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Apple working with Consumer Reports on MacBook Pro battery findings, says Phil Schiller

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After Consumer Reports refused to assign a recommend rating to any of Apple's three new MacBook Pro models, a first for the laptop line, Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said the company is working with the publication to resolve the apparent battery issue.

In a surprise pre-Christmas report published Thursday, Consumer Reports said it could not recommend any new MacBook Pro model due to battery life concerns. Specifically, the publication's in-house testing revealed wild fluctuations in unplugged operating survivability, in some cases ranging from 16 hours to as little as 3.75 hours.

Consumer Reports assigned the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar a mediocre score of 56 points out of 100. The 13-inch versions with and without Touch Bar received similarly poor ratings of 40 and 47, respectively. With such a dismal showing, no MacBook achieved a "recommended" designation, a first for Apple.

Responding to the critique, Schiller in a tweet on Friday said Apple is "[w]orking with [Consumer Reports] to understand their battery tests," noting the publication's results are not in line with Apple's own "extensive lab tests or field data."

Whereas Apple spends substantial capital on special machinery, facilities and man hours to perform rigorous quality assurance testing, Consumer Reports applied an arguably less scientific methodology in its trials. As noted in the original review, the publication ran a series of tests that involved downloading ten pre-selected web pages over Wi-Fi using Safari. Screen brightness settings were consistent, and the trial runs proceeded until the laptop shut down.

That said, the low-end results cannot be ignored.

In its evaluation, Consumer Reports found 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar battery life varied from 18.5 hours to 8 hours, while the 13-inch variant with Touch Bar ran for between 16 hours and 3.75 hours. The 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar managed 19.5 hours at its best, but conked out in only 4.5 hours in a subsequent test. Final ratings were calculated using the lowest battery life results.

Apple initially declined to comment on the publication's findings, saying only that customers can contact AppleCare if they have questions or concerns about MacBook performance. The publication did leave the door open for an Apple response, noting the battery life of many modern products are "influenced" by software updates.

"If Apple updates its software in a way that the company claims will substantively change battery performance, we will conduct fresh tests," the original report said.

Apparently Consumer Reports got its wish.