- Apple released a statement Thursday addressing the company's controversial decision to slow down older phones to protect battery stability.
- Independent research and social media posts found some Apple phones were more likely to be slow after certain software updates — but that was fixed by new batteries.
Apple released a statement Thursday addressing the company's controversial decision to slow down older phones to protect battery stability.
"We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There's been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we're making. First and foremost, we 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. 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 tech giant said it is slashing $50 off the out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement for the next year, bringing the cost down to $29 for anyone with an iPhone 6 starting in late January. A new software update will also arrive early next year giving users more insight into battery life.
John Poole, founder of software company Primate Labs, discovered earlier this month that iPhone 6s models running iOS version 10.2 and 11.2, and iPhone 7 phones running iOS 11.2, were more likely to have instances of lower processing speed. That research, using his company's software, confirmed a viral Reddit post from a user who noticed an increase in his phone's processing speed after replacing the battery.
The issue gained steam when Apple backed up Poole's findings, noting Dec. 20 that the company was trying to "smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down" when conditions were cold or as batteries aged.
By that time, consumers had taken to social media, outraged that they had not been informed of the change or given the option to replace the battery (rather than buy a new, faster phone). Poole told CNBC at the time that he thought Apple's approach to fixing the issue was reasonable, but the messaging was off.
It's relatively rare for Apple to comment on critical news stories. But this month's incident, which has come to be known as "battery gate," isn't the first time the tech giant has released a mea culpa for a product. For example, Apple shifted its stance on app store guidelines in 2010, and issued an extensive apology for issues with the iPhone 4.
— CNBC's Paayal Zaveri contributed to this report
"We've been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There's been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we're making.
First and foremost, we 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. 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.
How batteries age
All rechargeable batteries are consumable components that become less effective as they chemically age and their ability to hold a charge diminishes. Time and the number of times a battery has been charged are not the only factors in this chemical aging process.
Device use also affects the performance of a battery over its lifespan. For example, leaving or charging a battery in a hot environment can cause a battery to age faster. These are characteristics of battery chemistry, common to lithium-ion batteries across the industry.
A chemically aged battery also becomes less capable of delivering peak energy loads, especially in a low state of charge, which may result in a device unexpectedly shutting itself down in some situations.
To help customers learn more about iPhone's rechargeable battery and the factors affecting its performance, we've posted a new support article, iPhone Battery and Performance.
It should go without saying that we think sudden, unexpected shutdowns are unacceptable. We don't want any of our users to lose a call, miss taking a picture or have any other part of their iPhone experience interrupted if we can avoid it.
Preventing unexpected shutdowns
About a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.
Customer response to iOS 10.2.1 was positive, as it successfully reduced the occurrence of unexpected shutdowns. We recently extended the same support for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in iOS 11.2.
Of course, when a chemically aged battery is replaced with a new one, iPhone performance returns to normal when operated in standard conditions.
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.
Addressing customer concerns
We've always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We're proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors' devices.
To address our customers' concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple's intentions, we've decided to take the following steps:
- Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
- Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software 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.
- As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.
At Apple, our customers' trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted."