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What you need to know about Apple's $29 battery replacement program

Apple put out a letter on Thursday further acknowledging and explaining the issues around older iPhones and software throttling; as part of the solution, the company will be offering low-cost battery replacements. Here’s what you need to know about this program.

Why do I need to replace my battery at all?

Lithium-ion batteries aren’t infinitely powerful: Like everything on this planet, they age, and as they do so they become less effective. From Apple’s battery and performance document:

As lithium-ion batteries chemically age, their ability to hold a charge diminishes. This may result in shorter amounts of time before a device needs to be recharged. In addition, a battery’s ability to provide power quickly may decrease. In order for a phone to function properly, the electronics must be able to draw upon instantaneous power from the battery. One attribute that affects this instantaneous power delivery is the battery’s impedance. A battery with a high impedance is unable to provide power quickly enough to the system that needs it. A battery’s impedance can increase if a battery has a higher chemical age.

… The power management system determines the capability of the battery to supply this power, and manages the loads in order to maintain operations. When the operations can no longer be supported with the full capabilities of the power management system, the system will perform a shutdown to preserve these electronic components. While this shutdown is intentional from the device perspective, it may be unexpected by the user.

In cases that require more extreme forms of this power management, the user may notice effects such as:

  • Longer app launch times
  • Lower frame rates while scrolling
  • Backlight dimming (which can be overridden in Control Center)
  • Lower speaker volume by up to -3dB
  • Gradual frame rate reductions in some apps -During the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI
  • Apps refreshing in background may require reloading upon launch

In other words: As your battery gets older, it may run into issues running high-powered apps and tasks and might shut down. In order to prevent unexpected shutdowns in these older batteries, Apple deliberately meters processor power, which may make your iPhone run more slowly.

If you want to avoid that slowdown and return to full health, you want to replace your battery. (Think of it like getting a hip or knee replacement as you age.)

How will I know if I need to replace my battery?

You can check your battery’s general health at any time by going to Settings > Battery on your iPhone. If your battery is running into issues, you’ll see an alert at the top of the screen to consider a replacement.

Additionally, you can compare your iPhone’s speed benchmarks against other iPhone models using the Geekbench app.

Finally, you can always ask your local Apple Store or authorized repair shop to run a diagnostic on your iPhone battery if you’re worried it’s no longer suitable.

What iPhone models are eligible?

All iPhones 6 or later will be eligible for a battery replacement.

I have other damage to my iPhone; is my battery still eligible?

Still waiting on final details from the company, but it should be. Apple’s replacing the battery, not the phone itself: Even if you have a cracked screen or dented case, you won’t need to pay to replace those to get your battery fixed. (But if you have a cracked screen, you probably should fix that.)

How much will a battery replacement cost?

Normally, the program is free to iPhone models under warranty and $79 to out-of-warranty customers; this program will allow out-of-warranty customers to replace the battery for just $29.

What will Apple’s battery replacement cost outside the U.S.? Like in Canada?

Canadian out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement are going down by $64 — from $99 to $35 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced.

When will Apple start replacing batteries?

The company will begin the program worldwide in late January 2018.

How long will it take for Apple to replace my battery?

The company hasn’t said yet whether this will be an in-store procedure, or a lengthier depot procedure. That said, I’d hazard a guess that the delay in the start of this program (rather than it starting immediately) is to outfit Apple Stores with machinery to quickly replace dying batteries so that customers won’t have to be without their smartphones for a lengthy period of time.

Will the battery replacement mess up my iPhone’s water resistance?

It shouldn’t when done through the Apple Store or an authorized repair shop.

When will the program end?

Currently, Apple says it will continue the program worldwide until December 2018.

Where can these batteries be replaced?

We don’t have concrete details yet — Apple plans to reveal more on apple.com in January — but we expect that you’ll be able to replace them at your local Apple Store or through AppleCare, and possibly even through Apple Authorized Service Providers.

Why doesn’t Apple just give us free batteries for life?

It’s a nice thought, but unfortunately all electronics are in this boat: AA batteries don’t last; lithium-ion camera batteries don’t last; and smartphone batteries don’t last. Apple’s batteries aren’t running down any faster than other companies — their effect on your software speed might just be more noticeable.

Any other questions?

Let us know below.

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