The Apple iPhone XS Max seems to be giving some early adopters a bit of trouble. A thread on the Apple Communities page is currently being populated with users giving feedback about the inconsistent charge detection on the iPhone XS Max—when the charging cable is plugged into the Lightning connector. At the same time, others are reporting absolutely no such issues with the iPhone XS Max, or indeed any iPhone or iPad running the newest iOS 12 operating system.
What exactly is the issue? Users are reporting that on certain iPhone XS models, if the screen is off and you plug in the charging cable, the charging doesn’t start. You need to wake up and unlock the screen for the charging to start. After that, the device charges as it normally would. Users are suggesting that they have been able to replicate this issue with the original charger and cable that came with the iPhone XS Max. There however seems to be a general consensus that there are no issues with wireless charging, if you are using a Qi enabled wireless charging mat.
At this point, we must stress that the iPhone XS Max that we reviewed did not exhibit any such charging pattern discrepancies in the duration of our testing—with original as well as third-party chargers. While we have no way of confirming what chargers and cables are being used by consumers to charge their iPhone XS Max, there could also be the issue that some older chargers may be incompatible with the new iPhones. For instance, Belkin has already confirmed on 29 Sept that their PowerHouse and Valet charging docks are incompatible with the new iPhone XS family. The company has since released a new PowerHouse charging dock version, which can charge the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.
But what could be the cause for this? There is obviously the suspicion that there is some issue with the hardware on the iPhone XS Max. Could it be a batch of faulty Lightning ports? Could it be that the sensors that have to detect the amount of current heading into the phone? However, if it was something like an ill-fitting Lightning port or sensors that refused to work, they would probably not work at all beyond a point. It is even more unlikely that all offending iPhone XS Max variants would start charging as soon as the screen was unlocked. Interesting to note that none of the users complaining about the charging issues on the iPhone XS Max seem to have tested out extensive music playback using the EarPods earphones that are bundled with the iPhone, to see if they also exhibit eccentric behavior when connected with the Lightning port.
This points more to a software or a configuration issue. Specifically, an issue with the iOS 12 operating system. One user on the Apple Communities forum with the handle-name hemetvalleystormchaser says, “My iPhone 8 Plus, which I traded in, did the same thing as my now iPhone Xs did after updating to iOS 12. It would also say it was still charging for a few seconds after I took it off the charger.” Another user, nlicalsi91 suggests that restoring the iPhone from an iCloud Backup sorted out the behavior issue on their phone—reset the iPhone and restored it on the iPhone itself.
If your iPhone XS Max, or any iOS device for that matter, is facing similar charging issues, that warrants a deeper look into the iOS 12 settings to see what is happening. Pretty soon, you will land up on Settings -> Face ID and Passcore -> (Allow access when locked) USB Accessories. Chances are, this is toggled off by default. If your phone struggles to detect charge when first plugged in with the screen still turned off, toggle this setting to on.
This exact setting links to what restricts the USB devices from interacting with your iPhone if the iPhone is left unused for a while, to prevent misuse. Apple first introduced this feature in iOS 11.4.1 and is designed to limit Lightning port functionality after a certain period of the phone being left unused. For instance, if you leave your iPhone unused for an hour, this mode kicks in and restricts the data transfer capability on the Lightning Port. This is meant to stop hackers as well as law enforcement agencies from using data-extraction tools to access data on an iPhone without user approval. This wasn’t supposed to impact the charging capabilities, and in this case, it is—at least when you are not using a PC, Mac device or your car’s charging port to charge the iPhone. This is why we suspect it is a software issue, which can be solved with an update. A user Maurobs_93 says on the thread, “On my iPhone xs max I don't have the problem, but on my iPhone 7 plus and iPad Pro 12.9" (first gen) I have this from iOS 11.4.1.”
Apple describes this restriction, “If you don’t first unlock your password-protected iOS device—or you haven’t unlocked and connected it to a USB accessory within the past hour—your iOS device won’t communicate with the accessory or computer, and in some cases, it might not charge. You might also see an alert asking you to unlock your device to use accessories.”
Apple has not yet commented on the iPhone XS Max charging issues, though we expect the company has taken note of the complaints. The iOS 12.1 update could include a fix—the software is currently in beta testing.
This is also not the first time that a premium smartphone has struggled with battery charging issues. Google has also struggled with slow charge or no charge symptoms on the larger of the two Pixel phones it makes—the Pixel 2 XL. It first happened sometime post launch, when users complained that it either charged very slowly or intermittently, and Google rolled out a software update to solve the issue. Now as recently as the Android 9 Pie release two months ago, the charging troubles seem to have cropped up again for the Pixel and the Pixel XL—and Google confirmed a fix for that.