One of the worst experiences anyone can have is buying a new computer, then having to reload all the software, having to make sure the settings are correct, etc. It's a pain, kind of like moving.
But updating one's mobile operating system is getting to be a lot like that experience. Because Apple has millions of customers who use their iOS devices, the launch of a new OS can try anyone's patience.
Today many, many users complained that they could not complete their updates, most getting stuck at "Restore". But it might well be that Apple created their own bottleneck on purpose as a way of slowing down the whole process so as to prevent a total meltdown (read: RIM).
Here is some advice for those who plan on updating their phones or tablets tonight: patience.
When you plug your phone or tablet into your computer iTunes will let you know that iOS 5 is waiting. My advice is to hit "later" and let iTunes back-up the device first. Having a solid back-up is always smart. I might also suggest you do a hard reboot of the device, as well, just to be sure it working as it should (lots of people forget that their iPhones are more like a computer than an old dumb phone and need rebooting occasionally).
Then hit update – chances are that everything will go fine. But if you run into the "Restore" issue, don't panic. The message you get will scare you a bit: "An internal error has occurred." But the real problem is that the device can not verify the Restore with Apple – it is completely an Apple issue, not your device. Again, don't panic.
Now what? Since you have successfully downloaded the new .ipsw file which contains the new software you need not hit "Update" again. Instead hit "Option" "Restore". This will bring up a dialogue box where you are to point to the software you want to use to restore your device. If you are on a Mac I would suggest bringing the software to the desktop. To do this you will have to go into your Library>iTunes and drag the file to the desktop. In Lion, Apple, for some reason, made this folder invisible. To see it you have to press "Option" and go to "Go' in Finder and then to folders (keep holding down "Option"), you'll find the Library now.
All this may seem techie, but, hey, TNM readers are techie, right?
When the update is finished don't be surprised by the new dialogue boxes that come up. Apple wants you to turn on Location Services, verify the right Network, etc. Only then will it finish the restore by reinstalling your old apps. I had 197 apps that needed to be reinstalled, that took a while!
The whole process is not very pleasant. Apple has done a good job today of preventing a MobileMe disaster, but I think they did it by slowing down the traffic. That was frustrating for a lot of customers, and led them to believe that there were serious problems. I bet there are thousands of customers who currently believe that.
There is a lesson in all this, at least for me: always download the gold master from the developer site and leave the launch day updates for everyone else. I wasted a lot of time today updating my iPad, had it been my phone I would have screamed!