A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode

A story about an ordinary iPhone user. Spoiler alert: pay attention to any warning messages given by your beloved device.

A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode

I met my sister-in-law this past weekend for a family dinner. We had a discussion following a question she asked me about a problem with her iPhone. Oh boy, I didn’t know what I was getting into.

It all started when she explained that she had a long-standing issue with her iPhone X: some lack of space preventing her from storing more photos. This is how she described her “issue”. She gave me her device to quickly look at it in case I could find an explanation.

First thing first: what version of iOS is this iPhone running? iOS 13. Yep, iOS 13 🙄. She has a 64GB iPhone X with less than 4 GB of free space. Weird, she should be able to take pictures (but I hope she has enough space to complete any future iOS upgrade!).

Upon further examination of her device, the following issues were found. First, in Settings, her payment info was flagged as needing an update. Of course, Apple Pay wasn’t configured. The iCloud Photo Library couldn’t sync nearly 1700 items because her 5GB free-tier iCloud space subscription was full. Ah! That’s the problem.

Since her iCloud backup was turned off (because she was tired of getting warnings about her iCloud storage being full), I decided not to upgrade her iPhone to iOs 16.4.1: no recent backup, no iOS upgrade. Just in case something goes really wrong during the upgrade. Instead, I gifted her a little note in the Notes.app containing the following instructions:

  • Fix your payment info;
  • Upgrade to 50GB of iCloud storage;
  • Enable iPhone backup to iCloud;
  • Wait a few days so that iCloud Photos Library can sync past-due items and have a complete backup of your iPhone;
  • Upgrade to iOS 16.4.1;
  • Wait a day for the next backup to complete;
  • Add one of your credit cards to enable Apple Pay;
  • Call your brother-in-law to say: thank you very much for your guidance.

A few observations. She didn’t want to pay a subscription to get more iCloud storage, but she had photos she didn’t want to lose in case she lost her iPhone. Something has to give. She reluctantly agreed to subscribe.

Sometimes I think technology is failing us. Sure, she has to pay to get some cloud storage which would fix most of her issues, and she dismissed important warnings, but most of the issues could have led to a disaster if she ever had a fatal problem with her iPhone. So how can Apple improve the user experience? Can some AI-based behavioural analysis be added to the base OS and the Tips.app be brought into play here to help guide the user to fix the problems?

Complex devices like the iPhone these days require some minimum attention and manual management. Is your iPhone having a similar issue? Look at it and fix it now!

So it was really a time bomb silently waiting to explode.