Apple explains iPhone battery throttling to Canadian parliament, says not planned obsolesc...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2018
Apple appeared in front of the House of Commons of Canada on Thursday to explain its handling of iPhone battery issues through a software update that in some cases throttles CPU performance, maintaining the feature is designed to benefit customers, not push them to upgrade to new hardware.


Source: iFixit


In a prepared statement delivered to the committee on industry, science and technology, and seen by AppleInsider, Apple Canada Manager of Legal and Government Affairs Jacqueline Famulak addressed concerns surrounding the company's iOS 10.2.1 update, which rolled out in 2016. Along with other bug fixes, the firmware incorporated a feature that temporarily slows down iPhones with depleted battery cells in a bid to keep those units functional for a longer period of time.

"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," Famulak said. "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."

According to Apple, the 2016 update was designed to minimize or negate unexpected shutdowns afflicting iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE models, particularly those with chemically depleted batteries.

As explained in a December statement, and repeated today by Famulak, mobile devices like iPhone rely on lithium-ion batteries to power CPU functions. Like any battery technology, Li-ion cells are not infallible, and their ability to hold a charge decreases over time due to a number of factors including chemical depletion.

To mitigate negative effects from aging iPhone batteries, specifically unwanted shutdowns, Apple implemented a battery management feature in iOS 10.2.1 designed to "smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions." Building on the firmware's success, similar features were extended to more recent iPhone models in subsequent iOS software releases.

A Reddit user late last year sparked controversy when they discovered the CPU throttling function. Subsequent claims that iOS intentionally slows down older iPhones with degraded batteries dredged up speculation that Apple participates in planned obsolescence, or the strategy of engineering hardware to intentionally fail in a bid to drive new unit sales.

Apple for its part maintains the feature was installed to protect its customers, not as a gambit to generate further profit.

"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," Famulak said in today's statement.

Famulak went on to say Apple informed iPhone users of the battery management component in release notes issued alongside iOS 10.2.1. Specifically, the company said the software "improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone."

However, the missive did not detail how the problem was being addressed. In particular, Apple's release notes fail to mention performance throttling procedures, and it is for this lack of communication that the company now faces government and public scrutiny.

Facing an outcry from consumers, an ever-growing list of class-action lawsuits and probes by governmental bodies, Apple ultimately apologized to iPhone owners in December.

"We take our customer concerns seriously and have taken a number of steps to address them," Famulak said, noting Apple has been offering cheaper out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacements, down to $29 from $79, since December. The company also provides information and tips about iPhone batteries on its official website, she said.

Additionally, Apple will allow users to monitor battery integrity and manually disable CPU throttling in iOS 11.3. Beta versions of the software have been circulating for weeks, though testers got their first look at the new system oversight feature earlier this month.

Aside from Canada, Apple faces investigations and inquiries from U.S. regulatory agencies, and the governments of France, Italy and South Korea.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    C’mon. Apple could read off the facts on the periodic table of elements and still be accused of planned obsolescence. They can’t win.
    chasmlkruppbshankteejay2012watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 19
    danR2222danR2222 Posts: 5unconfirmed, member
    Makes sense to me. It almost sounds like trying to squeeze the last drop of juice outa the orange, rather than making you run out a buy another.
    iCintoschasmwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 19
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,063member
    What Apple have done is the precise opposite of the concept of 'planned obs'.
    baconstangJaiOh81bshankwatto_cobrajony0Tuubor
  • Reply 4 of 19
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,205member
    C’mon. Apple could read off the facts on the periodic table of elements and still be accused of planned obsolescence. They can’t win.
    true. even before that particular update folks phones would get slow due to degraded batteries and they blamed it on Apple screwing with phones with the new updates. 
    bshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,957member
    What Apple have done is the precise opposite of the concept of 'planned obs'.
    No, telling customers what they did and encouraging them to replace the battery would be the opposite of planned obsolescence. Leaving them wondering why their phone was so slow... maybe because it's getting too old, so I need a new faster one, is kinda a whole lot like planned obsolescence, even if it doesn't meet the technical details.
    muthuk_vanalingamatomic101avon b7feudalist
  • Reply 6 of 19
    Apropos of nothing, a tariff on imported steel or aluminum would never, ever be applied to finished goods using steel or aluminum.  That's not how tariffs work.  Therefore such tariffs will have no impact on Apple whatsoever--unless or until it starts a trade war that causes other countries to put tariffs on other products.  But most Apple goods are actually Chinese, so maybe they wouldn't be affected then either.  Too bad we can't discuss the economics of this because it might be considered political.
    chasmjony0
  • Reply 7 of 19
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,168member
    I agree with Cgwerks that Apple could have handled that matter way better than they did, but I think they have made it clear that their intention was to preserve the experience as best they could, and not push people to buy newer phones per se.

    Almost never mentioned in articles talking about this is how it’s handled in the Android world. Short answer: it isn’t. At all. Your smartphone just starts crashing a lot. I’d say that’s a lot more incentive to buy a newer phone, wouldn’t you? Now THAT is planned obsolescence ...
    fotoformatcharlesatlasjony0
  • Reply 8 of 19
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,761member
    cgWerks said:
    What Apple have done is the precise opposite of the concept of 'planned obs'.
    No, telling customers what they did and encouraging them to replace the battery would be the opposite of planned obsolescence. Leaving them wondering why their phone was so slow... maybe because it's getting too old, so I need a new faster one, is kinda a whole lot like planned obsolescence, even if it doesn't meet the technical details.
    Apple did say something in the update description that started the throttling...just because people didn't read it, doesn't mean Apple didn't tell them. Maybe customers should be a little more cognizant of what they're actually installing. Regardless, even if they did tell customers in a news statement, people would still be bitching up a storm about how Apple is making inferior products, they're purposely throttling their phones, etc, etc. Apple was in a no win situation here. The people pissed off today and think Apple owes them something (and they don't) would still be here today doing the same thing with the same class-action lawsuits. 
    edited March 2018 jony0
  • Reply 9 of 19
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,736member
    And everyone went out for pancakes, poutine and Tim Horton’s coffee afterward.
  • Reply 10 of 19
    eideardeideard Posts: 372member
    I didn't think you could find a group of Canadians as large as Congress - and equally ignorant.
  • Reply 11 of 19
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,019member
    I fully believe the explanation that it was to prevent shutdowns, as phones that don't do this, often just...Well, shut down. 

    The main issue was not sending a user notification as soon as performance was reduced that a new battery would restore the old speed. Doubly so for the 6S's that went out with bad batteries, they have a repair program for that but no user notification, so I bet more people are just using slowed 6S's that should be perfectly competent performers, than those that knew about the program. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 19
    tipoo said: The main issue was not sending a user notification as soon as performance was reduced that a new battery would restore the old speed.
    Apple provided information up front about the expected battery life for charge cycles/capacity. And they've also noted that two of the potential scenarios for shutdown do not involve a battery that needs to be replaced (cold, low charge). 
  • Reply 13 of 19
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 322member
    I think the big problem with this battery throttling issue is the decision and implementation was done at the lower technical level, seen as minor, like fixing a bug, and not particularly noticeable.

    Apple higher ups were simply caught off guard.

    Issues like this are tough. How much of the Apple bureaucracy must sign off on changes? No company can function with micromanagement. I’ve always felt Apple to be somewhat micromanaged and Google, for example, has too little control. 

    At least as far as has been reported, I don’t think Apple has come clean on this throttling, only in the sense that they are not admitting that the motivations and decisions were done at the technical level by the tech folks, internal policies didn’t require the decisions to be percolated up.

    Maybe this example is a case where AI could be useful.  
    jony0muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 19
    tipoo said:
    I fully believe the explanation that it was to prevent shutdowns, as phones that don't do this, often just...Well, shut down. 

    The main issue was not sending a user notification as soon as performance was reduced that a new battery would restore the old speed. Doubly so for the 6S's that went out with bad batteries, they have a repair program for that but no user notification, so I bet more people are just using slowed 6S's that should be perfectly competent performers, than those that knew about the program. 
    Exactly. Communication. The lack thereof makes it all look shady. 

    That, and turning away paying customers from replacing batteries in their throttled phones.  I had a throttled phone with a  battery that apparently met the criteria for the OS to reduce CPU performance significantly (50% or more), YET, it passed Apple's battery health test at the time of repair....... Leading the tech to tell me that the battery was fine and they were not authorized to replace a "good" battery.

