If you’re one of many people who has been struggling with an aging iPhone, good news: Apple has just released a new plan for how to fix a slow iPhone. In a letter to its consumers published on the Apple website on Thursday, the company both apologized for its lack of clarity surrounding recent issues and laid out how it’s planning to deal with these issues in the future. “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,” the company wrote in the letter. “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about the issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.” And hey, guess what? One of those changes involves making replacement batteries for ailing iPhones a lot more accessible.
Rumors have circulated for some time that Apple allegedly slows down old iPhones on purpose in order to push consumers to buy new ones; however, these rumors are incorrect. As Matthew Panzarino recently pointed out at TechCrunch, the rumours have recently reemerged “because of a Reddit post and the loose interpretation of subsequent benchmark tests posted by Primate Labs’ John Poole.” The issue isn’t that old iPhones slow down because Apple is “throttling” them; the issue is that batteries simply get less effective as they age due to a wide variety of factors, and that Apple’s attempts to mitigate the effects of an aging battery — which, by the way, were rolled out nearly a year ago — by building in a power management feature to iOS 10.2.1 that “smooths out” peaks of performance only when necessary (that is, to prevent your phone from just shutting down when you ask it to do something the battery can’t handle anymore due to its age) have been subsequently misunderstood as a nefarious plan to kill phone batteries before their time is actually up.
It is true that Apple’s communication about both the issues that naturally arise as lithium-ion batteries age and what the power management feature hasn’t been super clear; its messaging about the iOS 10.2.1 power management feature seemed to confirm the rumors, rather than correct misunderstandings about them. This is partially why the outrage has been so fierce this time round. Hence, Thursday’s letter: It functions as an apology, a clearer explanation of what exactly is going on, and a detailed plan of how Apple will address the issue moving forwards.
The fix, of course, is probably the part of the letter in which many consumers will be most interested. Apple does offer a battery service as one of its iPhone repair options; up until now, it’s been free for eligible iPhone models that are either still within their warranty period or covered by an appropriate AppleCare plan or consumer law and $79 for out-of-warranty devices.(“Out-of-warranty” is defined as a device which is more than one year old or “hasan issue that’s not covered under warranty or consumer law, like accidental damage or damage caused by unauthorized modifications,” according to Apple.) However, since so many consumers have expressed such displeasure with both the battery issue itself and the way the company handled the communication surrounding it, Apple will be reducing the fee for out-of-warranty battery replacement starting in late January, 2018: Instead of $79, it will cost only $29 for folks with an iPhone 6 or later — a not-insignificant price knockdown of $50. This reduced price will be available worldwide through December of 2018.
Details about the new (albeit temporary) plan haven’t been released yet, but the company’s statement notes that they’ll be available on Apple.com in the near future. However, it’s likely that the actual process will be somewhat similar to Apple’s existing service and repair process: First, make sure you’ve got information about the model of your device, its serial number, and your Apple ID and password handy (find out how to identify your model here and how to find its serial number here); then, get in touch with Apple Support however suits you best — you can chat via the internet, call Apple Support now, give Apple Support your model and serial number in advance so they’ve already got it if you want to call them later, schedule Apple Support to give you a call later, or go ahead and set up an appointment.
To get to this screen, go to getsupport.apple.com, click “iPhone,” click the category for the issue you’re having (for example, “Battery, Power & Charging”), click the specific issue you’re having (e.g. “Device slow or unresponsive to touch”), and then select the way in which you’d like to contact Apple.
For a battery fix, you’ll probably want to bring it to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider; if you click the “Bring in for Repair” option, you’ll be able to find locations near you and set up an appointment. If you chat with Apple Support via the internet or phone, you can also ask them to send you’re a box so you can just ship it right to them instead of going to a store. Whichever option you choose, make sure you back up your iPhone before you bring or send it in.
In addition to the reduction in battery replacement fees for the course of 2018, Apple also noted in its letter that they will be releasing “an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery.” This way, users will be able to “see for themselves” if the battery’s condition is affecting the phone’s performance. Additionally, the company has vowed to keep working on “ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.”
Again, there’s still more information to come — but we should be getting it fairly soon, so at least we don’t have long to wait. In the meantime, it might be worth brushing up on some tips to keep your phone battery’s health in check. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all.