Why It’s Time for Apple to Come Clean About the iPhone Battery

It happened again last week. The battery display on my iPhone 6 plunged from around 50% to below 10%, and then the phone shut down entirely. All of a sudden, I found myself cut off from Google Maps (GOOGL) in an unfamiliar part of town, and with no way to text my friends for directions.

This has happened before, and it’s a real nuisance. The iPhone pulled the same stunt during a recent road race, cutting off my pace-keeping app and my music, and it’s happened right when I’ve needed to make an important phone call.

But the most annoying aspect of all this is that Apple (AAPL) refuses to come clean about what’s going on. While the company is running a limited battery replacement program for some iPhone 6s models, it’s still pretending things are just fine with other models.

“A small number of customers outside of the affected range have also reported an unexpected shutdown,” an Apple spokesperson wrote as part of an emailed statement to Fortune. (The full response is available below.)

A small number? I don’t believe it. In a very informal poll of work colleagues, at least five of them reported iPhone battery issues similar to what I had experienced. Meanwhile, other publications are also calling attention to the problem Apple dare not name.

“Many iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s owners are complaining about a bug that essentially shuts down the phone even when it has a lot of battery life left. This is a problem that is happening right now, and yet, Apple hasn’t figured out the true cause or at minimum hasn’t disclosed it to the public,” wrote Business Insider as part of a report on a larger malaise that has descended on Apple.

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And while the official corporate line at Apple is that things are fine, store employees seem to know better. When I brought my device into the Apple Store at the Oculus-World Trade Center location in Lower Manhattan, a worker there acknowledged she had heard of similar complaints, and offered a solution: Apple could reinstall the firmware on the device, which would fix the battery problem, but would also cause me to lose important data, including all my text messages.

No, thanks. What I would like instead is for Apple to swallow its pride and explain to its customers that there’s something amiss with the iPhone and that a real fix is on the way.

Yes, this would be a blow to Apple. The iPhone is its flagship product and is a symbol of Apple’s commitment to perfection and engineering excellence — admitting that product is defective would hurt both its reputation and its mystique.

But allowing the problem to fester while blowing off a rising chorus of customer complaints is not befitting of Apple either. Sure, the iPhones aren’t literally blowing up in customers’ hands (à la Samsung) but the battery problem is surely at a point where Apple needs to take action.

Here is the Apple spokesperson’s full response to what is going on with the batteries:

We work hard to offer our customers the best product, experience, and customer support. We believe this is why we have earned the highest customer satisfaction rating of any smartphone maker in China and around the world.

We take every customer concern very seriously, including the limited number of reports of unexpected shutdown with iPhones. We also want to thank the agencies for forwarding concerns to us and their engagement with us. Every time we encounter an issue, we investigate using a thorough process including analyzing these devices. We also look at diagnostic information from the broader set of customers who have opted in to our standard diagnostic data reporting. When we find something, we work to quickly provide our customers with a solution.

As a result of our investigation on this, we found that a small number of iPhone 6s devices made in September and October 2015 contained a battery component that was exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have been before being assembled into battery packs. Two weeks ago, we launched a worldwide program to replace affected batteries, free of charge. We again apologize for any customer inconvenience. It’s important to note, this is not a safety issue.

A small number of customers outside of the affected range have also reported an unexpected shutdown. Some of these shutdowns can occur under normal conditions in order for the iPhone to protect its electronics. In an effort to gather more information, we are including additional diagnostic capability in an iOS software update which will be available next week. This will allow us to gather information over the coming weeks which may potentially help us improve the algorithms used to manage battery performance and shutdown. If such improvements can be made, they will be delivered in future software updates.

Tim Cook, the ball is in your court: a new year is approaching, and 2017 would be a great time for Apple to restore the iPhone’s once-impeccable reputation.
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