The Secret Life Of Old iPhones

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, January 29, 2018 at 06:33 PM with 2 comments

photo of Apple Care packaging to return an iPhone

When the spotlight was shown on Apple’s “feature” to reduce the power of later model iPhones to compensate for degrading batteries without the owner’s knowledge, the tech giant’s remedy for this, accompanied by an apology, was to reduce the price they charge for a replacement battery from US$79 to US$29. A future upgrade to the iOS operating system will allow owners to disable this “feature” which should close the loop on this issue.

Like any action, there is always a reaction, or maybe 2 or several. In this case, Apple’s reputation has lost a little more of its luster, continuing what many have seen in a decline of their public perception since the death of founder Steve Jobs. No iPhone owner will be surprised if they receive an email or letter in coming months about a class-action lawsuit against Apple. I would add to this an observation I made when I was packaging up and sending in 2 iPhones for new batteries – a new life for otherwise “outdated” devices that may impact their future sales.

Reasons for Upgrade

Whether it’s a car, house, clothing or a smartphone, we all have reasons for upgrading to a newer model when available. On one end of the spectrum are more functional reasons, such as the “need” for new features – in the case of a smartphone, a faster processor or more memory. On the other end are reasons more for “form” or simply the desire to have the latest and greatest of whatever it is. Where I know people in the latter category, I know more that, especially with the rising cost of these devices, are sticking with older models.

Typically, these decisions were merely personal. With the lower battery cost, economics comes into play. By getting a new battery for around $30, you are in essence getting a new, older model smartphone. If you still want to upgrade to a new model, by making a small investment you can conceivably have a more valuable older model device, or one you can pass along to be used by someone else as if it were new.

As the ability to buy a used or new, older model device already exists, the aftermarket for iPhones will now expand with the opportunity for additional devices to be available in it. Or in my case, the demand for buying a new or additional devices has decreased with additional, well-suited devices, available to be reused for a lower cost.

Digital Hand-Me-Downs

Recently I got a new iPhone 8 mainly for the memory, as my iPhone 6’s paltry 16 GB was forcing me to delete apps just to take a few videos of a few minutes in length. And of course, the battery was spent to the point where I had to charge it several times a day, not to mention carrying a spare battery with me all the time. Despite these drawbacks of the 6, it was in great physical condition, and would be well suited for someone else to use.

Such a reuse is going to happen, as the device will be used by a family member who is upgrading from a flip-phone. I have sent it and paid the approximately $30 (I believe there was tax on top of it), once I get the phone back I will set it up for this family member as their more-than-perfect entry into the world of smartphones. Other older models of iPhones are already in use in my family, as my kids use them as WiFi devices and without a SIM card, after I followed what I shared before on how to best setup an iPhone for this purpose.

With the number of iPhones sold over time, there’s a demand for the new batteries. I personally ordered and sent in 2 iPhones, a 6 and a 6S, as I no longer live within walking distance of an Apple Store. Where I sent in the 6 before the 6S, the 6S came back within 3 days. Looking into it, there is a shortage of 6 and 6+ batteries. Apple’s Web site gives me no indication my replacement is pending for this reason though. Once again, a spotlight is being shone on Apple that they have to react to.

Deconstructing a New Life for old iPhones

How will this new life for these iPhones impact the market for new ones from Apple? It’s hard to say exactly. Technology today is made to be disposable, as repair costs will typically cost more than buying a new item. However, with the cost of the new iPhone X at US$999 or even the new iPhone 8 at US$699, paying thirty bucks for a new battery is almost a no-brainer, whether you personally need the device or are looking to sell or hand it off to someone else.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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TechnologyMobile TechnologyStrategize • (2) CommentsPermalink


My poor little iPhone 5s isn’t available for the battery upgrade. Apple apparently forgot about this model, but that means they aren’t throttling the battery of it, either.

But I wouldn’t mind paying the $30 to get a new battery. That’s a nice deal. I’m glad you were able to cash in on this.

Picture of Matt Maldre Comment by Matt Maldre
on 01/30/18 at 04:09 PM

@Matt - I also have a 5S that doesn’t qualify, but it is used by the kids as a WiFi device only.

And to think I was ready to pay full-price for batteries before they announced this!


Picture of Mike Maddaloni - @thehotiron Comment by Mike Maddaloni - @thehotiron
on 01/30/18 at 04:16 PM

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