Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed out 2016 on a sour note. Among other issues like defective iPhone batteries and slumping sales, its latest laptop saw significant criticism when launched.
The rough ride for the premium AAPL laptop hit a low point when Consumer Reports refused to recommend it because of poor and unreliable MacBook Pro battery life during testing. Apple and Consumer Reports have both released statements indicating that PR nightmare may be coming to an end.
Why CR Wouldn’t Recommend the New MacBook Pro
This episode began just before Christmas, when Consumer Reports released its test results for AAPL’s new MacBook Pro laptop. The organization said that all three models tested had shown inconsistent battery results, sometimes lasting under four hours before the battery died (Apple’s advertised battery life is 10 hours).
As a result, the new MacBook Pro failed to achieve a Consumer Reports “recommended” buy rating — the first time an Apple MacBook has failed to do so.
The negative press was bad news for AAPL. Consumer Reports is an influential organization and having MacBook Pro battery life spiked out as being problematic tarnished the reputation of the company’s flagship laptop.
Apple: Poor MacBook Pro Battery Life Caused by Obscure Safari Bug
Apple had always disputed Consumer Reports’ findings, saying they did not match its own data. Now AAPL says it’s found the reason behind the poor MacBook Pro battery life test results. The company says an obscure bug in a developer setting of its Safari web browser was at fault.
A statement from Apple was released to MacRumors:
“We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we’ve ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we’re glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro.”
For its part, Consumer Reports also released a statement, outlining its test procedures.
The organization confirmed that when using Safari as instructed, MacBook Pro battery life hit expected levels.
“According to Apple, this last part of our testing is what triggered a bug in the company’s Safari browser. Indeed, when we turned the caching function back on as part of the research we did after publishing our initial findings, the three MacBooks we’d originally tested had consistently high battery life results.”
What Comes Next?
Consumer Reports’ statement is not yet a recommendation to buy a MacBook Pro. However, it has committed to officially retesting the laptop and Apple says it has fixed the Safari bug in its latest macOS developer release.
Apple will be watching closely to see how that bug fix performs in the wild as well. Many of its customers have also been complaining about disappointing and wildly varying battery life with the new MacBook Pro and since many of these users are software developers, it stands to reason they were affected by the same issue.
If Consumer Reports confirms MacBook Pro battery life delivers as advertised during its new round of testing, Apple’s flagship laptop should regain the coveted “recommended” buy rating. That would be good news for AAPL and would help it to start 2017 on a positive note.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.