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Apple wants iPhone 15 users to chill out about their battery health

Is this a usability improvement or a way to cover up rapid battery wear?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus in hand
June Wan/ZDNET

If there's one setting that causes iPhone users much anxiety and stress, it's the Maximum Capacity battery figure that's found under the Battery Health & Charging screen in the Settings app.

Apple describes this number as "a measure of battery capacity relative to when it was new," and goes on to say how "lower capacity may result in fewer hours of usage between charges."

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I've heard from countless users who are fixated on this figure, counting down the recharge cycles until their battery is worn and needs replacing.

This is due to the mysteriousness around what it actually means, and the way it can sit at 100% for months before starting to decrease -- sometimes plunging precipitously fast -- several percentage points in a few weeks.

If you want to know more about this Maximum Capacity setting, I've already written about it in great detail.

But with the upcoming iOS 17.4 update, things are set to change, at least for iPhone 15 owners.

Also: iPhone 15 models compared: iPhone 15 vs. Plus vs. Pro vs. Pro Max

YouTube creator Brandon Butch spotted the change and documented it on YouTube and on X (formerly Twitter).

Now, rather than showing Maximum Capacity, users are instead shown Battery Heath, which shows Normal if the battery is OK (not sure what it shows if it isn't normal).

Changes to the Battery screen in iOS 17.4 on the iPhone 15

Changes to the Battery screen in iOS 17.4 on the iPhone 15.

Brandon Butch/X

Tapping on this takes the users to a screen that shows in-depth information on the battery, which is where the Maximum Capacity figure has been moved, along with Cycle Count (the number of times the full capacity of the battery has been used), the manufacture date of the battery, and the first use date.

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And let's not forget that Apple now claims that the iPhone 15's battery can retain 80% of its original capacity at 1000 recharge cycles, a 100% jump from the previous 500 recharge cycles for earlier iPhones. So, this might account for why Apple wants Cycle Count to be a metric that users can see.

Changes to Battery Health screen in iOS 17.4 on the iPhone 15

Changes to the Battery Health screen in iOS 17.4 on the iPhone 15.

Brandon Butch/X

So, what's going on here? Is Apple trying to make a usability improvement by making it clearer whether their battery is normal, or is this a way to bury the data as a way to cover up rapid battery wear?

I feel that telling users if their battery is normal or not is a much better data point for most than a percentage that might come across as meaningless. Also, moving the Maximum Capacity figure to a new screen allows Apple to make more data available, and I think that recharge cycles and the battery manufacture and first use dates are important data points. 

Also: iPhone battery bad after installing iOS 17.3? Try these 7 tips

If Apple wanted to bury this data, it could have removed it completely.

Will this help anxious users to feel a bit more chilled out or, given the additional metric of Cycle Count, to feel more worried? We'll have to wait and see.

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