Safari and Maps – much happier than if the iPhone is full.

Secondly, turn it off once in a while. It may sound obvious, but a good old restart, just like on any OS, does an excellent job of tidying up a lot of problems. It's very tempting to leave the iPhone on all the time and just charge it when it's running low, but try turning it off every now and then.

Housekeeping

Delete stuff you don't need. Leaving reams and reams of SMS conversations, emails and podcasts on your iPhone is taking up valuable storage space. Every so often, clear out those unwanted SMS messages and keep your email tidy – just like you would on your Mac or PC at home or work.

And, similarly, only keep the apps you really need on your iPhone. There's no point in having an app sitting there doing nothing – perhaps a free one that you downloaded just because it was available at no cost – and taking up storage and Home screen space. You can easily sync them back on when you really need them.

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First published in MacFormat: iPhone Special

Liked this? Then check out How to make your iPhone battery last longer

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