06/09/2015 06:57 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2016

An Adventure in Technology Land: Upgrading my Phone


Just as my iPhone 5's contract was nearing its expiration date, a funny thing happened. My phone also expired. It kept telling me it was too full to function. Full of what? I wondered. Why does it keep telling me I don't have enough storage to back up or download the newest update? Do I really have to trek to the Apple Store again?

To avoid this trip, I tried my best to relieve my phone of its fullness. I moved all videos to my computer. I kept the number of photos to a very reasonable 364. That sounds absurd, but my kids have thousands of these on their phones. I even told iTunes not to sync most of my music and podcasts. Still, my phone complained there was no room at the inn.

Most of what lurked there eating up so much space was something mysteriously called "other." I was told to turn off things, delete deleted emails (that's strange, as once should be enough, but I did it), get rid of texts with pictures and videos and delete apps my grandkids and I no longer used. I Googled and asked younger folks for advice, but it was all for naught. Despite minor improvements, my phone still insisted it was too full.

So, I gave up on making iPhone 5 happy and went to the Apple Store to buy a new phone with more memory. I suppose there may have been more fixes for my old phone, but my patience had run out. I also suppose Apple expects this will happen for folks like me.

I got to the store 15 minutes before it opened at 10:00, naively assuming if I got in early, I would be able to exit quickly. Thanks to AT&T, it was not to be. Despite having called ahead for their blessing, I was not permitted to begin the process without my password. I remembered to back up my phone to my computer before I left, but neglected to bring with my three-page list of all of my passwords. Insane.

It was not enough to give AT&T all of my vital statistics, including my social security number. I would not be permitted to pass go without that password I had never used. After 20 minutes of customer service, I was texted the password. Now, my Apple friend was able to confirm what I already knew. I was indeed eligible for my "free" upgrade.

After signing numerous agreements with my fingernail on my Apple friend's tiny screen, we discovered to my horror that my old phone had never been backed up to that mysterious cloud. I guess I never told it to do that. So I had two choices: Go home and use the back up on my computer all by myself, or stay at the store while the phone backed up to the cloud. Of course, I foolishly elected the latter, thinking I would leave with my phone all set up.

It was now 11:15. I was placed on a stool at the set-up table watching the little wheel of death spin on my phone and the bar slowly inch forward in the iCloud backup. Of course, I was supposed to be somewhere at 11:45. So, when a new Apple friend approached me saying, "Hello there, darling," I didn't even bother to tell him I was not his darling. I just begged him to get me out of there by 11:30. He did and promised the cloud would finish restoring my phone in a few hours or so after I got home and connected it to WiFi.

I was so done with this upgrade that I left my phone plugged in overnight, sure that by morning, the cloud would have made everything all right. Not. So I just spent 90 minutes on Apple tech support figuring out how to restore the computer backup I had done before I left for the store. Two advisers later, I had my old phone back with more storage.

Here's the catch. My free upgrade cost me $40 on my next phone bill for AT&T to do nothing, as far as I could tell. I guess I should be grateful that I didn't have to give up my data-sharing plan for a new, more costly one, because I had upgraded promptly. Next time, that plan will be gone and there will be more expensive choices. By trading in my old phone, I only owed Apple $369.41 for the 64 GB model so my phone would make it until my next upgrade without being full (maybe), Apple Care (got my money's worth this morning), and a new case for the phone.

I didn't understand what to do with half of the choices on my old phone. Now I will have even more choices to ignore. I guess I could watch an hour-long YouTube video by a 14-year-old telling me what to do or spend another $20 on iPhone 6 for Dummies. Or I could just get on with my life and remain dumb. Think I'll opt for the latter.

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