US DOJ, SEC investigating how Apple handled throttling of aging iPhone batteries

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2018
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are reportedly starting to look into if Apple violated securities laws, regarding how it informed consumers about the iOS update that implemented the throttling of chemically depleted batteries in iOS 10.2.1.




According to a report from Bloomberg on Tuesday citing its own sources, the government has requested information from Apple regarding the matter. Allegedly, the inquiry is in the early stages, and it is far too soon to assume that a formal investigation will start, or if any enforcement is likely.

AppleInsider was unable to confirm the information request, and at present there is no publicly available paper trail suggesting that an investigation is underway.

Apple has been under fire since it admitted to throttling processor performance on some older iPhone models last month.

In December, a Reddit user detailed what appeared to be evidence of CPU throttling on iPhones with chemically depleted batteries, claims that were later backed up by Geekbench's John Poole. Aggregating multiple iPhone benchmark tests, Poole found a correlation in iPhone slowdowns, battery wear and iOS version, with a noted change in performance apparent between iOS 10.2 and iOS 10.2.1.

Apple released iOS 10.2.1 in 2016 to deal with unexpected shutdowns afflicting iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE models, and noted in release notes that it had done so. However, the company failed to specifically disclose at the time how the firmware fixed the apparent problem.

In a statement from December, Apple said the software update's feature helps "smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions." The same technology has been carried forward with iOS 11.2 to cover the iPhone 7, and Apple says the feature will be carried forward in future products.

Apple's forthcoming iOS 11.3 will have the ability to disable the battery throttling, at the cost of phone stability -- potentially leading to an under-voltage crash.

Customers who took offense to Apple's lack of transparency on the matter began to file class-action lawsuits. More than 40 complaints have been filed in the U.S. so far, including a case being handled by Hagens Berman, the consumer rights law firm that successfully obtained a $450 million settlement from Apple over e-book price fixing in 2015.

Apple apologized for not communicating the implementation to iPhone owners. At the same time, the company dropped the cost of out-of-warranty battery replacements from $79 to $29 in a play for positive customer sentiment.

Sen. John Thune (R - S. Dak.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, asked Apple a series of questions to suss out the company's policies on slowing down iPhones with depleted battery cells. Thune asked how Apple is tracking customer complaints related to the processor slowdown issue, and whether the company was looking into rebates for iPhone owners who paid full price for a battery replacement prior to the discount offer.

Since the note, AppleInsider learned that the cutoff date for a reduced-price refund goes back to Dec. 1, 2017, but no earlier as a matter of procedure. However, there have been limited reports of successes for a bit earlier in the year.

French regulators initiated an investigation into identical issues on Jan. 7. In that case, the DGCCRF anti-fraud agency is following up on a private complaint by Stop Planned Obsolescence.

Should the data-gathering turn into an investigation, similar examinations of Silicon Valley companies have taken years to resolve.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Of course these “investigations” are politically driven nonsense and they’ll pass.
    bshank
  • Reply 2 of 39
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 246unconfirmed, member
    Of course these “investigations” are politically driven nonsense and they’ll pass.
    Of course! Apple at least updates phones past 3 years! And cares about the consequences a battery has on software....

    Others are just left to die after 2 year on average

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 39
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    "How [Apple] informed consumers"... ha. Apple were forced to admit to the throttling, ex post facto.

    Getting caught BY consumers while doing something that consumers might not want you to do is a lot worse than openly declaring a possibility undesirable function before, or as, it arrives.

    Especially when the PR statement that's finally used to dismiss consumers' legitimate anger recharacterizes the function's primary purpose: avoiding dealing with defects/design mistakes on a wider scale than the silent recall they did for certain serial-numbered phones.
    muthuk_vanalingamkestralfeudalist
  • Reply 4 of 39
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,427administrator
    dysamoria said:

    Especially when the PR statement that's finally used to dismiss consumers' legitimate anger recharacterizes the function's primary purpose: avoiding dealing with defects/design mistakes on a wider scale than the silent recall they did for certain serial-numbered phones.
    There is precisely zero evidence of that. And, the REA was hardly silent: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/16/11/21/apple-to-replace-batteries-of-iphone-6s-units-suffering-from-unexpected-shutdowns

