Whoa, whoa…the iPhone doesn’t have a replacable battery? N.Y. Times “Talking Business ” columnist Joe Nocera was jerked awake by the following passage in David Pogue‘s early-bird review of the device, to wit: “Apple says the [iPhone] battery starts to lose capacity after 300 to 400 charges. Eventually, you’ll have to send the phone to Apple for battery replacement, much as you do now with an iPod, for a fee.”
“That couldn’t be, could it?,” the mind-boggled Nocera asks. “Did Apple really expect people to mail their iPhones to Apple HQ and wait for the company to return it with a new battery? It was bad enough that the company did that with the iPod — but a cellphone? Cellphones have become a critical part of daily life, something we can barely do without for an hour, much less days at a time. Surely, Mr. Jobs realized that.
“When you do what I do for a living, this sort of question is usually pretty easy to clear up. You ring up a company spokesman, and get an answer. But at Apple, where according to Silicon Valley lore even the janitors have to sign nondisclosure agreements, there is no such thing as a straightforward answer. There is only spin.
“‘Apple will service every battery that needs to be replaced in an environmentally friendly matter,’ said Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman. He went on: ‘With up to 8 hours of talk time, 6 hours of Internet use, 7 hours of video playback or 24 hours of audio playback and more than 10 days of standby time, iPhone’s battery life is longer than any other smartphone.’
“This response didn’t even attempt to answer the question I’d asked him, which was how Apple planned to service its batteries. But never mind. This is another Apple innovation: the robotic spokesman, who says only what he’s been programmed to say.
With Apple taking the position that the battery replacement issue was not something it needed to share with reporters — much less buyers of the iPhone — I went elsewhere in search of answers. I talked to design experts, battery wonks, technology geeks, and Mr. Mossberg of The Journal, the dean of technology reviewers.
“One thing I wanted to know was why Apple had made a cellphone without a removable battery in the first place; it seemed like such an extreme act of consumer unfriendliness. If the iPod was any guide, batteries were inevitably going to run down. With most cellphones, when the battery has problems, you take it to a store, buy a new battery, let the salesman pop it in, and start using it again. Why wasn’t Apple willing to do that?
“It is about assured obsolescence,” said Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, a technology consulting firm. “That is why they don’t have a replaceable battery in the iPod. But the problem here is that the iPhone will run out of battery life before the two-year service contract runs out.”