$500 million won’t stop Apple from another iPhone Batterygate, but this will

Apple last week agreed to settle the iPhone ‘Batterygate’ throttling class action lawsuit and will pay up to $500 million to settle litigation accusing it of quietly slowing down older iPhones in order to to induce owners to buy replacement phones or batteries. But, it’s not the $500 million that will dissuade the company from not properly communicating with their customers in the future.

Adam Minter for Bloomberg:

iPhone Batterygate. Image: Apple's iPhone 7
Apple’s iPhone 7
It was December 2017 and Apple Inc.’s recently released iPhone X was delighting a small cohort of owners with its upgraded technology and blazing performance. At the same time, a different cohort of iPhone owners was dismayed by the slowing performance of their older models. The culprit, it turned out, was Apple: It had sent a software update that slowed the performance of older iPhones as their batteries aged, and failed to notify their users. Late last week, the company reached a class-action settlement that could pay as much as $500 million to iPhone owners to resolve what was nicknamed “Batterygate.”

Apple admits no wrongdoing and has long held that that episode was a misunderstanding. Many consumer advocates thought otherwise, going so far as to suggest that Apple was trying to nudge consumers into buying new iPhones. Whatever the truth, it’s unlikely that Apple will ever again install a secret, performance-reducing feature in a product. But it’s not the multimillion-dollar lawsuit that will keep them from doing it. Instead, Apple’s growing business selling used iPhone gives the company a powerful financial incentive to promote and defend the handset’s durability.

The infamous “Batterygate” update was very much in this spirit of maintaining the iPhone’s reputation for reliability. Apple insists that the software was designed to ensure that older iPhones didn’t suffer other performance problems as they aged. The problem is that Apple didn’t bother to divulge the update.

MacDailyNews Take: There won’t be another iPhone Batterygate because Apple wants, and needs, previously-owned iPhones to known for reliability as the secondary market is key for Apple to grow their iPhone users base, which in turn feeds Apple’s Services business and provides a halo for other products such as iPads, Apple Watches, Macs, Apple TVs, HomePods, etc.

You can see why some think that Apple wanted to keep what they were doing a secret. If people knew that a $79 battery replacement would give them an iPhone that performed like it did on day one, a meaningful percentage would take that option versus buying a new iPhone. Now that it’s just $29 this year, that percentage will naturally increase.

Then again, as Hanlon’s razor states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

Apple’s made up of people. People are imperfect. We’ll take Apple’s word for it that they “always wanted… customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible” and that they “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.” — MacDailyNews, January 3, 2018

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).MacDailyNews, December 29, 2017

As has almost always been the case with Apple, unfortunately, transparency comes later, not sooner, and usually as a reaction to negative publicity. A simple Knowledge Base article would have preempted all of this Reddit sleuthing and the attendant handwringing and erroneous presumptions.MacDailyNews, December 20, 2017

1 Comment

  1. Tesla you are next, batteries do wear out and sometimes they blow up, they have to be controlled and constantly monitored to work over their life time of use (common sense) ???

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