Apple re-issues iOS 9.3 after crippling older devices, confusing customers

No Internet, you say? I have Internet!

Apple today replaced the iOS 9.3 update with a new version after the original crippled some older devices last week, and confused large numbers of unaffected customers when their iPhones and iPads told them that they weren't connected to the Internet when in truth they were.

The initial version of iOS 9.3, which Apple issued a week ago, threw owners of older hardware -- iPhone 5S and earlier, and iPad Air and earlier -- for a loop when it asked them for their Apple ID and password, normally not a step in the iOS update process.

Apple published a support document that acknowledged the problem and provided solutions.

Last week, Apple pulled iOS 9.3 from its servers in an effort to prevent more people from seeing the demand for an ID and password. Today, the Cupertino, Calif. company re-released iOS 9.3.

In the meantime, however, users whose devices had already downloaded iOS 9.3, but whom had not authorized the upgrade, began seeing a message when they got around to updating. "Unable to Verify Update," the on-screen message read. "iOS 9.3 failed verification because you are no longer connected to the Internet."

But those devices -- including an iPhone 6 owned by a Computerworld staffer -- were connected to the Internet.

A thread on Apple's support forum spelled out the problem, and the likely cause.

"I suspect this is really Apple's way of blocking you from installing the update you have already downloaded, until they fix the known activation issue with the update," wrote someone identified as "AndreTheGeek" on March 25. "Wait for the update to the update."

Apple probably dropped or changed the digital "signature" of the update on its end, creating a mismatch that resulted in the "Unable to Verify Update" message.

Although the thread contained fewer than 30 message, it had been viewed more than 10,000 times, a very large number for such a small collection of reports. In other words, lots of users had seen the same no-Internet error, searched the Web using a string such as "ios 9.3 verification failure," as did Computerworld, and were directed to Apple's support forum.

Computerworld's device successfully downloaded and installed the revised iOS 9.3 today.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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