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You drain me: Apple replaces some iPhone 5 batteries for free

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'Very small percentage' affected, says Apple; but small sample showed 2 out of 3 phones eligible

Apple last week said that it will replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that "a very small percentage" of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.

The program, which was announced only in a support document published on Apple's website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that "suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently."

According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and "fall within a limited serial number range." The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only "a very small percentage" of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.

Computerworld's experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample -- three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart -- two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.

Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.

This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a "very limited" number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.

In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.

Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility on Apple's website by entering their device's serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.

Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.

Users must take advantage of the free replacement within two years of the phone's last purchase, or by March 1, 2015, whichever comes first. Customers can take their smartphones to an Apple retail store or authorized service provider for the new battery swap, or ship it to Apple.

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