Apple Gives In To Furious Customers, Slashes Price On iPhone Slowdown Fix

Apple has finally recognised that it will have to do more to calm customers' ire after admitting to, and then apologizing for slowing down their old iPhones. In a letter my mother would have said was "passive aggressive" and "not really apologetic at all" had I written it, Apple wrote: "We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologise." To that end, the company has slashed the price of battery replacements for iPhone 6, 6s, and 7 devices from $US80 to $US30.

The letter, which comes eight days after Apple confirmed rumours it was slowing down phones with ageing batteries, possessed a frustrated tone, and if you know anything about how batteries age you might be just as frustrated as Apple sounds. That's because by all accounts, Apple slowed down older iPhones in an effort to prevent an even more frustrating problem -- the unexpected shutdown of phones.

In iOS 10.2 and earlier, iPhones had an obnoxious issue. As the batteries in these devices aged (and there's really no way to prevent a battery in a phone from ageing), the operating time naturally shortened, but in periods of "peak load" the phone would shut down, often unexpectedly, and even when the battery appeared to have have 40 per cent of more of its life left - I know because my iPhone 6 was affected by the issue.

It was deeply frustrating, and after spending three months with a battery pack strapped to my phone because otherwise I couldn't trust it to actually be on when I needed it to be on, I went out and picked up a battery replacement kit from iFixit for $US30.

But had I been one of those people who regularly updated my iPhone 6, I would have updated to iOS 10.2.1, which included a quiet fix for the shutdown problem. Instead of the phone mysteriously going caput at a moment's notice, the phone's operating system would instead throttle the processor and keep the phone alive. So you'd be able to make calls - but gaming, browsing, and everything else would move at a slower pace.

This is where Apple screwed up. Instead of displaying a pop-up that said something like, "Your phone is going into Ultra Low Power Mode, please service your battery at your earliest convenience," the software just did its business and left many users feeling frustrated. Now only was their phone not lasting as long (the batteries were still bad and had shorter than expected lifespans), but their phone was slow as heck, too.

As Geekbench noted when it analysed the data it had secured from it's own users, the slowdown became even more pronounced in iOS 11.2, sparking rumours that Apple was purposely slowing down older phones to force people to upgrade. The rumour had so much weight behind it that Halte à l'Obsolescence Programmée, a French consumer advocacy group, filed a suit yesterday in France under a 2015 law that forbids companies from purposely making older technology obsolete, and last week two separate class actions were filed here in the US.

That might be difficult to prove as Apple is correct: Old batteries do lose their ability to maintain a charge, and thanks to the mad dash to make phones water resistant, most phones no longer allow for the battery to be easily replaced. Yet, as HTC and Motorola told the Verge today, neither throttling or unexpected shutdowns are the typical intended behaviour for phones with ageing batteries, either. Apple's response to older batteries on the iPhone 6, 6s, and 7 has been a departure both for the company and the phone community as a whole.

But dropping the price on battery replacements is a nice step in a better direction (and one I can only hope becomes standard for Apple and all other phone makers). While an iPhone battery can be procured online for $US15, a kit, including all the necessary tools, starts at $US25 on iFixit and goes up to $US50 for an iPhone 7 Plus. And the repair itself can be dangerous or destructive if you don't know what you're doing. Paying $US30 to have someone else do the entire repair is a steal for most people.

In addition to the cut in cost of battery replacement for the affected phones, Apple has also promised an update to iOS:

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.

It's unclear what this update will look like. It could be as simple as an app (there are plenty of those available currently), or it could even be a notification that lets you know when its time to consider a battery replacement.

Either way, as phones become more costly and consumers grow more reluctant to upgrade every year or two, we are likely to see more stories like this - phones giving up the ghost far soon than you'd expect given their price tags.

[Apple]

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Comments

    Any chance we can get an Australian update of this? Are Apple Australia doing this battery replacement, and if so, what is the cost ($30USD would translate to just under $40AUD on the current exchange)?

