Apple Apologizes for Throttling iPhones, Offers $29 Replacement Batteries

Posted on December 28, 2017 by Mehedi Hassan in Hardware, Mobile, iOS with 66 Comments

The iPhone is Boring (Premium)

Apple faced a whole lot of backlash from customers, combined with a bunch of lawsuits worldwide after the company was found to be slowing down older iPhones. It is no secret that older iPhones slow down as new iPhone devices or iOS updates are released, but Apple actually went ahead and confirmed everyone’s suspicions recently.

Today, the company is apologizing for poor communication and all the confusion regarding the issue. In a letter to its customers, Cupertino explained the reason behind older iPhones slowing down over time, and why exactly older iPhones tend to slow down over time. “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,” Apple said.

The company is blaming the poor performance of older iPhones on batteries as they chemically age over time. Apple even detailed some of the factors that can contribute to the poor performance of your iPhone’s battery.

According to Apple, iPhones may unexpectedly shut down as their batteries age, and the company was able to tackle the issue by using a dynamic power management solution introduced with iOS 10.2.1 for the iPhone 6 and 6s line of devices. The company recently added the same feature to the iPhone 7 line with iOS 11.2 (that was notably released just a few weeks after the release of iPhone 8 and X), which causes reductions in performance to prevent unexpected shutdowns. But that can obviously degrade the experience for customers, who may be tempted to upgrade to newer iPhones due to the degradation of performance.

The solution? Well, Apple is taking a couple of steps to workaround the issue to basically make sure it doesn’t get involved in any more lawsuits:

  • First, Apple is lowering the price of its iPhone battery replacement service by $50, from $79 to $29 for customers with iPhone 6 or later. So, yes, if you don’t want your iPhone to be sluggish, you’ll have to pay Apple $29.
  • Second, Apple will release a new update to iOS that will give users more insights into their iPhone’s battery. You don’t have to pay for this one.
  • And lastly, Apple engineers are working on improving its power management tech to prevent unexpected shutdowns on iPhones. Don’t be too surprised if that ends up being one of the features of the upcoming flagship phones.

Apple is trying its best to rebuild customer trust, but the company has a long way to go. New iOS updates have always proven to slow down older iPhone devices, even though the company continues to insist it never intentionally slowed down its devices to push customers to upgrade. But asking customers to pay $29 for improved performance on an already expensive product may be a bit too much.

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Comments (66)

66 responses to “Apple Apologizes for Throttling iPhones, Offers $29 Replacement Batteries”

  1. jaredthegeek

    Batteries wear down, that's reality. What Apple did is deceptive. So a software update that makes the phone work harder and then slow down the processor. That sure sounds like pushing someone to get the new phone. I used to hear friends swear their phone was slower and as a windows phone and android user I scoffed that it was all in their head. Well turns out Apple truly did slow down their products. How does this company have any public trust left?

  2. Daekar

    I find myself in the rare position of applauding Apple here. Not only is the software feature under debate here a good engineering solution, but their response to the backlash is better than I expected.

    My Galaxy S7 allows me to limit the clock speed of the processor by default in battery saver mode, so I feel like that's a good alternative to doing it automatically, but for the folks that buy Apple stuff I think their solution is appropriate. The addition of a future iOS update to show real battery health data is wonderful.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to Daekar:

      I seriously wouldn't applaud them. Sure, they've come out quick with a 'solution' to try and appease customers and some very annoyed people taking legal action, but in reality, Apple artificially lowered CPU speeds on older devices without telling their customers. Huge mistake. Some of those with older iPhones would suddenly see a large performance drop with a new release of iOS, and not have a clue why. No user selectable settings to control it, nothing in the release notes. Nothing. It doesn't matter how Apple try and squirm out of it, they screwed up - big time.

      It was bound to become public knowledge in the end, but at the same time, I'm sure Apple enjoyed a significant number of their customers upgrading to newer models because they suddenly thought their current handset had gone really, really slow. Apple made a lot of money out of this. Don't defend them. iPhone batteries have never been user replaceable either, so if you want them 'fixed', you've still got to give Apple some cash, be it $79 or $29 (the battery itself probably costs less than $5).

      Apple took liberties with their ever loyal customers, and royally shafted them, and sold many more handsets because of it. Shame on them.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to Daekar:

        “iPhone batteries have never been user replaceable either, so if you want them 'fixed', you've still got to give Apple some cash, be it $79 or $29 (the battery itself probably costs less than $5).“

        I’m perfectly happy for the trade offs of non-user-replaceable design. I’m also perfectly happy to pay for the time of an Apple employee to properly service a device.

        I’ve also heard friends talk about incorrect replacements resulting in a fully-new or refurbished phone after a battery replacement didn’t go the way everyone had hoped.

        I still don’t buy the “Apple is out to screw everyone” claim that is fairly prevelent. My customer service experiences with them are absolutely counter to that.

        (Including a few “covered for the hell of it, for good customer service” times.)

    • curtisspendlove

      “... but for the folks that buy Apple stuff I think their solution is appropriate... “

      I once cared about the niggling details. Nowadays I just want stuff to work. Honestly don’t care if fancy electronics are throttled.

      In fact, I nearly burned out an older laptop because the throttling didn’t function properly. That was *not* a good experience. Luckily I noticed once the keyboard started getting physically warm to the touch. All it needed was a keyboard replacement (more than a $29 battery), so it could have been worse. But it should have throttled down and eventually shut itself down long before that.

  3. Waethorn

    "We would never do anything intentional to degrade the user experience"

    So, is there anybody out there now that still trusts Apple after this blatant lie?

    • Lauren Glenn

      In reply to Waethorn:

      All I know is that if I were selling my old iPhone 6 or 7 to buy a new phone, nothing like getting an extra $30+ in sales by telling them that you just got a new battery put in the phone (for $29).

  4. dontbe evil

    Classic apple behaviour... Only after fear the class action

    • Lauren Glenn

      In reply to dontbe_evil:

      Typical corporate behavior. You know, they didn't need to say, we'll sell replacement batteries for $29. They could've just added in the battery health indicator and give you the option to turn it on or off then be done with it.

      Even if you don't need a new battery, take advantage of the price for $29 while it's out there.


  5. Angusmatheson

    I think this a a great feature. I’ve hung onto an iPhone 6 for a couple of extra years and this year - the battery began to fail. It wouldn’t last long, but worse when it was low it would shut down if I did too much. I replaced the battery, and the problem got better. I don’t blame Apple that my battery got bad after 3 years of daily use. Their current solution, so keep the phone running at the fastest speed it can without having unexpected shut downs increases the life span of their phones, and of like me you put a new battery in an old phone it will speed up again. I don’t see why everyone doesn’t see this as a feature? The unexpected shut downs when my old battery was stressed were a total pain, and this seems a much better solution.

  6. glenn8878

    Tragic. My iPhone 6 was unusable and had to be replaced. Apple is a tricky company.

  7. DaveHelps

    Is all this applicable only to iPhones, or does it impact iPads too?

    I have an iPad mini which is horrendously, unusably slow, but the battery lasts for about a week on a single charge.

    • jrickel96

      In reply to DaveHelps:

      Their iPad battery replacement is $99. Not sure if they are dropping the price on it. I'd download an app that can check the battery life. If it's good, I'd look at resetting the iPad. I've never run into one that is super slow and I'm not sure they actually throttle the iPads down due to the larger battery capacity.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to DaveHelps: The software 'feature' that lowers performance to increase battery life on older batteries does not run on iPads. The natural degradation of batteries does of course happen on iPads just like any other device. So, on iPads, you won't see the performance suffer, but you may see the battery life suffer. May not be as significant as those devices are likely not carried all day, used a lot, and outfitted with life sucking LTE.

  8. jwpear

    So, will they offer some sort of credit or refund to those of us that replaced our phones due to slowness just before battery gate broke? I also replaced the battery in my 6 just before giving to my son.

  9. Jeffery Commaroto

    Honestly I would like it if all devices gave you a real indication of how your battery is doing over time and what options you have to upgrade it. I have a Dell laptop that is only a couple of years old for example. Battery performance is terrible. It was never stellar but has declined. Windows has had several major revisions and endless updates since the OS that shipped with it.

