Apple Changes Default MacBook Charging Behavior to Improve Battery Health

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

The way MacBook batteries charge is about to change. Apple has released a new developer preview of macOS Catalina 10.15.5, and as these releases often do, it contains a new feature: Battery Health Management. […]

The feature works by analyzing the temperature of the battery over time, as well as the charging pattern the laptop has experienced — in other words, does the laptop frequently get drained most of the way and then recharged fully, or is it mostly kept full and plugged in? In the latter case, Battery Health Management is more likely to stop a bit short of full capacity in order to extend the battery’s long-term lifespan. (All charging data is kept private on the MacBook unless the Mac has been opted in to share anonymous analytics data with Apple.)

This sounds like a nice little feature, and very simple from a user’s perspective. It’s just one checkbox, on by default. And I think Snell is right that Apple is getting out in front of this, having learned from the controversy over iPhone battery throttling. To be clear, this is not the same feature at all — there’s no performance throttling involved here, and it’s not about dealing with a battery that is no longer in peak condition. It’s about tweaking the charge pattern to keep the battery in peak condition longer. But if Apple had sprung this feature unannounced, it might have engendered a similar controversy.

But, on the other hand, there’s no conspiracy theory floating about that Apple is purposely undercharging MacBooks to trick people into buying new ones; whereas there has long been a widely-held but misbegotten theory that Apple purposely “slows down” old iPhones to trick people into buying new ones. Apple’s iPhone battery throttling, though well-intentioned — the point was to slow down iPhones with old batteries to keep them running at all — was like tossing gas on a fire.

Thursday, 16 April 2020