How I got an iPhone 6s at launch day


Sounds like a deja-vu, eh?

I know, I know: I had the iPhone 6 already and there was no need to upgrade just yet.
But as I always like to upgrade during the iPhone “s” cycles (4S5s, …) and with the 6 being more of an accidental purchase (no pun intended) and the new features which made me curious, I got really excited to purchase the 6s. I checked with Lamia what her plans were because she is still using a 5c. If she had wanted to buy a new 6s, I wouldn’t have bought one myself. But in the end we agreed on a deal where I got myself the new 6s and hand down my 6 to her.

The story how I managed to get the phone on launch day is basically identical to when I got the 5s: I pre-registered my interest with Singtel for the 6s last week and then had to make a final confirmation Wednesday this week when the official ordering page was accessible starting at 3 pm. I was in the office then, hid in a huddle room shortly before 3, reloaded the site until the official registration was open and *BOOM* had the iPhone reservation and appointment done in less than 5 minutes.

So far, so good.
Today was launch day, so I went down to the Convention Center at the Marina Bay Sands, just as last year, to queue for the new phone. When I arrived, I was rather shocked by the line – hundreds of people were in front of me! I took a few photos, but for reasons I will get to later, I only have this one I can show here.

While the line was darn long, it moved reasonably fast and after a little while I arrived at the registration counter where I confirmed my choice (128 GB, space gray) and got a waiting number: D1217. In the huge waiting area they were playing movies just like they did 2 years ago (this time: the reboot of Star Trek, which is good, and some other time travelling movie I’ve never heard about before). Next to the movie the active waiting numbers were displayed. And they were a C1000 or so…

I had no idea what the sequence was and when they’d change from C to D, but I was mentally preparing myself for a long wait.

It took 2 hours!
2 frickin’ hours!
But okay: I knew this would take long and that’s the risk you run when you want your iPhone at launch day. Eventually my number came up (they changed from C to D after C1400 or so, if I recall right, and D started again around D1000). I went to one of the 50+ counters where there was a pre-check like when you check-in on a US flight at the airport, then confirmation of the model you want and then the finalization of the process.

In principle that’s not a big deal, but I was nearly immediately annoyed.
The experience for me as a customer was rather crappy. The good news first, though: I jumped through all these hoops with Singtel instead of just buying online from Apple, because I was entitled for device subsidies with re-contracting. I actually did not know how much I would save when I went there, but I was happy that all of this shove 510 SGD off the regular price. Not bad.

But then it started:

  • Re-contracting forced me into a new, more expensive contract: ~5 bucks more per month… not a big deal and even over the 2 year contract length I still come out at 390 SGD lower versus buying the phone from Apple, but it started to build my blood a little.
  • The pressure went up when one guy was opening the box of “my” phone and started the installation process while another one had me sign several documents – I hate that and after 2+ hours of wait, I did as much as just snap at them what the hell they were doing. Something about warranty, bla-bla-bla. In hindsight I guess that’s fine, but I’d rather have them talk about this more pro-actively (and yes, I do realize that these guys had to go through this repetitive process several hundred times that day).
  • Anyhow: signing these documents. Also annoying! Not that I have to sign, but they made me sign on one of these electronic devices that transfers your signature directly into a PDF. But from where I was standing I could not see or know whether I had to sign over and over again because something went wrong or because I had to sign for different services. In the end it was the latter, but I never saw what I signed. Again: I get that they had to do this cumbersome process really a lot that day. And that they had to do it fast. But it left me with a very bad feeling.

Finally I could take the phone, go to the check-out, pay and was on my way.

I was late to get home and I felt bad that I had left Lamia alone with the kids like that but luckily I have a cool wife and she did not give me a hard time. She even let me continue to play with the phone, do my unboxing photos and run the iCloud backup. I did that twice (for safety because the first one did not show up as “latest backup” in the phone backup overview), and then had an interesting thought:

Leo: So, the iCloud backup is done. Maybe I should do one via iTunes, too? You know: for safety?

Then I recalled my rather crappy migration experience with iTunes after I had bought the iPhone 6. Back then iCloud was clearly the better way and I also thought that backing up your phone while on the leash to your computer is ridiculous in today’s world. So…

Leo: Nah… why would I do the iTunes backup? It’s ridiculous in today’s cloud world…

Hold that thought.
Once the iCloud backup was confirmed to be finished, I wiped the iPhone 6.

You: What the heck?! Why would you do that?!

Well, I always do this immediately before installing a new phone. In the past there were iMessage issues which were linked to funny business when you migrate from one phone to the other. It’s not needed anymore, but I still do this when I get a new phone. And why worry? – I had the backup, right?

Once the 6 was wiped, I went through the installation process of the 6s, answered all the questions, set up Touch ID anew, typed in my key passwords that are required and came to the “restore iPhone from backup” section. I chose the iCloud route, selected the backup I had just completed before and waited.
I’ve seen people complain about this, but in principle that whole setup process is pretty smooth and quick in my eyes. I also do not mind to type in the Apple ID passwords several times after the restore – it’s not a big deal. I also never lose key settings, i.e. all the saved passwords, Health data and iCloud settings come through beautifully. The thing that takes long is re-installing all the apps that you had on the phone. But that’s fine.

I mean: it’s just waiting to download several gigabyte of data. And we have a fast line.
Yet, this is when the whole thing fell apart: I was waiting for the apps to install.

And waited.
And waited.

They were all there. At this stage iOS shows you the app icons sort of greyed out and then a completing circle in their center illustrates how they install one after the other.

And waited.

The thing is: some apps had started to show that circle and it slowly showed progress towards closing, but never fully.

And waited.

After 10, 15 minutes I knew something was seriously wrong. So I did what everybody would do: I wiped the phone and started the process anew. I was guessing there were some connection issues – it’s not like I had not had something similar before.
So okay: restart, fill in initial settings, set up TouchID, restore from iCloud.

Same thing happened.

Okay: Wipe, restart, fill in initial settings, set up TouchID, restore from iCloud.

It did not work. I tried to manually force updates or downloads of the apps through the app store. I tried to erase apps which had not installed yet to see whether there was one or more culprits that created the problem. But nothing worked.

At that time it got late and I was a little down. Why was this such a pain?
This is when I happened to come across Dan Moren’s recent entry on SixColors how he had bought a new iPad and how the iCloud restore failed on him in ways that sounded pretty similar to what happened to me. The difference was that Dan is smarter than me: he had made an iCloud backup and an iTunes backup! And I am pretty sure he did not wipe his previous iPad either (I guess that’s why his last name is “Moren” and mine should be “Moron”).

But there I had it black on six colors: there was an issue with the iCloud restore and neither he nor my Google search came up with a solution how to fix the problem.

In the meantime it was late. Two children and a wife were demanding attention.
Well, I will have to figure this out tomorrow…

And this is how I got the iPhone 6s on launch day.
And yet ended up with no phone at all.

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