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Summary:

Though some critics like to vilify Apple for its practice of building devices with inaccessible batteries, the benefits definitely outweigh the consequences for such a tradeoff. The MacBook Pros are rated for up to eight hours of battery life, the iPod nanos get up to 24 […]

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Though some critics like to vilify Apple for its practice of building devices with inaccessible batteries, the benefits definitely outweigh the consequences for such a tradeoff. The MacBook Pros are rated for up to eight hours of battery life, the iPod nanos get up to 24 hours of audio playback and the new iPad is touted to go for 10 hours on a single charge. But what happens when your iPad doesn’t get a great charge anymore? Similar to programs in place for the MacBook Pros and iPhones, Apple has announced its iPad Battery Replacement program and it’s not a bad option, all things considered.

The rules are pretty simple. If your iPad no longer holds a charge as good as it used to, you can pay Apple a service fee ($99 plus $6.95 shipping) and it will replace it. Of course, if your iPad is damaged because of an accident, neglect, liquid contact or if there is another hardware issue, then Apple reserves the right to say “No, sorry.” Fortunately though, unless your glass screen has been smashed, Apple is rarely picky on these types of issues. If your device turns on and displays what its supposed to on the screen and can connect to a computer to sync, it’s pretty much eligible for a battery replacement.

What is interesting about the iPad Battery Replacement program is that Apple outright acknowledges that your data will not be preserved because you will receive a replacement iPad. In reality, this is what usually happens with an iPhone replacement as well, but its refreshing to know Apple is actually acknowledging this now. Replacement devices (iPad or iPhone) are technically considered “refurbished” but, as a company who puts extra care into every little detail of the experience, refurbished to Apple means “almost new” to most users. As is the case with iPods and iPhones (and will likely be the case with the iPad) the “refurbished” unit will come with a new exterior case so even if your previous unit did have a few superficial scratches, you’ll end up with a fresh and clean device.

Arranging for a replacement can be done by calling AppleCare or through Apple’s website. Additionally, users can get service through the Genius Bar at their local Apple Store. Once the initial iPad demand settles, Apple Stores will begin to carry additional iPads as “service parts” which means that, should you need a battery replacement, you can simply walk into an Apple Store, pay your fee and walk out with your replacement.

If you’re not keen on paying Apple such a price for a battery replacement or you’re one who doesn’t sync their device and therefore do not want to lose all your apps and settings, you can look into third party service providers for battery replacement options. These will likely be cheaper than going through Apple, but this route means you will lose the benefit of getting a nice, new and clean scratch-free exterior.

What are your thoughts on Apple’s built-in batteries and their replacement plans? Have you had your iPhone or iPod replaced because of battery issues? Do you think their plan is fair? Sound off in the comments and share your thoughts!

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  1. This is quite confusing Chris…
    It seems you are writing that by giving Apple $99, they give you a new iPad?
    Or a refurbished one? I’m lost:)

    If the battery in my iPad has gone dead, let’s say after 3.5 years of use, then I should be able to hand it in, pay $99 and then some nice guy, preferable in a white chemical suit, wearing a mask and gloves, will pry open my iPad and using ferry dust, solder a new battery in to the iPad?
    Or are you saying that he will just chuck it in a pile, change the battery in all the iPads in the pile and give me back a random one? … maybe one filled with “my little pony” stickers?

    1. You will not get your iPad back, you will get a refurbished or new one back. If it’s not new, the casing and glass will be new.

      You would not be able to tell the difference. The only issue I would have with it, is if I take pristine care of my iPad, I replace the battery after the warrantee is up, and two weeks after I get the “new one” it breaks, I am going to be very upset.

    2. Sorry if it read as confusing. Jeremy’s comment below though is correct.

      If your device is out of warranty, the battery replacement will cost you $99 plus tax. Apple gives you a refurbished one. To respond to Jeremy though, that refurbished device is covered by its own 90 day warranty (hey, three months is better than two weeks, right) or your original warranty, whichever one is longer. (If it occurs during your original warranty, you still end up with a refurbished one of course, but you don’t pay the $99 fee.)

