iPhone data loss (not happy)

I just had a somewhat unsettling experience with my iPhone 3G (OS 2.2.1).

I was down the pub and ready to fire up Stanza while waiting for my next pint, when I saw that the Stanza app icon had vanished from my Home screen. Flicking through my other 7 Home screens I saw that around three quarters of my installed apps had simply disappeared from each screen. Where there used to be 16 apps per page, there were now 3 or 4.

At first I thought there was a bug preventing the app icons from displaying, so I re-“bought” Stanza from the App Store there and then. The app  appeared to reinstall from scratch, so I guess the original app had disappeared completely. The new icon appeared and the app worked correctly. (Lexcycle must have released a new version of Stanza recently, because the app icon was different.)

When I got home I re-synced with iTunes and discovered that all the missing apps had been mysteriously deselected in the sync settings:

So at least the apps weren’t gone for good. Indeed, when I reselected them and resynced, the app icons returned to the iPhone (albeit in a completely different order to before).

Bye-bye ebooks

The trouble started when I opened Stanza, and found that the $200 worth of ebooks I’d downloaded for free during Read an E-Book Week last month had vanished. Not a happy bunny. Was this caused by upgrading Stanza (sounds like a known issue), or by the weird “disappearing app” problem? Hard to tell; however the data and settings for all the other removed apps (such as Flight Control, Enigmo, Fring, and NetNewsWire) had also been lost (and I’m buggered if I’m working my way up to Level 36 on Enigmo again!).

Meanwhile, the data for the apps which had survived the “disappearing app” bug was still intact.

Gone for good

I tried several hints and tips (including this one) to restore the iPhone from an old Time Machine backup (since iTunes rather stupidly only keeps the most recent backup). However, even after restoring from my oldest backup (March 28), none of the data came back. Was this a facet of the “disappearing app” bug, or had the data actually vanished before March 28 and I didn’t notice? I’ll never know.

Anyway, not much harm done I suppose (apart from losing those $200 worth of ebooks that I was really looking forward to reading), but it does make me question the reliability of app data on the iPhone. I don’t think I’ll be keeping any important data on it (unless the data is synced regularly with the Mac). What’s more, it sounds like there are other related issues with losing data when apps are updated. Eek.

Scary. I hope these kinds of iPhone bugs are ironed out in version 3.0

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2 Responses to “iPhone data loss (not happy)”

  1. Vic Says:

    I had the exact same issue, but am not sure of the exact date, around the 1~4 or 5th of April. It happened to BOTH my iPhone AND my wifes’ – although we actually have FOUR iPhones on our AT&T Account AND on our MobileMe Acct.
    Was watching TV, went to see what iTV app said was on next, and found over twenty of my apps ‘missing’. I VAUGELY recall at some point prior to this that I had started iPhoto to check something and had hit the Option Key while Launching it to allow me to go into another iPhoto Library I keep with Serial Numbers etc. At the time, I didn’t notice that it was not iPhoto which offered to either Create a New Library or Choose which Library to Open, but it was ITUNES giving me those choices. I canceled out of there (I thought successfully) and went back into iPhoto. Later, I plugged in my iPhone 3G to Sync it and was told there was no music in my Library.
    To make a long story short, when I Option Clicked to Start iPhoto and inadvertently started iTunes instead, I managed to break the Link to my Music and lost all my music, cover art, iPhone apps, etc. I finally figured it all out, re-established the Links to music, cover art, iPhone apps, and everything is again blissful in iPhone-land! ( Didn’t even know iTunes offered the same Option-Start choices as iPhoto ) but it sure screwed ME up good…

  2. Matt Says:

    @Vic: Thanks for relating your experience. While it doesn’t sound like exactly the same problem as mine, I too am suspicious of the iTunes end of things. I have now turned off the “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” option in iTunes, so I can sync manually when I choose to (and observe the results).