Apple’s recent admission that it purposefully slows down older iPhone devices sent shockwaves across the wider mobile industry, prompting major global news coverage, fury among millions of users, and even multiple class-action lawsuits.
Now it has gone one step further and apologized for what it calls a “misunderstanding” surrounding the facts of smartphone battery degradation. As well as explaining why it chose to “dynamically manage the maximum performance” of its marquee product, Apple has also detailed a new discount scheme for iPhone battery replacements.
Why is Apple slowing down your iPhone?
According to age-old conspiracy theories, Apple’s real reason for slowing down older iPhones is to surreptitiously nudge towards an upgrade to a newer model. Apple categorically denied this in an apology letter posted on December 28th, stating:
First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.
Instead, Apple says that the performance management measures it applied to the iPhone 6, 6S, SE, and 7 models were necessary to limit long-term problems arising from aging batteries.
The letter, as well as an accompanying support article, detail how the performance of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power all iPhones deteriorate over time. Without certain steps, this unavoidable power drop can lead to issues with an iPhone’s camera, speakers, screen, and cause unexpected shutdowns, Apple says.
The latter became something of a problem in late 2016 after a large number of iPhone users began reporting random shutdowns. Apple issued a successful fix in iOS version 10.2.1 after pinpointing that the chemically aged batteries were to blame.
However, Apple didn’t disclose that the fix may impact the affected devices’ overall performance, even after it eventually discovered this was happening. In fact, it wasn’t until a group of Reddit users and a benchmarking company stepped in with figures that we knew for sure this was the case.
What happens next?
While the Cupertino giant’s reasoning remains sound – no one wants a phone that randomly reboots – the fact that it wasn’t forthcoming with an explanation until now has sparked a significant consumer backlash.
To prevent further ire from the iPhone faithful, Apple is taking a few steps to “recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions.”
Chief among the steps is a reduction in the out-of-warranty cost of replacing a battery for any user with an iPhone 6 or later. Previously, a replacement battery cost $79 in the US, but this has now been dropped to $29. The new policy will be rolled out in late January and will be available worldwide “through December 2018”.
As well as a vague promise that the iPhone team will continue to “improve the user experience” and “manage performance”, Apple also noted that it will update iOS to show battery condition data and its impact on performance in early 2018.
“At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us,” the letter concludes. “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.”
Time will tell if Apple’s apology is enough to assuage its disgruntled fans.