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Tech Why Apple makes it so hard to get a new iPhone battery

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Apple has admitted to slowing down older iPhone models to preserve battery life. Now they have a program to replace old batteries, but it's not very easy.

Apple recently announced that it was intentionally slowing down older iPhone models in order to preserve battery life. This had been a long-standing conspiracy theory floating around the internet. Apple lowered its battery replacement fee to $29 in response. However, many people have found it difficult to get Apple to change their batteries. We went to an Apple store to see what would happen when we tried to have the battery on an iPhone 6 replaced. Apple recommended that we keep the original battery. Following is a transcript of the video.

Steve Kovach: Has this ever happened to you? What about this?

That could be because your iPhone battery is old. Luckily, you can swap it out for a new one for just $29 and that will solve most of your problems. But Apple doesn't always make it easy.

Apple and other smartphone makers use a technology called lithium ion for their batteries. It's the best kind of battery for mobile devices, but it gets a little worse over time. After two years or so, your iPhone battery can only hold about 80% of its original charge. Apple decided to manage this problem by intentionally slowing down older iPhones so they would draw less power and avoid random shutdowns. But there was one problem, Apple never told anyone it was doing this. So while users noticed better battery life, they also noticed worse performance.

This has been a longstanding conspiracy theory about iPhones. Apple intentionally slows it down to encourage you to buy a new one. And it turns out, that conspiracy theory was mostly true. A site called Geekbench noticed that some older iPhone models were running slower than they should be. Apple finally admitted to what it was doing and apologized. It also changed its battery replacement program, dropping the price from $79 to just $29. But it's not that simple.

Since Apple announced its new battery replacement program, customers have complained that they've gone to get their batteries tested and Apple tells them everything is fine. My colleague Jen was having issues with her iPhone 6 battery life, so we made an appointment at an Apple Store here in New York City.

Employee: So as far as the battery goes, it's able to hold 93% of its charged capacity. Now that's all fine and good. I can tell you that the top two reasons why the phone would turn off is either battery or full storage.

Kovach: So why was she having bad battery life? In Jen's case, Apple said it was likely due to the fact that she was using up most of the storage on her iPhone.

Employee: My advice, don't worry about the battery. You got the phone in July of 2017, that battery should be fine. The issue that you're having is strictly an issue with storage.

Kovach: Okay, great.

After that visit, Apple added a new feature to iOS that lets users check the health of their batteries on their own phones. We tried it and got a slightly better reading.

When we went back to the Apple Store, they said some apps were running in the background, causing the battery to drain faster. They suggested deleting those apps and redownloading them.

This is another problem. Apple's battery tests may say everything is fine, but that doesn't show up in what the user is experiencing. Between those two visits, Apple Geniuses couldn't pinpoint the exact cause.

The good news, Apple told Jen she could still get her battery replaced for just $29. The bad news, she'd have to wait several weeks for that battery replacement to come in.

It's in Apple's best interest to make sure customers are upgrading to new $700 iPhones instead of extending the life of their current devices with a new $29 battery. About 2/3 of Apple's revenue comes from iPhone sales and Wall Street judges the company on how many iPhones it sells each quarter. On top of this, Apple has been giving customers fewer reasons to upgrade the iPhone each year. New iPhone models have looked the same pretty much since 2014 and the iPhone 8 doesn't have a lot in there to convince people to upgrade from the iPhone 7. And the iPhone X's $1000 price tag has turned a lot of people off from upgrading.

Even though this process sounds annoying, it's actually better than a lot of Apple's competitors. Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and several other companies have said they don't intentionally slow down their devices to preserve battery life but they also don't make it easy to replace it. It's not like there's a Samsung store you can walk into and get your battery replaced. You have to mail it in.

I used to tell people to upgrade their iPhone every two years or so. But with this battery replacement program, you can extend the life by another two years. My advice? If you're having bad battery life and performance, go into the Apple Store, pay that $29, get a new battery and you'll feel like you have a brand new iPhone.