Is it worth replacing this iPhone battery?
March 28, 2022 6:07 PM   Subscribe

My elderly parents have old iPhone SEs (first generation) which they got (used) because of a medical app my dad needed and that my mom needs to be able to monitor. Now the batteries are dying. They don't have a huge budget. If they just replace the batteries instead of the phones, will it be worth it? Or will the phones be so obsolete at some point soon that they'll need to get new phones anyway?
posted by pinochiette to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We use an old iPhone SE (not sure what exact release) stripped down as our “house phone” for the kid to use. We just tossed it in a battery case. I think it has better battery life than it did originally. It is bulkier, but this is probably a cheaper option than getting it replaced.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:16 PM on March 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first-gen SE supports iOS 15, but probably won't support iOS 16 in the autumn. Even on iOS 15, I wouldn't consider it "obsolete" unless and until the medical app stops supporting iOS 15. Medical app makers tend to be fairly conservative about keeping support for older iOS versions (e.g. the Dexcom G6 app and Follow app are "iOS 13.0 or later")

I'd consider 2 x $49 for the official battery replacement service at the Apple Store (or via mail-in) a decent investment for at least a couple of years.
posted by holgate at 6:17 PM on March 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

Just as a reference point, I replaced the battery on a second gen iPhone SE for the same reason, and the new battery was also borked in less than a year. If they don’t need it for anything else, I would recommend just using it as is but keeping it constantly plugged into a power source, be that a battery case, external battery, or wall charger (maybe with extra-long cord).
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2022

I think a new battery is a perfectly fine short term fix - they won't like shut down when iOS 16 comes out, they just won't get the features that probably wouldn't have been useful anyway.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:15 PM on March 28, 2022

Best answer: I have a 1st gen SE and have had two battery replacements. The latest was in July last year and while it helped, it wasn’t the radical transformation I was hoping for - it will just about last for a day if I barely actually use it. Its Maximum Capacity is showing as 92%.

But if $49 or thereabouts is a reasonable cost to you for giving it another year or so of life, and putting off the cost and upheaval of buying and setting up a new phone, then go for it. It’s unlikely to get the next version of iOS this autumn but I imagine it will get security updates for its current version for a while after that.

At some point they will probably, unfortunately, need new phones. The new, 3rd generation, SE is very good, should last years, and is the only current iPhone that still uses the same touch-to-unlock that the original SE uses.
posted by fabius at 4:45 AM on March 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

As fabius says, the home button is a key consideration.

The current iPhone SE models for sale (Gen 3) still have a "home" button, which your parents are likely used to. If you wait (just replace your batteries for now), but need to buy new phones for them in a couple of years, the "home" button may be gone, and they may be forced to undergo the transition to being buttonless. I know several older folks for whom this has been extremely annoying.
posted by bluesky78987 at 7:24 AM on March 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

My original plan was to keep my 1st gen SE forever. Unfortunately, there does seem to be something about it that actually breaks after several years. I got two replacements off eBay/Swappa and ran into problems with random crashes, battery going going from 1% to 80% and back again in minutes. One of those was a mall kiosk battery, the other was a 1st party replacement. But as long as it's otherwise reliable I would at least try replacing the battery or getting a battery case.

Apple doesn't delete apps, so it's possible to keep an old version of the app, supporting an old iOS version, on the phone indefinitely. You can't re-download the app, so if it had to be wiped or replaced you would need to move to a newer phone. Getting security updates is a good thing, but if you're not keeping anything on the phone except this one app, there's not much of a worry that it will be compromised. Most people these days keep their whole lives in their phones, messages and emails and photos that they wouldn't want to risk losing or having distributed in public. But in your case I wouldn't worry about updates.
posted by wnissen at 10:09 AM on March 29, 2022

It appears iOS 15.4.1 attempts to fix a battery drain issue, btw.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:55 PM on April 1, 2022

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