Apple responding to US government inquiries over iPhone throttling

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2018
Apple late Tuesday confirmed it received, and is currently responding to, questions from U.S. government agencies concerning the handling of iPhone battery issues through a software update that throttled the performance of some handsets.

Source: iFixit


In a statement to Axios, the company confirmed in part reports that U.S. regulatory agencies are seeking answers over the implementation of firmware designed to temporarily slow down iPhone units with depleted battery cells.

"We have received questions from some government agencies and we are responding to them," Apple said. Reporter Ina Fried published the brief statement in a tweet.

Earlier today, Bloomberg claimed the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission were seeking answers from Apple in a bid to determine whether the company's actions are in violation of securities laws.

Apple admitted to throttling iPhone processor performance in December.

At the time, a Reddit user came forward with what appeared to be evidence that iOS intentionally slows down iPhones with degraded batteries. Testing by Geekbench's John Poole seemed to corroborate those claims, as the benchmark developer found a correlation between hardware slowdows, battery wear and iOS version.

Apple in a December statement explained the iOS 10.2.1 release in 2016 was designed to manage unexpected shutdowns afflicting iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE models, particularly those with chemically depleted batteries.

The firmware was issued to "smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions." Similar features were extended to iPhone 7 series handsets with iOS 11.2, and would continue to see implementation for future devices, Apple said.

CEO Tim Cook in an interview this month said Apple informed customers about the battery issue when it released iOS 10.2.1, but release notes issued at the time conflict with that assertion.

"When we put it out, we did say what it was, but I don't think a lot of people were paying attention. And maybe we should have been clearer, as well," Cook said.

While release documentation did reference a fix for unexpected shutdowns, it lacked detailed information as to how the problem was being addressed. In particular, the notes included no mention of performance throttling procedures.

It is for this lack of communication that Apple is now facing government scrutiny.

Facing public outcry, numerous class-action lawsuits and probes by foreign governmental bodies, Apple apologized to iPhone owners for its lack of transparency. As a consolation, the company cut the cost of out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacements from $79 to $29.

In a rare move, Apple will present users the option of disabling the controversial CPU throttling feature as part of the forthcoming iOS 11.3 update.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    metrixmetrix Posts: 253member
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    macseekerGeorgeBMacbeowulfschmidtmwhitemacxpressdewmeflashfan207h2pwatto_cobrashark5150
  • Reply 2 of 27
    awhawh Posts: 9member
    It's quite simple - everyone, from the man on the street who feels 'violated' by this throttling to cash-strapped government departments, sees Apple and its gigantic cash hoard as an easy way to get free money. Not hard to whip up some hysteria and faux-outrage, and the process feeds on itself. Lawyers never go after people who have nothing they can take - they always go for the juiciest fruit and these days that means Apple.
    GeorgeBMacmwhitemmatzwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 27
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    I agree. Which (with such good intent on Apple’s side) is why they should have been transparent about the fact they were throttling speed.
    The moment someone has to discover a correlation between battery health and phone speed, is the moment you are in legal trouble.
    h2p
  • Reply 4 of 27
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    Apple and Target should swap logos...
    mwhitemacxpressanalogjackwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 27
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,763member
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    I agree. Which (with such good intent on Apple’s side) is why they should have been transparent about the fact they were throttling speed.
    The moment someone has to discover a correlation between battery health and phone speed, is the moment you are in legal trouble.

    I'm curious.

    When Apple said:

    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.


    What did folk think they meant by 'power management'?

    What should they have said?



    edited January 2018 bshankmwhiteradarthekatmmatztoddzrxwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 27
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,763member
    awh said:
    It's quite simple - everyone, from the man on the street who feels 'violated' by this throttling to cash-strapped government departments, sees Apple and its gigantic cash hoard as an easy way to get free money. Not hard to whip up some hysteria and faux-outrage, and the process feeds on itself. Lawyers never go after people who have nothing they can take - they always go for the juiciest fruit and these days that means Apple.
    The price of success, I'm afraid.

