Responding to criticism that it’s trying to steer consumers toward more expensive battery replacements, Apple today claimed that the “important battery message” added to iOS is there in the name of customer safety. It was recently discovered that when an iPhone’s battery is swapped out by a third-party repair shop that isn’t one of Apple’s authorized partners, the device’s battery health menu will show an ominous warning about being “unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine iPhone battery.”
This can happen even if a genuine Apple battery is used; the warning stems from a micro-controller that only authorized technicians can properly configure. If iOS doesn’t detect the right micro-controller, it hides the usual battery health stats and displays the warning.
“We take the safety of our customers very seriously and want to make sure any battery replacement is done properly,” an Apple spokesperson told The Verge on Wednesday. “There are now over 1,800 Apple authorized service providers across the US so our customers have even more convenient access to quality repairs.” The statement goes on to say:
Last year we introduced a new feature to notify customers if we were unable to verify that a new, genuine battery was installed by a certified technician following Apple repair processes. This information is there to help protect our customers from damaged, poor quality, or used batteries which can lead to safety or performance issues. This notification does not impact the customer’s ability to use the phone after an unauthorized repair.
But Apple’s decision to completely hide the useful battery health statistics when it can’t validate a battery has struck some as an extreme response. The iPhone could theoretically display a similar warning message while continuing to show customers when the battery is aging and in need of a replacement. Right now, people with an “unauthorized” battery aren’t getting that information. Instead, the battery section in iOS settings permanently shows “service” next to battery health until an authorized replacement is done. Apple could argue, however, that without the micro-controller handoff, it can’t be sure that whatever a battery is reporting to the system is accurate. But again, this still happens with genuine batteries that come from another iPhone, and right-to-repair advocates aren’t happy.
Lithium-ion batteries can be dangerous when you can’t vouch for where they came from (and even when you can), and Apple is taking a very hardline approach here. The company says its batteries are rigorously designed, tested, and manufactured to meet Apple’s standards (including for safety). Aside from Apple retail stores, all Best Buy locations nationwide are now handling iPhone battery repairs. But if you’re trying to save money or find yourself in a jam where only the neighborhood gadget shop is an option, you might run into this message.
Apple says anyone who thinks their iPhone battery is authorized and genuine should return to the business that installed it so it can be verified, at which point the battery health feature will return to working normally again.