Apple pegs 17-in. MacBook Pro battery swap at $179

Apple Wednesday confirmed that it will charge US$179 to swap out the new MacBook Pro's built-in battery if it fails, but said that the swap would be a same-day service at its retail stores.

Apple's new top-of-line MacBook Pro, a $2,799 "unibody" laptop that features a 17-in. screen, relies on a lithium-polymer battery that the company claims can power the laptop for up to eight hours, and be recharged at least 1,000 times before it needs replacing. Apple unveiled the new laptop Tuesday during its last-ever keynote at the Macworld Conference & Expo.

To get that much battery in the MacBook Pro, Apple had to forgo a user-replaceable battery.

"The battery is going to last dramatically longer, so it will likely be years before you need to replace it," an Apple spokeswoman maintained in an e-mail Wednesday. On Tuesday Apple estimated that the battery will last approximately five years under normal use.

"[But] you can have the battery replaced at any Apple Store or Apple-authorized reseller," she continued. "The replacement battery is priced at $179, which includes installation of the new battery and environmentally-responsible disposal of the old battery."

The swap will be done as a same-day service at Apple's own stores and at authorized dealers. Customers can also schedule an appointment at the former through Apple's Genius Bar site .

User replaceable batteries for Apple's other laptops cost significantly less than the $179 swap-out fee. Apple, for instance, sells batteries for its MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks for $129, while other dealers, such as the "Laptops for Less" site, price them between $99 and $109, depending on the model.

One analyst Tuesday said that the lack of a user-replaceable battery would get a thumbs down from some buyers. "For some users, absolutely [the non-removable battery] will be a problem," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research Inc. "[But] I don't think this is a terribly large number [of people]. For most, it will just be a cost-benefit problem."

Apple encountered resistance in mid-2007 to the iPhone's non-removable battery, with some of the complaints centering around the $79 swap-out fee that the company charged customers. In fact, within a month of the iPhone's debut, New York state asked Apple to change the design to let consumers replace their own batteries. Nothing came of New York's request, however.

The new MacBook Pro isn't the only Apple laptop with a non-removable battery. The MacBook Air also has one.

Apple is taking pre-orders for the new 17-in. MacBook Pro at its online store, but will not ship the laptop until the end of the month.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon