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. This is bs. Nobody would ever opt for a slower phone.
    Up until this excuse let’s face it. Apple wanted the phones to seem to work poorly with a newer ios so you’d buy a new phone. I was good with believing that the newer iOS would include features that overloaded the processor. But for them to purposely throttle back my processor is really low

    I think all three are true. Obviously battery life dies. But a newer iOS overloads the processor and Apple throttling. All without telling us. That’s low. I’d rather charge more than have a slower phone. How about ask. Or tell us your slowing the phone.

    1. Another reason for being silent has occurred to me. It may be possible that one reason for keeping silent was to encourage OS upgrades and continue each year to claim large OS update percentages quickly after a major OS release. If users knew upfront (not hidden deep in the deluge of updates text) of how much demand the OS would have on older devices, users may not have been as enthusiastic to install the update. A Marketing decision to avoid “fragmenting” the OS versions in active use?

          1. There is an error in your premise.

            iOS 11 brought performance improvements over iOS 10. Quite many system functions have been improved, and the total OS footprint is actually smaller (in other words, iOS 11 takes up less space than iOS 10). The new iOS 11 does NOT overload the processor, nor does it overload the battery. In fact, iOS 11, being faster, is more efficient on the battery and it actually improves battery life over iOS 10. People who bought 6s in September (with iOS 10) and then upgraded to iOS 11 have noticed improvement. With a fresh battery (and consequently no throttling), iOS 11 is faster, smaller and more battery-efficient than iOS 10.

            For those whose battery is already years old, iOS allows them to continue using their phone when otherwise (with iOS 10) the battery power would be insufficient for full CPU use, which would cause shutdowns.

            I have one of the first 6S models (ordered on day one). Its battery was in the batch that was recalled, and I was eligible to replace it. I haven’t yet done it, as it had performed perfectly fine for me. It is now over two years old. Before this September, my phone did have a habit of suddenly shutting down, even at 40% of battery capacity, when I was doing something CPU-intensive (playing some 3D-rendering game, or watching some HD video). After upgrading to iOS 11, this no longer happens, not even now that it is cold. Furthermore, I finish my day with 30% of battery charge left. I do notice, on a rare occasion, that the phone is slower, but I can’t imagine preferring to have it randomly shut down, just so that it could squeeze every ounce of current out of that 2-year old battery every once in a while.

            One of these days, I will most likely replace that battery (since it is free, part of that recall batch), and I’m now curious if I will realistically notice performance improvement with the fresh battery. iOS 11 has already delivered the performance improvements anyway, I don’t think I’ll be getting my 8 anytime soon (and I was actually planning to do it).

            1. I understand the OS footprint (space the code that makes up the OS takes on the device) may be smaller but that does not necessarily mean that it takes less memory when running. As a software developer I have had to balance the way I code resulting in an increase in the number of coding lines but results in a smaller memory footprint and faster execution when running.

              I understand Apple’s reasoning for creating subroutines to manage power and throttle the CPU to avoid ‘failures’ during times of peak power draw. I can see it happening on occasion, kudos to Apple for thinking of handling it so elegantly. The problem arises when the throttling becomes so frequent it is in effect hiding the real problem of the battery progressing to failure and not effectively notifying the user that CPU throttling has become frequent enough that the throttled state is near permanent and battery replacement is recommended.

              Apple’s failure to effectively inform the user is the root of the current problem. Courts of law have been known to rule that a notification is not fully ‘delivered’ if the recipient does not recognize they have received it. Thus subpeonas are always handed/served in-person to the recipient to avoid any doubt instead of via physical or electronic mail.

  2. I have a bit more cynical view on this (and others). Ever since Tim Cook took over the reign, I feel that Apple I used to admire and love completely changed. Their mojo has gone. Now, it’s all about money. This particular case is about the “planned obsolescence” no matter what Apple says. The recent report that iPhone X may not be selling as well as Apple was insisting (which I think is actually happening), and overhyping the X, are all tied, that resulted in repelling of faithful customers and Apple knew it very well. I have left over 4s, 5s and SE, and 7 (I am using an 8 now), and as far as I could tell, they do not show any significant slowdown as I updated the OS (except the 4s is on 9.5). Why only 6/6s/7 and SE? In any case, the choice of slowdown vs. battery replacement ($75 affair, which is far below Apple’s usual margin for new phones)) should obviously be the customer’s choice, not Apple’s. The fact that Apple purposely concealed their action (pls no excuse. That’s what you did, Apple, for a reason you know) is very indicative of customer manipulation (just like hyping). I do not expect any corporation to be always honest, but at least upfront to the very customers they serve and collect money from. Very very bad….

  3. And Cook’s response to this is a childish remark, “the sales of the iPhone X is through the roof”, instead of denying the report and explicitly say that the sales is more than hoped for etc, a more professional response. This is in the category of the “hyping mentality”. I only hope he is correct and telling the truth. But somehow, I cannot escape from the image of him making a banzai pose (photos are everywhere), telling everybody that the world is rosy. Just my personal opinion though.

  4. Apple’s brand is tarnished after all this and the other recent unforced errors. I’ve been an Apple guy from the beginning. My family has not. They finally bought in with iPhone 6 and now are PISSED that their phones are crappy slow. They’ll never buy anything Apple again and bitterly predict Apple’s imminent demise and loss of Gen Y and Z. Fun Christmas Eve.

  5. Apple might very well let people opt out of this very handy fix to a problem inherent in the best battery technology currently on the market.

    If they do, however, read the disclaimer that will UNDOUBTEDLY appear when you try to do so, because even without reading it, even without it even having been written yet, I can tell you the gist of what it will say:

    “What you’re about to do is a really stupid thing to do, and is really abuse of your iPhone, so if you complain about the results, or suffer other damages because reality didn’t conform to your whims, we’re not responsible. You think you’re so smart and so victimized, fine; do as you please – but it’s on you.

    “And, oh by the way, buy an Android phone next time. You’re probably too dumb to have an iPhone.”

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