      I hope this clarifies things!

  2. Udo Schroeter Saturday, March 13, 2010

    I think it’s a horrible design choice that really screws the customer with their pants on. Me, I’m happy I got one of the last unibody MacBooks with a replacable battery, even if doesn’t last very long. This is another way people effectively lose ownership of their devices.

    The fact that Apple can refuse to refurbish (=replace) your device if you modded it in any way means they have another way of sealing a platform from the people who were tricked into “buying”. I’m using quotation marks here because, between the battery trick and ever more abundant DRM, it’s more like they let you rent their appliances while you’re still paying for the entire thing in full.

    And what about the future? Sure, they’ll have a new MacBook/iPad/whatever in store for the next few months or even years, but what happens if your battery gives out in five years? No way they are gonna replace these ancient devices! It’ll be “buy a new laptop or get out of our store” by then. Devices that may still be perfectly usable otherwise will have to be thrown out simply because they were designed to fail after a few months, for no other reason than to make you buy a new one. The madness here is that they made this scheme so obvious and people are still buying like crazy.

    I bought a lot of Apple products in the last years. I owned several Mac laptops, Mac Pros, iPods, even a Mac mini. My employer went all Mac two years ago and my suggestion for doing so played a huge role in that decision. Now when I look at the way this is going, I’m not so sure I can justify these purchases in the future, especially when it comes to laptops and mobile devices that run the abomination that is iPhone OS.

    1. Nothing new – move along.

      Apple’s been doing this with iPods and iPhones for years. Those are mobile devies and so is the iPad.

      This deserves a longer discussion of off-site cloud services and how we’re effectively giving up on the megahertz race and need for speed and instead opting to do all of our commuting on the cloud.

      Naturally, this removes the control we have over our devices and Apple has been doing it very slowly for years. Now the iPhone is basically what we used to call a “terminal” and connects to the web for all of its data. The same goes for the iPad and soon, local storage will be a thing of the past.

      I’m thoroughly against it but it’s happening fater than we realize.

    2. Its a non-removable battery…

      get a grip.

  3. aapl’s battery technology is second to none. I have Ipods from 04 that still hold a charge. Never had to replace a battery on any of my apple products. I’m sure they’ll be DIY battery replacements for the IPad but if not I’m satisfied with the way aapl will handle a dead battery. In 5 years if it does go dead there will be a better IPad you’ll want to get. Can you say that about dell, HPQ, Sony, Goog. I don’t think so.

  4. Udo Schroeter Sunday, March 14, 2010

    You’re right, Apple’s batteries are very high quality, as are any of the parts of their products. However, failures do happen. They happened when my new MacBook’s battery suddenly dropped to 70% health, and they happened to my ancient iBook G4 which could be resurrected by just buying a new battery. Case in point, yes, nobody wants to be seen running around with an ancient iBook G4 in public, but it’s still a decent device for, say, browsing the web at home or a pretty good first computer for a child. It pains me that we are urged to throw these devices away just because they have reached the end of their coolness period. It’s a waste, and it happens because companies want to keep consumers in a perpetual spending thread mill. The ironic part is that we’re having this discussion _because_ Apple products are such high quality ;-)

    1. Well, “a perpetual spending thread mill” is what our economical system is based on ;-)
      That said I find it just wastefull throwing away your device just because the battery dies. Getting a new or refurbished device doesn’t make it less wasteful.

    2. you could just ebay your old device. thats what I do, most of the time it covers at least a 3rd of the price of the replacement as well.

  5. Thanks for clearing this up Chris :)
    I guess my mind would not believe the answer!

    I am also wondering if this is even legal in some countries. In Denmark, an item sold has a 6 months guarantee, meaning that all errors on a device not originating from abuse or accidents, should be covered by the company producing the item(the logic being, that a device that breaks within 6 months of normal use has had an error to begin with).
    The customer has, on top of this guarantee, a 2 year window(meaning 1.5 year after the guarantee is over) where any malfunctions/errors etc. where it can can be said to be “plausible” that this malfunction does not come from abuse/accidents on the customers side, where the manufacturer has to repair it at no charge.

