Is iPhone Wi-Fi sync broken?

Ever since I guess iOS 13 and/or when syncing moved from iTunes to Finder wifi sync has been finicky.

But now with the latest Catalina update and/or iOS 14.0.1 it appears to be thoroughly broken. As soon as the iPhone gets hooked up to the charger, the Finder shows attempt to sync starts. Yay! But then the wheel spins forever with the Finder window stuck on “Starting Backup, Step 1/7”. An entire night later, still stuck there. Since Apple inexplicably ripped the wifi sync monitoring/controls out of iOS when they went 12->13 there’s no way to check or cancel from the iPhone side. On the Mac side you can hit cancel but that doesn’t do jack either. In fact, it’s worse than that because now you can’t log out of Finder or restart your Mac anymore because Finder complains it can’t quit because of an in-progress sync. You can of course force quit your Mac. On reboot same drama starts all over. You can also force reboot the iPhone. At least that will get the Mac to finally report sync failed, thus allowing you to quit the Finder and hence you regain ability to log out or restart your Mac. But next time wifi sync starts again, you’re back to the spinning wheel of nothing. Argh.

I’ve reported the wifi sync bugs to Apple with pretty much every version since. But nothing. I mean seriously, Apple, if you have given up on wifi sync and want to force us all at gunpoint to go iCloud, just find the balls to tell us. But keeping broken functionality in there insinuating something should work when actually it’s just flat out busted is infuriating.

Does anybody have any other suggestion to just turning off wifi sync altogether and going back to dinosaur style USB cable sync? And before anybody loses any time, no, I’m not going iCloud for backups.

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My suggestions:

  1. Use a USB-cable for reliable connections.
  2. Forget about Apple-controlled syncing; use iMazing.

Many releases ago, iTunes sync became unreliable for me. Because I have a fast Internet connection and also have enough other uses for iCloud to justify paying for increased capacity, I switched to iCloud sync. I don’t believe that I have ever needed to use the backup to restore an existing phone, but I have found it be reliable for migrating my old setup to new phones. Nevertheless, I am uncomfortable with relying on it as the only backup, so I also make sure that I am backed up locally using iMazing before doing the migration.

I will second Alan’s recommendation of iMazing. I have it doing daily backups of both my iPhone and my iPad over wifi. The only time I’ve ever had trouble with it was when the external drive I store those backups on was failing a few months ago (in fact, iMazing’s issues with the backups were the first symptom I saw of impending drive failure).

I use Apple’s Finder-based backup-and-sync on my Mac only when I’m about to do a major iOS update or if I’m syncing music (I still use The App Formerly Known As iTunes to manage playlists for my ~350 GB music collection), and I always use a cable for that (because you can’t do an iOS update from a Mac over wifi, and wifi is rather slow, compared to a cable, for copying large amounts of music). (I don’t trust doing major iOS updates directly on the device—I’ve seen too many cases where connectivity issues screwed up an update and forced a full reset/reinstall. I’ll stick to a cable and a fresh backup, thankyouverymuch.)

One thing that makes iMazing indispensable to me is that it can back up iOS apps, which hasn’t been part of Apple’s backup process since they took app management out of iTunes a while back (long before Catalina)/sync. What makes this important to me is that it’s very common for an app that I like to use to be discontinued from the App Store for any of a variety of reasons, and once it’s not in the App Store, you can’t reinstall it if you don’t have the actual app itself backed up somewhere.

This is something that Apple doesn’t explain well when it suggests you let it automatically offload apps: the offloading process does not appear to check to see if the app is still available in the App Store before offloading it, and even if it does or did, that still wouldn’t help if it’s pulled from the App Store while it’s offloaded. (I wonder how many occasional Fortnite players got caught by this when Apple’s battle with Epic started earlier this year.)

I do agree that iMazing does a much better job than iTunes does (I’m still Mojave) as backups are concerned but unfortunately it doesn’t synchronise my Calendar and Contacts. I suppose I have to give in and synchronise those over iCloud… But then, before I also managed with a single diary! But it is truly nice to be able to see and access what is in your backup.

Well I installed 14.1 first thing when it came out and so far I have not seen the problem resurface. Granted, small sample size. But this is still encouraging. It was totally broken before.

[Probably just jinxed it with this post.] :laughing: