We all want Mac laptops that can run for days on a single charge and never need their batteries serviced. Sadly, we’re always going to be disappointed. Battery and power management technologies continually improve, but those improvements are matched by more powerful processors and smaller designs with less room for battery cells. And, because physics is a harsh mistress, current lithium-ion batteries are always going to age chemically, so they hold less of a charge over time.
In the just-released macOS 10.15.5 Catalina, Apple has introduced a new battery health management feature that promises to increase the effective lifespan of the batteries in recent Mac laptops. It does this by monitoring the battery’s temperature and charging patterns and, in all likelihood, reducing the maximum level to which it will charge the battery.
You see the problem. While battery health management can extend your battery’s overall lifespan, it will likely also reduce your everyday runtime before you need to charge. It’s too soon to know the full extent of this tradeoff, and we suspect that it may be impossible to determine, given that everyone uses their Macs differently.
It’s worth noting that this battery health management feature appears only for those running macOS 10.15.5 or later, and only then if the Mac in question is a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 ports. In essence, then, it’s available only on MacBook Pro models introduced in 2016 or later, and MacBook Air models introduced in 2018 and later. (The Thunderbolt 3 port requirement is merely a shorthand way for Apple to indicate “recent Mac laptops.”)
So, if you have a supported laptop and you’re running macOS 10.15.5, what should you do? We see three scenarios:
Favor lifespan: If you seldom run your laptop’s battery down to the electronic fumes because it’s easy for you to plug in whenever you need to charge, leave battery health management enabled. That will preserve the battery’s overall lifespan to the extent possible.
Favor runtime: For those who need to eke every last bit of power from their batteries, disable battery health management. You might have to replace the battery sooner, but you’ll get more runtime in everyday usage.
Switch as needed: Many people need the longest possible runtime only occasionally, such as on long flights with no under-seat power. In such situations, switch battery health management off for the flight and back on when you return to normal usage patterns.
Switching is easy, but Apple buries it deeply enough that it’s clear that the company doesn’t think most users should be disabling it regularly. Open System Preferences > Energy Saver, click the Battery Health button at the bottom, and in the dialog that appears, uncheck Battery Health Management and click OK. You’ll be prompted to make sure you know what you’re doing; click Turn Off to finish the job.
One final note. The reduced maximum capacity with battery health management enabled may have an undesirable side effect—a recommendation from the Battery Status menu’s health indicator that you need to replace your battery. To check your battery’s health, hold the Option key down and click the Battery Status icon on the menu bar. At the top of the menu, next to Condition, you’ll see either Normal or Service Recommended. (In previous versions of macOS, it could have said Replace Soon, Replace Now, or Service Battery.)
Regardless of the term, anything but Normal indicates that your battery is holding less of a charge than when it was new. If you see that message and you aren’t getting enough runtime for your needs, get the battery evaluated at an Apple-authorized service provider or Apple Store.
If you’re plugging your iPhone in regularly but getting low-battery warnings when you shouldn’t, consider the possibility that something is preventing your iPhone from charging successfully while plugged in. If there’s no lightning bolt badge on the battery icon when the iPhone is plugged in, that’s a sure sign that no power is reaching the device. Another hint that failures could be happening intermittently would be a lack of charging in the Last Charge Level graph in Settings > Battery when you know the iPhone was plugged in. Luckily, the solution is often easy. Take a wooden (not metal) toothpick and gently poke around inside the iPhone’s Lightning port for pocket fuzz. You’d be amazed how much crud can end up in there. If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem and you use only a single Lightning cable to charge, try another one.
When summer brings sunny days and rising temperatures, you may have ditched your business suit for shorts or skirts to stay comfortable, but your technological gear can’t do the same. And keeping your tech cool is about more than comfort—as temperatures rise, performance can suffer, charging may get slower or stop, various components might be disabled, and devices can become unreliable from the heat.
How Hot Is Too Hot?
You might be surprised by the recommended operating temperatures for Apple gear—whether you’re talking about an iPhone X or a MacBook Pro, the company recommends staying under 95° F (35° C).
Such temperatures happen regularly throughout the summer. Even in cooler climes, the temperature in a parked car in the sunshine can easily hit 130º F (54º C) in an hour and rise higher as time passes. And no, cracking the windows a couple of inches won’t make a significant difference. We hope you’re already thinking about that with regard to children and pets, but as you can see, tech gear should also be protected. Apple says its products shouldn’t even be stored—turned off—at temperatures over 113º F (45º C).
It’s not just cars you have to think about. Temperatures in homes and offices without air conditioning can also rise higher than electronics would prefer, and that’s especially true for computers that stay on most of the time and aren’t located in well-ventilated areas.
What’s the Danger?
First off, remember that all electronic devices produce their own heat on top of the ambient heat in the environment, so the temperature inside a device can be much, much hotter than outside. The CPU in an iMac can hit 212º F (100º C) under heavy loads.
Temperatures higher than what components are designed for can have the following effects:
Chips of all types can behave unpredictably as increased thermal noise (electrons vibrating more) causes a higher bit error rate. Because electrical resistance increases with heat, timing errors can also occur.
Lithium-ion batteries discharge well in high temperatures, but the increased rate of chemical reactions within the battery will result in a shorter overall lifespan.
As devices heat and cool, the uneven thermal expansion of different materials can cause microscopic cracks that can lead to a variety of failures over time.
Some heat-related problems are temporary, so when the device or component cools down, it will resume working correctly. But others, particularly drops in battery life—are irreversible and particularly worth avoiding.
When a Mac gets too hot, it will spin up its fans in an attempt to keep its internal components cool. If your Mac’s fans are ever running at full tilt, first quit apps you aren’t using, particularly those that might be CPU-intensive and thus creating a lot of heat. If that doesn’t make a difference, restart it to make sure the problem isn’t some rogue process. If the fans come back on at full speed quickly, shut it down and let it cool off for a bit. In the worst case, an overheated Mac will start acting unpredictably or crash.
iOS devices don’t have fans, so they employ other coping mechanisms. If your iPhone or iPad gets too hot, the device will alert you.
Apple says you might notice some of the following behaviors:
Charging, including wireless charging, slows or stops.
The display dims or goes black.
Cellular radios enter a low-power state. The signal might weaken during this time.
The camera flash is temporarily disabled.
Performance slows with graphics-intensive apps or features.
If you’re using Maps on an overheating iPhone for GPS navigation in the car, it may show a “Temperature: iPhone needs to cool down.” screen instead of the map. You’ll still get audible turn-by-turn directions, and the screen will wake up to guide you through turns,
How to Keep Your Tech Cool
For the most part, keeping Apple devices cool just requires common sense, since you’d do the same things for yourself.
As Apple’s specifications recommend, avoid using devices when the temperature is over 95º F (35º C). If you can’t avoid it entirely, keep usage to a minimum.
Don’t leave devices in cars parked in the sun for long periods of time. If it happens accidentally, let the device cool before using it.
Provide good ventilation so air can cool the device. Don’t block ventilation ports in the back of desktop Macs, and don’t use Mac laptops in bed, propped on a pillow, or under the covers. It can be worth vacuuming dust out of ventilation ports every so often.
Never put anything on the keyboard of an open Mac laptop.
Avoid stacking things on top of a Mac mini.
Monitor the temperature of server closets. If they get too hot, keep the door open, add a fan, or run the air conditioning.
Luckily, the temperatures that cause problems for Apple hardware aren’t terribly comfortable for people either, so if you’re way too hot, that’s a good sign your gear is as well.
