Apple Facing A Bunch Of Lawsuits After Admitting It Slows Down Older Devices, But Insisting It's For A Good Reason

from the yes,-but... dept

There was a bit of controversy last week concerning Apple slowing down older devices. It started, as so many things do, with a Reddit post, noting that Apple appeared to be slowing down the processor on phones with older batteries. Geekbench’s John Poole then ran some tests confirming this. Apple then confirmed that it was doing so. All three of those links above also present the reason for this — which is not necessarily a nefarious one — though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good explanation either. In short, it was a solution to a problem of older batteries causing “spontaneous” or “unexpected shutdowns.”

But, of course, slowing down the phone to avoid those kinds of shutdowns still has the impact of reduced performance on older phones — which ultimately angers users or makes them feel like they need to upgrade before they really do. This wouldn’t necessarily be a huge issue if two things were true: (1) it was easy to replace the batteries and (2) Apple was clear and upfront about this — telling people they could avoid this issue by replacing the battery. Neither of those things are true. Apple makes it quite difficult to replace the batteries (though, not impossible) and only now is explaining this “hack.”

And, because this is America, lawsuits are already being filed. Multiple lawsuits. I imagine that they’ll all be combined at some point into a giant class action, though I’m not sure how much of a chance this case has of going very far. Either way, I’d post the lawsuits, but as I type this PACER appears to not be working properly, and I really doubt there’s much that’s interesting in the complaints anyway.

What’s more interesting here is the troubling nature of just how much control over our devices we’ve given to the companies who sell us stuff. This all goes back to the theme that we’ve discussed many times around here, of how we no longer seem to own what we’ve ostensibly purchased. The fact that a company such as Apple can sneak in and change our settings in a way that harms overall performance — even if it claims it has a good reason to — is something that concern us all. And that’s especially true as more and more of our devices have such connectivity… and our own ability to get in and fix stuff is more and more limited.

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Comments on “Apple Facing A Bunch Of Lawsuits After Admitting It Slows Down Older Devices, But Insisting It's For A Good Reason”

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45 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

How hard was that?

How difficult would it have been to push a patch where once installed a message popped up telling people that older batteries could cause problems, and that as a result Apple was offering people the choice between turning on the patch, which would slow down the processor a bit and avoid having their devices die out randomly, or let it run at full power and risk having that happen?

The barest amount of transparency and common sense should have avoided this problem entirely, that they apparently used neither in their actions is boneheaded, and it’s no wonder they’re being slammed/sued over it as a result.

wayout says:

Re: Re: How hard was that?

shows just how little you actually know about battery technology…..might want to do a little research on the subject before you spout off your opinions.

Apple states that the battery performance will start to degrade after about 500 charges, and since a lot of folks use their phone all day, they have to charge daily..do the math..

As much as I dislike how Apple operates, I at least like to know enough about a subject to speak intelligently about it, and not spout off conspiracy talking points..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: How hard was that?

Please – do tell us about battery technology.

You might start by discussing the type of battery used, its chemistry/metallurgy and how it stores charge. You might then discuss the reasons for degradation of materials used and the corresponding decrease in battery efficiency.

But no, insults are much more fun.

wayout says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How hard was that?

“Ben Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, said Apple found itself in a tough spot by having to explain what it did to cope with the reality that all lithium ion batteries degrade over time.

“The error — if anything — was not being more transparent,” he said. “They were legitimately trying to make people’s iPhones last longer.”

nuff said…conspirancy theory debunked..

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: How hard was that?

The whole discussion doesn’t start at the patch, it starts at the warped concept that you shouldn’t be able to easily replace a battery. It’s a form of planned obsolescence. They figure the battery is good for maybe 3 years, and at that point the phone will be just out of date enough that the cost of getting an Apple monkey to replace the battery will be too high compared to putting just a few more dollars on the line for the latest and greatest.

Other companies have followed suit. In the quest for a reasonably waterproof phone and tight packaging, Samsung has done the same. Backfired a bit with the Note 7, but they have gone down that route. I recently replaced the battery in my S7 Edge. It’s a job, let me tell you!

Apple has their buyers on a 2 to 3 year cycle. They work hard to assure their products don’t fail, but clearly they are not against pushing a bit to make them a little less useful.