    I suspect that lots of other companies face similar claims, but nothing makes for click bait like the Apple logo.
    mwhitewatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 27
    I understand sticking up for a company that you love but I don't understand commenting if you were not an affected user.

    'Cause if you were....


  • Reply 8 of 27
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,763member
    bobroo said:
    I understand sticking up for a company that you love but I don't understand commenting if you were not an affected user.

    'Cause if you were....


    You'll probably find that people who weren't affected are commenting on the 'against' side too, but I imagine your comment didn't apply to them.
    edited January 2018 watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 9 of 27
    mwhitemwhite Posts: 205member
    bobroo said:
    I understand sticking up for a company that you love but I don't understand commenting if you were not an affected user.

    'Cause if you were....

    edited January 2018 radarthekat
  • Reply 10 of 27
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,095member
    Rayz2016 said:
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    I agree. Which (with such good intent on Apple’s side) is why they should have been transparent about the fact they were throttling speed.
    The moment someone has to discover a correlation between battery health and phone speed, is the moment you are in legal trouble.

    I'm curious.

    When Apple said:

    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.


    What did folk think they meant by 'power management'?

    What should they have said?



    "It also may reduce performance during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone"
    or
    "It also improves power management which in some cases may mean reduced performance of your iPhone with heavy workloads"
    edited January 2018 atomic101muthuk_vanalingamfeudalistflashfan207h2pjony0
  • Reply 11 of 27
    JhoseaJhosea Posts: 4unconfirmed, member
    mwhite said:
    bobroo said:
    I understand sticking up for a company that you love but I don't understand commenting if you were not an affected user.

    'Cause if you were....


    I call this B.S. it effects everyone that buy's Apple products because it takes away money for development and for hiring talented people.....
    Huh?
  • Reply 12 of 27
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,084member
    Rayz2016 said:
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    I agree. Which (with such good intent on Apple’s side) is why they should have been transparent about the fact they were throttling speed.
    The moment someone has to discover a correlation between battery health and phone speed, is the moment you are in legal trouble.

    I'm curious.

    When Apple said:

    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.


    What did folk think they meant by 'power management'?

    What should they have said?

    You and I, along with lots of other common sense people, know that 99.9999% of people never read any notes that come with software updates. They also never read any legal documentation before checking the "Accept" box. If no one would have mentioned the minor slowdown on iPhones with nearly exhausted batteries, no one would have been worried. I don't remember seeing any technical information describing how much iOS slowed the iPhones down or how they actually tested it, but in typical media frenzy, everybody was affected  no matter whether they were or weren't. 

    I read most of the information Apple provides because it used to be part of my job but I would see what they wrote as a positive, not negative, improvement. I'd much rather have my phone slow down a little (and I can using the Settings/Battery/Low Power Mode) to save my battery until I can recharge it than simply have it die like my cordless drill does when its battery is exhausted. Oh, wait, I thought rechargeable batteries were supposed to last forever! /s
    h2pwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 13 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,963member
    Rayz2016 said:
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    I agree. Which (with such good intent on Apple’s side) is why they should have been transparent about the fact they were throttling speed.
    The moment someone has to discover a correlation between battery health and phone speed, is the moment you are in legal trouble.

    I'm curious.

    When Apple said:

    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.


    What did folk think they meant by 'power management'?

    What should they have said?



    Even if Apple would have said flat out were throttling your phone in order to avoid unexpected shutdowns in the update description they'd still be catching the same hell from most. People hear throttling my phone and just think Apple is trying to scam them into purchasing a new iPhone and you're never going convince them otherwise. There are more than a few here. 

