Genius Bar

I’ve been having an issue with my iPhone 5 for a while now. Without any obvious reason, there’s been a little speck of dust in the middle of my iPhone lens. That little speck leaves a black dot on every iPhone picture I take. which is really annoying. Since the dust is on the inside of the iPhone? cleaning it doesn’t really help? and even a good shake or a short drop with a sudden stop didn’t really love the dust.

I created a. Photoshop filter to fix each photo and decided to live with it until Apple released a new iPhone. Surely such a thing wouldn’t be under warranty, and since iPhone repairs take up to three weeks in Belgium, I wasn’t going to walk around with a Nokia for three weeks for a stupid black dot.

But this tweet by Dr. Drang gave me hope. Apparently Apple swapped iPhones with my problem at real Apple Stores. (We only have Premium Resellers in Belgium). Since I was visiting London anyway this weekend, I decided to give it a try and made an appointment at the Genius Bar. Three issues: I run iOS7, my iPhone is the center of my two-factor authentication for a lot of services, and I wan’ t sure Apple could swap an unlocked Belgian iPhone at their UK stores.

Long story short: the Genius looked at my phone, saw the dust, went to the back, came back five minutes later, asked me to erase my iPhone 1 and fifteen minutes later I walked out with a brand new iPhone 5. Spotless. And unlocked.

Since I couldn’t restore iOS7 until I got home (I wasn’t allowed to use any of their Macs since Cupertino apparently monitors iOS7 usage on the showroom floor) I couldn’t restore my backup yet, so I had to manually restore a couple of critical apps.

So Dropbox. Wait the password is in 1Password. Let's download that first. Hmm strange, the iCloud sync only downloads a couple of apps.. Okay, I have my VPNs shared secret, let's VPN into my home server and use screens. Okay got the password for Dropbox. Ah damn, I have two-factor authentication on with Authy...

So basically I discovered that 1Password and Two-factor works as expected, but in a case like mine where I in the mood of vacation just didn’t bother bringing an iPad or Mac with me, you can really get locked out of your own data, and only a back door like access to another machine at home gives you access again. Safe but scary. What happens if I loose all my machines due do a disaster? My offsite backups are encrypted with a password unknown to me but in my keychain/1Password. Which I wouldn’t have then.

Anyway, back to my 30 minutes of account access in limbo. I installed Authy again, reset it to my new iPhone, hopped back to my home server to get my backup key, and finally got access to all my two-factor unlock keys, and more specifically my Dropbox, which gave me access to my full 1Password. One issue now remains: I had to use my Twitter backup key to get to my account, but the site timed out before I could disable two-factor. (Stupid demo screensavers on the Store Macs…) So although Twitter works on the iPhone? I can’t re-enable any new devices. I’ve reached out to Twitter Support, so fingers crossed. If anyone knows a way to reset the two-factor: give me a shout!

So, all in all, my first Genius Bar experience was a perfect one. In and out in fifteen minutes, and the in store wifi gave me plenty of bandwidth to easily install what I needed. But I also learned that two-factor is, although very secure, a huge pain in the ass when you lose your iPhone..

  1. Funny thing, this was the first time both he and I saw Apple’s new theft protection in action. I had to type in me AppleID before I could erase the phone. It gave me a very secure feeling. Any basterd steeling my phone wouldn’t have any use for it.