Why the $29 iPhone battery replacement is Apple's best move of the year

Michael Simon

After a roller-coaster year, it seemed like 2017 was going to end on a serious down note for Apple. As millions of people were unwrapping their fancy new iPhone Xes on Christmas morning, thousands of users with older phones were signing on to class action lawsuits following reports that the company was purposefully slowing down older handsets to save battery life.

iPhone users have long accused Apple of forcing older handsets into obsolescence as new models arrive. After a Reddit post detailed a systematic slowdown on older iPhones that began with iOS 10.2.1, Apple conceded that it was indeed throttling iPhones with older batteries in an effort to “deliver the best experience for customers.” In plain English, that means sacrificing power and performance for longer battery life.

While that explanation might make technical sense, it didn’t sit well with many users. For one, Apple admitted it was purposefully slowing down handsets that were barely three years old. But more importantly, Apple only came clean after independent investigation, giving the whole situation an air of underhanded secrecy. Following a series of serious and embarrassing bugs in iOS and macOS, it was a rotten cherry on top of a melting pool of ice cream.

But in a note on its website just before the new year, Apple plainly and clearly explained what it was doing with performance throttling, why it was doing it, and how it would make it up to unhappy users. In less than 800 words, Apple may have swung the pendulum back to good vibes.

Act of contrition

Apple’s “Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance” is straight out of Steve Jobs’s playbook. Reminiscent of “Thoughts on Flash” and “Thoughts on Music,” the battery memo lays out a problem that affects the entire industry and explains the decisions Apple made to mitigate it.

iphone 6 pokemon go Blair Hanley Frank/IDG

A new battery will let you play Pokemon Go on your iPhone 6 for longer.

But unlike Steve’s open letters, this one starts with an admission and an apology. Before it gets into meat of the issue, Apple confirms that it is throttling performance of some older iPhones and apologizes for not being clearer about its intentions. It’s an important step for a company that prides itself on customer satisfaction, and it instantly puts the whole issue in a soft, conciliatory light. By admitting to wrongdoing and accepting blame, Apple took the air out of the lawsuits and headlines, and recommitted to putting the customer first.

Whether you believe Apple when it says it will “never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades” is beside the point. Apple is simultaneously owning up to an issue that affects the entire industry and putting pressure on its competitors to follow suit. What was Apple’s problem is now everyone’s problem, and only Apple is laying out a plan to fix it.

Power versus performance

1  2  3  Next Page