Apple’s Batteries widget is a little known but highly useful tool for quickly assessing which of your small Apple devices is lowest on power—something you may wish to do when traveling with only one charging cable. To access it, switch to Today view on the iPhone, accessible by swiping right on the Home screen or Lock screen. If the Batteries widget isn’t already there, scroll to the bottom, tap Edit, and tap the green + button to the left of Batteries in the list. Of course, if you just want to check the battery status on one device, that’s possible too. It’s easy to figure out how much power remains in your iPhone’s battery because of the indicator at the top right of the screen (swipe down on it to invoke Control Center and see the percentage on the iPhone X and later). On the Apple Watch, swipe up on the screen to see its battery percentage in Control Center. For AirPods, open the case and wait for the pop-up to appear on your iPhone’s screen.
Are you happy with your iPhone’s battery life? If your iPhone regularly ends up in Low Power Mode or doesn’t always make it to the end of the day without extra juice, read on to learn how to determine when it’s time for a new battery.
It may be important to get to this soon because people with an iPhone 6, SE, 6s, 7, 8, or X can likely get Apple to replace the battery for just $29 through December 31st, 2018—the price will go up in 2019. (The cost is $79 for even older iPhones; non-Apple repair shops may be less expensive, but it’s generally better to stick with Apple’s parts and service providers.) That $29 price is thanks to a discount program Apple instituted in January 2018 as an apology for silently reducing the performance of the iPhone 6 and later in an effort to prevent them from shutting down due to weak batteries. See Apple’s A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance for details.
Here are the top three signs that you need a new battery right away.
1. Your iPhone Is Bulging
This one is obvious and possibly dangerous. If the lithium-ion battery in your iPhone is defective or damaged, it can swell due to outgassing or other chemical reactions. In the worst case, a swollen battery can catch fire or explode—it’s why airlines are concerned about batteries in luggage.
If you notice your iPhone is swelling, you need to deal with it immediately. Power it off and place it in a fireproof container. Then take it to a repair professional or an Apple store right away, or call us for advice on how best to proceed.
2. Your Older iPhone Has Lousy Battery Life or Shuts Down Unexpectedly
Generally speaking, iPhone batteries last a few years without losing too much capacity. However, if your iPhone’s battery drains well before the end of the day, or if it shuts off unexpectedly, that’s a sign that you may need to replace the battery.
Before you do that, go to Settings > Battery and look at battery usage by app, which shows which apps have consumed the most power for the last 24 hours or the last 10 days. Tap Show Activity to see how many minutes the app was in use.
If anything near the top of that list seems odd—it’s not an app you use much or its background activity is excessive—consider force-quitting the app. (Open the app switcher by double-pressing the Home button on a Touch ID iPhone or swiping up and slightly right on a Face ID iPhone, then swipe up on the app’s thumbnail.) You might also disable that app’s switch in Settings > General > Background App Refresh.
But if your iPhone is more than a few years old, it’s probably time for a new battery. Batteries are consumable items, and Apple designs the iPhone to retain up to 80% of its original capacity after 500 complete charge cycles (from 0% to 100%, even if that comes over the course of several charging sessions). Don’t suffer with a weak battery—just get it replaced.
3. An iPhone 6 or Later Feels Sluggish
Starting with iOS 10.2.1, Apple changed things so the iPhone 6 and later would reduce performance to avoid peak power demands that could overwhelm an older battery and cause the iPhone to shut down unexpectedly. Not shutting down is good, but reducing performance is bad.
So if you have an iPhone 6 or later that feels poky, it may be iOS throttling performance to work around a weak battery. With iOS 11.3 or later on these iPhone models, you can go to Settings > Battery > Battery Health to learn more about your battery. iOS displays your maximum battery capacity and, under Peak Performance Capability, tells you if it has enabled performance management to avoid shutdowns. That’s a hint you need a new battery, and we’d be concerned about any maximum capacity under 90%.
iOS lets you disable performance management to avoid the throttling, but it’s nuts to do that and risk unexpected shutdowns. Just replace the battery and your performance will return to normal.
Apple will replace an iPhone battery for free under warranty only if its maximum capacity is under 80% and it has had fewer than 500 charge cycles. However, as previously noted, the company will replace an out-of-warranty battery in the iPhone 6 and later for $29 (plus $6.95 if shipping is required) through the end of 2018, so it’s worth taking advantage of the deal this month. In 2019, the price will go up to $49 for most iPhones and $69 for the iPhone X.
