Apple has admitted that it was deliberately slowing down older iPhones to save battery life - even on handsets that were barely three years old. Following an outcry over this revelation, the company offered to replace batteries for a reduced fee and to give users the option to turn off the 'feature' as part of the iOS 11.3 update - read about that update to iOS 11 here).
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However, some iPhone 6s models are actually covered by a 2016 program that Apple started in response to an issue with shutdowns - and can have their battery replaced for free. Find out if you can get the battery in your iPhone replaced for free here.
Read on to find out why Apple was reducing the efficiency of older iPhones, and how to get your battery replaced. We also have a video of before and after a battery replacement here.
Following Batterygate, Apple apologised for not being more open about its iPhone slowdown strategy and offered to replace old batteries for a small cost. This hasn't stopped class-action lawsuits being filed against Apple - there are currently almost 60 lawsuits filed against Apple relating to the iPhone slowdowns.
Apple may be offering replacements at a discounted rate, but they have come under fire from the BBC's Watchdog programme, who reported that people have been told by Apple that they have to pay for additional - and some say unnecessary - repairs before their battery can be replaced, read more about that below.
Why is Apple slowing down iPhones?
This intentional slowdown of older iPhones (particularly the iPhone 6 and 6s) began with iOS 10.2.1, which "dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components" to reduce the instances of random battery shutdowns on older phones - in other words, sacrificing power and performance for longer battery life.
Apple defended the action saying: "We have never - and would never - do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades." Emphasising that their goal was "making iPhones last as long as possible".
Apple said it was attempting to address an issue where iPhones with older batteries would shut down unexpectedly because they were incapable of "delivering peak energy loads".
The company noted: "Customer response to iOS 10.2.1 was positive, as it successfully reduced the occurrence of unexpected shutdowns." Apple also added a similar power management to iPhone 7 models.
As the iPhone's lithium-ion battery gets older it will start to need charging more frequently, and may even start to shut down your phone unexpectedly.
Of course the same is true for all rechargeable batteries in any smartphone, computer or other device - whether made by Apple or not.
Apple said it had seen a number of issues with iPhone 6 and 6s models that it believes are a result of ageing batteries and it is suggesting that the best solution is to replace those older batteries.
Which iPhones are affected?
Handsets affected by the battery-related slow-downs include: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. But not all of these models will require a new battery.
How to find iPhone battery information
As well as the reduced-price battery offer, Apple boss Tim Cook announced that an upcoming iOS update would give iPhone owners the option to turn off the automatic slowdown feature - although doing so will put affected and older devices at risk of unexpected shutdowns (which is precisely what the speed throttling is designed to avoid).
This update came in iOS 11.3 when it arrived on 29 March 2018. Users are now able to go Settings > Battery to see if their iPhone is being throttled, and to turn off the feature if it is.
In addition, Settings > Battery > Battery Health (Beta) will give users more information about overall battery health.
Read our How to check if the battery in your iPhone may need to be replaced article for full details.
iPhone battery replacement cost
In a sign of real contrition (helped by the threat of class-action lawsuits from angry customers and hungry lawyers) Apple is giving all users with an iPhone 6 or later the option of replacing its battery for £25 or $29 - down from the usual £79/$79 out-of-warranty replacement price. (If Apple needs to ship the repaired iPhone to you it will add a shipping fee of £7.44.)
If your iPhone is still under warranty then there is no fee for battery replacement. The Apple Limited Warranty covers against manufacturing defects for one year from the date you bought them. It doesn't cover damage caused by accidents or unauthorised modifications.
With a new battery the iOS operating system will no longer need to conserve power. As Apple says a replacement battery will return iPhone performance to normal, this official Apple battery replacement will be like getting a new iPhone for £30/$30 - with all the scratches you've lovingly added over time, of course.
Apple's offering to replace batteries for £25 ($29) but it may be possible to get yours replaced for free.
Back in 2016, a year after people first started to experience inexplicable shutdowns before their iPhones had run out of battery, Apple started offering free battery replacements for certain iPhones.
The free battery replacements were for iPhone 6s models manufactured between September and October 2015.
You can check to see if your iPhone is one of those that can have a new battery fitted for free by entering your serial number on this Apple webpage.
If you have already paid to have an iPhone battery replaced and it turns out it was covered by this scheme you can apply to Apple for a refund here.
If you paid full-price to have your iPhone battery replaced between 1 January and 28 December 2017, you can claim money back from Apple.
The company is offering to refund $50/£54 to anyone who paid full price for a battery replacement in the year before Apple’s practice of slowing down older iPhones to avoid battery shutdowns.
You will need to have had the battery replacement performed at an “Apple authorized service location,” that’s an Apple Store, Apple Repair Center, or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.
Apple says, on a dedicated webpage, that eligible customers will be contacted by Apple via email between May 23, 2018 and July 27, 2018 with instructions on how to obtain the credit.
The company says that: "If you have not received an email from Apple by August 1, 2018, but believe you are eligible for a credit based on the terms above, please contact Apple by December 31, 2018." You can contact Apple by phone or a chat session - the links to do so are provided here.
If you had your battery replaced for free because you were still in warranty you won’t be able to claim the credit, obviously.
This all sounds like good news. But beware! Apple might be offering to replace batteries in older iPhones that are experiencing slowdowns for a reduced price, but the company has been requiring that users who’s phones need other repairs have those repairs performed as well - at an additional cost - before it will fit a new battery.
Apple states: "If your iPhone has any damage that impairs the replacement of the battery, such as a cracked screen, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement."
