Apple met with Chinese regulators to discuss the iPhone’s mysterious battery drain problem

How good is the battery?
How good is the battery?
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon
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An Apple representative traveled to Beijing this week to discuss iPhone battery malfunctions with a consumer watchdog organization affiliated with the government. The meeting, held yesterday, shows that as Beijing ramps up scrutiny of Apple, the tech company continues to try and appease the government.

According to a statement (link in Chinese) from the China Consumer Association (CCA), a corporate-level executive arrived at the organization’s office to provide an update on the company’s findings regarding iPhone 6s devices that abruptly shut down at approximately 30% battery life. The group wrote that Apple does not suspect any safety issues resulted from the malfunction, and affirmed that the company would guarantee battery replacements. CCA added that Apple stated it had “progressed” in discovering the origin of the malfunction, though the statement did not mention any definitive origin.

Apple did not respond to questions from Quartz about the meeting.

The specific problem the CCA referred to is not confined to China—in fact, consumers all over the world have complained about their iPhone 6 and 6s devices mysteriously turning off well before the battery monitor reaches 0%. But the Chinese government has been unusually vocal about the technical glitch.

In November, the CCA issued a strongly worded letter to the hardware company demanding it explain the cause of the malfunction within 10 business days. When Apple issued an English-language statement acknowledging the issue, the CCA sent out a second letter saying the company had to take more proactive measures to fix the problem.

The company later attributed the glitch to a battery component that was exposed to too much “ambient air” before final assembly, without elaborating further. It added that the problem was confined to a “small number of iPhone 6s devices made in September and October 2015.” All the while, Chinese social media erupted with iPhone owners complaining about faulty devices.

It’s not unusual for Chinese regulators or state media outlets to shine the spotlight on foreign companies for alleged wrongdoing. In this case, however, it’s not clear if the CCA’s censure of Apple was motivated by politics or a genuine concern for consumers—after all, the phones indeed were malfunctioning.

Either way, government scrutiny towards Apple will likely increase in the coming years, as China attempts to foster its own domestic tech giants at the expense of foreign rivals. Apple has taken a beating over the past year from Beijing, which forced it to cut access to the iTunes movie store, iBooks, and the NYTimes app in China. Meanwhile, the company suffered a major sales slump in China last year—iPhone shipments in the country dropped nearly 25%.