Apple’s troubles with iPhone batteries seem to be a one-step-forward, one-step-back sort of issue. The latest move by the mobile hardware giant really takes the cake, bolts it down, and bakes an ID chip inside. iFixit reported earlier this week that Apple has activated a “dormant software lock” on some iPhones that’s effectively locking out third-party battery replacement.
We’ve seen batteries improve by leaps and bounds in recent years, but even the best batteries wear out over time, and frugal owners know that replacing a battery in an otherwise-good phone is a smart move. But Apple wants control over that whole process in some of its newest phones: the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max.
How Apple is locking out batteries
The iFixit team explains that when an iPhone battery needs replacing, it’ll display a “Service” message in the Settings > Battery menu. If a third-party vendor replaces that battery, even using a genuine Apple battery, that message will continue to display. To make the message go away, an Apple Genius or Apple Authorized Service Provider has to authenticate the battery, iFixit says.
There’s a microcontroller from Texas Instruments onboard iPhone batteries that communicates health information to the phone. That chip is paired with the phone via an authentication key. If the key doesn’t match due to third-party replacement, you get the service warning without the battery health info. Assuming the replacement battery is in good condition, it’ll work fine regardless of the service warning. The service warning does not affect expected battery life, nor does the replacement cause performance throttling.
This isn’t the first time
If we want to give Apple the benefit of the doubt, we could say this protects iPhones. If the battery is from a shady source, it shouldn’t be communicating with the iPhone. That’s just conjecture, though, and this is a user-hostile move. It’s part of a pattern, too. iFixit notes that Apple has locked out all third-party battery monitoring apps. More broadly, this is a repeat of the issue with True Tone and auto-brightness in iPhone screens replaced by third parties.
Even just on the battery front, it’s been one thing after another. The iPhone 6S would randomly turn off at half-battery. And then there was the whole thing with battery-related throttling. Apple is notorious for keeping a tight rein on its hardware, but this stuff is all bad business for us, the users. Apple has not yet commented on the issue.