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Undercharged: iPhone 14 owners complain about lower battery endurance

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Owners of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro are complaining about battery health — but it's not at all clear yet if this is an actual issue. AppleInsider looks at the data.

Reports in August started to surface about battery issues for the current-gen iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Pro, with claims that the battery is degrading far quicker than it should be.

According to the various complaints, if you check the Battery Health & Charging section under Battery in the Settings app, the Maximum Capacity figure is a lot lower than people want it to be. While you could easily expect that the maximum capacity will go down over time, it's eroding a little too fast for some.

Is there an iPhone 14 battery problem?

A vocal group of iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro users have raised issues with the Maximum Capacity number, claiming that its dropping at a far faster rate than they would want. These complaints have surfaced on social media, and over the summer, have become more prominent.

In July, Apple Track's Sam Kohl pointed out via X that the capacity of his iPhone 14 Pro after less than a year of ownership is at 90%, deeming the number to be "actually unacceptable." John Rettinger passed comment in August, sharing that his iPhone 14 Pro Max, bought at launch, has a capacity of 90% too.

Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern also chimed in during August, questioning why her iPhone 14 Pro is down to 88%, and an Apple Store Genius said that he personally had already hit 450 charge cycles. By contrast, a three-year-old iPhone 12 Pro held by Stern's wife was at 80% capacity, and her editor's two-year-old iPhone 13 Pro was at 90%.

Others have also pointed out low percentages, including The Verge's Tom Warren at 91% and Max Weinbach tweeting at 89%.

While these are prominent examples, there are many others on social media complaining about the Maximum Capacity for their iPhone 14-era smartphones. Excluding trolling responses, the typical query for those affected by this phenomenon is for a battery that's mid to low-90's in percent, or high 80's.

The general opinion is that the Maximum Capacity shouldn't be getting close to dipping down below 90% under a year after release. At least, that the percentages shouldn't be dropping at a rate faster than the batteries of earlier iPhone releases.

Apple's iPhone 14 battery expectations

Apple does attempt to set healthy expectations for the batteries in its devices, as outlined in its Battery Service and Recycling page.

For the iPhone, Apple insists the battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity after 500 complete charge cycles. By a complete charge cycle, that means effectively depleting the battery then recharging it to full capacity.

Apple's expectations are for an 80% battery capacity after 500 complete cycles

By comparison, the Apple Watch, MacBook, and iPad lines are thought to hold on to 80% after 1,000 complete charge cycles, while the iPod does so for 400 cycles.

Apple also includes a clear warning that if you "need to charge your battery more and more frequently, it might be time to service it," and to do so via Apple or an authorized service provider.

There's also a one-year warranty for the iPhone, which includes service coverage for a defective battery that's hit that 80% mark. AppleCare+ will extend this warranty out to two years for iPhones.

For out-of-warranty devices, there's a battery replacement service.

A common problem?

Failure rates for the total number of products manufactured is a bell curve. The early failures are numerically pretty low, with a peak at some point in the middle of the curve, followed by a slow rate as the population declines.

An example of a bell curve graph [Wikimedia]
An example of a bell curve graph [Wikimedia]

What varies between manufacturers and products is when the peak of failures lies in the timetable of the product. We have it on good authority that Apple has engineered the 80% battery depletion mark average — meaning the peak of the bell curve — at just over two years, and has for at least the last five years of iPhone models.

This means that an about-10% per-year depletion is normal, according to Apple.

For years, we've had access to a large amount of service data from within Apple's repair chain, and iPhone battery replacement rates are included in that set.

We've grouped battery replacements into two groups — the iPhone 14 non-Pro models, and the two iPhone 14 Pro models in another group.

Instead of comparing per capita failure rates, we can compare total replacements, given that the total population of iPhones sold in that first year of live is a bit less in 2022 to 2023, than it was in 2021 to 2022.

For the lifetime of the iPhone 14 grouping and iPhone 14 Pro grouping, the number of battery failures, meaning that 80% threshold has been met, or Apple has decided to replace the battery in a response to a consumer complaint even if not at 80%, is a hair less than it has been in the past. This is consistent with what is believed to be a lower population of iPhone 14 models sold in total, than the iPhone 13 line.

The iPhone 14 Pro family has slightly more failures in total than the iPhone 14 grouping. It's also believed that the population to date of the iPhone 14 Pro models is higher than that of the iPhone 14.

If there was a massive problem, there would be a giant deviation in the failure quantity, and a corresponding large deviation from that bell curve. To date, there is not that giant deviation in any iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro model.

It's still early in the device's life, though, and the iPhone 14 is still on the left side of the bell curve. We'll revisit this in about six months.

How a battery works, and what's happening

AppleInsider has previously covered what happens to a battery to cause wear and tear, and how to care for the battery life.

In short, lithium-ion batteries use an anode and a cathode separated by a generally flammable electrolyte, with charged atoms moving from the anode to the cathode through the electrolyte. This process frees electrons, which return to the cathode, completing the circuit.

Recharging effectively reverses this chemical reaction, at the expense of some wear on the battery.

These reactions generate heat and can wear the battery, which eventually degrades the battery to exhaustion in a combination of physical and chemical effects beyond the scope of this article. To users, this wear is represented by a reduction of battery capacity over time. No battery is eternal.

Replacing an iPhone battery
Replacing an iPhone battery

As for why the percentage change is faster for some users, this could be down to a number of factors. Most obviously the reason for the decrease could be an increase in battery usage, with intensive apps like games more likely to require higher rates of power consumption in a short space of time. And, that always-on display does draw some power.

A worn battery can be an operational issue, as Apple did introduce safeguards in iOS 10.2.1 that throttled the CPU to minimize the chance of shutdowns from excessive CPU power draws. However, this did lead to multiple class-action lawsuits that resulted in a $500 million settlement.

There is the possibility that, with reduced capacities, iPhone 14 owners may encounter these safeguards far earlier than they may have expected, especially considering the multi-year lifespan of an iPhone in many cases.

The plural of "social media anecdotes" is not "data." At the same time, it's hard to deny the volume of the complaints about the battery Maximum Capacity percent.

Whether this volume is just loud, or indicative of an actual problem remains to be seen. Just because all of your previous iPhones still have a functional battery, and your iPhone 14 is depleting faster than those, doesn't mean it's a systemic problem with the iPhone 14.

And, of course, it doesn't mean that there isn't an issue. It's just too early to tell. Right now, it doesn't seem to be a larger issue visible to Apple — yet.

AppleInsider's advice is to get this documented with the company at that 80% mark. If you try sooner, be prepared to hear that you're within tolerances, if you haven't dropped more than 10% since you got your launch model.