iFixit says Apple's new iPhones have a software lock to prevent third-party battery replacements

nanoguy

TS Addict
Staff member

Apple knows it doesn't have enough Genius Bars to support every one of its customers, which is why it has been expanding its partnerships with places like Best Buy to offer authorized repairs for people who live too far from an Apple Store. On the other hand, it has a financial incentive to refuse to sell parts to independent repair shops and keep its service fees high.

A new report from iFixit says the Cupertino giant has activated a "dormant software lock" that essentially prevents third-party battery replacements for the newest models of iPhone. While it doesn't stop you from taking a brand new battery and dropping it into your device, the Settings app in iOS 12 and 13 will display a "Service" status for it, which is typically indicative that your battery is worn out and needs to be replaced.

Installing a battery from another iPhone appears to have the same result - no access to any battery health information and messages that your battery couldn't be verified as "genuine". This has led iFixit to speculate that Apple may have intentionally designed this as a way of showing the middle finger to independent repair shops.

Naturally, someone investigated this issue more closely and found that Apple is using a Texas Instruments microcontroller that holds a unique authentication key for every battery that links it to the iPhone XS, XR, or XS Max where it is installed. The only two ways around that are to either go to an official Apple repair shop or do some careful micro welding to "transplant" the protection circuitry to the new battery, even if it's an original Apple one from another device.

Apple may argue this software lock is there for safety reasons, since we all know that lithium batteries have a tendency to catch fire when not handled correctly. However, iFixit believes this sets a dangerous precedent and drew comparison between Apple's implementation and the "Check Oil" light that can only be reset at a Ford dealership even if you manage to change the oil by yourself.

On a more positive note, a battery replacement will keep your device powered up, but you won't be able to know when it needs replacing or if it's still able to provide peak performance, and you'll be forced to use third party battery health apps like coconutBattery to get around these limitations.

This likely won't bode well with consumers as Apple already has a history of being less than transparent with a number of issues that have plagued its devices over the years. Many of you are likely familiar with the battery debacle where the company throttled old iPhones to supposedly keep them from shutting down, or the famous "Error 53" that greeted users who just replaced their phone display, only to find themselves unable to use their device.

Apple has been sending mixed messages when it comes to third-party repairs. Over the last few years, it's been part of lobbying groups fighting "Right to Repair" legislation in the U.S. and even demonstrated that they're willing to go to court to stop you from repairing your Apple device on your own. On the other hand, the company has shown some signs of relaxing its iPhone repair policies and becoming more consumer-friendly.

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wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
I am almost surprised that crApple did not put in a software switch to kill any of their products that do not have an original crApple battery installed by crApple technicians, so this does not surprise me at all.

As I see it, expecting anything different from crApple is akin to Einstien's definition of insanity.
 

gusticles41

TS Evangelist
Managing Apple devices is nothing short of a chore. I admin an account with ~100 iPhones, so I've come across just about every inconvenience there is. Even if you supervise them and use a decent MDM solution the roadblocks are never ending. Every iOS update implements a new "gotcha" so the workflows are always changing.

And don't get me started on charging cables that are "not certified".
 
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Apple can piss off with this one. I've changed a few iPhone batteries and I guess by some amazing old skool magic, my kid's hand-me-down iPhone 6 with a new iFixit battery in it gives the proper data to the OS and thus Battery Health works. I can't imagine what shiny new technology Apple has crammed into the newest iPhones which renders a third party battery inadequately capable compared to theirs.

Shiny tech that coconutBattery can apparently emulate in software, that is. Those guys must be SuperGeniuses. coconutBattery to be delisted in the App Store in 3... 2... 1...
 
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GregonMaui

TS Booster
Some people have actually read about scams where people buy iPhones, strip them of components, substituting cheaper and/or dangerous ones and then returning them to Apple. This strikes me as more of a "giving them the middle finger" not to independent shops.

I'm curious, if someone installs an inferior battery in a phone and it catches on fire, swells, gets too hot, etc etc etc. who would be liable? the original vendor, the repair shop? the bad battery manufacturer?

No thanks, I'll take my phone to a qualified service center.
 
