iOS 11.3: How to use Apple's iPhone Battery Health tool

What is the new Battery Health tool, why is it there and how do you use the new feature?

Apple, iPhone, Battery, battery gate
Stephen Sauer

In response to public demand, iOS 11.3 introduces a new battery management system that puts users back in control of their iPhone.

Background noise

Apple faced fury (and multiple lawsuits) when it was revealed that the company has been throttling device performance on older devices.

Apple said this was to prevent unexpected shut downs as the batteries inside its products inevitably fade. However, many of even Apple’s most loyal users felt this built-in obsolescence was a step too far from the firm.

The company couldn’t ignore the push back, and while it argued that it was open about taking this step (perhaps more open than this), Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized, launched a cut price battery replacement scheme, and promised new management tools within iOS to put users back in control.

You can use this guide to check your battery health. Meanwhile, here’s a first look at how to use Apple’s new Battery Health tool inside iOS 11.3.

What’s the problem with iPhone batteries?

Apple explains that:

“A normal battery is designed to retain up to 80 percent of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles when operating under normal conditions.”

Batteries degrade over time. When they start out in life all shiny and new, thay can carry up to 100 percent charge. Time erodes capacity, meaning they can hold less energy. Not only does that mean they won’t last as long between charges, but it also means they’ll be unable to supply the kind of peak performance power you may sometimes require. When that happens, your iPhone may shut down.

Apple’s solution is to manage performance to prevent such shut downs.

When peak performance is throttled in this way, you may see apps take longer to launch, slower scrolling, reduced brightness, low speaker volume, frame reductions in some apps for choppier performance, the need to restart active apps following background updates, and even a disabled camera flash.

Apple sees these as a price to ensure overall system performance remains predictable and the device is protected against sudden shut downs.

However, some users may need their iPhone to work at maximum performance even if there is a risk of an unexpected shutdown. That’s where Apple’s new Battery Health tool can make a different:

How Apple's Battery Health tool works

Battery Health is a new tool available only to iPhones 6 and later. (Apple did not throttle battery performance in earlier models.) In the current iOS 11.3 beta, you’ll find it in Settings>Battery>Battery Health.

Tap Battery Health, and you’ll be taken to a new page. Here you’ll find:

  • An Apple statement explaining that current battery technology inevitably erodes over time.
  • A percentage reading that shows the current Maximum Capacity of your battery.
  • A note explaining your current Peak Performance Capability. There are five possible states that are explained in the commentary underneath the section headline (see below).

These states describe different ways in which Peak Performance is managed on your device:

  • Performance is normal: Your battery is fine, performance is normal.
  • Performance management applied: Your battery was unable to support your device at full performance once, so throttling has been applied to prevent future unexpected crashes. You can disable this (if applied) from here.
  • Battery health unknown: You best get a new battery.
  • Performance management turned off: “This iPhone has experienced an unexpected shutdown because the battery was unable to deliver the necessary peak power. You have manually disabled performance management protections.”
  • Battery health degraded: You really need to replace your iPhone battery.

How to disable Performance Management

To disable Performance Management, just tap the Disable button. You’ll be asked if you are certain this is what you want to do, and you will warned that if you do disable this setting, then you won’t be able to manually enable it again.

It’s not completely gone: It will be turned on automatically again if your iPhone shuts down because the battery is unable to supply sufficient power to keep it running at peak performance — though you can disable it again to get performance back.

Are you pleased Apple has put you back in control of battery life on your device? Or do you think the whole matter has been little more than a storm in a tea cup? Please let me know.

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Story updated 12.41pm ET. Replaced 'free' battery replacement with 'cut price battery replacement'. 

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