I fixed this issue after a lot of time and pain (see below)
Seems to have come up on various threads so it seems to be an issue and should be escalated by Apple. They were none the wiser at the genius bar apart from telling me the iCloud backup is probably corrupted and I should call Apple care (as if that is going to do anything)
I experienced the same problem with the iCloud restore not working properly. I had my iPhone 4 replaced as the home button was defective. When attempting to restore an 9.5GB iCloud backup from the day before it just would not work properly. Firstly, half my apps did not restore, they would begin to download showing the progress indicator then just disappear, leaving my home screen naked. No big deal as apps can be downloaded again.
However, what was a big deal for me was the 1,625 photos on my camera roll, including many of the first year of my kid's life. The camera roll would say downloading x of 1,625 photos, download a few of them, then simply stop downloading any new shots. When I would restart the phone it did not show any downloading message, it believed the restore was complete. I tried about ten different restore scenarios, listed below, all of which gave me varying results (some resulting in all my apps restoring) but all of which would only give me some of my photos back.
What was a comfort was that I once got about 700 of the shots back. So the photos were still in the cloud rather than gone and this indicated that it was the restore process or the iCloud backup on my phone that was the problem. These are the things I tried in sequence as I despairingly tried to get my photos back...
Things I tried that DID NOT work
1) Erase all settings and attempt to restore again from scratch (four times)
2) Tried the restore from a different WiFi network (once)
3) Tried the restore from one WiFi network then switched to another once the restore 'hung' (once)
4) Tried the restore from an Apple store WiFi network (once)
5) Tried the restore from a previous iCloud backup (twice)
6) Had Apple replace the iPhone 4 (once)
With all of these I got a varying amount of my photos and apps back before it stopped restoring. I was also making the mistake (I learnt afterwards) of opening and moving between apps during the download to check progress.
Thing I tried that DID work
1) Did not plug the phone into my MacBook, I used the wall charger only to prevent any iTunes sync activity
2) Erase all settings and data, restore from the iCloud backup and input passwords in all the pop up windows once it reboots.
2) Open photos app gallery to see photos downloading and show the progress message "downloading xx of x,xxx"
3) Left it on this photo screen and did not touch the phone at all for the entire restore. I did not close the photo galley/camera roll app once, open any other apps.
Finally this time round it work and all my photos and apps restored in full. I am going to go back to syncing with iTunes as I don't trust iCloud for restores. It seems that iCloud does not handle photo restores that well, especially if the gallery is large. In short: Wall charger only, restore from iCloud, open Photos app, don't touch. Really hope this works for you too if you've had the same issue.
Thanks for posting your solution! I suspected that something controlled and isolated like what you did would work, and it's good to hear that it can.
I'm trying to follow your advice explicitly now, but I have some questions:
Thanks in advance for your response.
Sorry, should have been clearer and more factual in explaining the 'solution' that worked for me.
I meant the Photos app and then stay in the Camera Roll view. Aim being to see the photos download and the downloading text update
I meant I did not leave the Photos app or Camera Roll view. I did touch the phone to scroll down as it was downloading the photos. Don't think interacting with this screen should complicate things. What I did not do was leave the app.
I did not as I did the restore in the dead of the night. No calls and no texts. Would suggest you maybe take the SIM out if this is likely.
Appreciate none of the above is scientific. It is what worked for me and helped me get all my photos back. I think it must be something to do with having the iPhone focus on repopulating the camera roll without distracting resources.
Let me know if it works.
Thanks for the reply! I tried this method and, while it didn't work perfectly, I did ultimately manage to retrieve my photos and videos.
I followed the instructions, including the detailed updates, and restored (without taking out the SIM card) at night. Things were progressing well when I went to bed, but when I woke up in the morning and checked the phone I noticed that the previously counted and then still increasing ~1200 of 2100 photos that I'd had on the phone were mysteriously reduced to only 4. I thought that for whatever reason the connection had dropped and the transfer had failed during the night, and so I was prepared to erase the phone and then start over again. Thankfully before doing so I checked the storage allocation bar for the phone in iTunes and there I saw that, while the phone itself was showing that I had only 4 images saved, the phone actually had about 9 GB of photos on it. As I wasn't sure how to retrieve them from the phone, even though they were there, I searched for a solution online. What I found among the search results was a recommendation of downloading and using the program iExplorer, which I did and which was able to show me at least a listing of the image files that I had been missing and a set of previews of some of them. Following the recommendation's instruction, I deleted two list-type files from the phone through iExplorer, in the hope that when I later restarted the phone the photo Gallery would be forced to rebuild the index of all the images on the phone and thus show me all my images. While reportedly this technique had worked for some people, for me it definitely did not; after being restarted post the files' deletion, neither the phone nor the storage allocation bar showed me that there were more than 4 photos in memory. Fortunately, however, I had done a back-up of the phone on my computer before deleting the files. While at that moment I had planned on simply restoring from that backup and then trying through iTunes to transfer the hidden 2100 photos to my computer (an action that iTunes seemingly at the time would allow but that I later learned would also most likely not have worked for me), I ended up restoring from a "new" backup that, I'm sure, hadn't been there previously. This "new" back-up was dated the same day as the iCloud back-up from which I had tried to restore the phone the previous night. Curious, I chose to use this back-up, instead of the back-up dated earlier that morning, which I thought would have everything including the hidden photos (but which later I found out did not). It seems that sometime in the restore from iCloud the photos that I had been hoping to recover finished downloading and then were saved in an asynchronized part of the phone, where they couldn't be successfully retrieved at the phone level because of the mismatch in date. After I restored from the "correct date," which really didn't exist before the back-up to my computer that morning, the phone successfully showed me all the photos and videos that I had been missing (but could not successfully show me apps or other backed-up data). I then was able to recover simply through iPhoto all the photos and videos to my computer. Hoping that everything could be synchronized in one final attempt at restoring from iCloud, I then erased the phone and started one last attempt at restoring from iCloud by again following all the instructions above. Unfortunately, the transfer this time failed to port over any of the photos at all, but caring less about their being on the phone now that I'd safely recovered them to my hard drive I prioritized having my apps and other backed-up data on the phone, chose not to try restoring from iCloud anymore, and left the phone as it had restored then. So, while this method didn't entirely successfully restore my photos and videos, it still ulitmately helped me recover them. Hopefully this information will help anyone else facing similar issues in recovering photos and videos from iCloud - an action that, with how much Apple vaunts the ability to do so, should definitely be refined soon.
In the meantime, I've just noticed that after updating my OS (including iPhoto and Aperture) to the newest version this week some of the photos that are actually within the joint Library folder on my hard drive aren't showing up anymore in my visible Library in iPhoto - and that my Aperture won't even open anymore without crashing. I'm wondering if these errors may be related to the difficulty with my phone, but I'm generally looking for a solution now to this issue (in case anyone reading may know of one).
O, one last note: I did receive, during the transfer that eventually allowed me to recover my photos and videos, one or two text messages, a short string of iMessage messages, and one phone call none of which derailed the transfer since I stayed always within the Gallery on the phone and kept seeing the number of photos restored there increasing ever afterward.