More iPhone Battery Gotchas

Apple doesn't have a good answer for deteriorating and not-that-old iPhone batteries.

Wed, March 31, 2010

CIO — When your iPhone battery blows after hundreds of charge cycles, Apple doesn't have very good options to fix it. And rest assured your iPhone will need a battery replacement, most likely within two years.

It's amazing how fast an iPhone battery deteriorates, typically ending up on death row in 18 months or less. Every time you go through a charge cycle, for instance, you'll permanently lose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute of battery capacity.

Typically, you'll get 250 to 500 charge cycles before a lithium ion battery has outlived its usefulness, says Aaron Vronko, CEO of Raid Repair, which services broken iPods and iPhones and replaces worn-out batteries for $50.

If you're an iPhone addict, an original battery can become unbearable in a matter of months. Six months ago, I took Golfshot GPS app on a test drive at a local course and finished the round with a battery percentage in the low 50s, roughly half my golf score (starting with 100 percent charge). Last weekend, I had to shut down my iPhone on the 14th hole because the iPhone's battery life was at a miserable 11 percent.

An Apple Store manager at a Bay Area location says his iPhone 3GS battery life is down maybe 30 percent since he first got it in June last year. (We chatted about batteries before he sold me a Mophie Juice Pack Air.) The battery would last a day and a half when new; but today, he must charge it every night and maybe a second time during a day of heavy use.

But if you're unhappy with your iPhone's battery life, an Apple Store might not be the best place to take it. Apple doesn't even offer an optional iPhone battery replacement service—only a warranty.

The iPhone comes with a year warranty, so if you're still under warranty you can get your poorly performing iPhone battery tested at the Genius Bar. Just be sure to make an appointment. The Genius Bar will run your iPhone through a software test, which will indicate the number of charge cycles as well as how your battery performance compares to a new iPhone battery.

Here's the rub, though: Apple will replace your iPhone for free if the battery is operating at 50 percent or less of a new iPhone. But if your iPhone is operating at 50 percent within a year, then chances are your iPhone battery was defective in the first place. This actually has nothing to do with the natural deterioration of a lithium ion battery.

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