A little over a week ago Apple addressed the perception some users had about their iPhones running slower. Apple’s statement then:
Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.
Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.
Put simply, Apple stated (admitted?) that they began limiting the power draw on the battery during peak performance in January 2017 on iPhones with aged batteries that couldn’t handle the load.
I believe Apple in that the goal of this software feature was to prevent unexpected shutdowns, thus extending the useful life of an older iPhone, even if that meant it wasn’t as performant as it was when brand new.
The rest of the Internet seemed to disagree, and took this as proof of the age-old conspiracy theory that Apple intentionally plans the obsolescence of iPhones to drive sales of newer models.
That idea is folly, and ridiculous. Full stop.
This evidence is in the history. Apple offers software and hardware support for older models of phones far longer than anyone else in the industry. They also sell older models brand new at more affordable prices to make sure there is an iPhone model for almost anyone.
It simply does not make any sense that Apple would plan to slow down a brand new older model to push someone to buy a newer, more expensive model. That works directly against Apple’s best interests for itself and its customers.
That said, the perception that Apple intentionally hobbles devices out of greed is one that is rampant, and has been for years. I have family who outright believe it. And Apple’s lack of communication and clarity at the outset of rolling out this feature only helped to sow more distrust.
This afternoon, Apple blinked. They issued an open letter apologizing for their lack of clarity.
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.
I very much believe Apple in that second paragraph. It fits in line with the history of their actions. To drive the point home further, Apple concludes with action.
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, 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.
Apple is making the right moves here. They are carving themselves off a giant piece of humble pie. The forthcoming update to iOS with greater transparency for battery health is how this feature should have been introduced. The $29 battery replacement fee should probably be permanent instead of just for 2018. We’ll see what happens there.
I can’t sum up my thoughts about Apple’s misstep with communication better than John Gruber did earlier today:
The funny thing about Apple is that their communication problems tend to happen only when they don’t communicate at all. This whole iPhone battery controversy erupted only because Apple had never explained what was going on, which opened them up to accusations of nefarious intent. When they do communicate, they do so with clarity, plain language, and honesty. And, when called for — as in this case — humility.