Apple fixes the Consumer Reports MacBook Pro battery flaw

Did Consumer Reports steal the Mac team's Christmas?

Apple, Consumer Reports, MacBook Pro, Safari, Phil Schiller
Credit: Apple

If you have a memory that stretches back further than the last week you may recall the barrage of ‘bad Apple’ publicity generated when Consumer Reports said it could not recommend Apple’s all-new MacBook Pro because: #battery life.

Problem solved

Well, it turns out that Apple has found a way to fix the problem – and that the problem really shouldn’t be a problem for most Mac users.

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Consumer Reports confirms this in its latest report: “Apple Releases Fix to MacBook Pros in Response to Consumer Reports' Battery Test Results.”

Apple has identified that during the MacBook Pro tests, Consumer Reports used the Safari Develop Menu to disable caching in Safari.

This invoked a now identified browser flaw that would only impact a small number of users. Apple is addressing the problem (it is testing a patch) and Consumer Reports is rerunning the tests. “Once our retesting of the MacBook Pro’s batteries is complete, we will report back with our update and findings,” they said.

Apple moved fast

Shortly after publication of the original results in the week before Christmas, Apple’s Marketing chief, Phil Schiller, said these problems had not been visible in the company’s own tests.

He vowed to work with Consumer Reports to get to the bottom of things. 

That's what the company has done.

Apple’s statement on the matter (partially published by Consumer reports):

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results. We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing websites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we’ve ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we’re glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro.”

Food for thought

It is interesting that Apple’s MacBook Pro was judged so harshly on the basis of an obscure Safari Developer setting most Mac users won’t ever use.

It is also interesting that Consumer Reports chose to publish its report based on these tests only days after informing Apple of the results in the week before Christmas.

I have been using a new model MacBook Pro since mid-November and have not experienced anything like the inconsistency that was being claimed in battery life on the system.

Instead, I found battery life to remain consistent even while I left the Mac aside while indulging in festive celebrations (sic) for a few days. That’s a subjective opinion, of course, and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

It remains to be seen if the criticism that followed publication of the report will still be seen as valid once new test results are published. I’d hazard the guess that at least some members of Apple’s Macintosh teams kind of wish they’d been able to enjoy a Christmas break, rather than entering damage control on this problem. 

I also imagine Consumer Reports is now likely to end up recommending Apple's new Macs after all, once testing is complete. I wonder if that story will spread as wide as the criticism?

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