Opinion: Apple Needs to Add the iPhone 5S to their $29 Battery Replacement Offer

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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.


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4 thoughts on “Opinion: Apple Needs to Add the iPhone 5S to their $29 Battery Replacement Offer”

  1. The feature people are upset about doesn’t effect the 5S? I know it’s just an opinion piece, but your opinion is stupid. That’s like finding out a car company did something you didn’t like starting with the 2014 model, and being upset they didn’t fix it for their 2013 model.

    1. Maybe I wasn’t clear. The primary issue people are upset about DOES affect the 5S. I never said that it didn’t. While the 5S didn’t suffer from the processor shutdowns that Apple created their processor throttling programming to stop, that IS NOT the issues everyone is worked up about. 5Ss still get slowed down when their batteries start to wear out. That is the primary issue at the head of all the controversy. 5S owners have a legitimate reason to unhappy with Apple leaving them out of this and I’m not suggesting that Apple do something for devices that weren’t affected.

      1. I am sorry to tell you but you are incorrect. The iPhone 5S can shutdown unexpectedly with a worn battery when there is excessive strain just like the later AND earlier phones. Apple just didn’t solve that problem on the 5S. Also, I do not believe that what people are upset about is that old batteries wear down. They are upset that any decision about how that is handled other than the natural consequences were decided for them, which they were not on the iPhone 5S.

        1. Actually, I’m not. The safety mechanism that causes automatic processor shutdowns, the one that Apple started throttling processors because of in iOS 10, was first added to the iPhone 6. This has been reported EXTENSIVELY and has been confirmed by Apple. There is no debate about this fact. That was the reason Apple added this programming. And if you actually read the article, I am well aware of why people aren’t happy. Apple wasn’t up front with them about what they were doing.

          I’m not going to debate whether it not 5Ss are shutting down, but I can’t absolutely guarantee you that they aren’t because of a built-in processor safety, because the phone just doesn’t have it. Maybe you or others have had this for other reasons. Maybe it’s the processor failing. I know on my case, we never saw random shutdowns running on the same batt for 4 years unless it was fully discharged.

          I have seen several user reports claiming that their older devices are being throttled along with the 6, 6S, and 7. However, after taking a closer look at news reports, I have not seen any specific confirmation on the 5S or older models experiencing this, even though they share the same iOS 10 update that added it (it was added to the 7 in iOS 11). There are also no reports specifically saying they were excluded.

          It is possible that 5S owners are experiencing what is described in this article:

          https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/ipad-airs-a7-chip-is-identical-to-the-iphones-just-faster/

          Evidently the 5S has always had an aggressive processor throttling mechanism to deal with thermal load. As batteries wear, the thermal load grows exponentially as the battery can supply sufficient current, so that could have the exact same effect, just more erratic. And it’s the same cause for an old phone with a worn battery.

          Apple caused this mess. They need to take more aggressive steps end it. Extending their offer to the 5S is a good way to help do that, whatever the actual cause of the users’ problems. They aren’t going to care about the technical details at this point. They are just going to blame Apple.

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