    I ran the battery report in Windows. Capacity has dropped a bit and I do have the option via slider to decrease performance and prioritize battery life. What I don’t have is a frame of reference. At what % change in capacity would it make sense to get a new battery? Is the % decrease in capacity responsible for 100% of the loss and if so will a new battery get me back to where it was when I bought it? Are other factors like Windows itself, background services, Chrome dragging things down and if so how much? If changing the battery will make a major difference am I opening the thing and replacing myself or does Dell have a system of support to do this for me?

    I at least like that this is now a topic of conversation.

    • jrickel96

      In reply to Jeffery_Commaroto:

      I think the positive that will come out of this is more manufacturers will be proactive in giving consumers the tools to assess how their batteries are doing while giving them options for replacement, etc. MS should create a standard for Windows that will allow for easy battery assessment in any Windows device.

      iOS is about to do that and we can hope the Mac will follow suit. Android will be the most difficult area for this to happen. Each OEM will have to decide what to do and even if Google put it into Android, I'm sure many OEM images would disable it.

      That's a place where iOS and and Windows have a huge advantage over Android. They can implement these types of improvements. MS will be able to bring Andromeda to market with something like this.

      I'd also advise everyone have an official flat fee battery replacement service like Apple does. Even before reducing the price, the $79 flat fee for most iPhones has been a pretty good deal. At $29, it's a fantastic deal.

  10. jwpear

    Since the market approach isn't working, presumably due to poorly informed consumers, this should drive some conversations with legislators to enact laws that force companies to make hardware more serviceable. This absolutely would not be an issue if batteries were easily replaced.

    Think about all of us with Surfaces that can't easily have the batteries replaced. They may still be decent machines in 5 years, but they'll be worthless as portables because the batteries will be crap.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to jwpear:

      Except the market approach is working. People want thinner phones and are willing to give up external batteries to get it. It's not just cell phones either. It's computers as well.

  11. NT6.1

    I always thought Apple made their newest iOS version bloated so it would run slow on older devices. But lowering the clock speed of the CPU making old devices artificially slow is really messed up.

  12. CyberDadIO

    Is this reduced battery replacement going to be another US-only idea or will this be available worldwide? Anyone know the cost in Australia for the same service?

  13. Username

    Has anybody actually experienced the supposed “unexpected shutdown” due to battery condition?

  14. mortarm

    So they want us to pay them to fix they're mistake? Don't think so.

  15. Simard57

    is this battery shutdown issue unique to iPhone? I do not recall other phones just shutting down due to drawing too much current. Is this an engineering issue or just a common issue

    • jrickel96

      In reply to Simard57:

      I've had makes from LG, Samsung, HTC, Motorola and others all do it. It's not unique to iPhone. It happens more frequently on Android phones because the OS does not restrain the apps like iOS does, so you can get a rogue app that has an intense battery/processor draw and causes the phone to shutdown or restart.

      The reason you don't have the update issue on Android is because most users get very few updates, so it's more likely that an Android phone will just suffer from the occasional shutdown. Most everyone I know with Android are used to their phones acting like this and becoming unreliable. Most of them need to be reset every six months or so to really clean them up and prevent rogue apps from doing things like this.

      So I'd say it's far more common in Android, but that's the nature of the ecosystem. Google pays little attention to the apps submitted in Play and has no real rules for power, memory, and cpu management for submitted apps. Apple is very, very restrictive on all those fronts.

      It's a common problem on small mobile devices with lower capacity batteries. You don't find it so much on laptops or tablets due to much higher capacity batteries. A major burst won't leave them drained without warning.

  16. Polycrastinator

    One of the advantages Apple has had for a long time is that because of the efficiency of iOS, they could get away with smaller batteries than the competition, but I expect because of that this became a problem sooner than it needed to. If they’d just made the phones a bit thicker and put a little more battery in there, this wouldn’t be a concern at all.

    Still, I’ll be paying my $29 to get some more life out of my 6S+, which only has 74% if it’s designed battery capacity now.

