Apple first admitted that it was slowing down old iPhones in December 2017, but since then it has faced increasing trouble surrounding the issue. Despite the company’s claims that the slowdowns were meant to maintain battery life, many consumers were frustrated with Apple, and the company is contending with threats of lawsuits, as well as a major hit to its reputation.
Apple may have had good intentions. Despite what some conspiracy theories may claim, Apple was only slowing iPhones with old batteries, and only when those batteries were unable to hold enough charge to power the device through peak performance times. Still, many claim Apple should have been more transparent with its practices.
Here’s everything that has happened so far. The oldest news is at the bottom, so if you want to read through everything that has happened, head to the bottom and work your way up.
Apple says it may offer rebates to customers who purchased full-price iPhone batteries
In January, U.S. Senator John Thune asked Apple if those who paid the full, non-discounted price for a replacement battery are allowed to seek a rebate for some of the purchased price. In a letter to U.S. lawmakers that was made public on Tuesday, February 6, Apple confirmed it is exploring the idea, Recode reports.
This would apply to customers who purchased the batteries before the company reduced the price of battery replacements to $29. As mentioned before, the discounted price was offered after Apple confirmed it does slow down older iPhones in order to better handle the power output from aging batteries.
Within the letter, Apple also mentioned it is seeing “strong demand” for battery replacements for iPhone 6 and later models. This corroborates previous reports that there have been delays in battery replacements for iPhone 6 models.
Apple responds to U.S. Department of Justice probe of slowing down iPhones
After it was reported the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating the issue, Apple released a statement to CNET in response to the news explaining it is working to answer the questions received from some government agencies.
“As we told our customers in December, 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,” Apple told CNET.
Apple also explained the update was supposed to prevent iPhones with older batteries from suddenly shutting down.
U.S. Department of Justice to probe Apple over iPhone throttling
Not long after South Korean regulators announced that they would be investigating Apple’s throttling of iPhones with older batteries, the U.S. Department of Justice, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission, is reported to be doing the same, according to a report from Bloomberg. The commission will be looking into whether Apple violated securities laws by not disclosing that it was slowing older iPhone models. While the inquiry is in its very early stages, the government has requested information from Apple.
Just because Apple is being investigated doesn’t mean that it will be found guilty of any wrongdoing. Considering the investigation is private, we may not hear anything else about it unless Apple is formally accused of violating the law.
Apple to allow users to turn off performance throttling in iOS 11.3
A few weeks after accusations of throttling first mounted, Apple promised that it would release a software update allowing users to better monitor the performance and battery health of their device. It looks like that’s coming in iOS 11.3, along with a toggle that will allow users to turn off performance throttling altogether.
An initial beta for iOS 11.3 is now available, but the new feature isn’t in it just yet. We may have to wait for the consumer launch in Spring for it to be implemented.
Of course, Apple doesn’t recommend you turn it off in the first place. The reason that iPhone performance was being throttling in the first place was that older batteries couldn’t supply enough power to processors in order for them to work properly. The result of not throttling could be random shutdowns of your phone.
South Korea to investigate Apple’s iPhone throttling practices
In addition to facing several lawsuits, Apple may be facing criminal charges in some jurisdictions. The Korean Herald has reported that South Korea has opened an investigation into the matter. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has assigned the case to its intellectual property office.
The investigation comes after Seoul’s Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty filed a complaint against Apple, alleging that Apple is actually throttling older iPhones in an effort to persuade consumers to upgrade to the latest model. Apple has denied these claims — though we’ll have to wait and see what the South Korean investigation turns up.
Apple drops price of battery replacements for eligible iPhones
Apple took quick action in regard to the issue of iPhone throttling. A mere week after Apple first made the announcement about the iPhone slowdowns, the company succumbed to mounting pressure and, as an apparent gesture of goodwill, decided to offer owners of iPhone 6 and later models a battery replacement for $29 — a limited-time $50 discount.
Apple originally intended for the replacement batteries to go on sale in late January 2018. Tech Crunch has reported that the company started offering the discounted batteries as of December 30, 2017, however. Apple did say that initial supplies could be limited, so users may want to act fast.
Some iPhone users may have to wait a little longer to replace their batteries. MacRumors, citing an internal Apple document, is reporting delays in battery swaps for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus devices. The report quoted a two-week wait for battery replacements for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus. For iPhone 6 Plus users, the delay will extend into March or April.
If you have an iPhone 6s, however, you may be able to get your battery replaced completely free. According to a report on TechSpot, Apple is still offering a battery replacement program for some iPhone 6s models that were affected by unexplained shutdowns that started occurring in 2015. If you own an iPhone 6s and want to see if your phone is eligible, you can check your serial number on Apple’s support page.
Apple issues statement about throttling accusations
According to Apple, there is a good reason for the performance dip.
“Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge, or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components,” Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch.
In other words, when an iPhone’s battery gets older, it becomes less capable of delivering enough power to the processor during peak performance times, and when that happens, it has to spread out the power requests over a few processor cycles. The result is a dip in performance.
On top of the statement to TechCrunch, on Thursday, December 28, Apple released an apology for the confusion surrounding battery and performance issues. In its apology, the company stated “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.”
Lawsuits mount against Apple over iPhone throttling
Soon after accusations that Apple was throttling iPhones with older batteries arose, lawsuits began to mount.
“Defendant breached the implied contracts it made with Plaintiffs and Class Members by purposefully slowing down older iPhone models when new models come out and by failing to properly disclose that at the time the parties entered into an agreement,” reads a lawsuit filed by Wilshire Law Firm on behalf of Stefan Bogdanovich and Dakota Speas. The pair are seeking both California and nationwide class-action status for their suit, according to a report from TMZ.
Apple Insider has reported that attorneys on behalf of Keaton Harvey have filed another suit against Apple. The class-action suit alleges that the company’s decision to slow down old iPhones “allowed Apple to conceal the true nature and scope of the battery defect and to avoid expending time, money, and effort on correcting it.”
The suit requests that Apple notify owners about changes to the OS, repair the flaws in the software that led to the throttling, and reimburse those who bought affected iPhones.
Lawsuits aren’t the only problems Apple is facing. Reuters has reported that four members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to Tim Cook seeking answers regarding Apple’s policy of slowing down older iPhones. Greg Walden(R.-Oregon), who serves as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was one of the signatories of the letter.
Apple accused of throttling older iPhones
Throttling accusations began when a Redditor shared Geekbench results taken right before and right after the battery in an iPhone 6S was replaced. According to the Redditor, who goes by the name TeckFire, the iPhone performed as much as 20 percent better after the battery replacement.
After the Reddit post, John Poole, who founded Primate Labs, offered a more visualized look at the link between battery health and iPhone performance. Benchmarking tests were performed on iOS 10.2.0 and 10.2.1, and show some pretty serious differences in performance. Apple introduced an update in iOS 10.2.1 aimed at fixing an issue where some iPhone 6S models shut down due to uneven power delivery from older batteries in the phones. That power-management feature is what was causing the performance dips on some iPhone models.
This is what’s is triggered when benchmarks are run — they look like performance peaks and valleys to an operating system, and as such on older batteries, the power requests will be spread out. Upgrade to a new battery, and power will be delivered much more effectively.
It’s not all that surprising. As a battery ages, it stops working as well. That has always been the case and likely always will be. That doesn’t mean that the average performance of a device is being affected, nor does it mean that Apple is throttling your phone to make you upgrade. That doesn’t, however, mean Apple couldn’t have been a little more transparent.
Updated February 6: Apple may offer rebates to customers who purchased iPhone batteries for full-price.