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Apple's move to limit battery replacements is small and tone deaf



Oh Apple, here we go again. Two years ago, Apple updated iOS with measures to throttle processors on devices with failing batteries. That part is not too bad, because such programming can actually save a device from either accidental instantaneous shutdown, or worse, a total processor failure. Unfortunately, Apple forgot to tell everyone what they were doing before some enterprising users found out and called them out.

Whatever the intention was and who called to roll with it, things did not go well. It was a terrible decision PR wise to take this battery health management and processor manipulation out of the user's hands. After a couple of half-hearted explanations, Apple stepped up and deservedly took its chunks and made changes.

They dispensed with all the duty of confidentiality and made the monitoring and management of battery health transparent, as it should be. What really smoothed things out with customers, of course, was a year's worth of cheap battery replacement. I should know. We have an iPhone SE that received one of these replacements.

After this PR hiccup and subsequent face, I thought Apple had learned its lesson in making heavy-handed, consumer-hostile moves without transparency. Unfortunately, it does not look like today. Apple has now decided to limit battery replacement for newer devices to models with special chips to determine battery operation and health.

So, a battery replaced by an independent contractor will still work. Apple's newer battery health features won't work. The information is replaced by a "Service" indicator. While this does not absolutely prevent repairs from outside personnel, the kneecap of this feature actively discourages it.

Don't get me wrong. Additional battery diagnostic features are a good thing. I have no problems with that. It's the fact that only Apple and their authorized repair outlets, such as BestBuy, are able to activate these new batteries to make Battery Health features work. In my opinion, if an independent workshop can get the right batteries, they should also be able to perform sanctioned repairs on newer iPhones. Battery replacement for older devices is bread and butter for such places, so Apple throwing a wrench in the works just feels petty to me. That, or incredibly toned and short-term. Neither is ok. A user should be able to get the battery replaced in an older iPhone without having to go to a specific location for it. I have done this many times in the past.

This new battery release is not enough to put me away from Apple. I still support the company's products and will continue to be so. I haven't thought about Callum Booth from The Next Web, and lament that this is my last straw with Apple. That's just it, while making my favorite gear, they also do some of the dumbest PR moves imaginable. It is hard to believe that anyone in the decision-making chain does not stop and think about what moves like degrading outside battery sales look like to the general public. Sometimes common sense seems to be lacking in Apple Park.

Before anyone even starts thinking about @ me about how "Steve wouldn't have handled things this way," I invite you to visit antenna street. The only thing that sets Jobs apart from Cook in this case is the brass balls that Steve had to take some of the public positions he did. He was able to get away with things that no other CEO could because of the combination of his cocky wear and impeccable track record. But make no mistake, just because he was better at turning a negative situation in his way, does not mean he was immune to PR gaffes.

The cure for Apple lapses at better discretion has always been public outcry. Considering that the Apple news cycle is just a few moments away with new iPhones for a few weeks out, this story is getting plenty of traction right now. It should lead to negative public sentiment. The only unknowns are how much will stick and whether this will go from just being a technical story to public consciousness. If Battery Street 2.0 achieves that kind of traction, we should see a conciliatory response of some kind from Apple.




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