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Contacts disappearing from iPhone 4s

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Member Since: Sep 06, 2013
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I'm posting this on behalf of a very non-technical friend. She has an iPhone 4s, and three times now her contacts have entirely disappeared. She goes to her phone and suddenly her address book is completely empty. In her messages section, the phone numbers are there, but they are no longer associated with any names.

She has never synched her phone to a computer. She doesn't believe that she is automatically synching to a cloud-based service, but she can't be certain because she doesn't know how to check to see if this is happening.

She took her phone into an Apple store, and the "genuises" didn't know why her contacts are disappearing. They suggested that she update.... something. She didn't understand what they told her, and felt intimidated asking for clarification, so she left frustrated. (Bad customer service, Apple!)
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So it's Apple's fault that a very non-technical person didn't understand what was recommended and didn't have the self-confidence to ask for clarification? How are they supposed to know she didn't understand if she didn't tell them?

Anyway, what they probably recommended was to update the operating system to a newer version. To do that, she would need to connect to a Mac or PC and use iTunes. She'd need to establish an AppleID, if she hasn't done so. iTunes will detect what OS she has and suggest an update. It will do a backup of what she has, download the update and install it, then replace the backup on her phone for her. Takes a while, but pretty easy to do.
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