    • jrickel96

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      It happens with higher capacity batteries as well. I've had it happen on Galaxy S8 devices, Nexus 6P, LG G6, and HTC U11. It's not a problem common to just Apple. It's more prevalent on Android because an app can run in the background and make heavy demands on the system unchecked.

      I've had a new Nexus 6P go from 100% charge to 25% in 45 minutes while I wasn't even using it. I rebooted it, recharged it, and the battery was good for more than the whole day. The iPhone never does those similar unpredictable things. It's consistent.

  17. pecosbob04

    "Apple is trying its best to rebuild customer trust, but the company has a long way to go."

    Hah! Get real, That statement is a textbook example of the saying: ...

    "Assumes facts not in evidence."

    And $29 US dollars to replace the battery on a 3 year old iPhone seems like a good deal to me.

    • ReformedCtrlZ

      In reply to pecosbob04:

      Cutting the price of the replacement is a good deal, and if the issue was only effecting older models then I would agree with you. But some of the phones reporting these issues are barely a year old. That is where they're drawing ire from consumers.

      It's also very telling to me that Apple is having these issues when other hardware companies aren't showing the same signs. Not sure if Apple is trying to over-engineer their stuff or if they're just pushing too hard on the tech they want for their phone, but I read this news as one more reason I'm happy to not use an iPhone.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to ReformedCtrlZ:

        “It's also very telling to me that Apple is having these issues when other hardware companies aren't showing the same signs.”

        Excellent point. Other companies simply choose to not manage the battery. This has the wonderful effect of leading to entire makes of phones catching on fire and being banned from airplane flights.

        I’ll take a phone that throttles occasionally.

        By by the way, this kind of thing isn’t new.

        Anyone remember the story about Surface Book 2 throttling gaming performance?

  18. simont

    $29 for a replacement battery is reasonable. Slowing down people's phones and not telling them is not.

    • zybch

      In reply to simont:

      And what about slowing down ppl's phones and lying about the real reason...

    • peterh226

      I agree. My 6+ went nuts with IOS 11.2 and I was in Europe and couldn't update due to network issues. With the poor performance I gave up and get an iPhone X. I'm pretty happy with it, but not pleased that I could have waited a while and just got a new battery. Technology is a necessary pain I guess. All of these companies are learning how to make a lot of money and not quite piss us off entirely.
      In reply to simont:

  19. wrylee

    No fan of Apple, I find this to be a pretty good solution. And yes, I'll pony up the $30...

  20. nbplopes

    Rarely Apple disappointed me and this is no exception. The only disappointement I have with Apple at the moment its the ever rising prices of their hardware. They need slap on the hand in this departement.

  21. Daniel D

    The solution was and still is, user serviceable access to replacing the battery. Stops all the arguments. Perhaps Mr Ives next design challenge is making Apple products user friendly again.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to Daniel_D:

      They still need to disable the "feature" bit of code that slows down iOS on older hardware.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to Waethorn:

        So...your preference is for your phone to crash and reboot?

        I'd prefer a temporary slow down.

        • 1armedGeek

          In reply to curtisspendlove:

          I would have liked to know why my device slowed down in the first place. It's deceptive, otherwise, just to let people buy new devices without telling them AND letting people continue SLOW devices without telling them a quick fix. "Get a new battery and your device will run better."

          These customers could have had faster devices if Apple would have been honest.

        • Waethorn

          In reply to curtisspendlove:

          And you believe that excuse?

          • curtisspendlove

            In reply to Waethorn:

            And you believe that excuse?”

            I do, and I’ve seen plenty of empirical evidence to support Apple’s claim. (For example, many articles about battery replacements fixing this issue.)

            I’m of the general opinion that communicating things to one’s customer base is the best method. But even the comments on this article prove that you’re going to have a set of people who don’t believe you regardless of communications.

            I’m sure when iOS 11.3 comes out with the new battery information, we’ll go through the same rounds of common comments.


            P.S. I’m still entertained that Samsung’s answer to a constantly slowing phone was popping up a message in the notification shade literally stating (paraphrased) “you haven’t restarted your phone for over a week, you should do so for best performance”.

            I get it, Java. Still made me laugh (and hate the phone a little more) every time I saw it.

            It it is easy to over-communicate as well.

