Another year, another “gate.” It’s become an unexpected tech industry tradition to be accused of a major design flaw after the launch of a flagship device, and Apple has gotten the lion’s share of the attention: Antennagate. Bendgate. Flexgate. While these scandals received public backlash, they were quickly resolved and forgiven without much financial penalty to Apple. That was until Batterygate—the gate that slowed every iPhone owner in their tracks. Literally.
Batterygate was different. The slow-moving train wreck lasted an entire year—and the aftermath continues to haunt Apple today. In a letter to shareholders earlier this month, Tim Cook cited their $29 battery replacement program as one of the reasons for declining iPhone revenue year over year. And while it may seem obvious that maintaining your current phone instead of upgrading hurts their short-term bottom line, this was the first time Apple publicly acknowledged that repair hurts their profits. More importantly, it’s the first time that Apple admitted that the battery inside your iPhone is a consumable, and not the iPhone itself—an admission that has drastically changed the way consumers think about the life of their iPhones.
Before I started working at iFixit, I had no idea that I could change the battery in my iPhone myself. When my battery started to wear down, I suffered through life tethered to my charger and upgraded to a new device when I became too annoyed or had saved enough money to get a new one. I wasn’t alone in that way of thinking. When I do battery swaps for friends and family now, I regularly hear, “Whoa, I didn’t know I could replace my battery—I’m glad I don’t have to upgrade to a new phone yet.”
Batterygate flipped that long-standing belief on its head. Now, it’s mainstream knowledge that a new battery can extend your iPhone’s life. The avalanche of news broke the upgrade cycle.
John Gruber recently reported that Apple replaced eleven million batteries through their $29 replacement program. That’s more than 10 times Apple’s average repair rate, which hovers around one to two million iPhone battery replacements a year. But even 11 million battery replacements falls significantly short of Barclay’s estimated 519 million iPhones that were eligible for the program. So what happened to the rest? Some went to refurbishers, who installed aftermarket batteries. Some are languishing in drawers. And some people, who didn’t want to deal with Apple Store hell, are fixing it themselves.
When Apple announced their $29 battery replacement program in December 2017, we lowered the price of our iPhone battery fix kit to match. Apple’s battery replacement program ended on December 31, 2018, and they raised the price of their battery service from $29 to $49 (or $69, depending on your model). That blows. Because there are still hundreds of millions of affected iPhone owners who didn’t get a battery replacement—or didn’t know they needed one. So in a fit of righteous solidarity, our iPhone battery prices will remain at $29.99 for at least the rest of the year. Our kits include all the tools you need to open up and swap your own battery. We even have battery kits available for iPhone 4S, 5, 5s and 5c, which were excluded from Apple’s program.
The more barriers there are to keeping gadgets functional, the more likely people are to trash their broken stuff instead of trying to fix it. Thanks to Batterygate, we’ve knocked down one of the biggest barriers to repair—that batteries wear out in two years, not phones. But there are still millions of consumers and iPhone owners who haven’t received the message. That’s why we need to keep talking about it. And that’s why we’ll continue to provide OEM-grade batteries and free repair manuals to iPhone owners everywhere.