Update at Oct. 13; 10:24 a.m. ET: Obviously, the problems I had with the iOS 5 installation was not an isolated case. I heard from several readers who encountered similar snags.
In my case, after a few more tries and baffling error messages, I was able to restore my iPhone 4 to its factory settings. From there, I finally upgraded to iOS 5 successfully. All seems well for the moment.
Our original post
Soon after Apple made the iOS 5 update available this afternoon, I connected my iPhone 4 to my iMac and attempted to download the new operating system software, which I had been testing on an Apple loaner iPhone 4S. With 200-plus features including Notification Center, iMessage, Twitter integration, Reminders, camera enhancements and iCloud, the software (along with the iPhone 4S hardware itself) earned my praise.
So now I was eager to install the upgrade on my own iPhone. Only the process has been anything but smooth.
On a second attempt after I restarted my Mac, I received a different message: The "iPhone cannot be restored at this time because the iPhone software update server could not be contacted or is temporarily unavailable."
A third try brought up the following: "iPhone could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (3004)."
I have no idea what the (3004) code means, but I'm guessing Apple's servers may be overtaxed — I'm waiting for official word from the company. Of course, Apple surely must have expected the onslaught in demand.
I did better installing the free update to the Apple TV box connected to my high-definition television. That let me test a new wireless 4S (and iPad 2) feature called AirPlay Mirroring that as its name suggests gives you the ability to mirror or stream the Web, games, photos, videos or whatever else is on the phone screen on the TV screen. AirPlay Mirroring generally worked fine, though video that I was playing off the phone sometimes paused or hiccuped on the TV.
In the meantime, let us know if you are running into similar issues with iOS 5 or have had better luck with the upgrade than I've experienced.
It seems like Apple did not properly prepare for this release. Poor planning leads to a poor customer experience. I bet some fanbois are going to say the problems have been fabricated or blown out of proportion. I though Apple is supposed to "just work". Obviously not.