SteveMB (profile) says:

Re: Re: How hard was that?

There’s no reason “reasonably waterproof” and “replaceable battery” should be mutually exclusive; rubber gaskets are hardly an exotic experimental technology.

It all comes down to marketing departments insisting that you want a phone thin enough that you can use its edge to make thousands of julienne fries in seconds.

Nick B (profile) says:

Re: People as hard

They should only have a popup saying the battery is old, causing reduced performance to prevent crashes from brownouts. Even doing will trigger people to sue, since it seems like people sue apple every time they change something.

If they gave you the option to continue at full performance, it will leave you with an opinion that Apples products constantly crash.

AMD ran into an issue with their 3 core CPUs that were actually 4 core CPUs. Some of the time, the 4th core was disabled due to a manufacturing defect (this increases yield). When people activated the 4th core that actually had a defect, their computer crashed more, because they happened to have one with a defect in a rarely used area, instead of a defect in a critical area that would make them re-deactivate the core.

They blamed AMD even when they said they wanted the 4th core at the risk of increased crashes.

Nicolas (profile) says:

Apple arrogance

My first thought when this broke was about Apple having batteries that are not user replaceable. The company specializes in devices that have increasingly become unmodifiable by users in almost every respect.

That said, if Apple’s managers were not so arrogant they would have offered throttling as a software option and transparently explained why.

Apple’s 1984 ad is a fading memory. It is a company that is more authoritarian by nature than Microsoft ever approached.

Kronomex (profile) says:

I was using my original iPhone 4 up until a couple of months ago and never had any battery problems. I think it’s more a case of trying to get the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people like me to throw away their stone age tech and buy the shiny new expensive crap.

Well it worked, I put my neolithic iPhone 4 in a desk drawer and purchased a Samsung mobile.

Madd the Sane (profile) says:

Morton's fork

This is a bad place for Apple to be: either have old, faulty batteries shut off phones unexpectedly at 20% battery, or slow the device down at peak usage. You really don’t want to take a third option, as having it power through that might damage the battery enough to cause it to explode (Think Galaxy Note 7). Lithium batteries can be dangerous.

John Gruber linked to a podcast where a lot of people in the tech industry about what Apple did and what Apple could have done. Also, he linked another article where a backup and restore sped things back up.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is why updates are rejected

Look at the fiasco with Windows updates installing the Windows 10 nagware. Now we have Apple admitting their updates intentionally slow older devices. Things like this are why many people will reject updates, and in doing so, remain in a less secure state.

The ‘good reason’ message will be lost – the masses will only see the headline “Apple Slows Older Phones”, click Like and move on. Maybe they’ll leave a comment “im never updatin my iphone again!!!!!!!!”. Point being, foisting negative experiences on users through updates will cause users to reject updates.

Not to mention the problem of having to dispose of perfectly functional devices simply because the software doesn’t support it anymore.

tom (profile) says:

If this case involved an individual loading software on Apple’s computers that degraded the performance of Apple’s corporate network, the FBI would spring into action investigating possible violations of various computer crimes acts involving causing harm over a telecommunications network.

When Apple does it to thousands of individual portable computers, it is considered Situation Normal.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We did it for your own good.

We made your phone run like crap because we want your money for a new battery or a new phone. We never mentioned why this happens so we get you to buy a new phone.

Reminds me of another company…

We unlocked all of this hidden range inside your car’s battery.

We really need to stop this practice of allowing corporations to give or take away as they want. Sadly there never seems to be the will in the public to vote with their dollars in a large enough fashion to show the corps this was the wrong thing to do & you need to make changes before we’ll think of coming back.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lawsuits are alternative to mob hanging executives as deserve.

Though not as satisfying.

Apple has been arrogant too long. One of these days, now that Apple has so many customers who aren’t the gullible nebbishes of years past, it’ll go too far and there’ll be major suits and criminal charges.

And possibly Apple broken up, certainly should be: it’s a conglomerate of disparate but cooperating parts, Itunes, phones, and computer hardware, besides whatever can get from invasive spying for advertising.

Big business is always evil. This is just so easy to see and so evil that even Masnick had to mention it.

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