Apple apologises and cuts iPhone battery replacement price

Alex Kidman 29 December 2017 NEWS


Australian Apple fans will pay just $39 for battery replacements as part of Apple's apology over iPhone slowdown issues.

In recent weeks it's emerged that Apple's solution for a situation where older iPhone batteries could lead to unexpected shutdowns was to incrementally degrade processor performance on those handsets.

From Apple's perspective, this was an effort to ensure that iPhones with older batteries didn't suddenly stop working in the middle of a call, message or other smartphone function. However, it did have the potential to make selected handsets respond more slowly after iOS upgrades with little indication to the end user as to why their handset was suddenly slower.

Many consumers figured that Apple was deliberately slowing down older handsets to encourage sales of new devices, unaware that (potentially) a new battery could bring back the performance they'd grown accustomed to.

In a message to its customers, Apple has taken the rare step of apologising for confusion around the issue, as well as outlining what it plans to do around battery life issues going forwards. In Apple's letter to its customers it states:

"We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that."

It's a simple reality that current lithium ion battery technology degrades over time, even if a battery isn't particularly used. Apple's update was intended (as per the company line) to stop sudden shutdowns being an issue via the update to iOS 10.2.1:

"About a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance."

Apple's response to the issue will be twofold. Early in 2018, it intends to release an iOS update that will "give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance."

Historically speaking, Apple has been very reluctant to allow app makers to delve into the iPhone's battery condition to inform consumers around their relative battery health, so it will be interesting to see if battery testing apps outside Apple's own start being approved at the same time, although that still feels unlikely.

In the meantime, it's dropping the price of battery replacements for older, out of warranty iPhones from US$79 to US$29, available from January 2018. In Australia, we'll pay just $39 for a battery replacement according to Apple Australia, down significantly from its current $119 asking price. Apple's timeframe for that price change is in January 2018, so it may not apply if you rush down to an Apple store today.

As always, you may already be covered by standard Australian consumer law, which states that goods must be fit for service within a reasonable lifespan relative to their cost. Apple sells its goods as premium products, and while this isn't legal advice, if you're sitting on a reasonably new iPhone with battery woes, even if you didn't buy the additional AppleCare+ warranty, you may have a case to bring to Apple for a battery replacement regardless.

Apple's note on battery life states that it will roll out lower pricing "available worldwide through December 2018", but hopefully it won't take an entire year before we see lower pricing here in Australia. We've reached out to Apple Australia to see if there's any local news to report on lower pricing for battery replacements to come.

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