iPhone crashed, keeps trying to reboot

Four days old and my iPhone has crashed and won’t come back to life. It does not turn on when unplugged from USB cable or power adapter. When plugged into either of those, it starts up with the Apple logo for a few seconds, then goes black for a few seconds, then comes back to the Apple logo again, repeating the same thing all over and caught in an endless reboot/restart loop.

I tried restarting the iPhone by holding both the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons, as described in Apple’s iPhone help – but that’s simply meant to restart a stuck iPhone. Because the iPhone is caught in an endless loop iTunes does not recognize it, which means it cannot be restored.

I assumed there has to be some way to force the iPhone into recovery mode, so on a whim I held the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons through two of the restart cycles (about fifteen seconds) and got a yellow alert icon that instructed:

Please Connect to iTunes.iTunes found the iPhone and stated: iTunes has detected an iPhone in recovery mode. You must restore this iPhone before it can be used with iTunes.

iTunes then downloaded a software update. I clicked the Restore button and iTunes presented a warning message: Are you sure you want to restore the iPhone “iPhone” to its factory settings? All of your songs and other data will be erased, and the newest version of the iPhone software will be installed.

I clicked the Restore and Update button and iTunes popped up the message: Preparing iPhone for restore…

The iPhone then got caught in the endless restart loop again, trying over and over, until finally iTunes gave up after about two minutes and gave me the message: The iPhone “iPhone” could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (1603).


I’ll be going to the AT&T store where I purchased the iPhone with the hope that they’ll simply replace it with a new one, though whether they even have a replacement in stock remains to be seen. Stay tuned for updates.   

Update (3:36 pm): I called the AT&T store where I bought the iPhone and the very helpful manager, Jason, said customers with bum iPhones must contact Apple for support. I contacted Apple by way of a public relations contact and was told someone would call me to take care of the unwell iPhone. While awaiting the call from Apple I decided to drive over to the Apple Store in Atlantic City to see if they could help more immediately.

 As it turned out the Apple support person who called was going to have me do exactly that, go to the Apple Store, to meet with Sean, the very friendly and pro manager on staff.

Nate patched Sean in on our call and he was on the phone with us as I walked into the Apple store. We hung up on Nate and took care of the phone.Sean grabbed a new, unopened iPhone from the back, same as my defective 8 GB model, and then turned me over to two guys named Chris who were working the Genius Bar.

Transferring my phone account from one device to another took a couple of minutes. Out of curiosity I asked if we could see if we could get the defective iPhone to show up on a Mac (since I was using it on a Vista PC when all of this started) so we could restore it. Not because I wanted the phone back, but rather because I wanted to know for sure that my personal data would be erased and not viewable by others, whether at the Apple store or by the service persons at wherever the iPhone would wind up.

We tried to restore it, but no luck. As earlier, the device kept cycling through the Apple logo in an attempt to restart, over and over. One of the Chris guys said he couldn’t get it into recovery mode, and so I showed him that you have to hold the Wake/Sleep and Home buttons for more than a few seconds until it cycles at least once, and I think twice, before it then puts up that alert triangle icon and tells you to connect to iTunes (see above).

As such, we chose the recovery option from iTunes running on a MacBook, it appeared to be doing something, then the iPhone shut off and iTunes reported the same error as earlier on the Vista PC: The iPhone “iPhone” could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (1603).  Chris was about to open the new iPhone box to move my SIM from the defective phone to the new one, but I said I’d already done that. (Before leaving I popped it into my the excellent Nokia 6682 that the iPhone was replacing, and yes, your iPhone-activated AT&T SIM does pop out and work on another AT&T/Cingular phone or, in my case, an unlocked phone.) So I left the store feeling reassured that a brand new iPhone was replacing the defective one – but not very reassured that my data on the iPhone I was leaving behind (contacts, calendar, notes, Safari bookmarks and email) was gone.  Had the iPhone died totally and wiped whatever was in memory? Or would Apple’s service team wipe it out, as part of a company policy? I don’t know the answer to that latter question, but I will find out soon after Apple’s PR department gets back to me.

I also asked what do customers who are not in range of an Apple Store do.  I guess with any data device there’s a risk of personal information being at risk when said device needs to be sent in for repair. And like other SIM-based phones, the owner must part with the device if it needs repairs, but can generally use the SIM on a replacement phone.

