Just yesterday I suggested that Apple should cut back to offering just two iOS upgrades per device starting this year, so it may sound like I’m talking out of sides of my mouth with today’s suggestion that Apple should be more generous in its attempt to appease unhappy iPhone users. However, yesterday’s post was just a New Year’s Resolution, and it’s no big deal that 99.9% of them are completely unrealistic, right? We all know there’s no way Apple will be taking my crazy advise. However, back here in the real world, Apple is still getting shelled over the self-inflicted issue of iPhone battery watching and device throttling. They could use a few realistic pointers to put this thing to bed, since they haven’t managed to do it on their own yet.
Because Apple waited a year before pulling back the curtain on their internal solution to the problem of battery wear and seeming random device shutdowns, they have a PR nightmare on their hands that won’t go away quietly. While I initially said that their offer of $29 battery replacements and better battery health monitoring and notifications was good enough as a solution, many customers still feel slighted and Apple’s critics are continuing to have a field day. Even if I and many other Apple users think it was acceptable, there are enough people who don’t agree that Apple still isn’t done here.
The problem is that there are still enough gaps in what they are offering to keep offended users angry, and give the tech press endless grist for the click mill. Nothing brings them in like bad news, especially bad news that affects Apple, Google, Samsung, Facebook, Amazon, or Microsoft. Apple has to close these gaps and likely give up a proverbial pound of flesh in the process to finally put an end to this thing.
Take Care of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus First
I think the people calling for free out of warranty battery replacements across the board because Apple is massive and has a pile of cash lying around are just playing to the mob mentality. However, I do think it would be a smart move for Apple to replace affected iPhone 7 and 7 Plus batteries that were bought between their September release date and a year ago for free because they are all within three months their warranty lapse date (any iPhone 7 or 7 Plus owner with AppleCare+ would still be covered by active warranty and would get it for free, anyway). There have been fewer battery and throttling complaints with the 7 and 7 Plus than the older 6 and 6S models, so this move wouldn’t set Apple back that much and would close one of the aforementioned gaps in their initial peace offering.
iPhone 5S Users Have Feelings, Too
The second move Apple needs to make, and this one is a must in my opinion, is adding the iPhone 5S to the list of devices eligible for $29 battery replacements. It is the only odd man out among Apple’s supported iPhones and there are still plenty of them in service today. Apple drawing such an arbitrary line is a bad look and an easy target right now.
While the 5S was replaced by the iPhone SE close to two years ago, it is still an officially supported device and it received an upgrade to iOS 11. While the 5S didn’t had the same issues with sudden shutdowns as the iPhones 6 and beyond, it still received the iOS updates that will throttle its processor if the battery is worn. Those original batteries are now anywhere from two to four years old, so I can guarantee you that most are going to be somewhere between starting to go and burnt toast.
I have some personal experience with this, actually. My Dad took my iPhone 5S when I upgraded to the iPhone 6 Plus in September of 2014. I used that 5S extensively for work, but I had a Mophie Juice Pack that I always kept on it, so the internal battery didn’t take all of my abuse. I know it bought us some extra time, because my Dad didn’t get to the point where he felt he had to upgrade until this last Summer. A full four years is pretty impressive for an iPhone battery.
The original battery and the Juice Pack batteries were both running on fumes at that point, but that didn’t deter my oldest son. My Dad passed the 5S to him after buying an new iPhone 6S Plus, and we immediately replaced the battery. I can attest to the fact that it made a world of difference in the performance of the phone, which was running iOS 10 at the time. It has since been upgraded to iOS 11, and other than a wearing Home Button, it is still going strong.
Erase the Arbitrary Line
I understand that Apple drew the line at the iPhone 6 because the source of this whole saga was due to the shutdowns that first manifested on the device. However, stopping there was a poor decision on their part because of how it looks and feels to longtime iPhone users who still have 5Ss. It would be one thing if they could say that the iPhone 5S isn’t being throttled while the newer models are, but we all know that isn’t the case. There might also be a case to make if there were several even older models of iPhone that were still supported and were being throttled. However, Apple ended support for the iPhones 5 and 5C this year with the release of iOS 11, so the 5S stands alone as the only supported iPhone that Apple isn’t offering reduced price batteries for. They need to suck it up and take this last hit to show they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. If they want to encourage the replacement of worn batteries, then extend the $29 deal to the last device in the line of supported devices.
Inmates Running the Asylum?
All of the decisions that Apple has made though this whole process feel like ones that an engineer or programmer would make if left on their own to solve a problem. As a programmer myself, I understand the impulse to figure out the most expedient and efficient path to a solution, implement it, test it, and then move onto the next thing. I have to constantly check myself on whether I am doing what’s easiest and best for me, or what’s easiest and best for my customer. That is a little easier for me because I am always directly interacting with my customers as part of my work. That helps keep me focused on what is important for them. A programmer at a company like Apple will rarely, if ever, have this opportunity. As such, I can absolutely understand how this series of decisions could be made by programmers and engineers working in a vacuum. Such a disconnect can breed situations like this.
None of that explanation makes what happened acceptable. Programmers and engineers who are isolated from the “real world” need to be supervised and lead by managers who’s job it is to keep these guys focused on doing great work that is always customer-centric. That obviously didn’t happen here. There is something very broken about the decision making through this whole process, and Apple still hasn’t quite made it completely right yet.
While this may sound like a reversal from my previously stated opinions on all of this controversy, it actually isn’t. I still agree with Apple’s decision to throttle processors of devices with worn batteries. From a programming and engineering standpoint, the logic behind using this as a processor protection mechanism is sound. I think it would be for anyone who has a basic understanding of electricity and electronic components. However, the decision to not make this public before it was released into the wild was beyond short-sighted and arrogant. I understand the concept of “protecting customers from themselves” because I’ve done it myself plenty of times. When you do this, there is a fine line you have to walk, and Apple strayed far from it in the end.
It may not be far enough for some, but I think that making any iPhone 7 and 7 Plus battery replacements free by extending the warranties on them and adding the iPhone 5S to the list of devices eligible for a $29 battery replacement would be two smart moves for Apple. I think they would help to placate the remaining anger from users who feel like they are still being squeezed by Apple’s decisions. I think dropping these two arbitrary barriers, one that asks customers who were in warranty a few months ago to pay up now for a problem that existed when they were still covered, and another that excludes an iPhone that can be still be affected by processor throttling, will help to move this situation toward the exit.
As for me, I can’t wait for this whole mess to end because I’m tired of covering the same thing over and over. Come on Apple. There are predictions, and new hardware and software for 2018 to move on to. Step up one more time and help everyone turn the page on this issue.
What do you think? Will these two small additions to what Apple has already offered be enough to bring this mess to a final resolution, or is it still not enough? If not, how far will Apple have to go? Let me know what you think in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.