Mobility

Apple Faces US Senate Questions About Free Battery Replacement

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Apple battery-gate rumbles on as US senator demands to know if Apple considered free battery replacements

An influential US Senator has waded into the furore surrounding Apple and its decision to deliberately slowdown older iPhones due to ageing batteries.

Republican Senator John Thune, who is also the chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook questioning the firm’s level of transparency over the matter.

In the letter, he demanded to know whether Apple has considered replacing the batteries of affected customers for free, and whether customers who had fully paid for battery replacements were legible for refunds or rebates.

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Letter To Tim

The chair of the US Senate’s commerce committee asked Apple about these issues in a letter to Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook.

Senator Thune has demanded that Tim Cook provides its answers by 23 January, said Reuters, which has seen the letter.

In his letter, Senator Thune said that “the large volume of consumer criticism levelled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency.”

Apple issued a rare public apology on 28 December, and pledged to reduce the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 – from $79 to $29 – for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later.

But it is clear that Senator Thune is not happy, and he asked if Apple considered making free battery replacements available, or if it explored offering rebates for customers who paid full price for replacement batteries.

The US Senator also wants to know if Apple notified consumers of the throttling feature in software updates, and if customers had the option of declining the update.

The letter also asked if similar software was used in earlier iPhone models.

Apple has reportedly declined to comment.

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Apple Battery-gate

Apple’s battery-gate issue first came to light just before Christmas after a iPhone user shared performance tests on Reddit that suggested that their iPhone 6S had slowed down considerably as it had aged.

However the handset suddenly sped up again after the battery was replaced.

Then John Poole, founder of benchmarking firm Primate Labs, gathered Geekbench data and analysed thousands of iPhones running different versions of the iOS operating system. He found that some of these older iPhones did indeed appear to have been deliberately slowed down.

Apple’s practice of slowing down older iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 began when the iPad maker released iOS 10.2.1 in January 2017.

Days after Apple admitted it intentionally slowed down older handsets, it was hit with at least 11 lawsuits, after angry users alleged Apple ‘interfered’ with users’ handsets without their consent.

Apple for its part says that it slows down older iPhones to prevent unexpected shutdowns, because older batteries may not be able to supply the required maximum current demanded by the phone’s processor at full speed.

One analyst has predicted the issue will have a significant financial impact for Apple, as its cheap battery replacement offer may actually cut sales of new handsets by millions of units this year.

And Apple is also facing potential criminal charges in France over the matter.

French authorities are currently investigating whether Apple is engaging in a pattern of “planned obsolescence”, which is against the law there.

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