        • Lauren Glenn

          In reply to curtisspendlove:

          I'd prefer the hardware to be designed better to the point where your system tells you to get the battery replaced instead of crashing....

      • Angusmatheson

        It’s not on older hardware. It is in hard debate with failing batteries. This is to keep older phones working better and not unexpectedly shutting down under load. In reply to Waethorn:

  22. NT6.1

    They are only sorry they got caught.

  23. 1armedGeek

    IMO, the issue is not that Apple is slowing the phones down. It's the not informing its customers.

    Not only were existing customers affected, but if I were considering buying an iPhone, that's something I would want to know BEFORE buying it.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to 1armedGeek:

      Yes. But all of them slow down due to an eroding battery, some not even just due to that. Now you know.

      Probably Apple is the first coming out of the closet with this issue. Let’s see who else comes out.

  24. cheetahdriver

    I would take 29bucks for a battery replacement. My 7Plus was going flat on me anyway when I bought the X, and that battery is taking a pounding. A mid year refresh might not be out of the realm. I have a friend with a 6 who bought a power back just because hers wouldn't last 2 hours on the phone battery anymore. 29 bucks for her would be a steal.

    • IanYates82

      In reply to cheetahdriver:

      I'd still be very annoyed with a phone that's not very old only lasting 2hours on a charge. That'd be a warranty issue as far as I'm concerned. Laws local to the country can help a lot in this instance. We got 2 year warranties introduced here in Australia partly because most phone contracts here are two years and it was deemed wrong to have a typical two year commitment only have the hardware to which you've committed be guaranteed for half that period.

  25. SvenJ

    "But asking customers to pay $29 for improved performance on an already expensive product may be a bit too much." Aww, come on. Even if you could replace the battery yourself, you'd have to buy it. $29 is cheap. $79 wasn't all that bad, if you knew it would help.

    • wbhite

      In reply to SvenJ:

      Without iOS interference, $29 wouldn't improve the performance of your phone, only the battery life. In this case, Paul is correct: You're paying to get back performance since iOS is slowing down the phone.

    • Jeffery Commaroto

      In reply to SvenJ:

      You have to change the oil in a car, tires, brakes etc.

      That is implicit in the cost of owning a vehicle. Over time it also became implicit that when you buy a smart phone you should get a case and a screen protector etc.

      I think if people dropped $1,000 on a phone with the understanding that to keep it going for more than a year or two they would have to replace a battery for a fee it would be fine. They erred in not telling people about such maintainence and then trying to solve it without making the user aware of their options.

      Hopefully lesson learned and now there is greater awareness that phones should be serviced with a new battery on occasion. We just need to know when that occasion should be.

  26. GotCobol

    This is just 100% epic communications failure. Any person should know batteries degrade over time. The issue here is that they throttled without telling anyone, or giving you the option of saying hey thanks, but no thanks.

    all that was needed to avoid this was a prompt when the "feature" would activate, and a toggle in settings.... done.

  27. paulkocz

    What surprises me (and I know it shouldn't) is that there doesn't seem to be to much complaining about Apple's selling method here. Sure they slowed down the phone for the customer experience (cough, cough), but most of the user's of iPhones that I know upgrade because the phone is too slow or the battery starts to only last for a few hours each day. So basically Apple has been "forcing" people to buy a new phone because the so called customer experience (longer battery life) actually makes the "experience" worse and people feel they need to upgrade. Meanwhile Apple sells 50 million (or whatever amount) and the market just seems to assume that people like Apple and their phones and just can't get enough of them. So it turns out that in fact Apple has been "forcing" people to upgrade all along, while their bank balance gets larger at the expense of creating a better "experience" for their "valued customers."

    What an amazing world we live in!!

    • jrickel96

      In reply to paulkocz:

      No different than Samsung not updating their phones with upgrades. They take forever to deploy a new OS update or security patches. And the user experience and battery tend to decline faster on their phones than on Apples.

      The problem is everyone expects this of Android. They know the OS has a lot of problems and that apps can do whatever they want. They expect better of Apple's more controlled environment.

      But if Samsung were held to Apple's standards with updates, battery life, etc then they'd have very few customers.