How can I find out if my broken Apple products qualify for a free repair, or are part of a replacement programme?
If your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV or other Apple product has gone wrong and you don’t think it’s your fault, you may be able to get Apple (or a company authorised by Apple) to repair it for free, provide a replacement product, or refund your money. You can attempt this on an individual, case-by-case basis – read our guide to your legal rights when getting an iPhone repaired for advice – but in some cases Apple institutes a general recall or free repair programme for a particular product or model that it acknowledges has a congenital problem.
From time to time Apple acknowledges that there is a problem with one of its product lines and announces that it will replace such products for free. In this article we cover Apple’s current replacement programmes: check to see if your faulty device is included. You might be in line for a free replacement.
Will Apple repair products for free?
Sometimes, but don’t depend on it.
Apple product recalls are an unusual occurrence. When it is prepared to admit that a problem is inherent to a product line or certain models within that line, Apple will agree to repair or replace these devices, and either announce this publicly (expecting you to get in touch yourself and seek redress) or in smaller cases contacting affected users proactively.
Apple did this with the iPhone 5, whose power button was prone to failure – your humble reporter went through this process and was able to get a new iPhone 5 at no cost, even though that iPhone went wrong in a completely different way several months down the line.
Apple has also instituted a programme for failing MacBook Pro models that faced an issue known as ‘staingate‘, following a saga that caused distress and frustration for many of our readers.
But for most problems you’ll need to approach Apple as an individual, and demonstrate that the issue was fundamental to the product rather than something that has developed over months and years of ownership. In those cases you will generally need to fall back on your warranty and insurance rights.
For more information on your legal rights and best options when getting an Apple product replaced, repaired or refunded, see Will Apple replace my broken iPhone for free? And we will list other Apple product recalls and free repair programmes in the rest of this article.
iPhone repairs and recalls
Here are the product recalls Apple has announced for the iPhone.
In November 2016, Apple acknowledged that iPhone 6s handsets made in September and October last were faulty and prone to spontaneous and unexpected shutdowns; it says the issue is battery-related. The firm is therefore willing to offer a free replacement for the battery unit in affected models.
“Apple has determined that a very small number of iPhone 6s devices may unexpectedly shut down,” the firm says in a statement. “This is not a safety issue and only affects devices within a limited serial number range that were manufactured between September and October 2015.”
The announcement follows an investigation into reported shutdowns by the China Consumers Association.
In early December 2016 as noted by USA Today, Apple’s Chinese support page also acknowledged that ‘A small number of customers outside of the affected range have also reported an unexpected shutdown’. Apple continues to offer exchanges for the affected models.
The recall applies to iPhone 6s models manufactured in September and October 2015, as explained above, but is restricted to handsets within a specified serial number range.
You can easily find out if your iPhone is eligible for the recall by visiting Apple’s dedicated web page for the programme, and using the serial number checking tool. Open Settings > General > About on your iPhone; the Serial Number is listed as the 11th entry on this page. Type this into the field on Apple’s web page and hit Submit to find out if your iPhone qualifies.
9to5Mac offers a list of serial numbers that are eligible. If the fourth and fifth digits in the serial number are any of the following combinations, you should qualify.
If you’re not sure, we suggest you visit an Apple Retail Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider and have your device’s serial number checked.
Your iPhone also needs to work to qualify for the replacement programme. And they’ll check.
According to a Reddit user named ‘broostenq’, Apple’s battery replacement programme isn’t proceeding as quickly as hoped, possibly as a result of subscribers to the programme exceeding expectations.
“I visited a flagship Apple Store this afternoon and was told by the Genius I would have to wait around two weeks for a replacement battery since most stores don’t have any in stock, even though I signed up for an appointment the day the program was announced,” broostenq writes.
“Was disappointing to be sent away with a defective battery when the problem affects me frequently and that Apple didn’t anticipate the demand for batteries to fix “a very small number” of phones (in their words.)”
iPhone 6 Plus Multi-Touch Issue (aka Touch Disease)
Arguably one of Apple’s most scandalous product faults of recent years, what Apple calls the iPhone 6 Plus Multi-Touch Repair Programme first hit the headlines in August 2016. iFixIt initially identified it and called it Touch Disease, although it had been well known within the third-party Apple repair community for some time.
