Why Apple doesn’t want users to replace their own batteries

As lithium-ion batteries become more common, companies like Apple are using software to make sure the batteries in its devices are authentic. This is because all lithium-ion batteries house chemical reactions and therefore the potential to swell, heat up, and eventually ignite.

Kif Leswing for CNBC:

The two recent incidents involving Apple products show a growing risk to the company’s brand: the lithium-ion batteries that power its devices.

First, the Federal Aviation Administration disclosed last week that some Apple laptops have been banned from flights. This comes after Apple recalled some 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop models because the batteries inside the computers pose a fire hazard… [Secondly] repair experts discovered that a menu inside the iPhone settings app will display a warning message if the iPhone battery wasn’t replaced by an Apple store or authorized servicer.

In both cases, Apple’s recommendation to users is the same: Get the battery replaced by Apple or an authorized service center… Fake replica batteries that look authentic are a growing problem not only for Apple, but for many electronics companies, said Nadim Maluf, CEO of Qnovo, which makes software that monitors the health and flow of power inside batteries for devices including Android phones. People buy fake batteries online, or repair shops buy them from unauthorized sources. These batteries can have chemistry issues which make them swell up, eventually leading to a fire, Maluf said.

It’s a real concern on flights. After all, nearly everyone on a flight has a smartphone, and a good number of people also are carrying laptops, battery packs, and other gadgets.

MacDailyNews Take: This is not a “we want to make a profit on battery replacements” issue. Apple has and makes more than enough money on myriad other products and services. This is a safety issue.

Scams abound in the unauthorized iPhone battery business and theses batteries are capable of doing much damage if not properly handled and installed.

Earlier this year, ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reported that iPhone owners who purchase replacement batteries from third-party outlets need to be careful because it’s possible for them to be ripped off as it’s easy to take old iPhone batteries and “reset” them to make them look like new units. Kingsley-Hughes also reports that “the third-party market is also awash with cheap and nasty counterfeit batteries that are potentially unsafe.”

Which is why we cringe every time some frangamdroid loser shuffles aboard our plane with a piece of Samsung junk (which are notorious for battery explosions and fires)… It’s only a matter of time.MacDailyNews, July 26, 2019

16 Comments

    1. I have an iPhone XS Max. My phone lasts a day and a half with heavy usage. No need to swap batteries when you use an iPhone. Also, for those who feel they need it, battery cases are a better solution than swappable batteries.

      1. YMMV on what you believe constitutes “heavy” usage.

        For example, I’ve been carrying two iPhones daily since 2013 (various models; currently a 6s and a 7) and by 6pm on a light usage day, they’re typically have eaten around a third of their charge (e.g., they’re each at ~65% remaining). This suggests that a “day and a half” is feasible, but not at non-light usage.

        When I’m having a fairly “heavy” day, I find that whichever iPhone is doing the heavy lifting will be under 50% within six hours (eg. right after lunch).

        And because I don’t want to totally kill it due to something I can’t control, when the hammered iPhone gets down to ~40% remaining, I’ll typically start to load-balance to the other iPhone to save battery on the first one. By the end of the day, both will be about ~30% remaining.

        Insofar as the ‘battery tech’ part of this discussion, things like swelling are chemistry driven which means that Apple isn’t making unique and “magical” batteries that don’t expand – particularly when they’re not manufacturing them themselves, but buying from a large commodity supplier who’s also selling the same chemistry to everyone else…

  1. I got taken by a third-party battery scam. The battery lasted about six months before it swelled up and destroyed my iPhone 6. By saving $50 or so, I ended up losing hundreds.

    Apple isn’t stopping us from installing off-brand batteries. But this move WILL let buyers of used iPhones know whether or not they’re buying a potential problem.

    1. Although I am an ardent fan of Apple products, this campaign is a joke. I went to the Apple Store in Leawood, KS to have the battery on my iPhone 7 Plus replaced on Jul 28 because I was to the point that the battery didn’t last the entire day and Battery Health showed 83%. I waited the hour it took to do the service and the associate came out saying I would need to completely charge my new battery which I though was odd as it was the same level it was when I brought it in. I checked Battery Health and it read the same 83% as when I brought it in. The associate told me to let the battery drain down to the point that the phone shut down and then fully recharge and the Battery Health would reset. 4 days later I returned to the Apple Store, my battery dead by late afternoon and the same Battery Health of 83%. This time the associate brought out a MBP and reset the phone to a new install. I had to restore from back up but the problem persisted. Today I made my THIRD trip to the Apple Store only to find that A) I was charged for a new battery which was never installed B) The phone case had never even been opened! C) The technician laughed it off saying whom ever was to have done the repair probably got distracted, as he put it “an honest mistake”!! I beg to differ, forgetting to get me a receipt is an honest mistake. I was charged for genuine replacement parts that were NEVER installed!!! That is not a mistake, that is a fraudulent business transaction.

      I was told that Apple Customer Care would call me, which they did, and after about 2 hours on the phone guess what they gave me for my trouble? THE FINGER!! Nothing. Zippo.

      1. I wouldn’t have left the store until it reflected 100%, and would have told the associate that they are full of shit. And you should have talked to whoever manages that store.