    In fact, if there was a "wider scale" for the alleged "design mistakes," the area under the curve from Geekbench for the throttled phones would be way higher.
    edited January 2018 JWSCStrangeDaysbshankRayz2016bb-15watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 39
    I don't for a minute think that Apple was trying to make obsolete their older iPhones. What I do believe is that Apple still suffers from the same hubris that has plagued the company since it's creation. You don't deliberately create a problem for a customer's phone because you think it's good for them.  You spell out what the update does in highly visible plain English and provide them with the means to disable the modification. Over the years I have spent well over $100,000 on Apple products, starting with the 2GS, and it has infuriated me that Apple, seemingly on a whim, will remove a product feature, only to restore it when the shit hits the fan. This "we know what's best for you" hubris is in the DNA of Apple, put there by Jobs and perpetuated by Cook.  Hopefully this slap in the face, and shareholder wrath, will wake Cook up and Apple will be a better company for it.  They deserve the opprobrium they are currently receiving and you can lay that squarely at Cook's doorstep. A CEO's job is to NOT devalue the company, and he has done just that.
    bobroomuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 39
    toddzrxtoddzrx Posts: 236member
    It'd be interesting to know which specific laws the DOJ and SEC think were violated by Apple.  I hope this is not a case of these government agencies trying to drum up charges just because of a small vocal minority.  This whole fiasco, and the whining that has fueled it, continues to be ridiculous
    bshankmac_dogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 39
    toddzrxtoddzrx Posts: 236member
    launfall said:
    I don't for a minute think that Apple was trying to make obsolete their older iPhones. What I do believe is that Apple still suffers from the same hubris that has plagued the company since it's creation. You don't deliberately create a problem for a customer's phone because you think it's good for them.  You spell out what the update does in highly visible plain English and provide them with the means to disable the modification. Over the years I have spent well over $100,000 on Apple products, starting with the 2GS, and it has infuriated me that Apple, seemingly on a whim, will remove a product feature, only to restore it when the shit hits the fan. This "we know what's best for you" hubris is in the DNA of Apple, put there by Jobs and perpetuated by Cook.  Hopefully this slap in the face, and shareholder wrath, will wake Cook up and Apple will be a better company for it.  They deserve the opprobrium they are currently receiving and you can lay that squarely at Cook's doorstep. A CEO's job is to NOT devalue the company, and he has done just that.
    But Apple didn't remove a feature in this case; they added one to ensure the phone doesn't shut down under certain processor loads.

    I understand where you're coming from and your complaint of Apple's "hubris", but I think you're off the mark here.
    bshankmac_dogtmaydesignrwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 8 of 39
    If the people in DC have it in for Apple then there is little that Apple or Tim Cook or even SJ rising from the grave can do about it.
    This might not end well.

  • Reply 9 of 39
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,148member
    I would love to know precisely who is driving this agenda.  Apple has explained why they did this and it’s arguement was most compelling, if unfortunately belated.  Is this political theatre on the part of various government agencies or is something more sinister going on?
  • Reply 10 of 39
    Apple did nothing wrong. In fact, they did the right thing. But I'm not surprised that people without technical backgrounds do not understand that.

    The people/media/politicians complaining about this do not understand that Apple did this to make the phones work better, not worse.

    A worn-out battery not only lasts less time per charge, but also has more limited instantaneous power output compared to a new battery.

    As a result, when a phone is used in an extreme power-hungry way (for example, web surfing, screen on full bright, and making a call), the battery could drop below its usable voltage range and the phone could go dead (maybe dropping an important call) with no warning.

    The intentional slight slowdown of the phone is to preserve its ability to perform as the user would expect, even though the battery is performing much worse than a new battery.


    StrangeDaysbshankRayz2016tmaywatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 11 of 39
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,001member
    launfall said:
    I don't for a minute think that Apple was trying to make obsolete their older iPhones. What I do believe is that Apple still suffers from the same hubris that has plagued the company since it's creation. You don't deliberately create a problem for a customer's phone because you think it's good for them.  You spell out what the update does in highly visible plain English and provide them with the means to disable the modification. Over the years I have spent well over $100,000 on Apple products, starting with the 2GS, and it has infuriated me that Apple, seemingly on a whim, will remove a product feature, only to restore it when the shit hits the fan. This "we know what's best for you" hubris is in the DNA of Apple, put there by Jobs and perpetuated by Cook.  Hopefully this slap in the face, and shareholder wrath, will wake Cook up and Apple will be a better company for it.  They deserve the opprobrium they are currently receiving and you can lay that squarely at Cook's doorstep. A CEO's job is to NOT devalue the company, and he has done just that.
    Yeah no. All of your description is misunderstanding what design is — compromise. Apple makes the most popular mass market CE products on the planet, and has to make design decisions and compromises just like any place else. They don’t make the products just for you. They make them for the market and yes, must decide what’s best for that market. They get it right much more than they get it wrong — as proof just look at their numbers, people vote with their wallets. Over and over. 