You’ll know if you’re affected because the iPhone 6 Plus’ display will periodically be affected by a small flickering grey bar at the top of the screen. It’s about the height of the iOS menu bar and looks a bit like old-school TV static, or may look like a series of short bars (that is, crenellated). Additionally – or alternatively – the screen may become completely unresponsive to touch.
Apple eventually took note and issued a recall in November 2016 but gallingly for those affected the repair isn’t free. Apple simply acknowledged the problem and requested £146.44 to get rid of the problem. However, the iPhone must not be damaged and must be in working order. The recall programme is set to end in September 2019, five years after the iPhone 6 Plus first went on sale.
Apple claims users cause the iPhone 6 Plus issue by dropping the phone on a hard surface and then make the issue worse by “incurring further stress on the device” – although they don’t go into details as to how.
What to do if you’re affected
If you’re affected by this issue then you can either pay for Apple or one of its authorised service centres to make the repair, or visit an independent Apple repair shop to have the work done. The latter will be significantly cheaper but there’s no guarantee of quality and you will probably invalidate any warranty you might have (such as one offered by a retailer if you bought the phone used). Nonetheless we found a handful of vendors on eBay offering postal repairs, starting from £70 – just search for “touch disease”.
Notably, if you had already paid Apple to make the repair prior to their announcing the recall programme in November 2016 then Apple will pay you an amount “equal the difference between the price you paid for the original service to your iPhone 6 Plus and the £ 146.44 service price”. In simple terms, if you paid the standard £306.44 repair cost to Apple to fix the issue then they’ll give you back £160. To make a claim if you haven’t already, contact Apple. Remember, however, that this only covers Apple-authorised repairs and not unauthorised, third-party repairs.
iPhone 6 Plus iSight camera replacement programme
Is your iPhone 6 Plus camera blurry? Back in August 2015, Apple launched an iPhone 6 Plus iSight camera replacement programme.
Ever since the iPhone 6 Plus was first released back in September 2014, there has been a small percentage of users complaining about blurry photos. The issues weren’t present with iPhone 6 users, which leads us to believe the fault is in fact with the optical image stabilisation feature. The feature is said to utilise the A8 chip, gyroscope and the M8 motion coprocessor in the iPhone 6 Plus to stabilise photos, measuring motion data to provide lens movement that compensates for shakiness.
In August this year, Apple admitted that a small number of iPhone 6 Plus cameras were defective, causing the cameras to constantly take blurry photos. Apple has said on its iSight Camera Replacement Program website: “Apple has determined that, in a small percentage of iPhone 6 Plus devices, the iSight camera has a component that may fail causing your photos to look blurry. The affected units fall into a limited serial number range and were sold primarily between September 2014 and January 2015.”
The company goes on to note that if your iPhone 6 Plus is taking blurry photos and falls into the eligible serial number range, Apple will replace the camera free of charge.
So, how do you check if you’re eligible? All you need to do is head over to the iSight Camera Replacement Program website and input your iPhone’s serial number. You can access your iPhone’s serial number by heading into the Settings app and tapping General. You should see your serial number – tap and hold it to copy it, then paste it into Apple’s Replacement Program website.
However, if you’re not eligible but still try to get your camera replaced, Apple will know. Apple will examine your iPhone 6 Plus at either an Apple Store or an Apple Authorised Service Provider to verify the handsets eligibility for the program before agreeing to repair it.
It’s also recommended that before you send your iPhone in to be repaired, you back it up either via iTunes or iCloud. The replacement iSight camera will be covered by an extended three-year warranty from the date of the original iPhone sale, however this doesn’t effect the standard iPhone 6 Plus warranty coverage.
The most important thing to note: Apple has stated that if your iPhone 6 Plus has damage (like a cracked screen) that impairs the camera replacement, you’ll have to fix the issue beforehand.
iPhone 5 battery replacement programme
Apple is offering a second replacement program for iPhone 5 users. This time it’s the phone’s battery that’s giving users headaches. Apple says that a “very small percentage of iPhone 5 devices” may be experiencing poor battery life, requiring users to charge the device more frequently. We actually found that three out of six iPhone 5s we checked for eligibility in Apple’s battery replacement program were eligible, so it seems like more than a “very small percentage” to us!
