Sales of Apple's newest and priciest iPhones may be chilled by a growing chorus of user complaints about the phones overheating to the point of being too hot to hold and even shutting down on their own, with some testers recording temperatures above 120 degrees. Depending on the cause, Apple may only be able to address the issue by reducing performance.
About half of Apple's revenue comes from iPhone sales. This latest development will won't boost the company's shares, which had already fallen 6.6% over the last month, compared to a 3.18% loss for the computer and tech sector, according to Zack's.
The complaints are circulating around Apple's iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, which have only been on the market since Sept. 22 for regular retail sales, and Sept. 15 for pre-orders. The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 and the Pro Max at $1,199. The priciest version asks $1,599.
Apple's iPhone sales slipped 2.4% in the quarter that ended July 1, and the complaints about overheating threaten the company's hopes of reversing that trend amid general weakness in the smartphone market. Consider the publicity damage from observations like this one from an Apple-centric account with 740,000 followers:
My iPhone 15 Pro Max has major overheating issues after a few mins of use— Apple Hub (@theapplehub) September 24, 2023
Things are not looking good so far… pic.twitter.com/aGNYGOK3Kg
At first, the overheating phenomenon seemed most prevalent during initial setup and while charging, but new users are reporting that normal usage is rendering the phone too hot to handle. “I’m just browsing social media, and it’s burning up,” said one.
This user demonstrated temperature readings as high as 42 degrees Celsius -- or 108 degrees Fahrenheit:
The natural titanium iPhone 15 Pro gets extremely hot, so much so that it becomes difficult to hold. Furthermore, it heats up after just a 2-minute FaceTime call or when scrolling through reels for 8-10 minutes. This is a new issue for me, as I've never encountered this with any… pic.twitter.com/Qu0QK1xGLd— Mohit Verma (@itz_mohitverma) September 25, 2023
A Wall Street Journal reporter topped that, obtaining a reading of 112 degrees by simultaneously charging her phone and using it in processor-heavy ways. The gold medal, however, goes to a Chinese tech platform that scored a whopping 122 degrees by downloading the "Genshin Impact" game. Simply playing the game in hi-res mode put it back in that danger zone.
Industry observers are offering competing theories about the cause of the problem. Initially, fingers were pointed at TSMC's groundbreaking 3-nm processor. However, on Wednesday, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote that he thinks materials and design are the principal suspects:
"The primary cause is more likely the compromises made in the thermal system design to achieve a lighter weight, such as the reduced heat dissipation area and the use of a titanium frame, which negatively impacts thermal efficiency."
As Apple strives for lighter and lighter phones, there's a price to be paid where heat dissipation is concerned. With the iPhone 15 Max's design centered on a new titanium frame rather than stainless steel, designers may have gone too far. “It’s the Icarus theory,” iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens tells the Wall Street Journal. “Apple flew too close to the sun, and the wings started melting off.”
I bought the new iPhone 15 pro, upgraded from the 14 pro, and I wish I hadn’t.— Sheel Mohnot (@pitdesi) September 27, 2023
My iPhone 15 pro is overheating & feels slower than my old phone somehow, and there is no noticeable difference in the camera output.
Overheating isn't just about user comfort. According to Apple, "using an iOS or iPadOS device in very hot conditions can permanently shorten battery life." To guard against that, iPhones shut themselves down if the phone exceeds hot or cold temperature parameters.
It's one thing for that safeguard to be triggered when you accidentally leave your phone in a car on a hot day. It's something else altogether when you've simply been using your thousand-dollar-plus phone for normal functions.
Sometimes I cant even use my phone due to extreme heat 🥲 pic.twitter.com/aKqkttN6F4— Mohit Verma (@itz_mohitverma) September 25, 2023
As for fixing the issue, Kuo ominously suggests Apple may be in a pick-your-poison pickle:
"It’s expected that Apple will address this through software updates, but improvements may be limited unless Apple lowers processor performance. If Apple does not properly address this issue, it could negatively impact shipments over the product life cycle of the iPhone 15 Pro series."
This isn't the only new complaint related to Apple's new flagship iPhones. Behold the iPhone 15 Pro Max's unsettling fragility:
CONFIRMED: iPhone 15 Pro Max is about as fragile as a glass picture frame. Get a good case ASAP, and if you’re particularly rough on your phones, AppleCare+ may be worth it.— Zach Laidlaw (@ztlaidlaw) September 23, 2023
Video by JerryRigEverything: https://t.co/GEMXia5Wof pic.twitter.com/eo95uG7xbu
Meanwhile, users and reviewers have also been slamming Apple's proprietary carry-cases for the new phone line. Consistent with its woke environmental push, the new, $59 cases ditch leather in favor of a proprietary "FineWoven" fabric that are said to be slippery and highly susceptible to staining, scratching and even collecting lint and dog hair.