      $30USD usually converts to about $365AUD from most vendors.

      But both you and I know that the actual Australian price will be much higher than the US price converted to AUD. Government sales tax and Australia tax

      I do believe it's $39, down from $129.

        Yeah ended up reading an article on another site saying $39 in Australia, which is great if true. It will supposedly start in late Jan and go until December.

    I had confidence when changing batteries on smartphones. The last lot I did was for iPhone's 5SE down.

    Now that they're water resistant, their aesthetics and engineering scare me to bother opening them - the seals and the fact that the housing is practically glued together makes me believe it's best to leave such repairs to the experts.

    I was pretty proficient at pulling apart the good old Nokia's, Ericsson, Motorola's, etc... this was pre-iFixIt and YouTube days.

    It's a trade-off; aesthetics and features for disposable and costly technology when things break.

      its fairly easy and if you have a little time and are patient you can replace your battery or do many other maintenance jobs on the seemingly inaccessible iphone. I didnt have the extremely tiny torx screw to start the job but my local phone store(an Indian store) were very kind enough to unscrew the screws for me and I just kept the screws in some tape so as not to lose them, meaning to take it back so that they could screw the screws back in again? Still haven't actually done this but does not affect the operations of the phone at all as the frame and screen bezel snaps nicely into place when you put it back together again. I did a screen replacement because my home button and parts of my screen on my 5S were dead and unresponsive. I'm now beginning to think that I was a bit hasty and that this lag in performance may be very closely or even completely caused by this battery slow down in performance! So I too will try the DIY route!

    Considering how often people replace phones I feel like the battery should be lasting longer than it is. I mean the Iphone 6 is only 3 years old (if you bought it on release) I'd have thought (hoped) the battery wouldn't have degraded so badly it needed throttling.

    Anyway, be interesting to see what their patch includes. Whether it'll just be a notification or an actual toggle to let you choose between throttling and battery life.

    I also wonder whether the battery life indicator needs better logic behind it. Surely if you have phones shutting down at 40% battery because they're actually running out of battery life then your battery indicator software is wrong.

      The battery isn't shutting down because it ran out of charge, it was failing to supply enough voltage to keep the device running. It still had charge to keep the phone running, but couldn't do so while the phone was working too hard. Hence the fix.

      Besides, it's inherent to lithium-ion technology that the batteries degrade over time. There is no real way around that, except replacing the battery.

      The Capacity logic is fine, it's the battery's real-time performance that is at the root of this.
      Batteries push electrons, and need to push Enough of them (Current) Fast Enough (Voltage) down the wiring in order to feed the circuits they are attached to - and contrary to popular belief, batteries are not perfect, clean power sources, their electrical values do fluctuate in response to load, temperature, and chemistry.
      If either of these key electrical values slumps outside of tolerance, a finely tuned and engineered circuit (like a mobile phone) will malfunction - it is up to the circuit designer to anticipate potential failure conditions and implement potential mitigation actions (e.g. Restart, Shutdown, Throttle, Pause)

        In that case they need two battery indicators not just one.

        Exactly. A battery's life is not an "exact" science, we are talking about chemical engineering here. The "way" a user uses the phone, and they way they charge it can have a great impact, chemically on the battery, no matter what the "specs" say. If you leave your phone in a very hot/cold environments, or leave it on the charger most of its life (rare I know), but these can all "change" the life span of a battery.
        What skrybe said is actually a great idea, one indicator for how charged the battery is, and one, perhaps in the settings, for the overall "health" of the battery.

          or leave it on the charger most of its life (rare I know)
          I am one of these people, since I got an Apple Watch my phone sits on the charger 95% of the day. I tried to failed to find any concrete information about the effect of this, just people offering opinions from 'it's fine' to 'your battery will be wrecked in a month'.

