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Apple is locking iPhone battery repair, says iFixit

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Even if they’re genuine Apple batteries

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

The iPhone XS, XR, and XS Max will display a message saying their batteries need to be serviced if they’re not replaced by Apple, iFixit reports. The message appears in both iOS 12 and the iOS 13 beta, and is shown regardless of whether a genuine Apple battery has been installed in the phone — it all comes down to whether Apple or one of its Authorized Service Providers installed the replacement.

If you go into the “Battery Health” menu when the “Service” message appears, then you’ll be presented with an “Important Battery Message” that reads “Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple battery. Health information not available for this battery.” The message replaces the standard percentage indicator that typically shows the health of the battery that’s currently installed in the phone.

Although iFixit notes that these messages do not appear to affect the functionality of the battery, it makes it harder to tell when a replacement battery needs to be replaced. A battery could be brand new, or it could be on the point of complete failure, and either way the phone will simply tell you it needs to be serviced. iFixit likens it to an “Oil Change” indicator light in a car that will only turn off if a Ford dealership changes the oil. When contacted, Apple did not respond to our request for comment.

The YouTube channel The Art of Repair reports that the source of the message is a Texas Instruments microcontroller installed on the battery itself, which ordinarily provides information about battery capacity and temperatures to the phone. Microcontrollers like these can be found on most batteries, but in Apple’s case it contains an authentication feature that locks battery replacements down to Apple’s authorized repair technicians.

Effectively, the practice restricts where you can get your iPhone battery replaced, unless you want your phone to lose a piece of its functionality. It discourages you from repairing your phone using one of iFixit’s own repair kits, or using another third-party repair shop. To Apple’s credit, it has reportedly started allowing its own technicians to repair phones containing third-party batteries, but depending on your location it simply might not be convenient to visit one of the company’s authorized service providers.

Although Apple’s repair practices have faced intense scrutiny in the past, its iPhone batteries are particularly noteworthy. Back in 2017 it emerged that Apple was designing iOS to throttle older iPhones to preserve the life of their batteries as they degraded over time. After heavy criticism Apple agreed to reduce the cost of its battery replacements for a year.

Having the ability to easily repair your devices is important. Replacing components as they wear out means your phone lasts longer, and this saves you money and results in less waste being sent to landfill. The evidence suggests that people hold onto their phones for longer when they have access to cheap battery repairs; when Apple reduced the price of its battery replacements, so many people took advantage of it that it actually ended up harming the sale of new iPhones.

Apple is keen to be an environmentally friendly company. Its recent Mac mini and MacBook Air computers are made out of 100 percent recycled aluminum and its business is powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources worldwide. Access to repair services is important if Apple wants to keep its company as environmentally friendly as possible.