With Love & Light

We live to learn, with this in mind, we hope that those who are changing the world are teaching us how they are doing it. They are not, the fight for knowledge is the fight for power.
#NeverForget. #FeesMustFall

With that in mind let me share some knowledge on Backups VS Transfers.

You have your phone and love you and you use your phone. And these iPhones have become so lovely that most of the interactions happen on the phone. You download apps on the phone, you buy music and books o the phone. Every now and again you plug in and sync your phone with iTunes. Maybe you clean out a little by removing pics and making more space. (More on this another time), maybe you sync a playlist across from iTunes (more on this in a different post). You go in and you sync and then as a GOOD HABIT you click back up this phone.

Now you can back up to either iCloud or iTunes. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I back up to my iTunes because of the data cost as well as my belief in physical infrastructure. I also feel that I am not convinced that cloud is as safe as a single, real world location. I guess to be a great reporting writer I should here go into the pros and cons of both and why I chose what I chose but honestly – only you can decide how you protect yourself, heres some literature. And you have to decide because you NEED to have a back up.

Here’s what happened to me to inspire this post.

I bought a new iPhone 7 because my last phone was slowly separating and that didn’t feel great. I didn’t have an existential crisis about what to get. I wanted to update what I have not rethink my relationship with my phone. So I got an iPhone 7, it was an under whelming experience. There was no joy of opening the box, there was no ooo or ahh about a new feel, a new look, or a new design enhancement made for the user experience. I am afraid that Apple have left that path. I hope they will find their way back. But there was the the comfort in knowing that once I transfer my SIM card and restore my back up my phone would be back in a new body, that looked, felt and functioned better.



But then it wasn’t. What an utter frustration, a severe amount of cursing.

I did the thing, I reinstalled the back up. It seemed to be following the usual course, it was relatively faster due to the phones upgrades and then to my utter bewilderment about 40% of my apps hadn’t installed. Its not that they weren’t there. The phone knew that I had them but they were greyed out icons. 40% nearly everything on my home screen! It was so frustrating! And I just couldn’t get why. I knew I had backed up my phone just before starting the restore. All the information should have been there and yet it wasn’t. Instead there were app icons, greyed out, all “waiting”.

Naturally I thought there must have been a flaw in the restore. So I did it again, more time, more transfers, exactly the same result.

On my phone, I tried to tap the icon to see what would happen, and ho! Snapchat started to download but then… it didn’t, it just cut out and the whole app disappeared! What the actual fuck Apple? My frustration was palpable by this point.


Then I tried to install the app from iTunes in a sync and here I discovered the problem. The app could not be installed because the app did not exists. But how could the app not exists iPhone (still to be named)? How? You see that they should be there, you know that they are in the store. Why don’t they exists when I know for a fact that they do. Here we start to realize that my facts are not the same as the facts known to my phone. Silly phone can only see as far as the code will allow it.


And so we arrive at Backups VS Transfers. My phone had backed up some data but not transferred others. If you follow this train of thought from Apple they sort of explain their false reasoning:

BACKUPS – https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204136<

Essentially a back up is a mirror of the data on the phone, think of that data as content in a room. The app itself is the key to get through the door. The reason you have key is because it must be purchased on the store. So while your phone is that house, it knows how many rooms it has, and your backup knows what is in those rooms. You need the key to get into each room. The key is not stored with the data, the key is stored as a purchase and so must be saved in a different way.

This has definitely not always been the case because I don’t recall ever transferring apps to my laptop. So it must have changed at some point during an update (and I am fully updated most of the time) and I am sure that in the long list of changes with one of those updates there was a line that read “Apps now need to be transferred and no longer get saved automatically with back up” or something like that and I am also sure that far more tech savvy people on the internet will be able to discuss why it happened. (Inevitably to do with iCloud) And how it is another change Apple is making away from the use and towards their shareholders. This is not for me to discuss. I just want to vent my frustration and hopefully help someone who has made a similar mistake, or even better save some one from making a similar mistake.

Here’s an article with less passion but as practical on the matter. If there are too many words here and you only want to back up your purchases:

So here I am with my phone and 40% of the apps missing.

What the phone tries to do in this case is access all the missing apps that it has the data for and get the keys from the store. The problem is, its not good at that. Each room essentially is going – “wheres my key? I won’t get used without my key!” In a panic they send bots to go and retrieve their keys from the store and these bots clash into each other and get stuck in the house doorway on their way out and nothing gets done even though each app is saying, they are doing something.

Also I think there must be some sort of internal order that the apps are being downloaded in, its not an order that makes sense to me – mere human, this is a programs order. The machine talking to its source and trying to work how best to solve the problem without asking me for any input or advice, it after all is the program, surely it should know best. BUT IT DOESNT! Its designed to work in a flawless world, where the flow of information and data is limitless and there are no “slow networks” or low batteries. In this world the bots would each zoom to the store and get the key, i.e. download the app, and everything would be returned to order.

But no. You have to manually go into the App Store and download (at least here in SA where network speed is limited) each app one at a time. This means searching for the missing app and downloading it. And sometimes, if that app is too far down on that internal order that the phone has decided on (that is not shown to you mere human) then the app will just disappear completely like my snapchat did. So you have to guess, my theory was to download in smallest to largest and this mostly worked.

Unless… If the app had changed its name, I had to repurchase it. This only happened to a free app I was using, a great heart rate monitor. I cannot be sure if it had been a paid for app that would have been effected the same way. Perhaps when people are spending in money apple are more considerate – seems unlikely. What happened though was that app had changed its name on the store, the same app, the same icon, the name change I missed in an update and so I had to redownload it but as a new purchase.

And then the final hurdle was if you didnt know an apps exact name, you would need to reconnect to iTunes, open the app section on the phone, see what it is called by looking at the icon screens and then return to the phone to download from the store.

I almost lost one app that was storing some encrypted data for me because the app changed both the name and the icon, I had to basically reconstruct a history of that app to find out where all the changes had been made so I could download its newest version which then also reinstalled the old version of it. Very strange, but I am grateful that it worked because I didn’t lose the data.

In this process I did lose one app. Bow head in moment of silence. It was no longer on the App Store. It had some internal data that will be stuck in that virtual room forever because I now do not have access to the key.

And thats the story. My lesson is learnt, my phone is working as it should, it was not the beautiful user experience I am so often defending on Apples behalf and that is sad. If you are backing up to your iTunes, remember sync, backup AND transfer every time you connect. Understand the limits of bots working in imperfect systems and be kind to your software. Help it along as you need to, you are after all the human.

Footnote: I am still trying to get snapchat installed. Fucking iPhone.

Footnote 2: Got there with snapchat after 4 tries.

1 Comment

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