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I Learned the Hard Way: Don't Install iOS 9 Beta on Your Primary iPhone

No cell service after downloading iOS 9.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

I must have been taunting the software-update gods yesterday when I wrote that Apple advises people to install beta software on a secondary device, then promptly turned around and tried to install the iOS 9 beta on my primary device.

Don’t do what I did.

Somewhere between the download and install processes, I lost cellular service on my iPhone 6. I can’t say I was completely surprised by this. IPhone users have had previous complaints about losing cell service after iOS updates.

To be clear, I never got to the point where I was running iOS 9 on the phone. After waiting from around noon until 1:30 pm for the software to download, I received an error message: Unable to Install Update. I took a phone call shortly after that, and then tried, again, to install the update.

Suddenly, I had no network connection. I tried a hard reset of the phone. Where Verizon Wireless would normally show me a few dots and maybe an LTE signal, it said “Searching….” For hours.

(I took a train home. I had no cell service. No Wi-Fi, no personal hotspot, nothing for more than an hour. No text messages, email or streaming music. I looked out the window. I took a short nap. I wondered what news I was missing. It was life before the smartphone!)

Once home, I tried resetting the phone’s network settings. I popped out the tiny SIM, then loaded it back in again. Still no service.

Verizon Wireless customer support confirmed that my cell service had not been turned off for any reason, and said no towers were down in my area. Everyone was befuddled. I told them I had unsuccessfully tried to install iOS 9 software. Oh! Verizon connected me with Apple support.

Even though I was still technically running iOS 8.4, Byron from Apple suggested it was due to the software download, and advised me to entirely restore the iPhone from iTunes. During this time, we screen shared, and chatted about how adept our young nieces are at using smartphones.

Restoring the iPhone appeared to fix whatever the problem was. I had cell service again (although, Messages still isn’t completely syncing across iPhone and desktop). And because I had backed up the phone to iCloud just before I began the update process, I hadn’t lost anything.

After that — around 9 pm, at this point — I was able to successfully install iOS 9 on an iPad Air. So now I have access to some of the features of iOS 9. Is it worth the upgrade process?

From what I’ve seen so far, the new Search functions in iOS 9 are some of the most significant updates.

Now when you swipe left or pull down from the top of the home screen, Siri shows suggested apps and contacts, as well as nearby restaurants and gas stations, and more news briefs below that. And if you search for keywords — like “party” or “Walt” — it will show you Contacts, Messages, calendar appointments and top websites containing those keywords.

Part of the improvements around search have to do with “deep linking,” something that indexes content within apps for faster results.

Apple’s new News app is elegant, but it’s not something I would say is worth taking the potential risk of a buggy upgrade for. Some of the new Notes features on iOS 9, and the addition of public transit information in Maps, are also a part of the OS X El Capitan update for Macs; you can read more about them here.

There are a couple changes that I think heavy iPad users will find really helpful. One is the ability to turn the iPad keyboard into a trackpad. This has worked okay for me, although it takes some getting used to (sometimes it results in typing a jumble of unwanted characters, from not properly pressing two fingers on the keyboard).

You can also split the screen between two Apple apps on iPad, or just show a portion of an app on the right side of the screen.

This is an early beta, though, so it’s not yet fully baked. On the iPhone, there is still an iOS 9 install waiting for me in Settings —> General.

So is it worth it? Let’s say I’m not rushing to try again on a primary device. My advice is you shouldn’t rush to do it either, either.

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