iOS 7 upgrades cause some trouble for casual users

It's easy to forget, if you spend your day reading online info about Apple products, that not everyone who uses an iPhone or an iPad is a hardcore user. Many of Apple's customers don't check tech blogs, so iOS 7 - and its many changes - came as a big surprise. And at least in some cases, as an unwelcome one.

I spend my weekends working in an Apple Specialist - a third-party retailer that sells Apple products - and every day we're open, people walk in every day asking for help with their iOS devices. There's an occasional hardware failure or a broken screen, but most folks who need help day in and day out are experiencing something unusual on their device - either something unexpected is happening or something isn't working right, and they want it fixed.

So over the weekend it was no surprise to see a number of our clients walk in in varying states of bewilderment with devices they'd upgraded to iOS 7.

Most of the folks having trouble had upgraded to iOS 7 reflexively. They saw that an update was available and clicked OK without reading the description of what had changed, not realizing that what they were installing would be substantially different than before.

This includes customers who had been through major iOS revisions before. Some had been using iOS devices for some time, and had purchased two or three of them over years. But iOS 7 was different, and sometimes change can be frightening.

Boy, were they in for a shock after their device restarted.

A few of the customers I helped were convinced that something had gone terribly wrong - one thought that perhaps a virus or some form of malware had taken hold of her iPad. Once we talked her in off that particular ledge, she was still upset that things looked so different. Helvetica Neue, the system font of iOS 7, was very difficult for her to read. (If you're having the same problem, check out Richard Devine's very helpful how to tutorial on changing the system back to a bold font.)

She asked us if we could downgrade her back to iOS 6, and was crestfallen to discover that iOS 7 is a one-way trip. Apple stopped signing iOS 6 installs almost as soon as iOS 7 was out in the world, which prevents you from installing an iOS 6 system image even if you saved the .ipsw file containing the software.

Others were confused by the new interface - even though their apps were still in the same place, it looked so starkly different they sometimes didn't realize it. And doing a major operating system upgrade inevitably causes some disruption as users need to reenter passwords and other credentials they'd forgotten.

At least a couple of customers came in with "bricked" devices - a phone and an iPad that had stopped working all together after being upgraded to iOS 7. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get those working again.

But by far, the most frequent problem had to do with passcode settings. As part of the setup process, iOS 7 asks you to input a passcode - it's a good security feature, but it's also something that only about half of all iOS device users have ever done. You can opt out of setting a passcode, but it's small enough that many casual users assume that it's required. So they enter a code and promptly forget it. And the only way to recover from that is to reset the device, unfortunately.

That's not to say everyone walking in the door had a problem. Many of our customers upgraded to iOS 7 without incident, and many love it. Many were anxiously awaiting it. Though there was still a bit of confusion here and there - like the guy who asked if he put iOS 7 on his iPhone 5, would the home button be able to read his thumbprint.

Anyway, it's just a reminder that while we take for granted that we'll be prepared for and will use what Apple's working on, many consumers out there still consider their Apple devices to be rather mysterious black boxes. For them, iOS 7 is bound to be a surprise - perhaps pleasant, perhaps unwelcome - but they, along with the rest of us, are being ushered into the future.

What sort of issues have you run into with iOS 7? Have you warned people who aren't technical experts away from updating, or are you encouraging them? Are you the requisite tech support person for your friends, family or coworkers? What are you hearing from them? Let me know in the comments, and check these links out for more info on iOS 7: