Apple discourages iPhone self-repair with a dirty trick

Putting a chip on the battery is a choice, not an immutable force of nature.

Choices have consequences.

Consequences create second order effects, one of which in this case is a bunch of people deciding or realising that Apple are a bunch of dicks. This is the way these things work, and that’s a good thing.

[typed on my ipad]



I also have several old Apple devices much like you. And it pisses me off that I have had to stop upgrading software on them because Apple keeps changing or removing functions which were why and how I use the hardware to start with. Yes, they make higher quality hardware. But ‘software support’ is very much a YMMV issue and also creates a semi-obselescence dilemma along the lines of: ‘damn I cannot do this old thing any more, and if I want to carry on with it then, damn, I cannot access this new function now’


It just breaks.

It just obsolesces.

It just won’t upgrade.

It just gardens behind a wall.


I used several hand-me-down MacBooks from someone who worked in IT. Out of the three I used, two of them had issues where they’d reboot randomly, and one’s screen would just blank for minutes at a time. They were a 2010, a 2014, and a 2016. The 2014 was the only one without issue. Sure, on average, Apple’s hardware is great. Roll the dice, hope you get a good one.

Li-ion batteries are basically tiny explosions (that can’t be doused with water) waiting to happen. This gets more likely as they age, and excessive heat is the tell-tale sign that the layers within the battery may be breaking down and shorting internally as a prelude to such an explosion.

Unlike the acid batteries many of us grew up with, they also have a relatively constant voltage until they are very nearly drained, and their charging scheme requires constant voltage at as much current as is reasonable up to a point, then constant trickle current at whatever voltage works until that voltage drops to near-zero and charging is done. No battery is as efficient to charge as it is to discharge, and the charging efficiency is usually around 80%. So it’s hard to monitor how much energy is actually still stored in a battery.

For any device on the market, assume that someone in China realized they could make a few bucks by faking it, even if dangerous. (I once saw a 512 kB flash drive posing as a 10 GB flash drive… and it even seemed to work, because the files system was written to wrap around and just over-write old data, making it look like new files were actually on there.)

And all this brings us to what the IC is used for:

  • one function of the IC is to monitor the terminals on the battery for short circuits at the connector, and disconnect the batter from the connector if so, in the hopes of preventing a fire.
  • one function of the IC is to implement the correct charging scheme of the Li-ion battery
  • one function of the IC is to monitor temperature of the battery in the hope of detecting dangerous faults that come with aging.
  • one function of the battery is just to “keep count” of the energy that passes out of the battery, because there’s no way to probe a battery and figure out how much stored energy is still in there. This is how you learn your Li-ion battery is 80% full (or whatever): because 20% of the energy expected (based on training the IC over time) has passed through it.
  • For safety, the IEEE recommends you have one IC in the host device, and another in the battery, so that either can disconnect the battery or terminate charging if there’s a problem. So one function of the IC is just interfacing to some other matched IC. (There’s no standard here: you buy both ICs from some company that designed them to co-operate in this way. Different manufacturers will have different implementations.)
  • part of the function of the IC is to verify to the matching IC on the host that the IC (hence battery) is real, is not a counterfeit created by a man in China who gives no fucks about safety, has not been tampered with, and is reporting accurately.

These are the standard functions of the sort of IC described, in any modern Li-ion battery system with a removable battery cartridge in a host device. I know nothing about Apple, so who knows what else their motivation may be.

In conclusion: technology doesn’t work because it’s supposed to. It works because people kludged it together to work, and that is hard, and it requires boundaries. Being able to take it to some random guy in radio repair shop in Newark and get it working is a distant concern.


Seems like a good chance for self selection of problematic units in the “hand-me-down” process.

Your experience does not match that of our family where our Apple products continue to give outstanding service over many years. Seriously, I won’t say we’ve had no issues, but generally speaking, the stuff works very well for our needs, and really lasts.


Similar experience here. My daily laptop is a 2012 MBP. I’ve had the battery.keyboard module replaced, but otherwise it is basically as good as new. Our iPads (both pretty ancient) go on and on flawlessly. Our ancient Mac Mini serves up our media without a niggle (OS upgrade has improved screen sharing stability and reliability greatly - it used to get a bit finicky on our network). Our old AppleTV just works as advertised. We have a fairly new iMac withe 5K screen which is simply the best computing experience (mainly photo editing) I’ve had. I upgrade my phone, but that’s a work contract so costs me nothing.

I’m with you. Who should I turn to for this non-geeky family to get similar long-life, fuss-free service from all their IT stuff?

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It can be true that Apple stuff sucks but it’s still better than everything else.

I mean, the guy who lent them to me worked in IT, and his company had a policy of replacing hardware on a schedule, regardless of its status. I guess he could have given me laptops he knew were defective, but he doesn’t seem like a dick. Dunno, I’m happy to have anything confirm my inherent anti-Apple bias. And regardless of their build quality, I still can’t stand their design. Not everything has to look like a brushed metal lozenge.

I’m confused. Does the microcontroller serve only to verify authentic batteries, or is it required to utilize the battery health monitor? It sounds like the aftermarket batteries are missing a component needed to take advantage of that feature?

I love the CNC’d from a billet construction - that is genuinely functional. But their form over function stuff drives me crazy, like centering the trackpad on the laptop to look pretty even though the home keys (and hence ones hands) are slightly offset in use.

(And I can’t ever forgive apple for the hockey puck mouse…never… :-/ )

Based upon what I have read about Tim Cook and several Apple engineers, they are paranoid about security. That is, they don’t want anyone messing with their devices and getting away with it. They especially do not trust the US intelligence agencies, and have suspected them of trying to sneak stuff into phones that were held for inspection at airports.

I also suspect that as Tim is a sort of zen master of logistics, they figured it was more efficient to put the chip on the battery, repair be damned since the savings in manufacturing outweigh the few instances they reckoned a phone would have its battery replaced. Done right, most will upgrade long before the battery becomes an issue.

Considering the number of devices Apple makes and sells all over the world, they play this game at a different level. Repair shops don’t even register on their radar.

As a lefty who will use either hand on the trackpad, I say fie to you, sir. I would be pissed if it were not centred. Granted, I also never learned to rest on the home keys, so there is that.

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That’s the truth. I fully support the right to repair concept, and I think I sort-of understand the issues involved. It’s just that it doesn’t really make much difference to us personally.

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As a lefty, you loose, too. The track pad should be centered under the hands for equal access. As it is it is biased in favor of right handed people leaving more of the pad exposed when the right hand is lifted from the home keys.

It is a lot cheaper for them if you buy a new one. Can’t argue with that logic.

Did I not mention that I ignore the home keys? My left hand dominates more of the keyboard, so I type more letters with my left hand. I am typing on a 2013 MacBook Pro as I write this, by the way.

So now I am paying more attention to my habits. I use my right thumb for quick cursor stuff, my right fingers for scrolling, but my left hand for full on trackpad use and more complex gestures like pinch and zoom, or the three finger swipe up.

My work MacBook is a 2018 model, but that’s at the office. I will state that I like the keyboard on my 2013 personal MacBook better, but no one really liked the 2018 keyboard, other than Jony Ive.


It’s a pity that the mobile phone business drives people to this. My iPhone 6 from May, 2015 still serves me just fine and until it dies I’ll keep using it.

ETA: the Battery Health of this phone still reports “Maximum Capacity 89%”.