Remember the long line when you bought your iPhone? Now you may be waiting in one to get it repaired.
Apple — which confirmed the long-held speculation that iPhones slow down with age — has apologized and promised to help customers get new batteries at a $50 discount.
But navigating the process has left some customers frustrated, in part because of long wait times on the phone to talk to an Apple store representative, long lines at the Apple stores to get the phones checked — and back orders on the batteries customers need.
On Friday, hundreds of customers packed the Apple store at the Somerset Collection in Troy, Mich.,many seeking to get their phones checked and to get a battery replacement.
But Frank Mendonca, 60, of Dearborn walked out of the store after learning he'd have to wait 45 minutes to find out whether he needed a battery — and then if he did, another two hours to have it replaced.
"I told them, 'No, thank you. I'll come back another time," he said.
Mendonca added that the store wouldn't tell him whether it had a battery on hand to install unless he first waited in line for 45 minutes to have the phone examined by a specialist.
Apple sought to clarify its long-rumored battery problem and how to fix it in a Dec. 28 message to concerned and outraged customers, acknowledging that "there's been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue."
In the language of tech-speak, Apple said that the slowdowns were an effort to keep the older phones running longer as the battery wears down, not a push to buy a new model:
"Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components."
To fix the problem, the tech company offered to reduce the price of its out-of-warranty iPhone battery by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later that needs a replacement.
But Apple also said the supply of replacement batteries is limited and some stores are already out of them.
The wait could be several days.
Even phone calls to the store can lead to 10 minutes on hold.
Another early source of frustration for customers is Apple seemed to be updating its process as it went along.
One iPhone customer, who sought a new battery at the Apple store in Ann Arbor, said she was told Thursday that she would have to make an appointment in the store to order a battery and then return later when it came in.
The store later sent an e-mail saying she could order the battery by phone.
Still, some customers have not been as forgiving — or patient.
Nick Philko, 44, of Huntington Woods, said he took his phone to Fix A Fone, a third-party repair shop in Farmington Hills, to get a new battery instead of the Apple store because he didn't want to deal with the crowds — or wait.
"I knew there was something wrong with my battery," he said on Friday. "Anytime you go into an Apple store it's mayhem."
There are a couple of ways to know if you need a battery fix: A warning message in the settings menu — or the fact that your iPhone's charge just doesn't last more than a few hours.
There's also online tech support from Apple that shows options: Bring it to a store, send it in for repair, and, according to news accounts, owners also can take phones to authorized repair shops, such as Best Buy.
There also are battery replacement kits for some models you can purchase online through companies such as iFixit, if you feel confident enough to attempt the repair yourself.
Apple also has announced it will issue an operating system update that lets users know more about the health of their phone's battery so they can check on their own if the battery is causing a problem.That hasn't been enough to appease customers who filed lawsuits over it — or fully satisfy some of the loyal Apple customers who fixed their battery problem prior to the latest offer by buying a new phone.
Lauren Herrin, 33, of Bloomfield Township, said she noticed her iPhone 6 Plus was losing battery life in late 2016. She said she took it to the Apple store, which gave her a replacement at no charge.
But that was only after she had a 2½-hour wait that left her very upset.
By September, she said, the replacement phone was failing, too.
So she took that phone back to the store and purchased a new iPhone 7 Plus.
Herrin said she now feels validated that her instincts were right that her iPhone 6 Plus battery was going bad, but she also feels deceived because the problem led her to spend a lot of money to buy the next phone model.
"I do feel like I got swindled," she said. "But, I think I'm more upset than anything."
Boosting battery performance
Apple, in a note to customers published Thursday, said its intention is to "deliver an experience that is simple and easy to use," but batteries have a limited lifespan, and "eventually their capacity and performance decline so that they need to be serviced or recycled."
To maximize performance, the company recommends:
- Keep the phone half-charged when stored for the long term.
- Avoid charging or leaving the phone in hot places or in direct sunlight.
- Avoid cold temperatures, which can lead to unexpected shutdowns and zap battery life. Frequent unexpected shutdowns can make the phone unreliable and unusable.
- Look for key warning signs, such as longer launch times, dimming backlighting, lower speaker volume and disabled camera flash.
- Get a battery replacement if there is a problem.