Younger readers might not know, but there was once an annual tradition in which Apple would release a new iPhone, old iPhones would suddenly start performing poorly, and users would speculate about a conspiracy to get them to buy the shiny new thing. It turned out that a conspiracy, of sorts, did exist, and Apple has been trying to make the whole embarrassing saga go away for years. On Wednesday, the finish line came into view after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that an investigation involving 34 states is concluding with a settlement and no admission of guilt from Apple.
In 2017, Apple admitted that updates to iOS were throttling older iPhone models but framed it as a misunderstanding. Apple said that the software tweaks were intended to mitigate unwanted shutdowns in devices with ageing batteries. It apologised and offered discounted battery replacements as a consolation prize. Many users felt that Apple’s secretive approach was deceptive and intended to lead them to believe they need a new phone when a fresh battery might keep the old one going for another cycle. The discounted battery offer wasn’t enough for some users, and this spring Apple agreed to settle a class-action suit for up to $US500 ($683) million, doling out $US25 ($34) per phone that filed a claim. Apple did not admit any wrongdoing.
Today’s announcement tentatively concludes a separate investigation launched by state attorneys general into the controversy. In a statement, Brnovich’s office said that the proposed settlement includes a $US113 ($154) million fine to be distributed amongst the states involved as well as a requirement that “Apple also must provide truthful information to consumers about iPhone battery health, performance, and power management. Apple must provide this important information in various forms on its website, in update installation notes, and in the iPhone user interface itself.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but assuming a fairness hearing scheduled for early December finds that the settlement was handled properly, this embarrassing episode should soon be over for the company. It’ll still have around $US193 ($264) billion in its pile of cash and it will have admitted no wrongdoing.