    Your opinions on Cook devaluing the company are peculiar considering its revenue and cash horde. I think Thursday’s earnings call will make this claim look absurd. 
    bshankRayz2016tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 39
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,427administrator
    If you can't see your comment, take a minute and re-read the commenting guidelines.
    bobroobeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 39
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 967member
    If the government spent as much time fixing real problems that plague this country, we would actually be the great country we proclaim.

    These assholes in government would NEVER run their private businesses the way they run this government. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 39
    Read the official 10.2.1 release notes (available on the apple web site for all to see). They did not explicitly say what these power management changes were, but it certainly was no great secret.

    iOS 10.2.1

    iOS 10.2.1 includes bug fixes and improves the security of your iPhone or iPad.

    It also improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone.

    For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/HT201222




  • Reply 15 of 39
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 2,066member
    launfall said:
    I don't for a minute think that Apple was trying to make obsolete their older iPhones. What I do believe is that Apple still suffers from the same hubris that has plagued the company since it's creation. You don't deliberately create a problem for a customer's phone because you think it's good for them.  You spell out what the update does in highly visible plain English and provide them with the means to disable the modification. Over the years I have spent well over $100,000 on Apple products, starting with the 2GS, and it has infuriated me that Apple, seemingly on a whim, will remove a product feature, only to restore it when the shit hits the fan. This "we know what's best for you" hubris is in the DNA of Apple, put there by Jobs and perpetuated by Cook.  Hopefully this slap in the face, and shareholder wrath, will wake Cook up and Apple will be a better company for it.  They deserve the opprobrium they are currently receiving and you can lay that squarely at Cook's doorstep. A CEO's job is to NOT devalue the company, and he has done just that.
    We don't know if Cook knew that the Throttling changes were being done.   But he has not indicated that someone made a decision they should not have.   And he hasn't used this as an opportunity to throw some one under the bush like with the Maps rollout.   So he still is responsible.   The important thing is that he will look great in those orange Jumpsuits at ClubFed.
    hammeroftruth
  • Reply 16 of 39
    launfall said:
    I don't for a minute think that Apple was trying to make obsolete their older iPhones. What I do believe is that Apple still suffers from the same hubris that has plagued the company since it's creation. You don't deliberately create a problem for a customer's phone because you think it's good for them.  You spell out what the update does in highly visible plain English and provide them with the means to disable the modification. Over the years I have spent well over $100,000 on Apple products, starting with the 2GS, and it has infuriated me that Apple, seemingly on a whim, will remove a product feature, only to restore it when the shit hits the fan. This "we know what's best for you" hubris is in the DNA of Apple, put there by Jobs and perpetuated by Cook.  Hopefully this slap in the face, and shareholder wrath, will wake Cook up and Apple will be a better company for it.  They deserve the opprobrium they are currently receiving and you can lay that squarely at Cook's doorstep. A CEO's job is to NOT devalue the company, and he has done just that.
    Yeah no. All of your description is misunderstanding what design is — compromise. Apple makes the most popular mass market CE products on the planet, and has to make design decisions and compromises just like any place else. They don’t make the products just for you. They make them for the market and yes, must decide what’s best for that market. They get it right much more than they get it wrong — as proof just look at their numbers, people vote with their wallets. Over and over. 

    Your opinions on Cook devaluing the company are peculiar considering its revenue and cash horde. I think Thursday’s earnings call will make this claim look absurd. 
    You missed the point of my comment. Regardless of Apple’s intent, the effect was to force an undisclosed update on a user without describing the very real consequences or offering an alternative. That’s not just bad PR, that’s bad business decisions. The unintentional consequences are that the effect on the user can be construed as deliberate sabotage of the phone in order to sell new phones. That Apple did not foresee that there could be real and very negative reactions to this is why I believe management has failed. Implying nefarious motives to a company’s actions is universal and we have all felt that way about a company at some time. It’s not at all surprising that governments react as they do when people who use a product feel betrayed. None of this would have happened had Apple not sustained the culture that they know best. This is ample proof that they didn’t. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 39
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,246member
    Apple didn't do anything wrong. They did normal battery management. Why would you have to tell people? So now Apple is throwing in a toggle switch so instead it's either slow the phone down a bit at PEEK demand or flip the switch have just have your phone crash instead. Who thinks that's a good idea?

