Following widespread criticism for reducing SoC frequency because of battery degradation, Apple announced plans to cut down the price of an out-of-warranty battery replacement for the iPhone 6 and newer models to $29 (from $79) throughout 2018. The battery swap program was expected to kick off early in 2018, but Apple has decided to initiate it immediately in the US, starting December 30. Later on, the company plans to update its iOS in early 2018 to give its customers a visibility of battery wear out and help them to decide whether they need a swap or not.

We expected to need more time to be ready,” Apple said in a statement published by TechCrunch. “But we are happy to offer our customers the lower pricing right away. Initial supplies of some replacement batteries may be limited.

Earlier this month Apple confirmed that it reduces the iPhone SoC frequency, among other things, as its battery capacity depreciates over time in order to avoid unexpected shutdowns from high current draw. The company claims that at times its processors demand a higher peak current than a degraded battery can provide. In particular, as batteries age (or are operated in a low temperature environment), the impedance grows and the ability to supply enough current at a stable voltage drops. Apple’s power management monitors a combination of the iPhone temperature, battery charge, and the battery’s impedance (the company does not say how it can monitor the impedance of a battery). Since all components require certain voltages and currents to operate, in a bid to avoid unexpected shutdowns, iOS reduces the SoC frequency and therefore reduces the performance of the smartphone until the power management IC finds it reasonable.

We have already published two stories covering the Apple battery fiasco, where we covered some additional details on the matter:

While an iPhone is guaranteed to make an emergency call, its aged battery may not provide required performance for all the third-party applications needed. In a bid to remedy the battery situation, Apple offers owners of the iPhone 6, 6S, SE and 7 in the US to install a new battery for $29, starting today. To do so, owners of the said iPhones will have to either send their smartphones to Apple, bring them to the company’s stores, or bring them to an Apple authorized service provider. The final details yet have to be published. Apple says that it usually takes 7-9 days to replace a battery, but if a large number of clients decide to replace their existing units straight away, the service will take longer and shortages of certain battery units may occur. It remains to be seen how Apple deals with its customers in Asia and Europe.

Sometimes early next year Apple intends to update its iOS to give their customers a clear understanding of the health of their iPhone’s batteries. This probably indicates that Apple will continue to lower performance of its SoCs going forward to prevent shutdowns, prolong battery life and guarantee phone operation in case of emergencies for all of its customers. 

Source: TechCrunch

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  • id4andrei - Monday, January 1, 2018 - link

    Ddriver, this was not an industry standard measure. This band-aid was issued on the background of an iphone recall. Apple thus admitted a flaw otherwise they wouldn't recall anything and just issue the patch. The "fix" just hid what could've been free(under warranty) battery swaps or worse, total recall.
  • id4andrei - Monday, January 1, 2018 - link

    This was not a degraded battery under normal operation. This throttling band aid was issued on the background of an iphone recall. Basically Apple admitted that there was a design flaw within the whole situation. After the recall they noticed the issue persisted and issued this patch. This was a sweeping under the rug of a design flaw. Better kneecap all iphones than issue free battery swaps.
  • Strunf - Tuesday, January 2, 2018 - link

    It's not really that choice... the choice is do you want a normal operating phone that may reboot without warning or a slow phone that doesn't reboot.
    If it was a normal operating phone with a shorter battery capacity (like it's the case with every other phone) then people may take that choice and just charge it more often.
  • Colin1497 - Sunday, December 31, 2017 - link

    Your iPhone 6S has never, ever shut down on you BECAUSE it slows down to half speed at 40% battery. Before the software change my old iPhone 6 was shutting down randomly all the time, and the update stopped that. A couple months later I got a brand new iPhone 6 for the $79 cost of a battery replacement from Apple because my out of warranty battery started swelling.

    I'm far from an Apple fan, but really they only made two, maybe three mistakes:

    1) Non-disclosure was clearly an error. It was, however, an error that's consistent with Apple, in that they tend to hide details from customers and try to "just work."
    2) Their algorithms should be better tuned and provide more performance when the phone is charged and plugged in. Hopefully with the software update they'll provide some options, like "give me full throttle, I like to live dangerously," "Err on the side of more performance," and their current setting of "please don't let my phone ever shut down unexpectedly."
    3) On the smaller screen phones they had battery issues on both the 6 and 6S (maybe 7 & 8?) that were likely the result of being overly aggressive with pushing design margins. In the end this caused these devices to have high battery failure rates and short battery lives. The $29 replacement program probably needs to be extended indefinitely for these devices and any other device with similarly razor-thin design margins.
  • id4andrei - Sunday, December 31, 2017 - link

    Too me Apple designed their iphones wrong to burn too bright. The CPU is too strong for the battery output. It technically works but it is still a design flaw. Some would consider a defect.
  • Notmyusualid - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    Seems like a solid response to the issue from Apple.

    $29 for a battery, replaced?

    I don't even think I could buy an S8+ battery for that amount of money where I live...
  • smartthanyou - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    Leaving a customer without a cell phone for a week (when for many it is their only phone), a solid response?

    The price for the battery replacement is definitely a good deal. However, I customer should be able to make an appointment and have it done while they wait. If they can't do that, loaner phones should be available.
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    Now THAT much is true, it is seriously sucky to go without your phone. The real answer to this is for Apple to figure out how to pack at least SOME user replaceable battery capacity without compromising their design philosophy much. Even if it's like a slide-out battery that doesn't require a split-body design, and only accounts for maybe half the total battery capacity. The side benefit would be the ability to hotswap a battery. Pretty unlikely to happen, though.
  • beisat - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    So what about non-US customers?
  • shadowjk - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    As for the "How is Apple measuring battery impedance?" question in the article..

    Around 8-10 years ago me and others were experimenting with this on certain Nokia Linux devices. The basic method is simple: you measure voltage and current, as current increases, voltage increases. Yes the voltage drops naturally with declining state of charge, but keep your time window short and you can ignore that. Calculate impedance from the voltage and current data points.

    The challenge was that the hardware updated the voltage once per second and current once every 5 seconds. So, we had to look for two periods of 5 seconds where voltage remained stable, two periods where current use was very different in order to get useful data.

    In the end, the only practical approach was to wait until the device was otherwise idle, and periodically peg the CPU with a busyloop to create a synthetic and consistent power draw.

    Perhaps today 10 years later, hardware battery fuel gauges are able to report data more frequently, or even report impedance directly.

    But I still wonder if they're not simply doing something like: If system shut down unexpectedly, then bump power limit down one notch.

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