Storm brews over iCloud

Charles Wright -Apr 5, 2012

A man uses an iPhone.

A man uses an iPhone.

IF YOU spend too much time with Apple fans, you're likely to catch the virus that leads many Apple owners to believe they have entered the computer world's version of nirvana.

Some could start imagining they are protected by a powerful guardian angel who lives in Cupertino, California.

The reality is, while Apple makes very good hardware and software (and Bleeding Edge has bought and continues to use generations of Macs, MacBooks, iPads and iPhones), its products are by no means flawless.

Our experience suggests Apple is also slower than its competitors at fixing, or even acknowledging the existence of, these problems.

Bleeding Edge was thinking about this only last week, when Apple made several hundred of our contacts apparently disappear from our iPhone.

The fact that we needed to make an urgent call to one of these contacts put us to an inordinate amount of inconvenience but we weren't panic-stricken.

After all, we had elected to synchronise our contacts by using Apple's iCloud.

We started to lose our serenity, however, when we entered the angelic realms of the iCloud and called up our Contacts list. It was empty.

A dozen had been retained on the iPhone. Getting them all back - with the aid of users complaining about the problem on one of Apple's online discussion threads - proved tedious.

First, we had to open the Messages app on the iPhone, view a conversation with a party we knew had been saved in our contacts, then scroll to the top of the message thread and click on ''Contact >''.

With a growing sense of relief, we could see the information was still on the iPhone.

We added a random phone number with the intention of deleting it, pressed the back button and checked our contacts. They had all been miraculously exhumed from electronic graves.

We opened the iCloud app under the iPhone's settings and turned off the option to save contacts to iCloud. While there, we also turned off everything else.

Clearly, Apple had got something dramatically wrong and we had no intention of trusting a benevolent existence to preserve our data.

Coincidentally, about an hour or so later, one of our readers emailed us with the details of another technical innovation from Apple that had mangled her Outlook 2007 data.

The same problem seems to be plaguing many users around the world and is likely to spread as Windows users increasingly adopt iPads and iPhones and opt to use iCloud, which, according to Apple, is ''the way [the cloud] should be: automatic and effortless''.

When our reader decided to synchronise her Outlook calendar and contacts, however, she found it automatically and effortlessly mangled Outlook, which she uses to store her personal diary and record family, house and garden details, with reminders for various events.

After linking it to the iCloud, she found she could no longer find the Outlook calendar on her PC. She eventually discovered it listed as ''Calendar in iCloud''.

Unfortunately, it no longer supported reminders.

It had also created 3½ pages of tasks, apparently harvested from her emails.

She immediately deactivated iCloud and rebuilt a month's Outlook notes, using a backup of her .PST file.

Despite that, iCloud left some unwelcome fingerprints.

Recurring reminders set in the past for events are throwing up irritating duplicate reminders.

Worse, when our reader tried to delete the tasks, the software warned that doing so would also delete the associated emails.

She tried deleting the tasks individually but the emails disappeared without warning.

The problem has seriously dented her confidence in her new iPad. There is some information on the problems at a couple of user forums. They are: bit.ly/H3mZCw and bit.ly/H3n897. Suggestions for fixing the lost contacts problem at bit.ly/H3ooJz.

Email cwright@theage.com.au.

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