Apple Fixes Bug Blamed for Consumer Reports' MacBook Pro Battery Woes

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Apple Fixes Bug Blamed for Consumer Reports' MacBook Pro Battery Woes
Highlights
  • Consumer Reports says that it uses same protocol for all laptops
  • Apple says that the applied setting was not used by customers
  • Consumer Reports will update the rating if new tests show improvement

In response to the battery life inconsistency issues highlighted by Consumer Reports on the latest models of Apple's MacBook Pro laptop, the Cupertino-based company has now pushed out an update to fix a bug it believes caused the problem in the first place. Apple says that the issues were caused by a software bug in its Safari browser, which was triggered by the settings used by the product testing firm in its tests.

To recall, the 2016 MacBook Pro laptops were the first in the series from Apple not to receive a recommendation rating from Consumer Reports. "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing websites which turns off the browser cache... We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test," Apple said in a statement to Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports says that the firm turns off caching as part of its standard laptop test protocol. It further pointed out that caching is a feature used by many computers to store webpages locally on a hard drives for faster retrieval by the Internet browser.

The testing firm explained its test process, "We also turn off the local caching of webpages. In our tests, we want the computer to load each webpage as if it were new content from the Internet, rather than resurrecting the data from its local drive. This allows us to collect consistent results across the testing of many laptops, and it also puts batteries through a tougher workout... 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."

Apple, for its part, said, "This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. [Consumer Reports'] 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... 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."

The Cupertino company has already made the fix available to those users who are part of its Apple Beta Software Program. The fix will be pushed as part of a broader update that will be rolled out to all users in few weeks.

Even though Apple said "this is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage" in its statement, several 2016 MacBook Pro users have also posted about battery life issues on company's user forums.

After Consumer Reports came out with its test report, Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple said that the company was working with the product testing firm to understand the inconsistencies in the battery results.

Consumer Reports said last month that it won't be doing any retests, but it has now decided to give another go at laptops to see if the fix issued by Apple solves the problems regarding the battery life.

"We have now downloaded the software fix and are rerunning our battery tests with the fix in place on the same computers previously tested. If the battery life results are consistently high, the ratings score for MacBook Pros would rise, and those laptops will then receive Consumer Reports' Recommended rating given their performance in all our other evaluations," the product testing firm said in its report.

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