Will Apple offer a replacement phone in the repair process? The AT&T store manager Jason said it isn’t AT&T’s policy to offer customers a temporary replacement phone when a phone is being repaired.Meanwhile, I popped my SIM card out of the Nokia and into the iPhone. It said to connect to iTunes to activate. I plugged the iPhone into the dock, let iTunes find it, and about a minute later it was activated without any additional input from me. iTunes synced all of my data from the automatic backup iTunes made this morning, before the first iPhone failed.Stay tuned for additional updates. 

Update (4:43 pm): Just got off the phone with an Apple PR contact. She sent me a link to Apple’s iPhone Service: Frequently Asked Questions which pretty much answered all of my questions. So, if you’re in the first 30 days you can walk into an Apple store and get a replacement if your iPhone is considered “DOA” like mine was. After 30 days you go through the service-by-mail option, by which you’ll ship your iPhone to Apple (minus your SIM) for service, and they’ll ship it back to you when it’s fixed. You have the option of renting a replacement iPhone for $29 while yours is being repaired.

As for AT&T, a spokeswoman for the company said an iPhone you’re unhappy with can be returned for a refund (minus a 10% restocking fee) within 14 days of purchase, but replacing or repairing a defective phone must be taken up with Apple.

In sum: I was lucky the Apple Store had a replacement 8 GB iPhone in stock to swap for my defective one. I was unlucky, however, on my way out of Caesars Casino on my way back to the parking garage. I slipped a $10 bill into one of the nickel slots, pressed the first button I saw (labeled 8X), watched the digital reels spin and come to a stop, and wound up with “Game Over” with nothing more to go on with or about – which is an apt conclusion for this story, as well. (Or so I hope.)

Thanks to all who took my calls and to those who dealt with me in person, and have a great July 4th holiday.


47 Responses to “iPhone crashed, keeps trying to reboot”

  1.   1 Harry

    having identical problem; on hold to talk to the Apple Store

  2.   2 Cory

    What’s the point of your “story”. Apple replaced your phone and they are sure to fix the problems. That is more you can say for any microsoft product. They charge you to fix their crapy OS no matter what. It looks like you are using microsoft vista, you should write a story about all the problems you have with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Vista that caused the iphone malfunction.

  3.   3 pr

    Out of a MILLION activations…it will be interesting to see how many “journalists” have this problem. Something tells me not many.

  4.   4 Allden Chang

    Whoops, the same problem I had. I returned it since I don’t want to be a Beta tester. I already wasted one and half days.

  5. 5 Flint

    Yeah – I’m wondering why this is considered newsworthy? Just because you write a blog and get published by MSNBC?

    I’m sure there are plenty of iPhone’s having problems like this – but we don’t have an overall number – or even a percentage – so it’s not necessarily a systemic problem.

    Despite what you might suggest.

  6.   6 Brian

    I have the same problem. Now I have to drive 2 hours to get a replacement. Truly Awesome.

  7.   7 Aaron

    Same thing happened to me…I was watching a movie, it hung, I walked away and came back a few hours later to a dead battery. On charging, I get the same problem and error message above. Suck.

  8.   8 Ken

    My phone just did the same thing, I hope the apple store will have a replacement in stock tomorrow morning. Part of me wants to return it in hope of a redesigned model that does not need an adapter for my better headphones, for $600 apple should have included the adapter for free. I thought the mini headphone jack was one standard you could count on all manufactures following.

  9.   9 Tim Owen

    I had this same problem – here is my symptoms and the solution!

    I allowed my iphone battery to funny discharge and upon recharging got the error message described above. After looking online and calling ATT and Apple the best solution I received was to send the iphone in for replacement (i am 5 hours from an apple store). After fiddleing around I have managed to solve the problem.

    After trying everything else with no results, I pulled the SIM card out of the phone and plugged the phone into my computer. The itunes then reloaded the software and firmware successfully. I then put the SIM card back in and synced it up with itunes and it asked me to confirm the resync. Afterwards it just worked fine.

    My iphone works again!

  10. 10 John Q. Crapola

    I’m having the same problem. Just got my phone yesterday. Glad I found this post to know it’s not just my iPhone. Kinda sucks, I’ve never had these issues out of a phone, not to mention I didn’t expect any huge issues with a $600 phone.

    @ Flint: For some reason I believe the problem is bigger than you think it is.

