How I finally got an iPhone 3G S – and the joys of migration!

iphone3gsYou’d think it would be easy to buy a $500 iPhone upgrade, but the combined efforts of AT&T and Apple made this exceedingly painful. Let me briefly share my experience should you choose to follow in my footsteps. I’ll also offer a few pointers for transferring the contents of your prior iPhone to a new one and enjoying the new iPhone 3G S features.

Even though I bought my iPhone 3G last December, I decided I wanted the 3G S for a few reasons: added storage (I’ve already filled my 16GB model!) and better camera topped the list.  Since my original purchase was so recent, I did not qualify for the fully subsidized $300 price, but was offered the 32GB model for $500 (still better than $700 with no commitment). If you bought a 3G last summer, AT&T recently expanded the offer,  so check: You may qualify for the best price.

Rather than brave the launch day lines, I ordered mine last Thursday from the Apple Store online and was promised delivery in about a week. Alas, I noticed during my semi-frequent online order status checks that it was unceremoniously cancelled on Monday. No explanation. I called Apple’s customer service and, despite the fact that I should have been preauthorized after going through their upgrade wizard, I received some vague excuse that AT&T had not validated my offer and I would have to clear it up with them.

I called and then ran down to my local AT&T Store, where they were backordered 7-10 days. I went ahead and placed an order for the 3G S from them in case that proved to be my only recourse, but I had been hearing that the Apple Store across the way had ample supply. Midday Tuesday, my AT&T rep informed me that they could not clear the problem with my account but that I could buy the 3G S at full price from the Apple Store and then walk over and get a $200 credit on my cell phone bill once AT&T re-upped my 2-year commitment. The net here is that I paid an extra $18 in sales tax, but didn’t have to wait an extra week. AT&T promptly canceled my order and promises the credit will appear by Friday.

So now I had an iPhone 3G S but it would be hours before I could start playing with it. The AT&T rep offered me the option to swap my SIM card from the old phone, meaning I could use my old iPhone for now and activate the new one instantly when I got home and was ready. I first backed up my old phone again, and then swapped the SIM and plugged in the new one. The restore process was painless and relatively quick (about 15 mins) but this only restored my core settings and mail accounts. Apps, music, videos and picture galleries were not present when I turned on the new iPhone. Getting these over required a full sync.

It’s worth noting that I am using iTunes on an older Windows XP machine with USB 1.0. Until recently, I had a USB 2.0 card installed but due to conflict problems I had to remove it. (I really need to move iTunes to a newer machine, but every time I attempt any kind of iTunes move it takes six months to get everything fully functional again!) Since Apple depracated FireWire sync, my only option was a 6-hour slow transfer of my apps and media. Once this completed (about midnight), there was still a little work to do. Here are some tips to make this easier:

  • Have passwords handy. For security, all Exchange or POP e-mail  accounts require you to re-enter your password in your new iPhone. Exchange and voicemail prompt you immediately after you turn on the phone, and you’ll need to set a security passcode on your iPhone before Exchange will work. I had to reset my voicemail password, which can be done by calling AT&T customer service or logging into POP mail passwords need to be entered in your Mail Settings. I created a password-protected cheat sheet with the passwords I require most frequently so I didn’t need to wade through my master list to find the handful that I needed.
  • Check your apps. Some apps may require password re-entry or account recovery to the new iPhone, though surprisingly many do not. Spend a few minutes launching the apps you use most often and see if they need anything to run. Amazon, Slacker, Tapulous and Flight Control are a few that needed some recovery work. Kindle required me to delete and redownload all of the books that I had bought, though free samples and the older public domain free books still worked fine. 
  • Try the new apps. Go ahead and click Compass. You’ll probably never use it, but it’s cool, right? Fortunately, the compass functionality will help other applications with things like directions (though it sounds like you’ll need to pay AT&T a monthly fee to run GPS apps – boo!). OK, now launch the Camera and try the new focus and video camera features. Next hold down the Home button until Voice Control launches. Say something and see if it does it. (I tried, “Play On the Go Playlist” and never got it to work. It was comical, really. I’ll need to start naming my playlists with voice recognition in mind.)
  • Revel in the speed. Apart from the three big changes above and the potential for greater storage space, the 3G S’s real advantage is speed. It really is faster. Loading and clearing e-mails takes me a lot less time, and I no longer have to click back and forth to mark some of the bigger messages as read.
  • Show battery percentage. The 3G S has a hidden new feature that shows your battery percentage next to the visual battery indicator. Go into Settings, General, Usage to turn it on.

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