  2. I’m in favour of everything Apple is doing here apart from them holding back battery health information when it’s not an authorised replacement.

    If they can get information from a battery, they should just show it. By not doing this, they are actually putting the customer in danger by leaving them blind to a potential bad battery. I hate artificial software limits like this and this just seems spiteful.

    I can understand this right to repair movement but for my non-techie friends and family (Mum & Dad especially) who have no interest in doing this (I think this is the majority of people), I think Apple just needs to ensure there are plenty of authorised places you can get this done. Then in addition, always allow users to check the health of their battery and get any warning messages if it’s an unauthorised battery or bad installation.

    This right to repair is all well and good but as devices get smaller, more complex and integrated this just becomes unpractical and unsafe for most people. It was okay in the 80s and 90s but things have moved on. Too good modern examples come to mind when trying to think about how practical right to repair is for battery replacement, AirPods (so small because they have to fit in your ears) and Tesla (dangerous due to amount of power involved and requirement to properly calibrate battery systems afterwards).

    1. Unfortunately with a third-party battery there’s no guarantee that the information being reported is accurate. It’s easy to program a chip to say that something is an a genuine Apple battery and it has 100% health even if it’s not connected to the battery at all. Just look at the scammers that take tiny flash drives and make them report that they’re much larger.

      1. Agreed. So don’t do business with a company that does this. Buy from one that offers a warranty and stands behind their work. They are out there. You think a battery replacement service that scams its customers will be in business for more than a few months? Not these days. A reputation takes years to build and 5 minutes to destroy.

  3. You would think that a company as reliant on battery tech as Apple is would be a global leader in battery tech. Several labs have demonstrated solid state lithium batteries that avoid all the safety problems of lithium-ion batteries. Why isn’t Apple industrializing this and owning the single most critical technology for next-generation portables?

    It is ironic that the same people who think that the Bill of Rights is perfect and should never be revised are often the same people who claim that now technology is too complicated for the common man, so the rights of a product owner to repair his item must be circumvented by a manufacturer that has nothing but profit to gain by such restrictions. The only one shouldering the risk for screwing up product repairs is the person doing the repairs. Not Apple.

    As otherwise intelligent people shrug their shoulders when companies like Apple make their products to be intentionally disposable, please take a field trip to your local municipal dump to see what you are encouraging Apple to do to the planet. Here’s what disposable junk looks like in the Caribbean (the Pacific patch is even more massive):

    1. As MDN states, battery replacement is not a big profit source for Apple.

      If a third party replaces the battery in an iPhone or iPad or MacBook with a non approved, d fictive battery and the item catches fire who catches the blame? APPLE! All the headlines will state, “Apple iPhone catches fire!”, or “Apple iPad catches fire.” Virtually none of those media outlets will research and find out that it was a defective, third party battery, and even fewer will publish that fact.

  4. As a generic statement, “Apple doesn’t want users to replace their own batteries” that is not true. I have an older laptop and at the Apple store the guy told me it was obsolete (or whatever term they use) and that I can do it myself. Told me which screwdriver to use, said to buy a third party battery, and even suggested YouTube videos how to do it. So they may not want you to on newer models, they couldn’t care less on older models

    1. So you are confirming that in the past, Apple products were more user friendly. Today Apple just wants to shake down its walled garden sheep for every dime they have.

      I don’t buy the BS excuse that only Apple could possibly replace a battery safely. Apple sources its batteries from China just like any other electronic mfr. If they were superior, which they are not, Apple could explain that and charge a premium price against a FREE MARKET of other battery sellers. Or if Apple was truly concerned about the welfare of their customers, they could certify replacement batteries to Apple standards, which would likely result in superior battery tech that comes along 2-3 years after Apple does its design. In a logical world, Apple could even standardize its chargers to USB-C so people could manage the batteries on their portables directly from their Macs, what a concept! But no, Apple isn’t doing any of these user friendly things. Apple leveraging Apple’s near-monopoly power on iOS sheep.

      If Apple customers are as smart as MDN tells us repeatedly, then they will be able to discern quality replacement batteries. Nobody is going to blame Apple for a 3rd party battery failure. Anyone trying to do that would easily be exposed. To suggest all Apple users are too stupid to get it is an insult to intelligent people. It’s all about the money.

      Then Apple wonders why long-standing customers are getting disgusted with Apples trend toward sealed high-cost, lower value disposable products.

      Tim, take your battery, your watch, and your wireless earbuds and monitor your anal health. I won’t be interested in supporting your vision of a disposable planned-obsolescence future.

  5. Apple wants you to buy a new phone every year so of course they’re against replacing batteries.

    There are no where near enough Apple stores or authorized service agents to support battery replacement so individual iPhone owners must do the job themselves.

    Apple changed its emphasis on producing high quality products that are engineered to last to producing above average disposable products.

    As the owner of my iPhone, MacBook Air, and iPad, I have the right to upgrade, replace, and modify them as i see fit. i’ve been doing this on Apple products for many friends and co-workers for over 20 years and will continue.

  6. How about allowing MiFi certified batteries and that way you encourage people to be responsible with the batteries they use instead of linking it to only Apple.

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