The curious case of Apple’s approach to battery health in its devices

Although users of Apple’s Mac computers can easily check the health of their batteries, Apple had banned battery-health apps from its App Store citing security reasons and had to issue a software update once the issue hit the headlines of the news media. Apple has made thousands of dollars in new iPhone purchases stemming from simple battery replacement issues.

Following strong media reports on Apple wantonly slowing down its iPhones in ageing batteries, Apple has now moved to provide iPhone owners more information regarding the health of their batteries reversing an earlier longstanding stance of refusing to divulge such information directly to its customers.

Apple has now stated that an update to its iOS operating system will show the health of the phone’s battery and recommend whether it needs to be replaced. This is despite the fact that consumers have been able to check the health of their batteries in Apple’s Mac computers since decades.

Further, with this update Apple will allow users to turn off the controversial piece of software that slows down the phone’s performance in situations when the battery is flagging.

In December, Apple had acknowledged that its software deliberately slows down phones with weak batteries. Facing a consumer backlash, Cupertino was forced to apologize and lowered the price of its battery replacements in its stores from $79 to $29 for all affected phones.

Consumers had said, Apple’s lack of transparency on the issue had forced many people to buy a new phone rather than change their battery.

“The battery wears out,” said Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit. “They have been pretending like the battery doesn’t wear out. They’ve made billions of dollars on that pretense.”

Incidentally, Apple has always banned battery-health apps from its App Store citing security reasons. Although a few developers circumvented Apple’s restrictions on this issue, however their apps stopped showing the “charge cycle count,” – the number of times the battery has been drained and recharged, following a software update issued by Apple.

As per Rogerio Hirooka of Lirum Labs, his company’s app lost track of charging cycles in 2016. During a routine bug-fix of its app in December 2017, Apple rejected a feature which could still keep track of battery charging count, just before its acknowledgment of the battery-slowing issue.

According to documents from the app review process, Apple rejected his app since it provides “potentially inaccurate diagnostic functionality” that could “mislead or confuse your users,”.

Incidentally, Apple has declined to comment on why its battery diagnosis is available on its Mac computers but not on its iPhone; It also declined to comment on why it rejected the update to Hirooka’s app.

“That fact that they tell you (battery health) on the Mac but it’s a forbidden secret on the iPhone is crazy,” said Wiens.

Repair advocates have since long complained to Apple and other tech companies, for making batteries hard to access and replace.

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