How Apple’s iPhone Battery Is Pissing People Off

The Apple Store on the Upper West Side in New York City | Kena Betancur/Getty Images

The Apple Store on the Upper West Side in New York City | Kena Betancur/Getty Images

2016 was a rough year for Apple. Though, you could argue, not as rough as it was for Samsung thanks to the ill-fated launch of the Galaxy Note 7. But Samsung isn’t the only smartphone manufacturer to experience problems with its batteries. In fact, the batteries in recent iPhones are problematic as well — just not in the dangerous, explosive way that we became familiar with in 2016.

After plenty of users complained, Apple introduced a battery replacement program for select models of the iPhone 6s, which users reported can shut down unexpectedly. But units without eligible serial numbers are reportedly having problems, and the iPhone 6s isn’t the only recent iPhone with battery issues making users mad. Here’s exactly what’s happened, and what Apple is (and isn’t) doing about the problem.

What happened with iPhone batteries

A Chinese customer sets up her new iPhone 7 | Johannes Eisele/Getty Images

A Chinese customer sets up her new iPhone 7 | Johannes Eisele/Getty Images

Late in 2016, Apple launched a repair program for iPhone 6s users affected by a battery flaw that causes the iPhone 6s to unexpectedly shut down. The shutdowns aren’t happening when the batteries are almost dead, or even when the phone is tasked with particularly demanding activities. Apple claims that the problem affects only “a very small number of iPhone 6s devices.” Specifically, those manufactured between September and October 2015.

Apple provided an easy way for users to check whether their iPhone 6s is eligible for a battery replacement. And as Chance Miller reports for 9to5Mac, the company was also sure to explain that the battery flaw doesn’t create a safety issue. Affected users can visit an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider to get their battery replaced for free. But the problem is that owners of eligible iPhone 6s units aren’t the only ones reporting unexpected shutdowns. 

What Apple has admitted

Customers who had pre-ordered the Apple iPhone 7 wait to purchase it

Customers who had pre-ordered the Apple iPhone 7 wait to purchase it | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As 9to5Mac reported later, Apple acknowledged on its Chinese website that a manufacturing flaw with the devices’ batteries caused the unexpected shutdowns. As Apple explained, “We found that a small number of iPhone 6s devices made in September and October 2015 contained a battery component that was exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have been before being assembled into battery packs. As a result, these batteries degrade faster than a normal battery and cause unexpected shutdowns to occur.”

But what’s strange about the problem, and Apple’s proposed solution: It didn’t seem to address the whole problem. Michael Kan reported for PCMag at the time that Apple announced its repair program that the China Consumers Association had asked Apple to investigate the shutdown issues after receiving a number of complaints from Chinese iPhone users. The shutdowns reportedly occurred when the device’s charge dropped between 6050% in both cold and room-temperature environments. And the devices would also fail to turn on unless connected to a power supply.

Kan noted that though Apple claimed to address the problem, a government watchdog group called the China Consumers Association said this:

Earlier this week that consumers continue to complain the shutdown issues are also found in older iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models. In addition, consumers with iPhone 6s models built outside the September and October 2015 date range have also reported the problem.

What Apple hasn’t acknowledged

Crowds wait in anticipation for the release of the iPhone 7 at Apple Store

Crowds wait in anticipation for the release of the iPhone 7 | Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Apple said that it found no other problems with the batteries in recent iPhones. The company stated, “We looked for any other factors that could cause an iPhone to shut down unexpectedly. After intensive investigations, no new factors have been identified. We will continue to monitor and analyze customer reports.” But the issue doesn’t end there, since customers who aren’t eligible for the repair program still have problems.

Josh Horwitz and Echo Huang report for Quartz that at the end of November, the China Consumers Association said that the iPhone battery problems were much more widespread than Apple admitted. The group said that Apple needed to take further action to address the problem. It also accused Cupertino of failing to “meet basic consumer needs for normal wireless communication.”

After analyzing consumer complaints, the group said that “the shutdown malfunction also exists in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, in addition to iPhone 6s devices produced between September and October 2015.” As Forbes noted, even former Apple executive Tony Fadell reported that his iPhone was shutting off unexpectedly “every other day.” Fadell’s tweets confirm that the problem isn’t limited to the standard iPhone 6s. Fadell noted that his phone was an iPhone 6s Plus, a device that Apple still claims is unaffected by the battery flaw.  

Why iPhone users are upset

A man visits the Apple Store | Kena Betancur/Getty Images

A man visits the Apple Store | Kena Betancur/Getty Images

As Jeff John Roberts reports for Fortune, “The most annoying aspect of all this is that Apple refuses to come clean about what’s going on.” He explained, “While the company is running a limited battery replacement program for some iPhone 6s models, it’s still pretending things are just fine with other models.”

An Apple spokesperson did acknowledge that “a small number of customers outside of the affected range have also reported an unexpected shutdown.” But Roberts, and others, think that there’s no way only a small number of people are experiencing the shutdown issue.

Writing that “Apple is losing focus again,” Business Insider’s Dave Smith noted that “Many iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s owners are complaining about a bug that essentially shuts down the phone even when it has a lot of battery life left.” He added, “This is a problem that is happening right now, and yet, Apple hasn’t figured out the true cause or at minimum hasn’t disclosed it to the public. Apple has a replacement program, but it doesn’t appear to cover all of those people affected by this bug.”

What Apple should do

Apple iPhones are displayed during a press preview of the new flagship Apple Store

Apple iPhones are displayed during a press preview of the new flagship Apple Store | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Many have noted that employees at Apple’s retail stores are aware of the complaints. But it’s time for Apple to acknowledge that something is amiss — and to tell consumers when there will be a fix on the way.

Roberts reports that so far, all Apple has said is that an upcoming iOS software update will add “additional diagnostic capability,” which will enable Apple “to gather information over the coming weeks which may potentially help us improve the algorithms used to manage battery performance and shutdown. If such improvements can be made, they will be delivered in future software updates.”

It sounds like Apple is aware of the problem, and may even be able to fix it with something as straightforward as a software update. But consumers who spent their money on an iPhone (whether it’s an iPhone 6s or not) are waiting to hear from Apple that the problem is real and a solution is coming.

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