Apple’s having a hard time keeping up with demand from iPhone customers, but this time it’s not because of a hot new version of the ubiquitous smartphone.
Instead, some iPhone 6S owners are experiencing an issue where their phone shuts off randomly, even when plenty of power is left.
Those customers – Apple says the issue affects “a very small number of iPhone 6S devices” that were manufactured between September and October 2015 – are being offered an in-store battery replacement by the company.
You enter your iPhone’s serial number on an official Apple website, and if you’re qualified, you’re given instructions to head to a store. If all goes as planned, you walk into the store and have your phone’s battery replaced right then and there.
One longtime Apple store employee told Business Insider the battery replacement takes anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. It may not sound like a lot of time, but for store employees, those replacements add up.
In the case of the employee we spoke with, even though they’re not in a flagship store in a major city, the staff is seeing anywhere from 15 to 30 battery replacements every day – that’s limited by the number of replacements that can be conceivably done in a workday by a single Apple Store technician. Their store “takes in more than we replace in a day,” they said.
As a result, the Genius Bar is overloaded, and customers are angry.
- Claudio Villa/Getty Images
It’s not clear if this level of demand is because the shutdown problem is more widespread than Apple’s letting on or because there are millions of iPhone 6S phones in the wild that were manufactured between September and October 2015. We’re betting on the latter.
Regardless, all those battery replacements are causing headaches for Apple Store employees, who are already busier than usual during the holiday shopping season.
“There is no real plan on how to actually get these done,” the employee said. “Most stores are short-staffed, and they book us too much for appointments, so Geniuses are taking two to three appointments at a time. But we have these [battery replacements] come in nonstop.”
- Will Wei/Business Insider
The employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has been with Apple for nearly five years. They work in the Genius Bar section of the store, the so-called heart and soul of Apple Stores, where customers go for technical assistance with Apple products.
Because of the influx of iPhone 6S battery replacements, customer wait times are climbing, and Genius Bar employees who would normally be helping customers are replacing batteries in the back room, this person said.
Of course, your mileage may vary depending on the Apple Store – a flagship store in a major city is much more likely to have more employees working at any given time than a smaller store in a suburb.
One hint about how widespread the problem is: According to the employee we spoke with, a memo from Apple corporate ordered employees to prioritize walk-in customers over Genius Bar appointments in terms of battery allotment; both the employee we spoke with and other sources said iPhone 6S batteries are in low supply at Apple Stores. As a result, customers who walk in to the store and can wait have been receiving batteries that were ordered for customers who made appointments.
“Even though we have many people who have come in and we ordered a battery for them, the strategy is to use all incoming stock of these batteries for people walking in,” they said. “Whatever is left over we hold until our next shipment. Then we can use that extra to give to the people who have been waiting a week or longer.”
Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment as of publishing.