Commentary

Apple's battery monitoring feature could change industry

Other smartphone-makers may have to adopt tech giant's move to help users decide whether to change their battery or phone

Last week, I wrote that Apple should not be faulted for slowing down the performance of older iPhones due to failing batteries, but should have been more upfront about it.

Since then, the Cupertino tech giant has been the target of multiple lawsuits pertaining to "Batterygate" and made an official apology last Thursday.

"We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down," Apple said in an open letter. "We apologise."

But Apple denied it has ever done anything to intentionally shorten the life of a product.

"First and foremost, we have never - and would never - do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that," the letter said.

Apple will also be cutting the price of an out-of-warranty battery replacement from $118 to $38 for an iPhone 6 or later, starting immediately through December.

Furthermore, it will be updating its iOS operating system late this month with a feature that allows users to see whether their iPhone battery is in poor health and affecting performance.

Call me naive, but I am buying what Apple has said - that it will not intentionally shorten the life of its products.

This is especially so when Apple has already admitted to slowing down the iPhones.

Not to mention, such product-shortening tactics are not only morally wrong, but also do not make any business sense. Customers will just move on to Android smartphones, especially when there are many smartphone choices available these days.

 

I think the most significant part of Apple's open letter is the iOS update that allows users to monitor their iPhone battery's health.

This is what I have called for Apple to do and what many iPhone users want - that Apple is upfront about the truth.

If this battery monitoring feature truly works, iPhone users can make a better and informed choice on whether a change of battery is enough, or if they should upgrade their iPhone altogether.

This feature will also have a significant impact on future iPhones as well, as they will also have this battery monitoring feature. This shows that Apple has nothing to hide.

In fact, this battery monitoring feature might have an impact on the entire smartphone industry.

To my knowledge, such a feature is not found in any Android smartphone yet. Hence, other smartphone-makers might have to incorporate such a feature in future, or they too might be accused of intentionally slowing down their smartphones to force people to upgrade.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the remedial steps stemming from "Batterygate" end up benefiting not just iPhone users, but also Android users and the smartphone industry in the long run?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'Apple's battery monitoring feature could change industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe