Apple is offering to replace -- at no cost -- defective on/off buttons on the iPhone 5. The tech giant Friday said the issue only affected a "small percentage" of previous-generation models manufactured through March 2013.
The on/off buttons may stop working or only work intermittently, the company said on its user support page. Apple doesn't specify how many iPhones shipped with the faulty on/off mechanism.
To qualify for the free replacement wake/sleep button, the phone must otherwise be working and it must have a qualifying serial number. Users can type in the serial numbers of their iPhone 5s on Apple's user support page to determine if their phones qualify for the repair.
A Rare Occurrence
Although Apple rarely issues such recalls for its top-of-the-line smartphones, the company does respond to known problems by rolling out free fixes.
For example, in 2010, users complained that the iPhone 4 had reception problems thought to be related to the placement of the antenna and how users gripped the phone. Apple resolved that problem by offering users free phone cases that isolated the antenna from hand contact.
The button replacement process, which is done at Apple repair centers, is currently available in the U.S. and Canada and will be offered in other countries beginning Friday. Users can either walk in with their iPhones or mail them to one of the centers.
Users will be without their phones for about four to six days. Apple stores and authorized service providers -- but not wireless service providers -- will have iPhone 5 models (16 GB only) available to loan out while their phones are being fixed.
Prepare for Repair
To ensure their iPhones are ready for service, Apple said users should back up their data to iTunes or iCloud; turn off the "find my iPhone" feature; erase data and settings in Settings > General > Reset >; erase all content and settings; and remove any cases or covers.
Users who are running iOS 6 will have to upgrade to iOS 7 after the sleep/wake button mechanism has been replaced, according to Apple.
In addition, if there is any damage to users' iPhone 5s such as cracked screens, which impairs the replacement of the sleep/wake button, Apple said the issue will have to be resolved before the on/off button is replaced. In some cases, users may have to pay for that repair.
Consumers who want to mail their iPhone 5s to the local Apple repair center can call Apple and request postage-paid boxes. The phones will be examined by repair center technicians to verify their eligibility and they will be mailed back to users once they have been repaired.