Users who have been asked to pay extra for the additional repairs are complaining that the repairs are unnecessary.
According to a BBC investigation by Watchdog, some users have been asked to pay out for additional repairs which they felt weren’t required.
In one example, an iPhone owner called Josh Landburgh said that Apple said it needed to repair a small dent on the edge of the iPhone - at a cost of £200 - before it would replace the battery.
iPhone owner David Bowler had a similar experience. He said that Apple said he would have to pay £250 to have an issue with the speaker and microphone fixed before a new battery could be fitted.
In the latter case, the BBC sent Bowler’s phone to an independent repair specialist who said that there was no fault with the iPhone.
It may be cheaper to have these additional repairs done independently, rather than by Apple, but iPhone owners could be voiding their warranty if they do so.
How long will iPhone battery replacement take?
When Apple first announced the procedure, the company said that if you sent an affected iPhone to Apple it would take approximately 6-8 days for the battery replacement to be taken care of. This time was reduced to up to 5 days if you take the phone to an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP).
Apple also suggested that same-day repair options might be available at Apple Store and AASPs, although it indicated that the iPhone may still be required to be sent away for repair.
However, it turned out that the wait times were much longer - with battery supplies for some models of iPhone being low.
An internal Apple document leaked in mid-January revealed that batteries for the iPhone 6 Plus were in very short supply, and that matters wouldn't improve until March 2018. However, even in March, the average wait time for replacing a battery in an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus was 3-4.5 weeks, according to analysts at Barclays, who made a series of calls to Apple Stores to gage the waiting times. Apparently, the longest wait time at that stage was 9-10 weeks.
Luckily it seems that availability has now improved, with a memo obtained by MacRumors in early May 2018 stating that: "Service inventory of all iPhone replacement batteries is now available without delay."
Will Apple loan a phone during the repair?
Announcing the scheme Apple said: "If you bring your iPhone to an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, we'll try to fix it during your appointment. Some iPhone repairs require precise calibration on specialized equipment. If we need to send your iPhone to an Apple Repair Center, we'll check to see if you can use a loaner while your iPhone gets repaired. A loaner iPhone is available for most repairs that are covered under the Apple Limited Warranty."
However, it's unlikely that Apple will offer you a loan iPhone while yours is off for repair because it would only do so if your handset is still under warranty and that's unlikely given the age of iPhones covered by this battery replacement program.
How to get a new iPhone battery from Apple
To get help with a battery replacement, take your iPhone to an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Retail Store.
Apple warns against going elsewhere as some counterfeit and third-party batteries "may not be designed properly and could result in safety issues". Only an Authorised Service provider or Apple Store will ensure you receive a genuine Apple battery.
Your first step is to contact Apple Support. Online you'll find options to chat with an Apple Support person. We've found these extremely helpful when we have used Apple Support's Chat function.
Another option is to talk to Apple Support. Simply provide your phone number and Apple Support will call you back - often within 5 minutes.
You can also schedule a time for Apple Support to call you at a convenient time.
Apple has confirmed that it will replace batteries regardless of whether the iPhone fails an official diagnostic test that it usually uses to establish whether iPhone batteries are maintaining their charge.
You can even give Apple your contact information and they will call you when you're ready with all the details on record.
Should I get my iPhone battery replaced?
Wondering what difference a battery replacement will make to your iPhone? There is a video on YouTube that shows the performance of an iPhone 6s before and after battery replacement.
In this case, the iPhone was having its performance throttled prior to the battery replacement, and the owner of the iPhone, Bennett Sorbo, claims that he waited a month for the replacement.
Sorbo performs different tasks and there is a noticeable improvement in performance following the battery update, including in basic tasks like loading the home page, but notably in graphic intensive tasks.
He ran Geekbench before and after. Before the iPhone 6s scored 2485 in multi-core testing, after being fitted with a new battery it scored 4412.
However, before you rush off to an Apple Store to get the battery in your iPhone changed, there are a few reasons why you might want to hold off:
- You can expect a long wait to see a Genius.
- There are limited supplies of batteries in store and since many of these are being put in phones where the battery doesn't really need to be replaced, people who genuinely need new batteries are faced with up to a three three week wait while Apple orders more batteries, according to a Business Insider report.
- If you have an iPhone 6 Plus you can expect to wait longer to get the battery swapped as according to a MacRumors report those batteries won't be delivered until March or April.
- There might be a three week, or longer, wait for iPhone 6 replacement batteries.
- If you don't need a new battery having one fitted will not speed up your iPhone, an Apple Store employee told Business Insider.
- Apple has promised to continue its battery replacement offer for the whole of 2018 so our advice is to wait until later in the year if you want to get your battery changed but aren't seeing a message in Settings > Battery indicating that there is an issue with your battery. Read: How to find out if my battery needs replacing.
Before you go and get your iPhone battery replaced make sure it is backed up fully. We have a guide to backing up your iPhone here, but we would also recommend checking what data is being backed up by going to Settings > Apple ID (at the top) > iCloud, and making sure that any of the apps or services you would want to be backed up are being backed up. E.g. If you don't want to lose your contacts, make sure Contacts is on.
Other battery saving tips
We've got nearly 40 tips for how to improve iPhone & iPad battery life, which is certainly worth reading.
We also recommend considering a battery case for your iPhone, which will extend the daily usage you can get from your phone and also protect it from everyday bangs and knocks. Read our round-up of the best iPhone battery cases for some recommendations.