Apple Fined For Deliberately Slowing Old iPhones

Apple still continues to experience fallout from its update policy, after it was fined 25 million euros (£21m) for deliberately slowing down older iPhone models.

The fine was imposed by France’s competition and fraud watchdog DGCCRF, which said consumers had not been warned about the move.

The issue for the iPad maker has been hanging since December 2017, when it was discovered that Apple deliberately slowed down older iPhones, which it claimed at the time would help avoid unexpected handset shutdowns.

Slowing iPhones

The issue was discovered when an iPhone user shared performance tests on Reddit that reported that a iPhone 6S had slowed down considerably as it had aged.

However the handset suddenly sped up again after the battery was replaced, pointing to a deliberate policy by Apple to slow older iPhones.

Apple was forced to say sorry over the matter, but it denied accusations at the time that it was a clumsy attempt to force customers to upgrade to new handsets.

However matters became worse of Apple when 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 discovered 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.

In the United Kingdom, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), stepped in to investigate “after finding people were not being warned clearly that their phone’s performance could slow down following a 2017 software update designed to manage demands on the battery.”

Apple promised to be “clearer and more upfront with iPhone users about battery health and performance”, and managed to avoid a financial penalty in the UK.

French fine

But this is not the case in France, after the DGCCRF imposed the $27 million penalty, because consumers had not been warned.

As part of the settlement agreement, Apple must display a notice on its French-language website for a month.

Apple’s official position on the matter remains that lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying and maintaining peak current demands, as they aged.

Apple insists its slowdown was designed to stop older iPhones unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

But to avoid consumer ire, it subsequently released a software update for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE which was said to ‘smooth out’ battery performance.

But it should be noted that Apple still does slow down older iPhones, including some very recent handsets.

The slowdown is implemented on handsets such as iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus; iPhone SE; iPhone 7 and 7 Plus; iPhone 8 and 8 Plus running iOS 12.1 or higher; iPhone X running iOS 12.1 or higher; and finally iPhone XS, XS Max and XR running iOS 13.1 or higher.

The slowdown only kicks in when the battery begins to degrade.

Quiz: How well do you know Apple?

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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