Apple tarnished their brand with clandestine iPhone battery management and processor throttling

“Apple confirmed last week that it slows down the processors in recent iPhone models, an attempt to prevent an aging battery from causing problems,” Timothy Green writes for The Motley Fool. “Apple began doing this with the iPhone 6 and iPhone SE, and it plans to expand the number of supported devices in the future.”

“Not surprisingly, the class action lawsuits have begun rolling in. Users are understandably upset that Apple was purposefully slowing down their expensive phones behind their backs,” Green writes. “Apple’s rationale isn’t unreasonable; a slowed-down phone is a lot better than a phone that crashes frequently due to a weak battery. But by keeping this a secret — only acknowledging the feature when users figured out what was going on — Apple has done some damage to its most valuable asset.”

“There’s no brand quite like Apple,” Green writes. “The quickest way to destroy that kind of loyalty is to bamboozle your customer. The feature that slows down old iPhones isn’t the problem. The problem is that Apple didn’t tell its customers what it was doing. The most cynical interpretation is that Apple wanted frustrated users to buy new phones. Whether or not that was a consideration on Apple’s part, selling more phones is a side effect of the decision to keep the feature secret… All of this could have been avoided had Apple been upfront about its slow-down feature. No matter what the intentions were, the move comes off as at least a little bit sleazy.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote last week:

Lithium-ion batteries are to mobile devices as tires are to vehicles… As with your car’s tires, which are not covered in even the most comprehensive vehicle service arrangements, your iPhone batteries are your responsibility. Normal wear and tear. Apple, if they should do anything, should make this point exceedingly clear and even include an alert on devices to inform users that states something like:

Your battery has just completed its 500th charging cycle and, to maintain peak performance, needs to be replaced. Your battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles. Your warranty covers a defective battery, but it doesn’t cover battery wear from normal use. For your convenience, your device will continue operating at reduced processor speeds until replacement can be performed.

• If you’re covered under AppleCare+, we’ll replace your battery at no charge if it retains less than 80 percent of its original capacity.
• If your iPhone needs battery replacement and it’s not covered, the service fee is $79.
• If your iPhone has another power issue, we’ll give you the repair price after we determine the cause.

The three bullet points above are exactly Apple’s publicly-stated (i.e. not secret) policy today.

Information on how to maximize your iPhone’s battery life and lifespan is here.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

SEE ALSO:
Should Apple replace aging iPhone batteries for free instead of throttling processor speed? – December 21, 2017
Apple confirms iPhones with older batteries will take hits in performance – December 20, 201
iPhone performance and battery age – December 18, 2017
Apple met with Chinese regulators to discuss iPhone 6s unexpected shutdowns – February 10, 2017
Rumor: Apple may extend iPhone 6s battery replacement program to iPhone 6 – January 17, 2017
A message from Apple about 
iPhone and unexpected shutdowns – December 2, 2016
Apple offers free battery replacement for ‘very small number’ of iPhone 6s units with unexpected shutdown issue – November 21, 2016

64 Comments

    1. Look on the bright side, mijo. Once Apple gets slapped around in the courts and in the public arena Apple will be less likely to pull a stunt like this again. Future Apple consumers will feel that their purchases won’t crap our because of Apple’s poor decisions. Also, Apple will recognize that repeating the same mistake is likely to result in greater financial costs and reductions in public respect and esteem.

      It may suck to be an owner of an older iOS device today but millions on current and prospective users can purchase with confidence knowing that Apple can’t afford another colossal f*ck up. Feel better now? I do.

      1. I had a problem with my 2004 Acura. The onboard computer recognized that I had an old sensor that was not working reliably. Rather than leave me stranded by the side of the road, Honda built a “limp-home mode” into the computer that allowed me to drive at about 30 mph to the nearest service center where I could get it fixed.

        I never considered suing Honda/Acura, either for providing components that didn’t last forever or for providing a means to avoid an absolute breakdown that might have risked my personal safety.

        These same trial attorneys would also have sued Apple if their clients had died because their phone didn’t work in an emergency. Both ethically and legally, I think Apple made the right choice by providing a “limp-home mode” for bad batteries.

        1. The difference is that your Acura displayed a warning light and Acura allowed you or an independent mechanic to diagnose and replace the sensor.

          Apple didn’t notify you. Apple didn’t give you any realistic means to diagnose or repair the problem. In fact, Apple forced you to stay on the slow software rather than jump back to the earlier OS.

          Apple needs to communicate and it needs to give customers options.

          The best outcome for these suits would be for Apple to be forced to allow, now and forever, users to revert back to older OSes whenever they want. Problem solved.

          1. Reverting to older software wouldn’t have solved any problems. When battery gets old, phone can shut down when CPU draws too much power (more than the old battery can deliver). Old OS would simply shut the phone down.

            iOS 11 delivered performance improvements to quite many core functions of the OS (which consequently improved battery life, as the functions were more efficient than before). People with old models and new batteries (for example, someone who bought a new iPhone 6s in September) noticed the improvements in speed.

            The solution for the problem was simply adding a switch somewhere in system preferences that would turn this throttling off. With the switch, there would need to be an explanation what it does, so that an average user could make an educated decision. Building this into the user interface that is supposed to be efficient and intuitive simply goes against that principle, but at least it would shield Apple from the noise.

            1. “The solution for the problem was simply adding a switch somewhere in system preferences that would turn this throttling off. With the switch, there would need to be an explanation what it does, so that an average user could make an educated decision.”

              No. A pop up that explains the battery’s condition and how that condition may negatively impact the device’s performance (or even damage it) with an admonition to get the battery replaced is more than enough. The pop up should come up EVERY TIME the device awakens from sleep mode, just like the warning I get when the batteries in my keyboard near end of useful life.

  1. It not the fact that batteries wear out, we all know that. Hence the old debate of designing phones w replacable batteries, but thats another story. All Apple had to do was push out notifications when battery cycle has dimished & ask if user wants to implement software update to reduce battery wear w onus that performance will also be reduced, simple. Instead of ‘hiding’ it OS updates & pissing off users. Im an AAPL guy but their hubris is wearing thin… A good show of faith would be to initiate a new program to replace batteries free of charge once per phone, which in theory should be enough… and leave the battery software update separate.

        1. They never did that. You tapped ‘Install System Update’ yourself. I know many people who have iPhone 6s and are still on iOS 10. The System Preferences icon keeps reminding them of that update with its screaming red badge, but they simply don’t want to do it.

          Apple never did anything to your phone that you yourself didn’t initiate.

            1. No, it wasn’t. You yourself installed the software by tapping “Install”.

              Apple did NOT “touch your device without your approval”.

              It is an entirely different case whether what you installed was what Apple promised it would be, or whether there was something they failed to disclose. But they never forced anything without your approval. The best you could get here is some level of deceptive practice (failure to disclose functionality that might meaningfully affect usage of the device). And even there, the challenge would be to convince the court that the undisclosed feature had truly meaningfully impacted the performance of the device.

            2. I don’t think you understand. They didn’t do ANYTHING on your phone; you did.

              Legally, there is a fundamental difference between you giving consent to someone to do something to your property (for example, bringing the phone to Apple Store, them offering to install update and you giving consent without their proper disclosure) and you installing something on your own free will, without duress. They offered software and described what it will do. In the description, they failed to disclose something. You may be eligible for some remedy if that non-disclosure is proven to have material consequences for you, but that is the entire extent of that. They never did ANYTHING to your phone; you did it all yourself.

            3. The material consequence is instead of one subpar part, the battery, we now have at least a second artificially subpar part, the processor, on a device advertised and sold, among other things, for it’s SPEED. They bragged how fast it was, and slowing it down, covertly, without consent is material damage. Really, this is malware level behavior.

            4. I agree that this was slowing down without consent.

              Malware level behaviour? In no way related to this.

