iPhone battery issues: what the problem is, and how to solve it

It’s now clear there are problems with some iPhone 6S batteries, with users reporting that their handsets are shutting down without warning.

Apple has acknowledged the problem, and has now also offered an explanation and a fix.

Or at least it has for some iPhone 6S handsets, but users are reporting that other iPhones are affected too, and there isn't such a simple fix for them. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s causing the problem?

According to Apple, in a statement on its Chinese support website, a small number of iPhone 6S handsets made in September and October 2015 “contained a battery component that was exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have been before being assembled into battery packs. 

"As a result, these batteries degrade faster than a normal battery and cause unexpected shutdowns to occur.”

Is this dangerous?

Unlike the overheating Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which posed a possible danger to users, Apple claims the problem affecting the iPhone 6S is not a safety issue, so you should be able to go on using your phone – although of course you’ll still want to get it fixed if it’s among the affected handsets.

How to check if your iPhone 6S is affected

If your iPhone 6S is randomly shutting down it's a strong sign that handset affected by this manufacturing issue, but to check for sure whether that's the problem you can enter its serial number on Apple's support site.

You can find the serial number in Settings > General > About.

Getting your iPhone 6S battery replaced

The good news is that if your iPhone 6S battery is faulty for the above reason, Apple will replace it for free.

We’ve got a full guide detailing How to get your iPhone 6S battery replaced, but before handing your phone over to Apple make sure you also back up your data – if you need help with that we also have a How to back up your iPhone tutorial.

Other battery issues

Although Apple has addressed the problem it may not have provided a complete solution, as many users of iHandsets other than the iPhone 6S have reported similar issues, as well as claiming their batteries drain remarkably quickly, or shut off at around 30% life.

There are high-profile names supporting these claims, including the China Consumers Association (a government watchdog group) which believes the shutdown problem also exists in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6S Plus, while Tony Fadell – one of the creators of the iPod – tweeted that he’s having the same problem with his iPhone 6S Plus.

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But Apple isn’t currently acknowledging these issues. In its statement the company notes that “we looked for any other factors that could cause an iPhone to shut down unexpectedly. After intensive investigations, no new factors have been identified”.

So if you’re having battery issues with an iOS device other than the iPhone 6S, or with one not manufactured during September or October 2015, there isn’t such an easy solution.

What to do if your phone isn’t covered

It seems these other issues may be related to iOS 10.1 or iOS 10.1.1, so if you don’t already have either of those updates you might want to hold off on downloading them.

If you’re already affected it looks like you’ll have to wait for another update to fix the problem – and it’s not clear if or when it will get patched, since Apple isn’t acknowledging the issue.

Alternatively, Apple offers service coverage for a defective battery under its one-year warranty. 

So if you’re still under warranty and Apple deems the battery to be defective, then even if it’s not one of the affected iPhone 6S handsets the company may fix or replace it for you – though if the issue is partly tied to software it’s not clear whether a new battery would even fix the problem.

If you’re outside your warranty Apple will still attempt to repair battery issues, but this won’t come free, so you might be better off waiting for a software fix.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.