Apple defends iPhone slowdown in Canadian parliament

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Apple's still defending the iPhone slowdown controversy.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple and Geekbench’s John Poole have testified in front of Canada’s House of Commons committee regarding the iPhone slowdown controversy, and how Apple handled it.

A representative for Apple Canada read prepared remarks, saying that the offending iOS update was intended to help devices continue to use old iPhones for longer. Meanwhile, Poole was asked to explain a few technical details of the slowdown and his thoughts on whether Apple purposely mislead the public.

Poole said that the slowdown, which is designed to preserve older batteries, was a good move in the long term, although customers may not have been aware of the exact effects it would have.

Apple’s argument

Apple’s representatives echoed Apple’s previous stance on the subject of iPhone slowdowns, and said that iOS 11.3, now in beta, makes it easier for users to check information about their battery. Here are their comments in full:

“Apple Canada Inc. is a sales and distribution entity. We also have 29 retail stores across Canada. The design, manufacture and testing of devices has always been done by Apple Canada’s parent company, Apple Inc. (“Apple”) which is based in California.

I’m here to help the Standing Committee understand the facts of Apple’s efforts to make sure that users of Apple devices get all the benefits from the devices they use, and that these benefits last as long as possible, even in a world of rapid innovation.

Apple Inc. has recently answered a series of questions posed by the chairs of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. Apple’s comprehensive answers to those questions are attached to my written statement.

I am here today to answer your questions, but before doing so, I would like to share a few important points at the outset about Apple’s actions regarding iPhone batteries and performance and what the Canadian consumer may have experienced as a result of those actions.

First, Apple would never intentionally do anything to shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience in order to drive customer upgrades. Apple’s entire philosophy and ethic is built around the goal of delivering cutting-edge devices that our customers love. Our motivation is always the user.

Second, Apple’s actions related to performance of iPhones with older batteries were designed specifically to prevent some older models from unexpectedly shutting down under certain circumstances. And we communicated this publicly. Let me explain.

In order for a phone to function properly, the electronics must be able to draw power from the battery instantaneously. But, as lithium-ion batteries age, their ability to hold a charge diminishes, and their ability to provide power to the device decreases. Very cold temperatures can also negatively affect a battery’s performance. A battery with a low state of charge may also cause the device to behave differently. These things are characteristics of battery chemistry that are common to lithium-ion batteries used in all smartphones, not just Apple’s.

If power demands cannot be met, the iPhone is designed to shut down automatically in order to protect the device’s electronics from low voltage.

We do not want our customers to experience interruptions in the use of their iPhones, whether that is making an emergency phone call, taking a picture, sharing a post, or watching the final minutes of a movie. To address the issue of unexpected shutdowns, we developed software that dynamically manages power usage when, and only when, an iPhone is facing the risk of an unexpected shutdown. This power management software helps keep iPhones on when they otherwise might turn off – it does this by balancing the demand for power with the available supply of power.

The sole purpose of the software update in this case was to help customers to continue to use older iPhones with aging batteries without shutdowns – not to drive them to buy newer devices.

Third, Apple regularly provides software updates for iPhone and our other devices. These software updates can include everything from new features, to bug fixes, to security updates. Whenever we issue a software update, we include a ReadMe note which has a description of the contents of the update for the customer to review prior to the software installation. In the case of iOS 10.2.1, we stated that it “improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone.”

Those things said, our intention has been to give our customers the best products and the best experiences possible. We take our customer concerns seriously and have taken a number of steps to address them.

First, Apple is offering to provide out-of-warranty replacement batteries for $35 instead of the original price of $99, to anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whether they have experienced any performance issues or not. This offer began on December 28, 2017, and is available through to the end of December 2018, so customers have plenty of time to take advantage of it.

Further, Apple is also providing customers with additional information on its website about iPhone batteries and performance including tips to maximize battery performance.

In addition, iOS 11.3, which is now in public beta, will add new features to give customers easy access to information about the health of their iPhone’s battery. Available this spring, the new software will offer power management which will recommend if a battery needs to be serviced. It will also allow customers to see whether the power management is on, and they can choose to turn it off if they wish.”

iPhone slowdown drama

Apple previously admitted to issuing a software upgrade for iOS which caused older iPhones to slow down. However, Apple has said that it did this to prolong the life of their lithium-ion batteries, rather than anything intended to push users to upgrade.

In the aftermath of the controversy, which broke earlier this year, Apple notified customers that it would reduce the price on out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacements by $50, putting the cost at just $29. The offer covers anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, through December 2018.

While it’s possible to argue that Apple has done nothing wrong here (apart from possibly not being as clear as it should have from the start), the ensuing PR nightmare echoed around the world. A number of different lawsuits have been brought against Apple, while demands for explanations have been made by officials in countries including Brazil, South Korea, and France. In South Korea, 370,000 individuals — or the equivalent of one out of every 138 people who live in the country — signed up to join a class action suit against Apple.

Do you think Apple was in the right or the wrong with the iPhone slowdown drama? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: iMore