iPhone battery problems are much more widespread than Apple admits, Chinese authorities say

But it says it has 30% power.
But it says it has 30% power.
Image: Reuters/Thomas Peter
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A mysterious problem causing iPhones to unexpectedly shut down is much larger than Apple has admitted to, Chinese authorities say, and affects iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus devices—not just the iPhone 6s.

The China Consumers Association, a government watchdog group, said Nov. 30 that Apple needs to take further measures to address the problem, and accused the company of failing to “meet basic consumer needs for normal wireless communication.” The notice is the second the group has sent to Apple in a month, and illustrates how Beijing has become one of the toughest overseers of the Cupertino-based hardware maker.

Consumers in China and the rest of the world have complained in recent weeks that their iPhones are shutting down, even though their batteries reportedly still have 30% power remaining. On Nov. 20, Apple published a global notice addressing the problem. A “very small number of iPhone 6s devices” produced between September and October 2015 “may unexpectedly shut down,” the company said. Consumers whose phone matched a serial number on Apple’s website could bring their device to an Apple Store or authorized reseller and replace the battery for free.

That doesn’t go far enough, though, the China Consumer Association said in the Nov. 30 notice (link in Chinese). It wants Apple to offer fixes for other models experiencing the malfunction, and to provide a more thorough explanation of why it is happening:

After Apple published the “iPhone 6s Program for Unexpected Shutdown Issues,” many consumers continued to send replies to the China Consumers Association reporting their situation. After collecting these reports, we discovered the shutdown malfunction also exists in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, in addition to iPhone 6s devices produced between September and October 2015. The aforementioned models were among the devices suspected of malfunction problems in the China Consumer Associations’ letter sent out on November 15. Meanwhile, consumers have opinions and suggestions about the execution of Apple’s “iPhone 6s Program for Unexpected Shutdown Issues.”

As a result, on November 29, the China Consumer Association once again sent a letter to Apple expressing our wish that Apple provide a thorough analysis, reason and solution for the malfunctioning iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 6s phones produced between September and October 2015. In addition, as for the “iPhone 6s Program for Unexpected Shutdown Issues,”some consumers have questions about its terms and [we] ask for a timely clarification. [We also request]  Apple improve the convenience of the booking and consultation systems [for battery replacement], prepare enough components to replace batteries efficiently, and meet basic consumer needs for normal wireless communication.

Making the matter potentially worse, some Chinese consumers are complaining that Apple’s battery replacement does not solve the shutdown issue.

On Weibo, China’s Twitter-esque social network, one Wuhan-based iPhone 6s wrote that he received a fresh battery for his faulty iPhone 6s on Nov. 29. The following day, it shut down at 20%. This suggests that the problem might be deeper than Apple expected. “I just want to ask Apple how changing the battery will fix the problem,” he wrote on Weibo today (Dec. 1).

Quartz reached out to Apple for comment but did not receive an immediate reply.