Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has begun locking its batteries with a recently activated software feature to discourage people from installing iPhone batteries on their own. Unless you pay for an official repair service, iOS will prevent the batteries from reporting their status properly. The feature will affect both authentic Apple batteries replaced by the user and third-party replacements. The new feature has been activated for both the latest version of iOS 12 and the iOS 13 beta on the iPhone XR, XS, or XS Max.
The company is apparently activating a feature that has been there for a long time but it has never been used for this purpose. There’s a Texas Instruments microcontroller built into the Apple battery that is capable of acting as an SHA-1/HMAC authentication device. The authentication code is locked to the specific phone and can only be changed by Apple or an authorized reseller.
The feature will be used to authenticate new batteries as both original parts and replaced by Apple official repair service. If the authentication code for the battery doesn’t match the one for the device, the feature will lock down the battery, preventing it from showing battery health information and marking it as needing “Service”. While the battery will not be useless, the user will not be able to remove the message or retrieve the battery health information.
Many are seeing this as a way for the company to make customers use Apple and Apple-authorized resellers to the exclusion of third-party stores. While Apple is making less money from iPhone sales, it’s making significantly more money from servicing its devices. If the phone is taken to an Apple Store for servicing, the user will have to pay $69 to replace the battery. In Apple’s ideal world, all device repairs and revenue are handled by Apple, at Apple-approved pricing. This is not the first time Apple has pulled something like this on its customers. In 2017, Apple was caught lowering the performance of older devices to preserve battery life without ever notifying the users. Last year, the company was caught bricking repaired devices.