  11.   11 Trina

    The same thing has just happened to me. I was searching the net to see if
    other people have had the same problem. I let my battery run down (which is easy to do) and I went to charge it up. After taking the phone off the charger it gave me the message “error need to connect to itunes” I did just that and it would not reload. Please tell me how to get my sim card out. I am going to go to the ATT store tomorrow to see if they can help. I feel that a $600 phone should not be doing this. I am not happy right now.

  12.   12 Devis Laimbacher

    Thanks a lot! im very happy thanks

  13.   13 Nathalie

    I’ve had my 8gig iPhone for almost a month now, and I’m having the same exact issue you did…except the error code is 1604. I was on the phone with 800-694-7466 for about 3 hours today (2 different representatives) with no success.

    So, I’ve taken out my sim card and I’m waiting on my battery to die. Hopefully Tim Owen’s suggestion will work for me!

  14.   14 Nathalie

    ooh man, I tried Mr. Owen’s suggestion, and it didn’t work. I’ll be at the Apple store tomorrow.

  15.   15 Brett

    I just ran into the same problem today as well. Phone has been working fine up until today…

  16.   16 Sammy

    I had the same problem and it was stuck in the restart loop or whatever. I took it into apple and they couldnt get it working at all not even to restore it. It also said usb over current warning wen i plugged into my comp. When i took it into apple they replaced it in 15 minutes and i was out the door.

  17.   17 onra

    I have a terrible problem with my iphone , when I was tried to recharge nothings happen , is black always, how can solve it?

  18.   18 Garrett

    Thanks for clearing up the recovery mode. I had temporarily bricker my girlfriends iPhone while putting on some apps and I’m really glad I was able to restore it without facing the people at the apple store.

  19. 19 TORONTO





    sorry for the caps… I’m just trying to make this stand out

  20.   20 Hermit


    I was on 1.0.2 same problem phone kept restarting.

    Home + Power for 45 seconds , restoerd with Firmware 1.1

    Now i guess i have to do the whole virgize tool ………..



  21.   21 Nic

    i had kinda the same problem my phone would boot up and scroll “boot code” type deals i just put it in the dock held down the buttons and restored it with itunes i was kinda scared about it $399 is alot of money 😐

  22.   22 andrew navarro

    well toronto, how do you go from 1.0.2 to 1.1.1?

  23.   23 ISUR

    I bought a “cracked” sim iphone in singapore and my phone is having the same problem after about 3 weeks…Until yesterday it was flawless, and my pride and joy….But now it works sometimes, but the last 24 hours, it has probably gone into the automatic reboot mode about 60 times.

    I tried the reboot, reset etc….and sometimes it works, sometimes it does not…And even if it comes on, it stays on for a few minutes and then goes crazy again.

    What is causing this? Does anyone know?

    I also dont know if downloading the latest itunes (as advised by the iphone user guide) and trying to get it to update my iphone software will work. I am worried what will happen if it recognises that this is not official and might just damage it further.

    Is that a possibility, or am I just paranoid about totally “wasting” an expensive phone? Any help or advise on how to overcome this will be most gratefully accepted.

  24.   24 Nicole

    I was actually doing the sasme thing you guys were doing and suddenly this screen came up and it was like a continutious cycle of the apple appearing and not having the phone turn on, i need help i dont know what to do with my iphone now?

  25.   25 narendra

    Thanks for the info, i was getting the same issue on iphone, it was restarting every time ..in loop, now iam able to recover it, thanks again for the needed info

  26.   26 Mauricio Valdez

    Hey !!!

    Try this , take out the SIM CARD , switch the mute button to red , try to reset as usual but holding volume down key , be patient

  27.   27 Ali

    my unlocked iphone restarts after about five minutes while the apple icon is showing up, this happened after i canceled the anysim installation yesterday, the guy at the phone shop says he can restore it for £40. What shall i do?

  28. 28 Joe Hutsko

    Not sure on that one, Ali, but hopefully other readers will have an answer for you. Joe

  29.   29 Chris Henning

    i was trying to boot the iphone from the ibrickr then the screen turned red as it says it should then it just keeps on restarting. Is there any way to fix this?

  30.   30 Kinthamen

    well, i found something out today. I dont know if this is the best place to post this. I installed an app using the installer and then the springboard froze with the little gear. I couldnt click on anything. Power off didnt work. So i had to hold home and power to reboot in restore mode, only to find that it kept me at the apple logo and buzzed and kept rebooting in a loop. So, i tried it again until i got the little connect to itunes screen. I then used INdependence and it connected but it did not boot it. So i went to customize and tried to delete any app from the phone and it rebooted the springboard. Back in business!