          (unfortunately with the Apple Watch I need the phone connected to the mobile network to receive text messages - calls & imessage seem to work fine standalone)

            With older non-Li-ion batteries and devices, there were no safeguards in place to stop a battery from trying to charge when full. As such, the battery would deteriorate faster.
            Through advancements in software and hardware, this is no longer an issue.

            Basically, by leaving it in the charger all the time, the battery is never cycling, this isn't a problem for Lithium based batteries, and it wont wreck your battery but... it wont keep it going any longer either, as ALL batteries age (chemically), and eventually die. Basically, once the charging circuit senses that the battery is no longer drawing current, it shuts off charging current to the battery, "most" devices will then just run off the AC/USB power supply. This will not damage Li based batteries, but age still gets ya in the end.
            There are methods to get more life from Li, for example, don't fully discharge them, maybe let them get to around 25%, then charge. Try not to charge them "fast". Using a USB port to charge, 5V/0.5A will charge a phone slower, than say a 5V/1A wall charger, and, statistically, lengthen the life of the battery, I say statistically because, there's no "hard" science here, too many unknown variables, environment temp? Li hates heat! also, the faster you draw current (use every app on the phone at once etc), heats the battery, and reduces overall life, small, and medium paced charges/discharges relieves battery stress, and prolongs life. How long was the battery on the shelf before you purchased it, also is something people forget. Batteries have shelf lives no different than a carton of milk, even Li, so be careful not to buy old (but new) stock.
            Honestly, I just wish ALL phones had a standard, simple door at the back so I could change it when ever I fuckin wanted..simply!...problem solved, but planned obsolescence (this includes servicing) is still alive and well it seems.

    I don't use Apple products, but understand why they might employ this workaround. A cynic on the other hand, might believe that the motive was purely around 'encouraging' the user to dip into their pockets and purchase a newer iPhone.

    Apple should definitely have been upfront with this one.

    The explanation given above implies that the ageing batteries were unable to supply adequate power under peak load. This is different to diminished capacity and sounds like a straight fault to me.

      Batteries are chemical storage - they can never be truely recharged to actual 100%
      They'll get incredibly close, close enough to be considered "Fully Charged", but there will always be that little bit that doesn't properly revert its state after a recharge cycle, and over time this will increase.
      As long as this occurs naturally over the course of the battery's life rather than quickly due to material failure, this is just age/normal wear and tear

      Last edited 29/12/17 1:51 pm

        The big problem is they use batteries half the size of other brands so the normal 500 charge cycle happens after 500 days not 1000 like phones that are charged every other day.

      It's the day after new years and I'm still a little off so bear with me.

      Batteries are very complex chemical storage.

      They have no just reserve current (what you would call capacity) but also supply current (How much they can supply at a given voltage) and internal resistance (this is what causes voltage drops at high load)

      Batteries do not supply a constant voltage as reserve current drops the output voltage drops. It's quite a complex slope and varies widely across battery types. As they age both reserve capacity drops and internal resistance increases.

      Say you have a 10volt battery with 1ohm resistance. You try to pull 1amp out of your battery your supply voltage drops to 9volts. Increasing current draw to say 2 amps then your voltage drops to 8volts.

      Apple limited current draw to stop the battery voltage dropping as going under voltage would cause the phone to shutdown.

      That's just one factor, as a battery decreases it's supply voltage also again drops because of horribly complex chemical reactions, so at 100% charge your 10v then at 50% your 10v, but then it starts a slope so 40% is 9v, 30% is 7v etc etc.

      I hope this kind of makes sense, like I said, hung over.

    To me, it sounds like these are faulty/substandard batteries that belong in budget devices not $1000+ phones.

    Batteries in $1000+ devices should be bigger than the paltry 1800mah found in the standard iPhone. My S7 Edge has a 3600mah battery and two day battery life even after 20 months.

    When a brand that's sometimes perceived as high end uses cheap, poor quality parts it's no wonder they tried to cover it up with software to protect their reputation. Hopefully now they'll try to improve their reliability like Samsung did after the Note saga or people will learn to not blindly spend $1100 on poor quality products.