Affected devices were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and are within a specific serial number range, Apple says. You can check your serial number on Apple’s website to see if your phone qualifies for a free battery replacement. You’ll find your serial number by going to Settings > General > About > Serial Number.
If you have an affected device, you’ll have the choice to replace your battery free of charge at the Apple Store, an Apple authorised service provider or you can send it off to Apple Technical Support.
However, the catch is that if your iPhone 5 has a broken screen, cracked back or any other damage that may impair battery replacement is fixed, which Apple is unlikely to do for free (read on to find out more).
For those with battery woes but no option to get a replacement from Apple, check out our iPhone battery saving tips for help.
iPhone 5 power button replacement programme
In April, Apple confirmed that some iPhone 5 smartphones have defective power buttons and is offering a free replacement.
“Apple has determined that the sleep/wake button mechanism on a small percentage of iPhone 5 models may stop working or work intermittently,” Apple said in an online support document.
You can find out whether your iPhone 5 is eligible here.
If you’ve got a broken lock button on your iPhone 5 or other iPhone model but are not eligible for the replacement program, you can find out how to use the handy lock button workaround here.
MacBook repairs and recalls
Here are the product recalls Apple has announced for the various MacBook models.
2011 MacBook Pros with video issues (Feb 2015)
One of the longest-running sagas on MacBook has been the tale of the failing MacBook Pros.
We were hearing reports of this since as early as 2013, with many owners of 2011 models with AMD graphics suffering from system crashes and hardware problems that have been described as “critical”. After a long wait, in early 2015 Apple finally announced a repair programme, and we’ve got all the details here: Widespread 2011 MacBook Pro graphics failures finally addressed by Apple repair programme
Do note, however (as is addressed in the linked article above), that after the repair programme had been running for a little over two years Apple announced that it was reducing the range of models covered. The early-2011 and late-2011 MacBook Pros, in both 15-inch and 17-inch screen sizes, are no longer eligible; the programme now covers the mid-2012 and early-2013 15-inch Pros only.
MacBook Air flash storage drive (2012-2013)
If you bought a MacBook Air model between June 2012 or June 2013 – or own a used model originally purchased between those dates – then manufacturing issues might mean the flash storage could prematurely fail.
This affects only models with 64 or 128GB of storage, and you’ll know if your MacBook Air is affected because the typical issues surrounding failed or failing disk storage will begin to appear – perhaps your Mac will refuse to boot past the Apple logo, for example, or perhaps file corruption occurs regularly.
Apple identified the issue way back in October 2013 and stated the free-of-charge recall program would apply for only three years after the date of purchase. That should mean the recall expired last year. However, the recall’s information page is still up at Apple.com, and Apple still lists it on its recall summary page. Within the recall description Apple states they will “continue to evaluate service data and will provide further updates to this program as needed.”
Apple created an easy way for users to identify if their MacBook Air is amongst those affected, and that’s to use the Mac App Store, click the Updates button, and download the Firmware Update 1.1 app. During installation this tests the drive to see if it’s one of those that has issues.
What to do if you’re affected
If your MacBook Air is affected then you should call into an Apple Store to see a Genius, or visit an authorised repair centre. The work will involve swapping out the storage component for a new one, and this will mean your apps and data will be lost, so you’ll need to back it up first and then restore it later.
If you visit the Mac App Store’s update section and find the firmware update isn’t listed, it might be that the fix has already been applied – something that might be the case if you bought your MacBook Air second-hand, rather than new at retail. However, there’s also a chance that any previous owner downloaded the update but ignored its advice, perhaps because their computer seemed to be working fine at the time. If you’re encountering the issues discussed above and your MacBook Air was originally purchased new during the dates mentioned then it might be worth contacting Apple to see if the repair was ever carried out.
(Note: There is no reliable way to discover a Mac initial purchase date, other than to ask the original owner.)
Mac Pro repairs and recalls
Here are the product recalls Apple has announced for the Mac Pro.
Apple announces free repairs for Mac Pros with broken video cards
In February 2016 Apple announced a repair programme for certain models in its Mac Pro line, in response to a repeatedly reported issue with failing video cards.
