Apple locking out battery health on iPhone?

Apple locking out battery health on iPhone?

Apple has come under fire yet again for its moves against self and independent repairs of its devices, this time by using a software lock on the iPhone battery, preventing anyone from seeing its health diagnostics unless it's replaced by an Apple authorised service centre.

Apple uses a 'battery health' feature on its iPhones which shows users what the status of the battery is and when it is time to replace them. When the battery nears the end of its operating life, the health display shows a service message asking people to have the battery replaced.

With iPhone XR, XS and XR Max, however, Apple appears to have locked the replacement of batteries down to its own service centres, as claimed by YouTuber "TheArtofRepair".

Justin, who runs that channel and demonstrated the entire issue by purchasing and replacing the battery on his iPhone XR, only to see a message saying "unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple battery. Health information is not available for this battery". Interestingly, this issue did not repeat when Justin used a non-original battery.

According to Justin, Apple uses a Texas Instruments BQ27546-G1 microcontroller on the battery that is used to gauge the battery health and communicate it to iOS for display. The documentation for the microcontroller says it uses a secure memory authentication key, which can only be authenticated by an entity that possesses the special key required for it. It also says that the key is available only through TI's B-to-B channels and cannot be changed or read from the chip's fuel gauge.

The activation of the key is also complicated: When an authorised entity with access to the microcontroller's 20-byte key enters it, the chip executes a cryptographic computation called SHA-1/HMAC in memory to verify the key. 

What does this mean? It means Apple has a special key installed in the iPhone XR, Xs and XR Max batteries, and if the battery has reached the point of degradation, you can only have it replaced by an authorised Apple service centre.

And this doesn't end there. According to iFixit, as of iOS 10, Apple has blocked third-party apps from accessing battery details, and the only way to bypass it is to plug the iPhone to a Mac and use an app through the Mac to see the battery details on the iPhone.

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