Shortly before the holidays began, Apple faced a controversy for shutting down older iPhone models. The issue first came about on Reddit after users complained their iPhones were performing slower than before. John Poole (of Primate Labs) then ran benchmark tests on both the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7, which revealed that Apple was indeed slowing down these devices through various iOS updates. The company later admitted to doing this only because they were trying to prevent unexpected shutdowns of the phones caused by the worn out batteries. Apple says that Lithium-ion batteries tend to lose some of their power capacity over time.
A few days after its admission, Apple refuted the conspiracies that suggested they were deliberately doing this to entice customers to upgrade to a newer model. It even offered an apology, plus a $50 discount on the usual cost of battery replacement (as well waiving battery test results). This discount brought down the price to just $29 instead of $79.
Despite their apology, it looks like one United States Senator is not allowing Apple to get off the hook so easily. On Wednesday, Republican Senator John Thune sent a letter to Apple filled with further questions on the issue of the slow performance of the older iPhone devices. Reuters obtained a copy of the letter.
Senator Thune asked the company to explain how they were able to derive a $29 discount on battery replacement and whether they even considered making this free of charge. The Senator, who also happens to be the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair, also asked Apple whether or not they welcomed the idea of giving rebates to their customers who had previously paid the full price of a battery replacement.
A total of eight questions were asked in the letter. But out of these, the Senator’s biggest concern is with Apple’s transparency on the matter. Senator Thune wrote “if Apple’s actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns on older phones, the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency with respect to these practices.”
On the letter, the Senator asked whether or not Apple was able to notify its customers about the throttling feature available on its software updates. The public official also asked questioned whether or not this was a practice the company did on earlier models like the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 5s.
To be fair, Apple released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone SE models to smooth out their instantaneous peaks only when necessary in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns. The company has extended this feature to the iPhone 7 with its iOS 11.2 update and has expressed its plan to add support for its future products. Ever since it released a power management fix via a software update, the company was able to see an 80 percent reduction on the issue. Despite this effort, Apple was not completely clear to its customers that in exchange of this feature, older iPhone models will become slower every time they are updated. In the end, Senator Thune wants Apple to be completely transparent with its users, which is why he is awaiting for their answer to his letter by January 23rd.
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