Tip o' the Week: Better iPhone Syncing

Coming from a background of Palm and Windows Mobile PDAs and phones, it's taken a bit of getting used to that, while syncing my iPhone, I have enough time to eat dinner, watch a football game, play a game of Risk, and still return to my Mac in plenty of time to watch my sync complete. Heaven forbid I get a phone call mid-sync. Ok, I exaggerate (a little). You may have noticed lengthy sync times (backing up is a killer) for your iPhone. If not, count yourself lucky. Join me after the break for a tip that may make things a little easier for your iPhone syncing!

This week's Tip brought to you with thanks to clayrussell over on Twitter. 

On the eve of the much-anticipated iPhone update 2.1, this Tip is timely and will hopefully help you avoid much pain and suffering. As I said before, my iPhone sync times are somewhat horrendous. Although you can manually cancel a backup, my iPhone always defaults to performing an automatic backup before syncing my data, and the backup time is long.

Most of my syncing is uneventful, but sometimes a call comes through in the middle of a sync and effectively torpedoes the process. I could eat breakfast during my first sync attempt and, if interrupted by a call, I could have lunch over my second sync attempt (I kid, I kid!). Seriously, though, the last thing you want is a phone call during your sync. To avoid this problem, there is a very simple solution.

  1. Tap "Settings" on your iPhone
  2. Slide "Airplane Mode" to "On"
  3. Sync as normal
  4. Enjoy!
UPDATE: Community members have cautioned that having Airplane Mode enabled during a firmware update may brick your iPhone. Consequently, it is recommended that you enable Airplane Mode only for syncing, NOT for firmware updates. Thanks Mike, diaz2010, and DLC!

UPDATE (as of 9/12, 12:04pm MST): First, I appreciate the concerns expressed in the Comments about Airplane Mode catastrophically bricking iPhones during the update process. Now, let me respond here. I can speak only from my own experience and also that of Mr. Rene Ritchie (who also responded in Comments below). Our updates were identical experiences. He is in Canada on Rogers, I am here in the States on AT&T (of course). Following is my step-by-step update process:

1.  Activated Airplane Mode, connected iPhone and performed sync with full backup.
2.  Downloaded 2.1 update.
3.  After both 2.1 download and iPhone sync/backup completed (and with Airplane Mode still activated), started 2.1 update.
4.  Watched iPhone reboot as 2.1 installed.
5.  Once 2.1 update completed and iPhone rebooted, iPhone began to sync again with iTunes, Airplane Mode STILL activated -- I never touched my iPhone throughout this process.
6.  iPhone now updated to 2.1, working just fine, no bricking whatsoever.

If anyone has had problems during the 2.1 update, I doubt it is related to Airplane Mode being activated or not. Rene Ritchie and I performed the exact same steps above, both with successful updates. If you are still concerned, then DON'T activate Airplane Mode before your update. I chose to do so to avoid any interruptions during the entire process.

As an extra, rumor has it that switching Airplane Mode on and off can reset the 3G radio, if necessary. Give this tip a try and let us know how it went! Does it work well for you?     
That's it for this week's Tip. If you have a tip of your own that you would like to share with the rest of us, please leave a Comment or you can email me at: brian.hart@tipb.com.

Disclaimer:  Tip o' the Week makes no guarantee, express or implied, that any tip found herein will be new or particularly useful to the reader (and following this step-by-step will not guarantee that copy/cut/paste will be included in your 2.1 update). 


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There are 21 comments. Add yours.

Sylvanus says:

In the steps I think you mean "Airplane mode to 'on' right?"

Brian Hart says:

@Sylvanus - oops! Thanks for catching that. Corrected above. Should of said, "slide it to the right!" :)

dloveprod says:

I didn't think you could get calls during the update process

mikenyc2 says:

Can someone correct me if I am wrong, but didn't some people have issues syncing (or firmware updates) when in Airplane mode? I recall something to that effect.
Can someone please second my recollection.

diaz2010 says:

putting your phone on airplane mode also caused some peoples phone. To be bricked with the 2.0.1 update.
Did it not?

Rick says:

Excellent advice...thanks much!

DLC says:

Yes, I've read the exact same thing about people's iPhone being bricked because it was in 'Airplane' mode while being updated. Apparently, the re-activation process required connection to the network, or the the iPhone became bricked.

mikenyc2 says:

That was the problem I was talking about. iPhones being bricked.
Thanks diaz2010
I would not suggest doing this option.

Brian Hart says:

I've followed the comments here and did a bit more research and found that some have experienced the problems you've mentioned with having Airplane Mode enabled during a firmware update. I've updated this tip accordingly. Thanks for the comments!

Paul says:

Well its here and downloaded for my iPhone...
Installing as we speak!

Richard says:

How about if you just forward all calls to a different number until the update is complete? That should solve your problems.

Scott Holtog says:

So yeah, didn't see the update on this post and I turned airplane mode on when updating and i can't do anything with my phone now. Not sure what i should do. Can anyone help me?

Scott Holtog says:

so i think i've solved the problem. You just have to go into emergency calls and dial a number. Once you hit call, it will prompt you to disable airplane mode. Then I just restarted itunes and my phone and now all is well!

Steve says:

Not such a good tip o'the week.
Airplane mode prevents the phone from authenticating against the cell network.. which is part of the update process.
If Scott's fix does not work, you'll have to do an emergency restore. Shut everything off, unplug the phone. Then start up iTunes and hold down the Home button while plugging in the usb cable and DO NOT let go of the button until you see iTunes display a message about restore or set up as new.
After that restore from a backup.
Good Luck.
tipb... please do some research next time - how many people did you put through the ringer on this one?

Rene Ritchie says:

I put my iPhone in airplane mode prior to 2.1 update. I was getting a lot of calls and didn't want to get interrupted half-way through.
When the iPhone rebooted, it flipped Airplane mode back off, and authenticated just perfectly fine.
Took about 10 minutes total.
really smooth.

Rene Ritchie says:

(Note: it automatically turned Airplane mode off when it rebooted -- I didn't have to anything on my end).

Greg K says:

Yea, the comments about not doing this for a firmware update weren't posted yet, and I just about freaked out when I thought my phone was bricked probably 10 minutes ago, but after doing Scott's thing, I got it to work, and now everything is cool. Phheww. Holy shit, why was this listed as something to do?? Its all good though....

Brian Hart says:

@Greg K: I'm not sure how you did your 2.1 update, but I did it successfully, Rene did it successfully, and both of us activated Airplane Mode first and never touched our iPhones until the process was done. No problem. Like I said in the post (last UPDATE), I don't think Airplane Mode has anything to do with it. If it does, it appears to be intermittent because others (myself included) have successfully updated with Airplane Mode activated.

gengis says:

Even for 2.2 firmware ?

bryan carter says:

is it possible to unlock an iphone for use using a european sim card without jailbreaking it?

Jojo says:

Is there an app or plug in that will automatically enable airplane mode while syncing and then return the iphone back to normal when the syncing is done? That way I do not have to always manually set my iPhone and can just plug in my phone and start synching without having to worry that synching will be cancelled.