Apple has apologized to customers for how it rolled out an update that can slow down older iPhones. It is offering cheaper battery replacements to make up for it.
In a lengthy message posted on its site Thursday, the company gave an in-depth explanation for the controversial update. To make amends, Apple will temporarily drop the price of replacement batteries for the iPhone 6 and later to $29 starting in late January. The price will go back up to the usual $79 in 2019.
The feature will stay on phones, but Apple says an upcoming iOS update will ” give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery.” It did not say if it will give them the ability to turn the feature off or on.
“We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize,” said the message.
The company confirmed the slowdown last week, but said it was part of a power management feature meant to prevent older batteries from shutting down suddenly.
“First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades,” the post said.
A year ago, some iPhone users reported their devices were shutting down unexpectedly even when they showed some battery power left. It wasn’t caused by defective batteries, according to Apple, but normal issues with aging lithium ion batteries.
To address the issue, Apple included an update in iOS that would slow down a phone during peak processing events to prevent the battery from shutting off. It affected the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone SE. Apple later rolled out the same update for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus devices. It did not tell customers how the update worked at the time.
Apple says users began reporting slower performance in the fall, when iOS 11 was released. The company said it first assumed it was caused by a “normal, temporary” lag caused by a new operating system update, and small bugs in the iOS.
“We now believe that another contributor to these user experiences is the continued chemical aging of the batteries in older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices,” said the company.
Apple calls its lithium ion batteries “consumable components” in the post, meaning they’re meant to be replaced. But because of the iPhone’s design, the process is not as simple as popping in a fresh battery.
To switch out a battery on an iPhone, you have to go to an Apple retailer or ship your phone to Apple. You can also use a third-party service or order a kit to do it yourself, though those options will void an existing warranty.
Upgrading to a new battery will clear up any slowdowns related to the update, said Apple.
Apple’s lengthy response:
December 28, 2017
A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance
We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.
First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.
How batteries age
All rechargeable batteries are consumable components that become less effective as they chemically age and their ability to hold a charge diminishes. Time and the number of times a battery has been charged are not the only factors in this chemical aging process.
Device use also affects the performance of a battery over its lifespan. For example, leaving or charging a battery in a hot environment can cause a battery to age faster. These are characteristics of battery chemistry, common to lithium-ion batteries across the industry.
A chemically aged battery also becomes less capable of delivering peak energy loads, especially in a low state of charge, which may result in a device unexpectedly shutting itself down in some situations.
To help customers learn more about iPhone’s rechargeable battery and the factors affecting its performance, we’ve posted a new support article, iPhone Battery and Performance.
It should go without saying that we think sudden, unexpected shutdowns are unacceptable. We don’t want any of our users to lose a call, miss taking a picture or have any other part of their iPhone experience interrupted if we can avoid it.
Preventing unexpected shutdowns
About a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.
Customer response to iOS 10.2.1 was positive, as it successfully reduced the occurrence of unexpected shutdowns. We recently extended the same support for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in iOS 11.2.
Of course, when a chemically aged battery is replaced with a new one, iPhone performance returns to normal when operated in standard conditions.
Recent user feedback
Over the course of this fall, we began to receive feedback from some users who were seeing slower performance in certain situations. Based on our experience, we initially thought this was due to a combination of two factors: a normal, temporary performance impact when upgrading the operating system as iPhone installs new software and updates apps, and minor bugs in the initial release which have since been fixed.
We now believe that another contributor to these user experiences is the continued chemical aging of the batteries in older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices, many of which are still running on their original batteries.
Addressing customer concerns
We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.
To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:
- Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
- Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
- As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.
At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.