    Of course, once the Apple PR campaign kicked into gear, they replaced the battery with no questions asked. And it resolved the throttling issue. Go figure. 

    Slightly suspect, yes. 
    tipoomuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 19
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,019member
    tipoo said: The main issue was not sending a user notification as soon as performance was reduced that a new battery would restore the old speed.
    Apple provided information up front about the expected battery life for charge cycles/capacity. And they've also noted that two of the potential scenarios for shutdown do not involve a battery that needs to be replaced (cold, low charge). 

    Their note on the shutdown workaround was in a single patch versions notes, which few regulars would read, and it was also vaguely worded, iirc something more like "Manages power delivery around peak loads", which doesn't really tell you that your 6S could perform half as well as it had before. 

    The expected life for charge cycles isn't even the issue here, and nor were those two things what caused the 6S bad battery batch. 
    atomic101cgWerksmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,957member
    chasm said:
    I agree with Cgwerks that Apple could have handled that matter way better than they did, but I think they have made it clear that their intention was to preserve the experience as best they could, and not push people to buy newer phones per se
    I can almost guarantee they had meetings about this kind of a change, and decided not to make it well known or highlight it. Probably a marketing decision, even if I agree that it was ultimately for the good of the users.

    The problem is that this is actually a huge feature, so the fact that they weren't shouting it from the roof-tops speaks volumes. Why encourage people to get a new battery to fix it if they are likely to buy a new phone?
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 19
    sandorsandor Posts: 501member
    tipoo said: The main issue was not sending a user notification as soon as performance was reduced that a new battery would restore the old speed.
    Apple provided information up front about the expected battery life for charge cycles/capacity. And they've also noted that two of the potential scenarios for shutdown do not involve a battery that needs to be replaced (cold, low charge). 
    iOS asks me/warns me about low power mode. The same thing should happen in this scenario.
    Though with Apple's testimony, which expanded far beyond what they told consumers, it seems it can be a split second OS decision when on a call/taking a photo, etc.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,649member
    cgWerks said:
    What Apple have done is the precise opposite of the concept of 'planned obs'.
    No, telling customers what they did and encouraging them to replace the battery would be the opposite of planned obsolescence. Leaving them wondering why their phone was so slow... maybe because it's getting too old, so I need a new faster one, is kinda a whole lot like planned obsolescence, even if it doesn't meet the technical details.
    We wont know the real truth of who instigated and approved the throttling without Congressional subpoenas.  It will be interesting to see if the battery replacements impact replacements.   I have an iPhone 7+ and iPhone 8+.   I love the 7 because its on ios10 still.   Don't like the ios11.   But see no reason to upgrade to an iPhone X.   Apple's greatest competitor may be it's older phones.   Nothing about talking Pooh is compelling.    Maybe if Apple put in better microphones into their phones so that SIRI worked better I would upgrade as she never gets it right for me.   Wouldn't that be funny for Apple to advertise as the reason to upgrade - SIRI finally works. 
  • Reply 19 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,957member
    k2kw said:
    We wont know the real truth of who instigated and approved the throttling without Congressional subpoenas.  It will be interesting to see if the battery replacements impact replacements.   I have an iPhone 7+ and iPhone 8+.   I love the 7 because its on ios10 still.   Don't like the ios11.   But see no reason to upgrade to an iPhone X.   Apple's greatest competitor may be it's older phones.   Nothing about talking Pooh is compelling.    Maybe if Apple put in better microphones into their phones so that SIRI worked better I would upgrade as she never gets it right for me.   Wouldn't that be funny for Apple to advertise as the reason to upgrade - SIRI finally works. 
    Yea, I really don't want an iPhone X. I'm going to keep my SE going as long as possible and hope they make another SE in the same case/form-factor. If not, I might consider whatever is the equivalent of the current iPhone 8 at the time, reluctantly.

    Siri is a whole other problem, I'm pretty sure. It has nothing to do with processor speeds, but Apple's incompetence at search and such things. People keep talking about the privacy, which impacts *some* kinds of searches, but Siri is plenty incompetent at things that have nothing to do with privacy and lack of data. Like Apple's iTunes search, podcast search, etc. they just don't have any advanced technology employed.
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