              As for me, my (27-month old) battery lasts longer than it did before the update. Performance-wise, I cannot tell the difference.

            5. Intentionally inserting performance diminishing code without the owner’s knowledge and informed consent is a hallmark of malware… Legitimacy of source does not excuse illegitimacy of function.

              Anyway, they’re correcting it. Good!
              That they got slapped by their own users, even better.

      1. If Apple knew that iOS upgrades would break older iOS devices Apple should have warned consumers. Perhaps Apple needs to post warnings similar to cigarettes, “Installing this software may increase your risk of anger, frustration, and disappointment.”

        1. iOS upgrades didn’t break anything. If anything, iOS11 actually improved performance on older devices. A lot of common OS functions have been improved, and these now perform faster than on iOS 10 (thereby consuming less power).

          This is fairly simple. Apple decided that users would likely prefer to have their phones continue to run when batteries are old, rather than suddenly shut down in colder weather when CPU tries to do something intensive. They couldn’t imagine anyone would complain about their phone actually continuing to work, instead of shutting down.

          Obviously, they don’t know their customers as well as they think they do.

  2. this is the silliest of all nonsensical claims against apple including bend gate. there no fraud, that will be proven in court, just a bunch of ill informed whiners who misuse their devices nor try to understand the basics.

          1. While I understand that “it’s the idea that matters”, making sure your grammar and spelling are correct (or reduced to only 1 or 2 mistakes) will give your idea more credibility. Imagine being served your dessert on a dirty plate or the same on a clean plate. Same dessert (idea).

            1. Very good analogy!

              But “bright vs. brought”? “Auto installing” vs. “auto-installing”?
              For a site that discusses technical information?
              All while on a site that does not permit editing?
              Just to conform to a bunch of arbitrary, contrived rules?

              Oh dear…the wine is 0.1 degree too warm…
              Or is it the “princess and the pea”?

            2. Yeah, wish that you could edit posts even if it is within a short window. There are many times I post and then see some mistakes I could correct quickly.

    1. Ummm last time I checked, if you tell a consumer something that their phone is supposed to do, like run at a certain clock speed, and then you don’t tell them that you’re going to slow it down as it wears out, that merits a lawsuit.

      This is a huge Apple mistake. Tim Cook strikes again.

      Man I do not like this idiot ceo. Someone get someone better that is more like Steve Jobs already.

      1. Just checked my car’s owner’s manual. I couldn’t find anything that warned me that my car would go much slower if I failed to replace the gasoline that I consumed. Perhaps I should sue.

  3. I’ll stand by my post from yesterday, with and addition at the beginning.

    Maybe it would be a good idea for Apple to add a preference in the Settings app where each person could select one of two choices once the battery begins to degrade: full-speed processor performance with more frequent charging, or processor performance scaled down to match battery degradation.

    Does this sound like a reasonable request? Giving every iPhone owner the choice would likely resolve the issue, except for the ignorant whiners (to whom the following is lovingly directed).

    ——————-
    When I purchased a BMW many years ago, it ran great using using unleaded economy fuel (octane 87). About three years later, I needed to buy the mid-level grade (octane 89) so I could get the same level of acceleration as I had become accustomed to with the entry-grade fuel. At the seven year mark, I need to buy purchase premium fuel (octane 93 of 94) to maintain a very similar acceleration curve.

    This is due to two things: first, a compression test of the engine would confirm that it’s simply not as efficient as when it was factory new. Second, I’m hauling around more mass: golf clubs, two car seats, and my wife (although she would probably dispute the mass effect!).

    According to your logic, BMW should replace my engine with a new one for free and also provide me a generous check for buying more expensive fuel.

    If Apple had chosen to let older iPhone model processors to run at full speed, then your post would be a long complaint that “Apple should give me a new battery because the battery life is not the same as when it was new”.