So hey, don’t suffer from an iPhone that’s working poorly due to the battery! Schedule an appointment with us today to get your iPhone battery replaced before the price goes up in 2019. You can schedule an appointment with us here.
At the end of March, Apple released updates to all four of its operating systems, but iOS 11.3 was the most notable. It boasts a variety of new features and other changes—you can think of it as the midpoint update between iOS 11’s first release and iOS 12, probably coming next September. All remaining updates to iOS 11 are likely to be minor maintenance updates. Here’s what’s new.
iPhone Battery Health
The most anticipated change is the Battery Health feature that Apple promised to add in the wake of revelations that the company was quietly reducing the performance of older iPhone models (starting with the iPhone 6) to lessen the chance of unexpected shutdowns with weak batteries. You find the new Battery Health screen in Settings > Battery > Battery Health, and Apple explains it in detail here.
If your iPhone battery is aging, you may see a lower maximum capacity, and if your iPhone has shut down because of a weak battery, the screen will tell you that performance management has been applied. You can disable performance management, if you prefer the iPhone shutting down to degraded performance, but it will turn on again the next time your iPhone shuts down. Finally, if your battery is bad enough, the screen will recommend replacement.
Also note that iPads running iOS 11.3 can better maintain battery health when they’re plugged into power for long periods of time. Be sure to upgrade if you have an iPad that stays plugged in all the time.
New in both iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra is Business Chat, an Apple service that lets you chat with participating companies directly within Messages. If you look up one of these companies in Maps, Safari, or Search/Spotlight and see a Messages button, just use it to start a conversation. Only you can start conversations, and Business Chat can be a fast way to ask questions, get support, schedule appointments, and even make purchases using Apple Pay.
Apple’s launch partners are 1-800-Flowers, Ameritrade, Discover, Hilton, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott, Newegg, and Wells Fargo, although not all of them seemed to be active out of the gate. And, of course, you can use Business Chat with Apple itself.
Most people won’t be able to take advantage of iOS 11.3’s next new feature—medical records in the Health app—right away, but we have high hopes for it. Apple has partnered with over 40 healthcare systems to bring your medical records into the Health app, centralizing them and making them easier for both you and healthcare professionals to access. The records include lab results, medications, conditions, and more. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with a passcode so it remains private.
Data & Privacy
We haven’t yet seen this, but Apple says that iOS 11.3 (and macOS 10.13.4) will display a new privacy icon whenever Apple asks for access to personal information, as it might do to “enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience.” The icon should be accompanied by detailed privacy information explaining the situation. In an era when every company seems hell-bent on collecting and exploiting our personal data, it’s nice to see Apple increasing the transparency of its data collection practices.
iOS 11.3 tweaks Safari in several small ways that make it easier to use and more secure:
Autofill now inserts usernames and passwords only after you select them on Web pages.
Autofill now works in Web views within other iOS apps.
Safari warns you when you interact with password or credit card forms on non-encrypted pages.
Safari now formats shared articles sent via Mail as though they were in Reader mode.
Favorites folders now show icons for the contained bookmarks.
Apple made lots of other minor improvements in iOS 11.3. You can see a full list in the release notes, but those that we find most noteworthy include:
iPhone X users get access to four new animoji: a lion, dragon, skull, and bear.
iOS 11.3 adds support for the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) standard, which provides more accurate location data to emergency responders when Emergency SOS is triggered.
Podcasts now plays episodes with a single tap, and you can tap Details to learn more about episodes.
Apple Music now streams music videos uninterrupted by ads.
Apple News has improved its Top Stories feature and includes a new Video group in the For You collection.
iOS 11.3’s improvements may not change the way you use your iPhone or iPad, but they’re welcome nonetheless, and Business Chat and Health Records should become more interesting as additional institutions sign on. And, of course, anyone with an older iPhone should check the Battery Health screen right away.