Business Software

Apple's IOS 4 Patch Reportedly Restoring Exchange Synchronization

Apple's software fix for its newly released iOS 4 seems to be working, letting a group of mobile users finally synchronize with their corporate Microsoft Exchange servers. The glitch was a high-profile embarrassment for Apple when last week some iPhone 4 users reported a battery of synchronization problems.

Apple's iOS incorporates Microsoft's Enterprise ActiveSync code in order to link with Exchange Server, to synchronize data and to use a battery of Exchange-based security and management features. The Exchange bug affects not just the new iPhone 4, but any device that's been updated with the new firmware: iPod Touch, iPhone 3G and 3GS.

Complaints started emerging last week on various online forums, including Apple's own support discussion group, about a range of Exchange sync problems. In some cases, new iPhone 4 users saw only a blank calendar, though email and contacts synchronized properly. Others said the calendar worked fine but contacts were only partially synchronizing. Another found that the phone was resetting part of his e-mail address, which blocked access to Exchange entirely.

The problem seems to work on all versions of Exchange at least from 2003. One user reported having Microsoft Forefront Unified Access Gateway 2010 publishing ActiveSync links with Exchange 2010. "Does not work. Can receive, but not send. I have some friends that tested in this in the beta [release of iOS 4] and they had the same problems late last month and I find it odd that apple never addressed this," wrote one poster.

"The more I mess with it the worse its behaving," wrote one user. "Just went in to turn off gmail contacts and hit the back button and it took it about 40-50 seconds just to go back a screen when its usually instant. Same problem poping up in other places too. grr."

Apple's official support blog described the symptoms  as "some users may notice that Exchange ActiveSync Mail, Contacts, or Calendars do not sync, or sync very slowly. In addition, some Exchange Server administrators may notice their servers running slowly."

The workaround is a new configuration profile (available as a link on the support blog entry) that has to be downloaded to each device running iOS 4. The new profile "increases the amount of time the iOS 4 device will wait for the Exchange Server to respond to its sync requests." Once installed, it's listed under Settings > General > Profile.

Some afflicted users say the new profile works. "Apple's fix has got me back up and running as well - I'm glad that got resolved!," one wrote earlier this week.

But others say there's been no change. "Just tried downloading and installing the profile. No improvement whatsoever," this user wrote in a post on Apple's forum. "This needs to be fixed....I personally have missed a couple meetings because of this and am about ready to toss this iPhone out for an HTC phone...[and] this is coming from a loyal iPhone user."

Some users speculate that at least the calendar sync problem is triggered by very large calendar files. By archiving old calendar items, and so reducing the amount of data being synched, these users say they solved this problem. "Looked at user's Exchange calendar size (360MB & 16,000 entries)," one posted. "Backed up Calendar then archived all until Jan 1st of this year. Calendar at 57MB. Wiped Device from exchange, Recreated the account settings using the iPhone Config Util - issue resolved!"

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: john_cox@nww.comBlog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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