Apple Owns Up to Battery Bugaboos
Apple said Friday it has "recently discovered" potential problems with the batteries found in MacBook laptops. The company has offered free fixes. The announcement, however, was not news to some MacBook owners who have experienced strange battery behavior for months, including high running temperatures and even swelling power cells.
04/30/07 1:22 PM PT
MacBook and MacBook Pro users may experience performance issues with some of the notebook computers' batteries, Apple said on Friday. The batteries, however, do not pose a safety risk and the Mac maker has issued a software update intended to correct the problem.
"Apple has recently discovered that some batteries used in its MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks may have battery performance issues," Apple said in its battery update. "Apple is offering a software update that is designed to improve battery performance."
"The issues are not a safety risk, so consumers can continue using their batteries," the update continued.
The batteries in question can be found in MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks sold globally between February 2006 and April 2007, according to Apple. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said affected batteries will have one or more symptoms, including the following:
- Failure by the system to recognize the battery, causing an "X" to appear in the battery icon on the Finder menu bar;
- Failure by the battery to charge when computer is plugged into AC power;
- Batteries exhibiting low charge capacity or runtime when using a fully charged battery with a battery cycle count of less than 300; and
- Visibly deformed battery packs.
"If your MacBook or MacBook Pro battery does not have any of the symptoms noted above, your battery does not need to be replaced," Apple said.
The company recommends that all MacBook and MacBook Pro owners first run the battery update software on their systems and extra batteries purchased between February 2006 and April 2007. The update is available immediately at Apple's Web site.
If the battery continues to exhibit any symptoms after the update has been installed, owners can make a reservation to bring their system in to their local Apple store, contact an Apple authorized service provider or call their local Apple support contact center in order for the company to determine if the battery is eligible for replacement.
"If Apple or an AASP (Apple Authorized Service Provider) determines that your battery is eligible for replacement, you will receive a new battery free of charge, even if your MacBook or MacBook Pro is out of warranty," the company said.
"The impact should be minimal as long as Mac laptop users do the software update and get the firmware patch," Tim Bajarain, principal analyst at Creative Strategies, told MacNewsWorld.
Par for the Course?
Apple computers have a reputation as extremely reliable systems. However, MacBooks are also developing a reputation for having several annoying problems, such as swelling batteries, a "mooing" sound coming from the fan, and extremely high internal temperatures.
Other problems include MacBooks that shut down without warning, indicator lights that fail to properly show the notebook's operating status, as well as units that function improperly after returning from sleep mode.
This latest round of battery woes are simply par for the course, according to industry analysts. Almost every major PC manufacturer has experienced a battery problem over the last two years, Benjamin Gray, an analyst at Forrester Research told MacNewsWorld. "Although this particular recall is specific to Apple, battery problems span all consumer electronic devices, especially PCs. Apple is not alone.
"Apple's is somewhat different in that it's not a battery recall -- it's just a software update," he explained. "At this point, I almost feel like it's a right of passage for all tier-one and tier-two PC manufacturers to experience a battery problem like this."
"I wouldn't categorize it as a 'problem' for Apple's consumers," Gray continued, "but it is certainly an annoyance. But keep in mind that Apple has one of the strongest consumer brands worldwide and this will not drive any of their fiercely loyal consumers away."
By the end of the first year of life for a battery, it will have significantly shorter run time than it did at the beginning of the year, according to Martin Reynolds, an analyst at Gartner. "So, it's not a bad idea to switch the battery out anyway," he told MacNewsWorld. "And that's not a bad thing for consumers to consider."
This latest battery issue should not have a negative impact on Apple's image, concurred Zippy Aima, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
"I think it is a really good thing for a company that offers electronic devices or gadgets to consumers to introduce regular updates, downloads and security patches for customers," she said. "The fact that they know there is a problem and they are offering a solution for it, customers have no reason to be unhappy."
"Apple's platform is still very solid, but computers in general deal with millions of lines of code and thousands of components," Creative Strategies' Bajarin concluded. "And while Apple does the best job of all the PC companies in creating products that are as fool-proof as possible, there are times when technology glitches arise and the companies have to respond to these problems as fast as possible."