Apple is facing scrutiny from multiple governments over the controversy of its decision to throttle the performance of older iPhones through software updates without explicitly disclosing the practice to users.
The latest bouts of explanation and criticism are centered in Ottawa as the Canadian House of Commons committee on industry, science and technology heard from Apple on the issue last week.
The company had submitted a letter on February 5 that explained the case it has made time and again to consumers and other governments: the iOS 10.2.1 update early in 2017 was tuned to affect iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE units after a number of reports came out saying that their device randomly rebooted itself. Apple traced the issue to a manufacturing flaw in the battery and addressed the issue by limiting the maximum performance of the processor on the phones. It also mixed in reasoning that batteries are more vulnerable to faults as they age and denature. The iOS 11.2 update applied similar limits to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
However, the throttling was not explicitly disclosed to consumers — it was termed as improved “power management” and one of the anonymous feature to “reduce occurrences of unexpected shutdowns” in statements to media and in a changelog file.
Owners had since complained that their iPhones were becoming slower and accused Apple of engaging in planned obsolescence. Empirical tests were published showing that processor slowdown was occurring in the older phones. It was only late last year that Apple admitted, then apologized for applying the behavior. It offered subsidized battery replacements to those affected by the issue and is creating a toggle-off switch for the throttling behavior on the upcoming iOS 11.3 update.
Apple confirmed that models older than the iPhone 6 are not affected by throttling and that the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X have advanced power management systems that obviate the need for future updates to include performance throttling for those devices.
The company is still considering the idea first suggested by US Senator John Thune to retroactively give out rebates to eligible device owners for those who replaced batteries before the subsidy program launched equivalent to the subsidy being offered.
It does not seem like Apple has moved much beyond the positions it made under US Senate inquiry. AppleInsider reports that Apple is also under investigation by the governments of France, Italy and South Korea.