    Things degrade over time. It’s an imperfect universe. Get over it.
    ——————–

    1. It’s not exactly the choice you describe. “full-speed processor performance with more frequent charging” is not really a choice in the scenario Apple is faced with. It is a choice between CPU throttling or unexpected shutdowns. Even at an apparent “full charge” older batteries cannot deliver their rated volts/amps when the CPU demands “everything you’ve got”. When the CPU doesn’t get the power it needs for high-demand process it literally blacks out. This was/is the issue that Apple was addressing, beginning more than a year ago. So… a “user choice” isn’t the best solution. I think a simple notification to the user, based on battery diagnostics that states “Your battery is no longer capable of supporting full processor demands. Apple recommends you replace your battery. To protect your device from unexpected shutdown, your device will throttle the CPU to prevent a power failure.” would be fully sufficient to keep user apprised of their choices. Or something like that.

      1. ” It is a choice between CPU throttling or unexpected shutdowns.”

        So were you given that choice?

        Even the so called “pre-announced” advisory (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207453) only tells you after the fact, and it’s publication only that there are circumstances the battery might need to be serviced. And nowhere is throttling your device mentioned.

        The advisory is what you would expect, a notice that the battery has degraded. What was not what one would expect is the trespass upon your device.

        1. That is not what the lawsuits are about though. The claim is that by throttling the processor, it makes the user think they have to upgrade to a new faster phone rather than the cheaper option of replacing the batteries. The fact that Apple has provided a battery service warning in Settings for over a year, makes this whole bunch of lawsuits completely frivilous.
          However, Apple needs to write an iOS update immediately. Call it iOS DEM (Dumbfuck Entitled Millenial) version, where every 2 minutes a warning screen appears with the message “Your battery is old, but you have been ignoring our warning to replace it. Rather than unexpected shutdowns, the processor has been slowed at times for a smoother running experience. However, if you are a Dumbfuck Entitled Mellenial who can’t leave their iPhone alone for 2 minutes, then you probably think your iPhone should run as you want it to, at full speed. So we have decided to give you a manual switch, as you have asked, because you think you are entitled to have one. But before you activate that switch, Ask yourself this question. Is it faster to have a slower, stable iPhone, or a fast one that often has to be restarted? We leave that easy decision to you. The best option is of course to get your battery replaced (If you can part from you iPhone that long)”

          1. The user may incidentally think they need to upgrade, especially the consumer level non-technical majority of Apple’s customers.
            Apple’s battery service advisory says nothing of the consequences, and certainly says nothing about slowdowns. Here it is:

            https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207453

            Nowhere is slowdown mentioned, just that it “may need to be serviced” and among other things (none involving throttling you “may experience unexpected shutdowns”.
            It also goes on to say it’s NOT a safety hazard.

            So… I see the advisory, I notice the warning under Settings>General>Battery, but I’m not getting shutdowns. Could a non-technical user interpret that as “may need to be serviced” also means “may not”? Throttling has never been suspected to brought up until now, and all I’m saying (so does MDN) is that Apple have fully informed the owner of the device as to what they did to the owners machine.

  4. I had a 5S until I got my about 3 months ago.

    I wondered if something was happening given the age of the phone. I more noticed that it was running about 10 degrees warmer than previously.

    Contract had been done for about 2 years so I just went for an 8 and I love it. Mixed feelings about the larger size, but…

    Having said that, it would have been so easy for Apple to just say what it was doing and the vast majority of us would have praised them for it.

    Too many unforced errors.

    High Sierra is the other issue with me right now. Backing down to Sierra, just too many small issues on both my Macbook, and my iMac, something nearly every day. Not ready for release.

  5. Yes, batteries wear out, but the instantaneous decrease in the battery life of my iPhone 6S+ upon ‘upgrading’ from iOS 10.3 to iOS 11.2 is not just a coincidence, it’s a cause IMO.

  6. Apple made a huge mistake not being more transparent of the issues and their actions; regardless of how well meaning I believe they were. There is an expectation of a certain level of myopics from engineers, but unless Phil Schiller wasn’t told of this bit of coding, he certainly failed his job. And if he wasn’t told, Federighi has some ‘splaining to do.

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