Battery Replacements Should Be the Easiest Repair for Any Device

Jeff Johnson:

Yesterday I took the M1 MacBook Pro to my local Apple-authorized service provider that I’ve been going to for many years, who performed all of the work on my Intel MacBook Pro, including the battery replacements and a Staingate screen replacement. This is a third-party shop, not an Apple Store. To my utter shock, they told me that they couldn’t replace the battery in-house, because starting with the Apple silicon transition, Apple now requires that the MacBook Pro be mailed in to Apple for battery replacement! What. The. Hell.

The battery in my 14-inch MacBook Pro seems to be doing okay, with 89% capacity remaining after nearly two years of use. But I hope to use it for as long as I did my MacBook Air — about ten years — and I swapped its battery twice. This spooked me. So I called my local third-party repair place and asked them about replacing the battery. They told me they could change it in the store with same-day turnaround for $350, about the same as what Apple charges, using official parts. It is unclear to me if a Apple could replace the battery in-store or would need to send it out, but every Mac service I have had from my local Apple Store has required me to leave my computer with them for several days.

The situation likely varies by geography. Apple’s Self Service Repair program is not available in Canada, which means a battery swap has to be done either by a technician, or using unofficial parts. If you are concerned about this, I recommend contacting your local shops and seeing what their policies are like.

In a recent interview with Marques Brownlee, John Ternus, Apple’s head of hardware engineering, compared ease of repair and long-term durability:

On an iPhone, on any phone, a battery is something […] that’s gonna need to be replaced, right? Batteries wear out. But as we’ve been making iPhones for a long time, in the early days, one of the most common types of failures was water ingress, right? Where you drop it in a pool, or you spill your drink on it, and the unit fails. And so we’ve been making strides over all those years to get better and better and better in terms of minimizing those failures.

This is a fair argument. While Apple has not — to my knowledge — acknowledged any improvements to liquid resistance on MacBook Pros, I spilled half a glass of water across mine in November, and it suffered no damage whatsoever. Ternus’ point is that Apple’s solution for preventing liquid damage to all components, including the battery, compromised the ease of repairing an iPhone, but the company saw it as a reasonable trade-off.

But it is also a bit of a red herring for two reasons. The first is that Apple actually made recent iPhone models more repairable without reducing water or dust resistance, indicating this compromise is not exactly as simple as Ternus implies. It is possible to have easier repairs and better durability.

The second reason is because batteries eventually need replacing on all devices. They are a consumable good with a finite — though not always predictable — lifespan, most often shorter than the actual lifetime usability of the product. The only reason I do not use my AirPods any more is because the battery in each bud lasts less than twenty minutes; everything else is functional. If there is any repair which should be straightforward and doable without replacing unrelated components or the entire device, it is the battery.

See Also: The comments on Michael Tsai’s post.