    Battery's age. They have only so many charge cycles. If anything, what Apple did, Prolong the life of the phone so people wouldn't have to upgrade their phone, or get a replacement battery. They can keep on doing what they were doing.

    My iPhone 6 is running much better into it's 4th year than my iPhone 4 into it's 4th year. I think you're a sucker replacing your phone every 1 or 2 years. Apple sure doesn't force you to upgrade.

    By the way, these SPEED tests Are doing exactly what Apple is trying to STOP. When you're maxing out the CPU, that's the greatest load on the battery. When you're testing, it's for a period of time, that's a long load on the battery and of course the CPU is going to show the greatest hit in speed as it tries to slow it's self down so it doesn't crash. This is not how your phone normally runs. Where you get short bursts of top speed. This whole thing is just dumb. So many clueless people. Oh no, the world is ending!!!

    What I would like to see is a larger battery with a litter more power then needed. That way as the battery gets old and it's peek top power starts dropping, it can last a little longer powering the CPU needs. Besides I would like a battery that could last all day if you use it more then a little bit. My iPhone 6 currently is at 35% and it's only 3:12PM right now. I went to work at 7am. I've hardly used the phone. I have to say that's pretty bad. I'm going to have to get a new battery put into it and see if that makes it any better.

    edited January 2018 tmay
  • Reply 18 of 39
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    launfall said:
    launfall said:
    I don't for a minute think that Apple was trying to make obsolete their older iPhones. What I do believe is that Apple still suffers from the same hubris that has plagued the company since it's creation. You don't deliberately create a problem for a customer's phone because you think it's good for them.  You spell out what the update does in highly visible plain English and provide them with the means to disable the modification. Over the years I have spent well over $100,000 on Apple products, starting with the 2GS, and it has infuriated me that Apple, seemingly on a whim, will remove a product feature, only to restore it when the shit hits the fan. This "we know what's best for you" hubris is in the DNA of Apple, put there by Jobs and perpetuated by Cook.  Hopefully this slap in the face, and shareholder wrath, will wake Cook up and Apple will be a better company for it.  They deserve the opprobrium they are currently receiving and you can lay that squarely at Cook's doorstep. A CEO's job is to NOT devalue the company, and he has done just that.
    Yeah no. All of your description is misunderstanding what design is — compromise. Apple makes the most popular mass market CE products on the planet, and has to make design decisions and compromises just like any place else. They don’t make the products just for you. They make them for the market and yes, must decide what’s best for that market. They get it right much more than they get it wrong — as proof just look at their numbers, people vote with their wallets. Over and over. 

    Your opinions on Cook devaluing the company are peculiar considering its revenue and cash horde. I think Thursday’s earnings call will make this claim look absurd. 
    You missed the point of my comment. Regardless of Apple’s intent, the effect was to force an undisclosed update on a user without describing the very real consequences or offering an alternative. That’s not just bad PR, that’s bad business decisions. The unintentional consequences are that the effect on the user can be construed as deliberate sabotage of the phone in order to sell new phones. That Apple did not foresee that there could be real and very negative reactions to this is why I believe management has failed. Implying nefarious motives to a company’s actions is universal and we have all felt that way about a company at some time. It’s not at all surprising that governments react as they do when people who use a product feel betrayed. None of this would have happened had Apple not sustained the culture that they know best. This is ample proof that they didn’t. 
    I think the mistake Apple made here was overestimating the intelligence of the most vocal sections of their user base. It’s a mistake they make time and time again. 
    tmaybestkeptsecret
  • Reply 19 of 39
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member

    jbdragon said:
    Apple didn't do anything wrong. They did normal battery management. Why would you have to tell people? So now Apple is throwing in a toggle switch so instead it's either slow the phone down a bit at PEEK demand or flip the switch have just have your phone crash instead. Who thinks that's a good idea?

    No one I’d want changing a plug in my house. 
  • Reply 20 of 39
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    JWSC said:
    I would love to know precisely who is driving this agenda.  Apple has explained why they did this and it’s arguement was most compelling, if unfortunately belated.  Is this political theatre on the part of various government agencies or is something more sinister going on?
    The timing of the explanation matters. They only explained after it was discovered. Warning users before updating would've been the way to go. Let them make the decision of updating or not. I mean iPhone users are supposedly more intelligent, so why does Apple treat them like idiots? 
    edited January 2018 beowulfschmidt
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