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retsxel

Apple is really going at it, making all of these reasons lately to avoid their products. Such an easy choice.
 

Toju Mikie

TS Addict
Some people have actually read about scams where people buy iPhones, strip them of components, substituting cheaper and/or dangerous ones and then returning them to Apple. This strikes me as more of a "giving them the middle finger" not to independent shops.

I'm curious, if someone installs an inferior battery in a phone and it catches on fire, swells, gets too hot, etc etc etc. who would be liable? the original vendor, the repair shop? the bad battery manufacturer?

No thanks, I'll take my phone to a qualified service center.
Well, I'm not sure of Apple's policy on returns. But with Dell, customers have to wait up to 30 days to get a refund, I think specifically so they can see if, for example, the customer stole a stick of RAM or stole a component. Once the return is approved, the customer gets the refund. For installing inferior batteries in electronic devices, I can't speak about Apple, but at least if it is a laptop computer (non-apple) and you install a 3rd party battery for a laptop that is under warranty, many manufacturers will still honor the warranty if there is something else wrong with the laptop besides a battery issue. Of course apple hates self-repair so most likely not if it was an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook.
 

PEnnn

TS Addict
Apple can piss off with this one. I've changed a few iPhone batteries and I guess by some amazing old skool magic, my kid's hand-me-down iPhone 6 with a new iFixit battery in it gives the proper data to the OS and thus Battery Health works. I can't imagine what shiny new technology Apple has crammed into the newest iPhones which renders a third party battery inadequately capable compared to theirs.

Shiny tech that coconutBattery can apparently emulate in software, that is. Those guys must be SuperGeniuses. coconutBattery to be delisted in the App Store in 3... 2... 1...
I think the Apple imbeciles removed the app already, it's nowhere to be found in the App store.
 

urbanman2004

TS Booster
Anybody who's upgraded past the iPhone X has more money than sense based on these shenanigans Apple has been pulling as of late.
 

Shadowboxer

TS Addict
Doesn’t put me off buying iPhones. They are so much better than anything that uses Android at the moment it’s laughable.

I guess this genuine battery rubbish is what happens when you own the industry. Apple wouldn't get away with it if they didn’t.
 
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retsxel

As a telecoms professional I stand by my opinion. Apples devices are miles ahead of Android at the moment.
You can stand by it all you wish, doesn't make you correct.

Android is still even using 32bit code, something the iPhone ditched nearly 2 years ago now.
So is Apple. All of the 32bit Apps on the app store still work fine. Same with Android, except that Android has been 64bit by default since 2016. Let's do the math there... Yup 3 years. 64bit versions have been available since 2012.

I do understand that it’s cool to hate Apple. I would say don’t be a sheep and be one of those guys. Investigate for yourself. I’d suggest watching Android Authority’s video detailing why Apple are so far ahead at the moment.
Thanks for the tip. I have and likely will again build custom Android roms and have been involved in development for the platform since 2013. It could be said I'm very familiar with the platform. As far as flexibility, versatility and most importantly, user control, iOS doesn't hold a candle to Android and is completely inferior from many technical perspectives
 
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retsxel

You call me misinformed yet there is a comment on here from you stating that Apple uses 32bit code on their current version of iOS. Yeah, you don’t have a clue.
Ok, whatever.

I don’t hate Android at all, I think they offer very good budget devices and they have some advantages over iPhones. But if you want to compare the top end, see which company is furthest ahead then it’s not really an opinion that Apple are. There is personal preference of which interface you prefer but I’d say 64bit only is more advanced than 64 or 32bit (mostly 32bit as devs need to make sure all devices work). Or that being able to guarantee software updates for users for 4 years after a product is launched is superior to the average length of time an Android device receives updates for. Even for developers, Apple is easier to make an app for in general and their users spend far more on apps than Android users do. I could go on..
Blah blah blah...

I’m just going to say wake up. Investigate the tech yourself and don’t believe all the hateful comments directed towards Apple.
What hate? People like you throw that word around whenever it's convenient to describe those who disagree with you. It's childish and shows that you know full well you've lost the debate. You're done, let it go.