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May 3, 2018

Apple faces complaints over its iPhone battery-replacement pledge

by John_A

At the end of last year, Apple admitted to slowing down older iPhones to preserve battery life and stabilize performance. Customers were upset about Apple’s lack of transparency regarding the issue, and the company apologized by offering to replace batteries for a reduced fee.

But Apple later said that if it finds any phone damage that could hinder the replacement process, it will have to make the necessary repairs — and charge for them — before it can fit the battery. While that may sound reasonable, the company now stands accused of being overly harsh in implementing the terms of the replacement service, with some iPhone owners claiming they’re being asked to pay large sums of money without good reason.

An investigation carried out by the BBC reveals a range of stories from U.K.-based iPhone owners who say that Apple has been finding “unnecessary faults” with their handsets, with the company refusing to replace the battery unless they pay for the repair first.

In the U.K., Apple reduced the fee for a new battery from 79 British pounds ($107) to 25 pounds ($34) until the end of 2018.

Josh Landsburgh told the BBC he feels he’s been treated unfairly by Apple. Landsburgh said he sent away his iPhone for a new battery, but a short while later received an email from the company pointing out a small dent on the edge of the phone. The tech giant said he’d have to pay 200 pounds ($270) to fix the dent before it could replace the battery at the reduced fee.

Landsburgh refused to pay, and had the battery replaced locally without any issues. The action meant, however, that he voided his Apple warranty.

“They’re trying to regain trust and they come back to you with, ‘Give us more money than you were planning to initially,’” he told the BBC.

Phone fault?

Another customer, David Bowler, said Apple found a fault inside his phone — with the speaker and microphone — and told him he’d have to pay 250 pounds ($340) to sort it out before a new battery could be fitted. Bowler insisted there was nothing wrong with his phone, a claim verified by the BBC when it sent the handset to an independent repair specialist.

On its website, 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.” But the BBC’s investigators suggest that in some cases, the phone’s fault — if indeed there is one — has no apparent effect on the battery-replacement procedure, and that in light of the controversy that prompted Apple’s discounted offer, the company should be willing to deal with the issue in a more favorable manner.

While it would obviously be unacceptable for the company to “make up” faults with the phone, it would be equally concerning if it was charging customers for repairs that weren’t entirely necessary in order to replace the battery. With the BBC’s investigation having just been broadcast on a consumer affairs show, it will be interesting to see if the turmoil surfaces similar claims among others who have requested a new iPhone battery.

Battery bother

At the end of last year, Apple admitted to slowing down old iPhones. The company said it did so to preserve battery life and stabilize the handset’s performance, as a well-used battery could cause apps to suddenly crash.

Many iPhone owners were upset that Apple hadn’t been clearer about its actions when it began throttling older iPhones via a software update in 2016. Some accused the company of deliberately — and secretly — frustrating users with under-performing handsets to encourage them to fork out for an upgrade, a strategy known as planned obsolescence.

Apple has insisted the system is supposed to benefit customers’ user experience by preserving battery life and reducing the chance of sudden shutdowns with old phones. But the resulting backlash prompted the company to slash the cost of its battery replacement service for iPhones — in the U.S. from $79 to $29 — until the end of 2018.

With the introduction of iOS 11.3 in March, Apple gave owners of its handset more battery data as well as the option to disable throttling.

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