Apple is finally fixing one of the biggest problems with MacBooks

MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
(Image credit: Future)

It looks like MacBook owners could get a free battery life boost in an upcoming update to macOS Catalina, with Apple working on a feature known as “Battery health management.”

The feature, which will be included in the macOS Catalina 10.15.5 update, which will come out later in 2020, is aimed at prolonging the lifespan of the MacBook’s battery. 

This should mean that MacBook batteries will last longer before needing to be replaced, and they should hold their charge better as well – so older MacBooks in particular will be able to go longer without needing to be charged.

As The Verge reports, the battery health management tool does this by preventing the battery from charging fully to 100%. This may seem like an odd way to get longer battery life, but the science behind it makes sense, as it’s a bid to reduce how fast the battery ages.

Charging to 100% puts a strain on the battery, which can reduce its lifespan. That’s often why older battery-powered devices like laptops and smartphones need to be charged more regularly than when they were new. A battery at the end of its lifespan cannot hold enough charge to run for any decent amount of time unplugged from a power socket.

This means if you have a MacBook with a battery that just won’t hold its charge, your options are to either get the battery replaced or buy a new laptop – both of which are expensive.

Careful charging

So, while your MacBook will show the battery as 100% charged, the battery health management feature will ensure that it’s not actually at full capacity. According to Apple, the feature will determine how and when to apply this tweak depending on a user’s history of charging and battery temperature, and it could mean a significant improvement in battery lifespan.

All MacBooks that can run macOS Catalina, and which have Thunderbolt 3 ports, will be able to make sue of the feature – so that means MacBooks going back to 2016 and MacBook Air models released since 2018.

The feature will be turned on by default – but Apple promises you can turn it off if you like, and all the information it collects about how your MacBook’s battery is used will only be stored and used locally. Some information can be shared with Apple if you opt-in, and the company promises that this will be anonymous.

If the new Battery health management works as intended, it could fix one of the biggest complaints people have about MacBooks. Unlike many Windows 10 laptops, which have easily replaceable batteries, things are a lot more difficult (and expensive) when a MacBook’s battery begins to die.

We’re not sure when the feature, along with macOS Catalina 10.15.5, will be released, but we know it’ll be a free upgrade.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.