iTunes smart, but not smart enough yet

16:00, Nov 14 2012

iTunes is an essential piece of software for managing media on Apple's iPad, iPhone or iPod, just don't connect two of the same devices to it without first changing their names.

We found this out the hard way at the Waikato Times recently.

A senior staff member wanted a custom ring tone on her shiny new iPhone 4S, about to be superseded by the iPhone 5 on September 28. It was a simple task which involved trimming an MP3 file ripped from a CD to the required 40 seconds and then saving the file in the correct format before using iTunes, downloaded and installed to an ultrabook running Windows 7, to transfer the new ringtone to the iPhone.

It worked and she was happy.

A few days later another journalist had problems getting an audio file she had recorded on her iPhone 4S off the device. She wanted to email it to her work PC but it was too large to email over the 3G telephone network. We plugged her iPhone into the ultrabook we had used to create the ringtone in the hope that the file would show up in iTunes and we would be able to transfer the file.

As soon as the phone was plugged in a message flashed up informing us that the iPhone was being restored.


We were not asked if we wanted to restore it, as more helpful software might have done. Apple thinks iTunes can read your mind but in this instance, it got it wrong.

Needless to say, we were unable to transfer the audio file from the phone and when we unplugged it we discovered the first person's contacts book, photographs and a whole lot of other data had been copied across to the second person's phone.

Not only had iTunes backed up the first person's phone without asking, it had copied that backup to the second person's phone of its own accord.

I immediately figured it out. Both iPhones showed up in iTunes with the name iPhone and the software was not clever enough to tell them apart despite them having very different data and applications on them. Had the first person named their smartphone iPhone 1 when she first plugged it into iTunes and the second iPhone had been named iPhone 2 when that was first plugged in this fine mess would not have happened.

The same principle, presumably, applies to iPads and iPods too.

So take care when sharing a computer with such devices.

Waikato Times