    I also wonder how many actually read the update description and just install it? 
    edited January 2018 watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 14 of 27
    AI_liasAI_lias Posts: 305member
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    They're not more concerned about this one, I'm sure. And they should not let it slide. But I don't think it (should) be as much about the notification Apple included with the update, as much as why those phones were shutting down suddenly, with battery life left. Sounds like grounds for a recall to me.
    feudalist
  • Reply 15 of 27
    People pooh-poohed it in these forums when this news first hit, when was quite obvious that it was serious stuff. 

    There is a genuine backlash against the perceived arrogance of many of the large companies in Silicon Vlaley. This is going to be part of the narrative for a while.

    Apple had better give some serious thought to the seemingly roughshod way in which it is seen to roll out it’s software updates. It will have to do a major reset on that front. IMHO, that is not such a bad thing. 
    atomic101muthuk_vanalingamgatorguy
  • Reply 16 of 27
    macxpress said:

    I also wonder how many actually read the update description and just install it? 
    How does the fact that one reads it (or not) change the inevitability and the necessity of installing these updates? Is there a Plan B, one where Apple doesn’t constantly bug you when you turn on your phone, and keeps wanting to “Remind Me Later” before I can send a damn text or glance at the weather forecast?
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 27
    A couple of thoughts
    - I prefer it to be a choice to throttle or not throttle 
    - once you've begun throttling, not clear if always throttling or performance is restored when you have a full charge
    - rollout of battery program not up to usual level of service - made an appointment at Apple Store for battery replacement (first store claimed wouldn't have batteries in stock for weeks so made appointment at 2nd store that could take us earlier)
    .... when arrived for appointment, they did a battery diagnostic - claimed 2.6 year old iPhone 6 was at 94% life which was deemed very healthy
    .... phone needs to be charged 3 times per day, always set at minimum brightness - this is healthy?
    .... then told didn't have battery in stock even though appointment was made weeks in advance - expected them to have one in stock to satisfy appointment
    .... given excuse that everyone and their brother is coming in
    ...  can't make appointment for when the replacement arrives
    .... told to expect 2 hour wait once the battery comes in
    - this whole experience should have been different, and better.  
    atomic101muthuk_vanalingamh2pjony0
  • Reply 18 of 27
    Rayz2016 said:
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    I agree. Which (with such good intent on Apple’s side) is why they should have been transparent about the fact they were throttling speed.
    The moment someone has to discover a correlation between battery health and phone speed, is the moment you are in legal trouble.

    I'm curious.

    When Apple said:

    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.


    What did folk think they meant by 'power management'?

    What should they have said?



    That "our implementation will be a blanket solution for any battery we deem to be "old", and we will quietly throttle back performance of your iPhone 6, 6s, or SE to iPhone 5 level performance without you being the wiser to it." 😜
    muthuk_vanalingamfeudalist78Bandit
  • Reply 19 of 27
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,151member
    Okay, so now we're beating the cremated remains of a dead horse. What's next?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 27
    Rayz2016 said:
    metrix said:
    I find it disconcerting that people are dying in car accidents from the faulty Japanese air bags that haven’t been replaced because they have a huge backlog and hang ups but yet DOJ is more concerned about this situation. 
    I agree. Which (with such good intent on Apple’s side) is why they should have been transparent about the fact they were throttling speed.
    The moment someone has to discover a correlation between battery health and phone speed, is the moment you are in legal trouble.

    I'm curious.

    When Apple said:

    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.


    What did folk think they meant by 'power management'?

    What should they have said?



    My assumption would be they would do things similarly to how they implemented low-power mode and cut out background tasks, stop push notifications, dim the display or other things that would prioritize power to the app I was currently working on.  Cutting performance by up to 50% of my active application would have been at the bottom of the list of suspected actions.

    What they should have said was "Identified an issue where insufficient battery output causes unexpected shutdowns on iPhone.  Peak performance may be reduced by up to 50% to avoid unexpected shutdowns."
    edited January 2018 atomic101muthuk_vanalingamLatkofeudalist
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