    On top of the above, if an item is repaired, say, a new screen is put into the device, there is now a new 2 year window on the screen, actually the guarantee is not on the screen it self, but on the repair! i.e. if I ask Apple to replace the battery in my 3.5 year old iPad and Apple returns a device where the screen, battery, casing etc. has been replaced (doesn’t matter if it is with “refurbished” parts) then I automatically get my 2 year window reset.

    Besides from the boring law-stuff I really like where Apple is going with this. The basic idea is, we build quality stuff, we base a big part of our revenue on selling software for these devices, so when the tech-guru has worn out the device, refurbish it and have someone less demanding use it for another 4 years, buying more software. This has a huge impact on the environment. The way hardware manufactures, doing no-name, brands has to do it is to make sure the device lives for the duration that is demanded by the laws of the countries it is sold in. They don’t need to bother themselves with design(visual and technical) that will endure for more than a couple of years. When it leaves the factory and someone payed the $50 for it.. **** it!

    On a side note (sorry…).

    I am a computer and electronics engineer and had to do a paper (in early 2006) on the environmental impact of mobile phones. It turns out that Nokia was the company that had done the most to keep mobile phones in circulation by refurbishing them. Nokia, internally, had higher standards for how long a phone should last, how the subcontractors should treat their workers and the toxin levels in the handsets, than any of the countries they were sold in demanded. A standard (not smartphone back then) phone was built to last, I think, it was 5-6 year. The average user threw it away after 1.5 year. Nokia blamed the operators of the mobile networks because they would invent new services to sell to their customers then turn around and demand Nokia would implement hardware/software for these services in new phones or else the operator would not subsidize their phones. I read a Nokia report, from 2005 I think it was, stating that to best serve the environment and the customers; phones should not be subsidized, they should resemble laptop computers with OS’s and upgradable parts, this way the manufactures could generate revenue by keeping phones in circulation for a long time and make additional money by building new software and by refurbishing phones.

    I wonder if someone at Apple read that report in 2006 as well :)

  6. You can be sure; somebody will make the repairs or exchange outside the Apple factory… as it is so, already here in Europe, where broken glasses (iPhone, iPod) are fixed by 3rd party people. So – I think it will happen for batteries also…

  7. No “insurance program” like AppleCare?

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  11. It should just be covered under a longer warranty if Apple is going to stand behind their products. A $100+ service fee?

    Get real.

  12. So when you get a replacement iPhone for another reason, say the wifi wasn’t working properly, does the refurbished iPhone have a NEW battery in it?

  13. This is an interesting concept. When it comes to business decisions, the idea of almost guiding your customers to utilize your support systems is in fact ingenious. Apple is practically eliminating any third party companies from being able to produce iPad, iPod, MacBook, etc. parts or batteries. By doing this they are both boosting their sales and creating a customer dependency to their company. As a supplier, this is the perfect scenario.

    Now the drawback to this is the fact that maybe some third party company could in fact produce a better battery product that may also be less expensive. As buyers, this is what we like to see.

    All in all, this is capitalism at its best and Apple will continue to make decisions that they feel are the most financially rewarding. Maybe someday, they will decide that it is a better decision to allow for third party companies to get their hands on the Apple technology, but for now, the decisions they are making continue to boost their revenues and therefore will remain the same.

  14. Who is the idiot that designed these items without replacement batteries. I have looked at the instructions for replacing the battery in the Itouch, almost need to be an electrical engineer to change it. From what Apple say, you have to return it to Apple, real stupid being without a phone that can be important for business users. Every mobile previously bought, takes seconds to remove the back, install a new battery, so simple. Think Apple are just wanting more money. I refuse to buy the Ipad due to this, but don’t think many consumers have actually considered the battery – yet!

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