The repair programme applies to late 2013 Mac Pros equipped with AMD FirePro D500 or D700 GPUs. If your Mac Pro is affected by the issue, you will have experienced any or all of the following symptoms: video problems (distorted picture or video refusing to play); your Mac shutting down or restarting spontaneously (or generally acting unreliably); freezing; failure to start up normally.
If you are affected by the problem and your Mac qualifies for the programme, you will be able to get it repaired for free, provided you do so by 30 May 2018. It’s understood that Apple will simply replace the affected GPUs.
To see if your Mac Pro qualifies for the repair programme, contact Apple Support or speak to an employee at an Apple Store; if you are affected, however, it’s believed that Apple will attempt to get in touch with you.
You will also be able to get your Mac Pro fixed by an Apple Authorized Service Provider, but check you are covered by the programme before commissioning any repair work.
Accessories repairs and recalls
Here are the product recalls Apple has announced for its accessories.
Apple offers to replace faulty Mac and iPhone chargers
At the end of January 2016 Apple announced it would entirely free-of-charge replace faulty wall plug adapters that were included with certain Macs and iPhones. Notably, this recall applies solely to the plug adapter that slots on to the main charger to enable it to attach to the likes of wall sockets. The main charger unit itself has no issues.
This recall does not affect UK users unless they bought their Apple hardware in one of the following areas of the world:
- France, Germany, Spain, Italy or other countries in continental Europe (that is, not the UK or Ireland)
- New Zealand
- South Korea
The issue is that the wall plug adapters break more easily than Apple would like and can thereby expose the users to risk of serious electrical shock.
Faulty plug adapters can be identified by the printed text inside the slot by which the adapter couples to the main charger. Faulty adapters have four or five printed characters – or no characters at all – in the slot area.
Adapters manufactured after the newer, safe redesign was rolled out have a 3-letter country code printed in the slot area, such as EUR, AUS, ARG, BRA, or AUS (in this instance New Zealand falls under the AUS code).
If you’re affected by this issue a free replacement adapter can be got via an Apple Store, or via the web, where you’ll need to enter your device’s serial number. You will need to supply Apple with the old, faulty adapter.
Apple USB-C charge cables recall
If you bought a MacBook before June 2015 then the USB-C cable Apple provided for charging purposes might be faulty. You’ll know this to be the case because either your MacBook won’t charge when you use the cable to connect to the charger, or it will only charge intermittently.
Apple identified the issue in February 2016 but doesn’t list any potential danger to the user of the cable but if affected you should stop using the cable immediately because you might be damaging your MacBook.
Affected cables can be identified because they have the following text on them, without any serial number: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.”
Any USB-C cables with the above text and that ALSO include a serial number straight afterwards are safe to use and not affected by the recall.
Weirdly, some users report seeing no text at all on their Apple-provided USB-C cables. If the cable meets the above criteria – it was made by Apple and supplied with a MacBook before June 2015 – then the best policy is to contact Apple for advice.
What to do if you’re affected
Apple will replace the cable should you take it to an Apple Store Genius bar, or present the cable to an authorised service provider, although you’ll probably need to provide proof of purchase. Notably, it doesn’t appear to be possible to replace the cable by post. You’ll need to provide Apple with your serial number when you attempt to make the replacement – although it might just be easier just to take along your MacBook and let them find it for you. Additionally, if you purchased a replacement cable because of this fault then Apple might give you a refund – just drop them a line.
Beats Pill XL speaker fire risk
In June 2015 Apple announced an important recall of all models of the Beats Pill XL desktop speaker when it became evident the battery inside might overheat and even catch fire. This is literally a product recall because Apple/Beats removed the product from sale and upon receipt of the faulty speaker will refund £215 to anybody who purchased one – even if that wasn’t directly from Apple itself.
No time limit has been set on the recall, which raises an interesting prospect – should you stumble upon one in a second-hand shop or at a car boot sale then snap it up because it’s worth £215 once you send it off to Apple!
What to do if you’re affected
If you own a Beats Pill XL speaker then stop using it immediately and visit Apple’s website to fill in the form. Apple will send you a prepaid postage box so you can return the speaker, and within three weeks will either credit your Apple Store account or make an electronic payment, depending on which you choose.
Please note that Apple does not permit you to return the speaker to an Apple Store, or to the retailer where it was purchased. This is solely a postal return programme.