The most annoying things about Apple’s iPhone ‘batterygate’ apology

“Apple late on Thursday did the right thing and finally apologized for the iPhone slowdown scandal,” Chris Smith writes for BGR. “In a lengthy letter to customers, Apple explained why iPhones with older batteries are slowed down and announced new measures meant to address your concerns.”

“Apple’s apology is far from perfect, and there are plenty of annoying things about it,” Smith writes. “Apple never acknowledges that it misled iPhone users when it released the iOS 10.2.1 update last year. It never told users that, once the iPhone’s battery has a certain age, iOS will slow down the phones. Preventing unexpected shutdowns is definitely commendable. Nobody wants that kind of smartphone ‘feature.’ But Apple failed to properly inform users of what’s going on.”

“Apple is basically telling us that it’s not testing iOS updates appropriately. That it’s not thoroughly checking new iOS releases on older devices. That iPhones with chemically aged batteries aren’t in use anywhere at Apple, so these performance issues aren’t noticed by the iPhone users that matter most, Apple engineers,” Smith writes. “Apple had to wait for user feedback to realize that the iPhone slowdown, which Apple caused, is to blame for the poorer user experience on older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We agree. This is also a blindspot for most of the tech press, ourselves included, as most of us always have current iPhone hardware. As Day One owners of every flagship iPhone, the oldest iPhones we’ve ever used regularly have never been more than roughly a year old. (We have in the past powered up older iPhones to compare features and iOS versions, but never for regular use.) As is our annual custom, our year-old iPhone 7 Plus units were sold and the proceeds applied to the cost of this year’s flagship iPhone X units.

So, the batteries inside our iPhones – and inside most of the tech media’s iPhones – never get to the point where any slowdowns would take place. We’ve got a few older iPhones in the hands of less technically-inclined friends and family members and we’re going to pay more attention to them when they complain of issues including their complaints that the iPhone is “slow.”

Again, it’s Apple’s lack of communication that is the problem here. If Apple had clearly explained what was going on in the software, we’d know to recommend a battery replacement when users complained their older iPhones were getting “slow.” As it was, we were pretty much left to assume that the processor/RAM wasn’t up to par with demands of newer iOS releases and we’d naturally recommend getting a new iPhone.

Just yesterday, we had a friend complain that his iPhone 6 was acting “slow” and we knew to recommend a battery replacement (even though he instead opted to get himself an iPhone X on our strong recommendation).

SEE ALSO:
iFixit discounts iPhone battery replacement kits as Apple cuts prices, apologizes for the confusion – December 29, 2017
15 class action lawsuits filed against Apple for throttling iPhones with aging batteries – December 29, 2017
Apple apologizes for poor communication about iPhone batteries and performance; slashes battery replacement cost from $79 to $29 – December 28, 2017
No, Apple’s throttling of iPhones with aging batteries is not planned obsolescence – December 28, 2017
Apple execs face jail in France after lawsuit over slowing down iPhones – December 28, 2017
Korea seeks explanation from Apple for slowing down devices without warning – December 28, 2017
Apple now facing 8 lawsuits over throttling processors in iPhones with aging batteries – December 27, 2017
Apple tarnished their brand with clandestine iPhone battery management and processor throttling – December 27, 2017
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, 2017
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

54 Comments

  1. This claim doesn’t make sense. Of course Apple engineers were aware of how degraded batteries negatively affect iPhone performance, otherwise they would never have written this code to slow down the CPU rather than risk it crashing if the battery can’t supply enough power.

    You can argue about how much Apple should have disclosed about this issue, but you can’t possibly claim that Apple was unaware about how iPhones function less well with old batteries.

    1. nor claim Apple intentionally or maliciously misled, MND is complicit in propagating the undue apple bashing. they no moral or legal obligation to add in pop ups every time they change something esp for the better. kudos to cook and team for being so magnanimous and good faith.

      1. Well, Apple did apologize. That means Apple admitted that Apple could of and should of performed better. Perhaps in the future Apple will act better, communicate better, and design better. Surely you would agree that this will benefit Apple and its customers.

            1. Fred,

              Apple apologized for not communicating more clearly what it was doing. It did not admit that what it was doing was wrong. In fact, it explained at some length why what it was doing was NOT wrong. By smoothing out peak battery usage on iPhones with poorly-performing batteries, it was avoiding damage to the device and potentially dangerous sudden crashes.

            2. The courts will communicate it for all of us, no?

              All I can tell you is this…
              If I downloaded an App that covertly hampered the performance of my device, intentionally, it would be listed as malware.

            3. Depends on your definition of performance. Some might say the device operating as fast as possible all the time is what they consider performance. Others might say extending the usable lifespan of the device is what they consider performance. I want a Toyota and you want a Tesla.

            4. “How about not operating at the level before the change?”

