U.S. officials probe Apple over iPhone throttling

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iPhone
Apple can't escape unhappy officials.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

U.S. officials are questioning Apple after the company admitted to throttling the performance of older iPhones.

Apple has already apologized for the practice and set up a battery replacement program in an effort to fix affected units. But that hasn’t saved the company from getting into hot water with authorities in a number of countries.

Apple finally confirmed in late December that recent iOS updates can decrease performance on older iPhone units. A new “feature,” first introduced with iOS 10.2.1, prevents iPhone processors from sapping too much energy. Apple says this prevents unexpected shutdowns.

But many iPhone fans aren’t happy with this practice. Many believe it should be up to the user to choose between the best possible performance or the longest possible battery life. Apple is now facing questions from a number of countries.

U.S. officials step in

“On Tuesday, Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, pressed Apple for answers to a series of questions about how the company decided to throttle back iPhone processing performance in phones with older batteries,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Thune asked “how Apple has tracked customer complaints of processing performance and if Apple has explored offering rebates to customers who paid full price for a battery replacement before the company offered discounted rates last month.”

Thune’s letter comes after government officials in Brazil, France, and South Korea confirmed they had contacted Apple in the wake of its public apology. Some see its practices as “planned obsolescence” — an effort to force customers to upgrade to newer devices.

Apple, which has also been hit with a number of class-action lawsuits from unhappy consumers, could face charges in some regions.

Apple’s apology

In a December 28 statement, Apple said it was sorry for letting iPhone users down and for not clarifying its throttling process for older batteries. It insisted, however, that it has “never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product.”

“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,” the statement continued.

iPhone owners with affected handsets — an iPhone 6 or later — can get their battery replaced by Apple out-of-warranty for $29. This service was previously priced at $79.

Apple has also promised an iOS update “with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.” This will arrive “early in 2018.”