Apple Reportedly Cracks Down On Third-Party iPhone Battery Replacement With Software Lock

Apple's 2018 iPhones are shown on display during the devices' fall 2018 launch.
Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Battery life has commonly been mentioned as one of the iPhone’s top drawbacks, and many users have taken to visiting third-party repair companies to replace their devices’ batteries. However, a new report suggests that Apple has taken action against this common practice by activating a software feature that essentially discourages users from replacing their original iPhone batteries with aftermarket units.

As reported by Vice on Thursday, the software locking feature works on Apple’s three most recent smartphone releases – the iPhone XS, XS Plus and XR – by displaying a message in the device’s settings that indicates the battery requires “Service.” While the devices will still remain functional even with a third-party battery installed, a number of “important” features will reportedly be disabled, as the software lock also advises users to take their phones to an Apple Store for service.

Specifically, the lock apparently prevents affected iPhones from displaying information on the battery’s maximum capacity and peak performance capability. Such details have been viewable on newer iPhone models since it was found that Apple was compromising the performance on iPhones that used older batteries.

In a separate report, iFixit noted that the software locking feature was replicated on an iPhone XS running both iOS 12 and the beta version of iOS 13. It also appears that the aforementioned battery health details can still be viewed on pre-2018 iPhone models with third-party or replacement batteries.

Speaking to Vice, aftermarket iPhone part designer Justin Ashford lamented the possibility of the new feature making it hard for him to do business with his customers.

“It erodes trust from the clientele, and makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing,” Ashford explained. “You lose functions and features that Apple touted as a brand advantage — how am I going to explain to a 60-year-old grandmother that, if she wants to see battery health, she needs to install third-party technician tools?”

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This isn’t the first time Apple has reportedly used software to prevent users from having their iPhones taken to shops for aftermarket repair. According to Vice, Apple had previously tied the physical home button on its iPhones with Touch ID to the devices they shipped with and only allowed select facilities to recalibrate a new home button on a phone that had previously been repaired.

Furthermore, Ashford told Vice that Apple has long been using authentication chips on its iPhone batteries, but it’s only now that the software lock has seemingly taken effect, after years of phone owners using third-party replacement batteries on their iPhones without issue.

Reactions to reports on the new battery authentication feature have mostly been negative, as indicated by the remarks of the repair shop owners and representatives that Vice spoke to. iFixit, meanwhile, described the feature as “user-hostile,” adding that it could “cause confusion” among iPhone users who may think there is a far more serious issue and end up self diagnosing their devices.