              Before the change the device would just shut off when the device exceeded the battery’s capacity to supply a spike of power. After the change the device could at least complete whatever you were doing without shutting down, but a bit slower. With both options the device is not operating at the level you want. There is no “level before the change”. You either have a device that shuts off when the battery is taxed too much or a device that slows down the task that is taxing the battery to avoid a device shutdown. Do you want your device to just shut off, possibly stranding you without a working phone for 15 minutes or more?

            5. “That’s fine. Then I know to have it fixed. Or at least inform what they did ti my property so u can remediate the situation. Re regardless, the point is moot.”

              I’m sorry, your entire comment is confusing. I doubt you’d be fine with your device shutting off for 15 minutes if that happened and five minutes later you needed to phone 911 to save the life of your child. Then you’d want to sue Apple, I’m sure of that.

              The point is not moot, there is no “level before the change”, to answer your original question “How about not operating at the level before the change?”

              I agree Apple should inform users, and it sounds like they will. Then you can choose between load levelling or getting a new battery. I would be surprised if Apple allowed users to turn off the load levelling feature though, it’s an unsafe mode to operate in. But a notification that it is happening would be good, then you can go get a new battery.

    2. What about the folk who have just recently purchased a new battery at $79 to try and resolve battery/performance issues with a 6S – are we going to get an Apple Store credit ?

    3. This is exactly the problem I have with Apple’s apology is that they had to have been aware of what they were doing and what the issues were. Look at this part of their apology:

      Recent user feedback

      “Over the course of this fall, we began to receive feedback from some users who were seeing slower performance in certain situations.

      Based on our experience, we initially thought this was due to a combination of two factors: a normal, temporary performance impact when upgrading the operating system as iPhone installs new software and updates apps, and minor bugs in the initial release which have since been fixed.

      We now believe that another contributor to these user experiences is the continued chemical aging of the batteries in older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices, many of which are still running on their original batteries.”

      Why did Apple insert this into their apology? This comes after the part where they say they’ve changed the power management in iOS and slowed the devices down. It looks like they put this in to cover their butts. As you can see, they say that the feedback they got over the fall about slow performance was taken to be the result of software bugs or temporary performance impacts as a result of upgrading iOS and Apps.

      What nonsense Apple. You knew that it was the throttling or ought to have known that was the culprit for chunks of the customer feedback you refer to. And you failed to communicate that to customers. Only now that you’ve been exposed do you admit to it.

  2. If I understand this issue correctly, Apple is not slowing down iPhones all the time, they are avoiding peak speed bursts which overtax an old battery. If your phone is very slow it is likely due to another cause.

    My mom’s iPad slowed down a lot because she had little free storage. Other phones need a wipe and reinstall.

    1. Degredation of performance was a direct result of Apple’e recommended “security update”. That’s not good. Now Apple has to suffer the consequences. Apple did not have to do this, but they did. Apple deliberately induced people to install software that degraded the performance of their older iOS devices.

    2. You’re right, Fred. Apple didn’t have to do this. It could have let its customers continue to experience sudden crashes that had the potential to leave them stranded without warning someplace without a working device. Do you really find that more acceptable than leveling out peak usage from old batteries so that the device can keep working?

      1. Hmmm. Apple can’t provide security updates with causing degraded performance. So users will have to accept and expect iOS devices that perform poorly no matter what. Why?

  3. MDN says: “So, the batteries inside our iPhones – and inside most of the tech media’s iPhones – never get to the point where any slowdowns would take place.”
    Careful here. There’s no “Getting to the point”, it’s when Apple’s code directs the battery to throttle. What does the algorithm look like?
    “It [Apple] never told users that, once the iPhone’s battery has a certain age, iOS will slow down the phones.”
    It’s sad to think that the throttle design may have more to do with the battery’s age, and potentially other factors we don’t know…yet, than the battery’s condition.
    …From somebody that has meticulously babied their battery.
    There’s much we still don’t know, which the class-actions will certainly uncover as the subpoenas start rolling in.
    My replacement battery should be $0.00, not $29.00, thank you!

    1. I’m curious, why should you(or anyone) deserve a zero cost battery replacement?

      Everyone knows that batteries age and eventually fail. We all learned this early on in our first battery operated toys.

      If Apple would have allowed your device to become unstable, instead of throttling the processor to compensate, would you still deserve a zero cost battery replacement?

      Isn’t instability more of a reason to prompt an update rather then speed? Doesn’t keeping older equipment stable longer prompt people to keep it longer than instability would?

      For me if ANY ITEM has stability issues, which gives the unreliable perception, that condition prompts a change. Speed is more of a secondary concern, unless it eventually leads to the unreliable perception. i.e. You buy a performance car new, add over 100k miles, it starts and runs reliably but it may not have the performance it originally had, the manufacturer may have logic in the computer to tune performance in support of reliability <– they actually do this.

      Apple should have stated they were doing this in the software update, that was wrong of them. to compensate for their error, they are offering a low-cost solution to restore performance and stability to older hardware. While this doesn't make up for the lack of communications, it is an offering for their mistaken lack of communications.

