The iPhone 6S battery replacement process

You’ve probably heard about battery problems with the iPhone 6S. Although I wasn’t having the sudden shutdowns characteristic of the problem, my phone was manufactured in the target time frame, so I decided to go ahead and get the battery replaced. I’d rather get ahead of the problem than have it appear when I’m out on a business trip.

My wife’s phone, of the same vintage, has been having the problem. It’s not clear to me that everyone is experiencing the same sorts of trouble, but her typical sudden shutdown is like this:

When I heard about the battery replacement program (from Stephen Hackett, I think), I went to Apple’s dedicated web page, entered our phones’ serial numbers to confirm that they were eligible for the program, and made an appointment at our local Apple Store. The appointment was for last Sunday, December 4.

On the web page, Apple says this:

To prepare your iPhone 6s for the battery replacement process, please follow the steps below:

  • Back up your data to iTunes or iCloud.
  • Turn off Find my iPhone
  • Erase data and settings in Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings

On the day we went, I made sure both our phones were backed up, but I didn’t do either of the other two steps. Frankly, I didn’t even read that part of the page. I made sure we had backups because I’d never even consider have work done on my phone without that.

The first thing I learned at our appointment was that the store had no batteries in stock and we might have to wait up to two weeks for them to come in (that was an overly pessimistic estimate). We were assigned to a store employee who checked the condition of our phones and filled out all the forms necessary for the replacement. She also walked us through the steps of turning off Find my iPhone, but she didn’t have us erase any data. The replacement, she said, would take an hour or two to perform.

One thing that surprised me was when she asked for our phones’ passcodes and typed them into the form she was filling out on her iPad. I guess it makes sense that they need the passcode to turn the phone on and test it after replacing the batteries, but I was taken aback by the sort of matter-of-factness with which she asked for the keys to all our data. I changed the passcode after I got the replacement, but had I known ahead of time that they’d need it, I would have created a temporary code for the store to use and then changed it back to my regular code afterward.

We left the store without new batteries or any concrete sense of when we’d get them.

The following Thursday—that’s December 8 for those of you keeping score at home—my wife and I got both calls and emails from the Apple Store telling us our batteries were in. We could come in anytime in the next five days to get them replaced. After five days, the batteries would be released to someone else and we’d have to wait for new stock to arrive.

I went in after work on Thursday, told the concierge why I was there, and was directed to a seat at the Genius Bar. I took my phone out of its case, and killed all the apps. When the Genius arrived, she asked if Find my iPhone was still turned off (Yes) and if I’d changed my passcode from what they had on file (No). She told me it’d be ready in two hours, which was on the high side of what we’d been told in our Sunday visit, but not inconsistent with it.

When I came back to the store a little over two hours later, my phone was ready. My fingerprint still worked to unlock it, as did my passcode, and everything seemed just as it was. I now have a one-year-old phone with a brand new battery in it.

What about my wife’s phone? She was, after all, the one having the sudden shutdown problem. Well, as it happens, she left town on Thursday to visit our daughter, so she hasn’t had her battery replaced yet and I can’t tell you whether the replacement fixed her problem.1 I’ll post an update after her replacement is done and she gets in a couple of days of use to see if it fixed the problem.

I posted this today, before I knew how my wife’s phone would turn out, because I’ve seen on Twitter that people are curious about the program and would like to know more about what’s going to happen before they go to their local Apple Store. In a nutshell, here are the main things to know:

  1. The replacement is free whether you have AppleCare or not. This is Apple’s screwup, not yours.
  2. Unless your time is of no value, check your serial number on Apple’s web page and make an appointment for a visit. Genius Bars usually accept walk-ins, but there’s almost always a good long wait for those.
  3. If your serial number is out of the target range, but you’re having sudden shutdowns, take heart. As the USA Today story says, Apple is starting to recognize that the problem is more widespread than they first thought. The range of eligible serial numbers may expand soon.
  4. Don’t expect to get your battery replaced at your first visit. Other people have told me that batteries were out of stock at their stores, too.
  5. Make a backup and turn off Find my iPhone, but I wouldn’t erase data before the visit, despite what Apple’s web page says. First, you aren’t likely to get your battery replaced for several days. Second, the Geniuses don’t seem to care whether you’ve erased your data.
  6. The first visit, to get the paperwork done, may take a while, but the subsequent visits for dropping off and picking up your phone go quickly.
  7. This is truly a battery replacement, not a phone replacement. They are going to crack your phone open and put a new battery in it, not hand you a new phone and then refurbish your old one to sell to someone else. Update: People with AppleCare tell me they got a replacement phone and didn’t go through as much back-and-forth. Seems fair.
  8. You will be iPhoneless for a couple of hours. Take a few cleansing breaths. You’ll make it through. It might help to have an iPad nearby.

  1. When I took my phone in, I told the Apple Store she’d be gone for the weekend, so her five-day clock isn’t supposed to start until tommorow. ↩︎