Apple may rebate iPhone batteries replaced pre-throttling discount

Apple may placate iPhone owners who paid full-price for battery replacements before it discounted the scheme as a mea-culpa over iOS throttling. The Cupertino firm unexpectedly found itself the center of a wrath-storm late last year, when it admitted that it had been limiting the performance of older iPhones that had degraded batteries.

The system initially impacted the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, and was later extended to cover the iPhone 7. Apple's hope had been to avoid unexpected shutdowns of the handsets, caused when their aging batteries were unable to provide the peak power demanded by system-intensive apps and services. However, while Apple intended it to be imperceivable to the end-user, that proved not to be the case.

Instead, the revelation of the system was seen by many as a confession of planned-obsolescence, even as Apple argued that it still believed it was the best way to handle the shutdown issue. While the company refused to change course on the fix, it did agree to add a toggle allowing owners to turn off the process in a future version of iOS. That will be iOS 11.3, set to be released later this year.

It also discounted its iPhone battery replacement scheme for affected phones. Rather than $79 to switch out the smartphone's old battery for a new one, it would charge just $29. Apple also softened its policies on what battery pack degradation tests the iPhones must pass before being eligible for the replacements.

The plan had initially been to begin the discounted replacements early in 2018, a timescale which was later changed, and the $29 swaps begin in December 2017. However, that still leaves plenty of people who paid full-price for a battery replacement, and now it seems Apple is trying to decide what to do with them.

It comes after Republican lawmaker Senator John Thune asked the Cupertino firm about the topic. "Has Apple explored whether consumers who paid the full, non-discounted price for a replacement batter in an effort to restore performance should be allowed to seek a rebate for some of the purchase price?" Thune, who heads the Commerce Committee, wrote in a letter to Apple last month.

A reply from Cynthia Hogan, Apple's Vice President for public policy in the Americas, released this week confirmed it was being considered, Recode reports. "Yes, we are exploring this and will update you accordingly," Hogan wrote.

Whether that will pan out to a retroactive discount – and, if so, how much that might amount to – is unclear at this stage. The reasons for getting a battery replaced are clearly more than just trying to avoid a slow-down issue most people didn't realize was in operation, after all. Meanwhile, as Apple has maintained throughout this process, lithium-ion batteries naturally degrade as they age, and it's beyond the scope of realistic expectation that they should hold the same charge 2-3 years into ownership of an iPhone that they did on day one.