Apple has issued a public apology after it was discovered the firm deliberately slows down older iPhones, which it claimed would help avoid unexpected handset shutdowns.
Apple said that there is a lot of misunderstanding about the issue, but as a result of the fallout, it has dramatically lowered the price of replacing an iPhone battery, which can only be done by professionals as Apple glues its batteries in, which hinders the easy swapping to a new battery.
Apple also said it would release “new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery” in a future iOS release.
The rare public admission from Apple comes after the 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.
When the slowdown issue came to light before Christmas, Apple confirmed the practice.
But that admission triggered an angry reaction from users, some of whom felt it was a cynical ploy by Apple to encourage customers to purchase newer iPhone models, and that Apple had been less than transparent about the matter.
Days later, three class-action lawsuits were filed against Apple in Illinois and California, after angry users alleged Apple ‘interfered’ with users’ handsets without their consent.
But now Apple has stepped forward with a public statement on the matter, in an effort to better explain its position.
“We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process,” said Apple. “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize.”
Apple stressed the iPhone slowdown was not a cynical attempt to “degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades,” but said that its goal has always been to make “iPhones last as long as possible.”
It explained how lithium-ion batteries can age, and that charging them in hot conditions can “chemically age” the battery faster.
“A chemically aged battery also becomes less capable of delivering peak energy loads, especially in a low state of charge, which may result in a device unexpectedly shutting itself down in some situations,” it said.
Apple said its slowdown of older iPhones was designed to prevent these unexpected shutdowns, but a new battery would fix the issue.
Consequently, Apple is promising to make the following changes.
Firstly, Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 – from $79 to $29 – for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018.
Apple had previously charged £79 in the UK (or $79/£59 in the US) to replace batteries not covered under the phone’s warranty.
And Apple also said that in early in 2018, it will issue an iOS software update “with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.”
“At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us,” the iPad maker said. “We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.”
Apple’s statement however did not address user concerns over whether rival smartphone makers implement a similar policy, and if they don’t, why Apple feels it needs to do so with its handsets.
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