    What nonsense. Apple do not use cheap poor quality parts. There is no indication anywhere that this is related to poor quality or faulty parts.

      The iPhone 8 uses a 1,821mAh battery, and the iPhone 7 uses a 1,960mAh battery.

      While they may very well be high-quality products, the mere fact that the battery on a Samsung Galaxy S8 is 1.5-ish times greater of the 7 or 8 (3000mAh) and this implies that they do use cheaper batteries for high-end phones when they shouldn't.

    Apple could have just let those batteries die, but instead decided to keep the phones working. The exact opposite of the planned obsolescence so many trolls accuse Apple of building into their devices.

    And still people complain.

    It just confirms the zeroth law of humanity: people are stupid.

      Apple could have used their engineering prowess and made the battery user-replaceable. And before you go all non-water-resistant on me, my (now my wife's) Samsung S5 is on its 2nd battery, is in its 4th year and is still as water-resistant as when it was new.

      People complain when they think they've been deceived. That doesn't make them stupid.

        But people are stupid, many people, like suing apple for their battery , anything for a buck from the ambulance chasers I guess. The contacts I have in the telco stores there are dozens of people that come in every day with pixel phones, samsung, HTCs and the complaint... "hey my phone has 40% battery and it shuts down", "hey my phone keeps crashing all the time", cause those phones are 18 months to 2 years plus old they exhibit the same issue, but instead of the CPU being throttled, they just suck juice from the old battery as fast as it can, and the battery cant perform, and so the phone crashes, or shuts down. I don't see people loosing their goddamm minds over that. I don't see law suits over that, and they cost just as much to replace the battery as Apple. The customers also say the same thing, I upgraded the OS now it runs slower, its samsung, they want me to buy a new phone, so they made my old phone slower. When its more like there is more higher demanding operations in the new OS and your old samsung cant perform as well. Just like computers .. funny that... when you upgraded to windows 95 on your 386... wow it took and hour just to load the OS.. didn't see people loosing their minds over that, or wanting to sue.

        People need to get a grip, and realise not everything is a conspiracy, many of us in the tech industry have been dealing with these issues for decades. Computers age, new operating systems will push older hardware to the limit, to the point when you have to upgrade at some point. this has been tech for 70 years or more, deal with it.

        Yea sure Apple should have been more transparent, and made battery replacement cheaper (now done), but id rather my phone work, than shut down and crash all day. As for all the complaints, go back to smoke signals.

    This whole situation could have been avoided is apple had:

    A: made people aware this system existed. Instead of letting it come out the way it did.

    B: install higher quality batteries that last longer than a year.

    This whole situation is apples fault for trying to hide it.

    Has anyone experienced random shutdowns while playing cpu intensive games on three year old android phones?

      yes.....

      see above they crash and shut down all the time when they get old, laws of physics !

      Last edited 01/01/18 12:14 pm

    I don’t typically dip into these types of silly threads since they tend to be full of melodrama, bitterness, high levels of resentment, wild suppositions, back seat lawyers, back seat engineers and bile.

    But this one goes to 11. The number of people who think they’re going to get (much less deserve) a free phone or lots of cash (instead of the usual $5 or whatever from most class action lawsuits, after lawyer's fees) is simply astonishing. The level of righteous indignation is simply astonishing.

    That the only possible reason that Apple, or any other phone maker for that matter, makes OS level clock speed and other performance decisions on accompanying hardware is to screw people into getting an upgrade is conspiracy at its internet best. I have an old Note 5 that performs like a dog. Is Samsung screwing me into getting an upgrade? Luckily, I've been able to steel myself and resist so far.

    For the subset of folks whose phone is noticeably slower and it is entirely because your phone’s CPU is slower from Apple’s brute force OS level algorithms for battery management, I have empathy for you and hopefully you can get your battery replaced and move on with your life. Or move to another brand where they make different OS level hardware performance decisions more to your liking. Hopefully, there are other more important things in your life to devote time to.

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