iPhone Unavailable Message

iPhone Unavailable Message

We received an iPhone 8 Plus last week which showed iPhone Unavailable Message (below) on the screen with totally dark background. Generally speaking an iPhone will be disabled when input many times of wrong passcode, but message shown on the screen is not just ‘iPhone Unavailable’, it should be ‘iPhone Disabled, Connect iTunes…’ with time, date and other information shown in grey on background.

We have sorted out so many cases of disabled iPhones with iOS updating, but it’s the very first time we have ever seen this strange message on an iPhone screen with horrible totally dark background.

iPhone Unavailable Message
iPhone Unavailable Message
iPhone Disabled Message
iPhone Disabled Message

Put the iPhone in DFU Mode

Though it’s different from a disabled iPhone, we can still try our luck to update the iOS and see what happens. We put the iPhone 8 Plus into DFU mode by these steps:
1) open 3utools (it’s an popular all-in-one tool for iOS users) on the computer
2) connect the iPhone 8 Plus with a lightning charging/data cable to the computer (not all cables that can charge a phone can do data transfer)
3) quick press volume up button
4) quick press volume down button
5) hold down the power button until the screen goes black, then press the volume down button without releasing the power button for 5 seconds
6) release the power button and keep holding the volume down button for 10 seconds
7) we can notice on the computer screen that the phone is in DFU mode, nothing will be shown on the phone screen

Regular iOS Update Didn’t work

After selecting the downloaded iOS file and quick iOS update option on the 3utool interface, the software started to update the iOS to the iPhone. Everything went fine at the beginning, but in the middle of the process the computer lost connection with the iPhone. We tried quite a few times which ended up all the same.

We started to doubt that there might be something wrong with the hardware other than the firmware. With the screen gently removed we checked the motherboard hoping to find some useful clue, but it turned out to be neat and clean. And from the condition of the heat induction paper that perfectly stick on the motherboard we can tell that no repair was carried out before. Not a single physical damage or water mark was found on and around the motherboard.

It’s not a good idea to guess a faulty point on a motherboard without any evidence about it, because it might make things worse. We’d better assume the motherboard hardware was alright, not 100% sure though.

Thinking there might be bugs or compatibility problems in 3utools which prevent us to do iOS update which we had met a couple of times before, we turned to iTunes to try our luck which is Apple’s official software. As prompted that the latest version(12.12.2.2) was needed to update iOS 15.3 into an Apple device, we downloaded and installed it onto my computer. Before the updating process, we need to follow the same steps to prepare the iPhone for an iOS update. Finally we could try it out, and it was not a surprise that the computer lost connection with the phone during the updating process.

DFU Mode Exit Unexpectedly

We noticed that when the connection was lost the phone exit DFU mode, which is unexpected. The phone should stay in DFU mode unless forced out. And almost all the unsuccessful trials exit DFU mode at the same process percentage. And the point of time that the phone exit DFU mode was not in updating process, it was in iOS file unzipping process.

Force the iPhone Stay in DFU Mode

There seemed to be a short timer started when the phone was put in DFU mode and it expired before the preparation process was done. Because there is no interactions between the phone and the computer while the iOS file is being unzipped, which is called preparation process. If we can reset the timer now and then to prevent it expiring by doing something like pressing the power button now and then, the phone can be right state (DFU Mode) when the actual update process starts. And once the update process starts, the phone enters into updating process and the annoying timer is cancelled.

iOS Updated Successfully

Things proved to be exactly the same as we thought. By pressing the power button now and then, we survive the preparation process and we did nothing after the updating process was in progress. And the iPhone 8 Plus was updated successfully.

iOS Update in Progress
iOS Update in Progress
iOS Restore
iOS Restoring

No Activation Needed after Irregular iOS Update

An iPhone with iOS update always needs Apple ID and password for activation, but for this one it’s different. Before I disconnected the phone from the computer, the iTunes instructed us to input Apple ID and password to activate the phone, but we don’t have to do this over the computer. We chose to do it directly on the phone screen, but what surprised us was that during the phone setup, no Apple ID and password were asked all the way! In short, we didn’t input Apple ID and password to setup an iPhone which was registered before!

iPhone Unavailable Message: Solution Recap

1) The iPhone 8 Plus was in an exceptional state which was not qualified to do iOS update.
2) But from this state, it can be put into DFU mode, with a short timer created to monitor it.
3) If the timer expires, the phone exit DFU mode.
4) Something must be done (like pressing the power button now and then) to prevent the short timer from expiring.
5) Once the phone enters updating process, it can successfully finish.
6) Because we do the update from a point that doesn’t need Apple ID/password verification, we don’t have to enter it during the setup followed by the update.

Possible Bugs in iOS

As to why the iPhone 8 Plus entered this unexpected state, we still have no idea. The most possible reason is that bugs in iOS firmware were triggered. Hope Apple can see this article, figure out what exactly the problem is and get it sorted out.

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