When Apple issued an apology late last year for slowing down iPhones with older batteries, the company not only said it would drop the price of out-of-warranty replacement batteries to $29 from $79 but would also issue an iOS software update that would give you greater visibility into the health of your iPhone battery.
The new software would also let you disable the throttling feature Apple says it put in place to protect devices with weak batteries from sudden, unexpected crashes.
The episode not only resulted in rotten publicity but also spawned litigation from consumers who argued Apple broke the terms of their contract. Some felt Apple intentionally sabotaged the older phones to generate fresh sales, which Apple steadfastly denied.
People such as me who ordered the $29 battery for my daughter’s iPhone 6 have had to play the waiting game for the replacement, sometimes for several weeks. In the meantime, though, the promised battery health feature arrived last week as part of the latest build of iOS 11.3, available to consumers comfortable with installing prerelease public beta software, which always comes with a modicum of risk.
If you’re willing to proceed, here’s the drill:
Start by making sure you back up your phone so that you can roll back the device to a pre-existing state in case the beta runs amok. Then head to beta.apple.com to enroll your phone in Apple’s beta program. Once the beta is installed on your phone, tap Settings, tap Battery and then tap Battery Health (Beta).
One of the first things you’ll notice inside Battery Health is a measure of your battery’s capacity relative to when it was new, expressed in percentage terms, as well an indication of whether the battery is performing at its normal peak. A normal battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles, Apple says.
You can also tap a link inside the setting to learn more about lithium-ion batteries and how such rechargeable batteries chemically age, including tips to maximize performance.
As part of iOS 11.3, if you have an iPhone 6 or later, Apple will recommend if your battery needs to be replaced.
What’s more, you’ll be able to tell within the settings if Apple’s “performance management” battery feature — yes, that’s the fancy way of saying Apple could dynamically slow things down on your phone — is turned on. If so, you’ll see an option to turn it off. But keep in mind that this feature would only kick in if your device unexpectedly crashed on a handset with a weakened battery. In other words, there’s no option to turn off a feature that hasn’t even been turned on.
If your phone battery is in this reduced state, you’ll see the following message: “This iPhone has experienced an unexpected shutdown because the battery was unable to deliver the necessary peak power. Performance management has been applied to help prevent this from happening again.”
Should that message appear, you can tap “Disable” to do just that. Apple recommends you do not take this path, lest the phone be prone to more repeated crashes.
Once disabled, you cannot manually turn this power management function back on unless the phone were to subsequently crash again, which would automatically re-enable the feature.
Incidentally, If you have the newer iPhone 8, 8 Plus or X models, a more advanced power management system is in place, which, Apple says, “more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown,” resulting in an impact on performance that “may be less noticeable.”
Apple adds that, over time, all the rechargeable batteries in all iPhones will eventually diminish and need to be replaced.
Besides the battery tools, the iOS 11.3 software brings more animoji characters for the iPhone X and adds a feature that will let you keep all your medical records in one place.
iOS 11.3 is formally expected to be released in the spring.