    By the way i have a mac so i don’t know how it will work on a pc.

  31.   31 KIMOSABE

    OMG it worked.Just plug it into your computer with itune opened and hold the sleep and home button … Scared the Freakin crap out of me…

  32. 32 Roych

    I just manage to step one step further on this ;))
    What I did was…
    … plug my iPhone to my PC (windows Vista) with itunes on, now my iPhone starts constantly reebooting and then I pressed the HOME (rounded one on iPhone 😉 ) button and the OFF button together waited a minute and the phone shoved me a sign of being conected to the pc.
    Itunes recognised it then I pressed the restore button in itunes and it started to download my 1.1.4 firmware for my iPhone.
    I hope this will help someone to get started adn sorry my english.


  33. 33 Roych

    and my iphone is working like a charm ;))) I just unlocked it with ziphone and was done, juheeej;)))
    Chears! 😉

  34.   34 Peterex007

    My iPhone (1.1.4) failed to reboot, I press and hold both sleep & home button for 6 secs, the screen went black and the apple logo appear and won’t goes off until I shut it off! Can anybody help? Pleeeeeease!!!

  35.   35 bryan

    i have an unlocked iphone that i tried to put on music on to, and when i went to itunes it gave me and update… now when i try to put music on it would not let me. now my iphone is stuck on a sreen showing the itunes icon with a usb cord, and at the same time the phone wont work… what do i do please help?

  36.   36 Aiden

    Bryan.. try NOT JAILBREAKING its stupid anyway voids your warranty =] not to mention AT&T is the secks

  37.   37 Mo

    This rebooting problem -out of no hwere- happened to my 8G iphone!!
    The phone was unlocked 4months ago and was working with T-Mobil sim card like a charm.. I don’t know how this happened..
    Even my iTune is not detecting it. Do you guys think appel store will replace it for me even if I don’t have an account with AT&T??

  38.   38 Harshad

    hey man who ever placed the complaint here … man i luv him..i unlocked my iphone and all its data is preserved ,, all my contacts and everything is intact … i thot i had bricked my phone , bt i recovered it .. now i dont hav hav to pay a 2000 bucks for unlocking i can now do unlocking any no of times i want to.. thanks all to this man placing the same error here …… god bless u ..!

  39.   39 Mo

    The Apple Store didn’t want to do anything with the iphone once they knew it was unlocked.. My iphone is trash now 🙁
    Did anybody have this rebooting problem and got it fixed/replaced???? Please advise.


  40.   40 Techjunkie

    Have the same problem, but I guess I have to blame myself for installing iPhone 2.0 firmware (the latest developer version). 😉 My device just reboots ever 2 minutes to recover mode and I can’t access it from XP, Vista and Leopard 10.5.3.

  41.   41 yungtre4

    i have the same problem even when my iphone is in recovery mode the computer will not detect iphone and itunes wont either. i wana take it in for a replacement but my phone is unlocked too.. but how could they know if it doesnt turn on and does the reeboting thing like apple logo shows then goes blank and keeps doing the same thing over and over.. do u think theyll find out it is unlocked?

  42.   42 varun

    I faced a similar problem after installing an app from the installer… my phone just freezed and wont re-boot no matter how many times i tried to cold boot it (by holding power and home buttons)… I finally had to reboot my phone in recovery mode (By plugging in the USB and holding power+home buttons and then then letting go of the power button as soon as the phone started) … I already had 1.1.4 firmware on my machine and i restored my firmware .. then used Ziphone to unlock and again jailbreak the phone…
    It all works!


  43.   43 akhilesh

    i unlocked my phone…upgraded to 1.1.4…used it for a month…and it just hung today…it wont restart..same problem…will my local apple store correct the problem …or is unlocking the phone some kform of software infringement

  44.   44 Roro

    My iphone screen has gone blank. but i can still accept calls cuz i know where the accept button would be. But the screen gets hot fast cuz it doesn’t go black it stays white. I dunno what to do. Please help. On top of everything im in Jamaica so I cant get it fixed anywhere around here.

  45.   45 Felix Sun

    I got completely the same thing with the iphone os 2.1
    Now doing a take out SIM card recovery. See how it goes.

  46.   46 Felix Sun

    Get a New Error 1010 now, Heading to Apple Store.

  47.   47 Felix Sun

    Apple Store sucks, Go there what you can do is reserve for a 8 hours later support. They don’t even look your phone.

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