      1. Everyone knows (or should know) that batteries age and their maximum capacity degrades over time. This means that your iPhone new will last X hours, and after time will last X-Y hours. Apple has been very open and honest about that.

        What is new and unexpected by many is that the maximum output voltage of the battery diminishes over time to a point below the voltage requirements of the iPhone during peak usage regardless of the capacity left in the battery.

        Yes, it totally makes sense to have iOS throttle the iPhone down so that an iPhone doesn’t shut down when what otherwise would be a temporary peak voltage requirement doesn’t exceed the output capacity of the battery.

        So Apple was open and honest in informing customers that their iPhones would degrade over time in terms of hours of available use on a charge, but not open and honest in regards to peak performance degrading over time as the battery ages.

        Disclosing this information in the iOS update wouldn’t have made a difference. By then, there were 4 choices for many users:
        1) Buy a new battery

        2) Don’t upgrade iOS and know that your iPhone will shut down when it exceeds peak output voltage of the battery.

        3) Upgrade iOS and know that your iPhone will have reduced peak performance.

        4) Buy a new phone.

        These options weren’t disclosed as decisions to be made by customers who purchased the iPhones and would likely be required to make one over a typical lifespan of the product.

        That said, I do feel that a $29 battery replacement is fair and reasonable compensation in regards to this issue. Many people won’t ever be affected by it either because the battery won’t degrade over their use of the product (mine didn’t) or because they won’t notice the throttling of peak performance.

        1. Part of what makes the uninformed throttling of the CPU also a problem is that it might hide a potential ‘bad’ battery that may degrade prematurely or be sold slightly degraded. For a new user of a newly purchased iPhone, the difference in actual speed and what should have been ‘full’ capacity speed would not be known unless the user was told to check the performance of their device.

  4. How dumb are all these knuckleheads not to realize or feign ignorance about diminished battery life in portable devices! We’ve only experienced this phenomenon for the last 80 years, 10 years with the iPhone. Talk about completely disingenuous blather!

  5. I have a 2 year old 6 that I always charge every night (and leave plugged for 7 hrs). I rarely need to charge it during the day, and when I plug it in, it has between 15% and 80% battery left, most typically 20-30%. According to Battery Life app by Elinasoft Technologies, my battery is at 83% of design capacity. I fail to see how losing 17% of the battery’s capabilities in 2 years counts as unusual, and fail to see why it should need replacing once that magic number hits 80%. I do get “unexpected shutdowns”, and always have, almost all related to having my phone get too cold when I go skiing or outdoor winter activity. This is not unusual; most of my battery powered things (even my car battery) don’t like temps of -25°C. So I fail to understand why Apple had to take action for a problem I don’t have. Y’all seem to think the problem is Apple not telling people it was taking action. I think the problem is that it took action it didn’t need to. Apple is thrusting it’s version of “greatness” at me whether I want it or not. But then they do that all the time. They push out OS updates on my Mac or iPhone, pester me to take them, and orphan my software when I do, making my apps not “unexpectedly shut down” but deliberately make them not work at all. I’m sorry, but the whole “we don’t deliberately degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades” is just BS. Of course they do. High Sierra orphans non 64 bit software as just one example.

  6. People would be crazy to think this was not profit motivated. I have recently noticed that I see fewer bars on my signal strength indicators on both an iPhone 6 plus, and an iPad Air. I wonder when we will find out that they can manipulate connectivity to drive people to want a new phone/device. The reality is that the software running these phones can be manipulated to have the indicators say anything that Apple wants them to say. The days of an altruistic company wanting to make a difference seem to be over at 1 Infinite Loop. I am afraid that the performance throttling is only the tip of the iceberg.

    How many screens does one need to break to figure out that phones made of glass break more easily than the flip phones of 15 years ago. Apple assures us they are using the strongest glass, yet we see a drop to the floor result in a hefty charge. Someone at Apple knows exactly how fragile the products truly are.

    I guess there would be fewer upgraders if a phone was durable, and had a reliable battery, or a replaceable battery. Make the phone underperform, or break easily, and people upgrade…Now do you feel manipulated?

    Remember when it came out that the iPhone 4 had bad connectivity and they told us that it was the way we were holding the phone…What next???

  7. Slowdowns occur with iMac’s and Macbooks as the software is updated – particularly before new hardware releases.

    There is no battery performance to blame. It’s about time the press looked at that issue.

  8. It was way blown out of proportion, we all know newer software makes older hardware works slower try any older windows pc what happened when newer updates or new os installed on it, to say apple did it to force people to upgrade is absurd, they could hardly meet demand with iPhone X, why would they jeopardize their name for no reason, apple did favor to people by limiting the usage of battery and preventing shutting the older phones (which is way more worse) lawyers just need an excuse to gain, even if they win consumers won’t gain anything, battery program will help consumers, useless lawsuit will end up increasing cost to consumers in future and consumers will be the losers.

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