South Korea to investigate Apple over iPhone throttling

Ever since Apple admitted that it was slowing down older iPhones, the company has faced no end of trouble. Despite the company’s claims that the slowdowns were meant to maintain battery life, many consumers were frustrated with Apple and the company is facing threats of lawsuits and having to contend with a hit to its repuation.

In addition to facing several lawsuits, Apple may be facing criminal charges in some jurisdictions. The Korean Herald has reported that South Korea has opened an investigation into the matter. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has assigned the case to its intellectual property office.

Despite the lawsuits and investigations, Apple did take quick action in regards to the issue of iPhone throttling. A mere week after Apple first made the announcement regarding the iPhone slowdowns, the company succumbed to mounting pressure and, as an apparent gesture of goodwill, decided to offer owners of iPhone 6 and later models a battery replacement for $29 — a limited-time $50 discount.

Apple originally intended for the replacement batteries to go on sale in late January. Tech Crunch has reported that the company started offering the discounted batteries as of December 30, however. Apple did say that initial supplies could be limited, so users may want to act fast.

Some iPhone users may have to wait a little longer to replace their batteries. MacRumors, citing an internal Apple document, is reporting delays in battery swaps for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus devices. The report quotes a two-week wait for battery replacements for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus. For iPhone 6 Plus users, the delay will extend into March or April.

If you have an iPhone 6s, however, you may be able to get your battery replaced completely free. According to a report on TechSpot, Apple is still offering a battery replacement program for some iPhone 6s models that were affected by unexplained shutdowns that started occurring in 2015. If you own an iPhone 6s and want to see if your phone is eligible, you can check your serial number on Apple’s support page.

You are likely familiar with the rumor that Apple throttles older iPhones in an effort to make users resort to buying new devices. Of course, Apple maintains that’s not the case and it offered a statement regarding why iPhones may struggle as they get older.

Apple confirmed it slowed down older iPhones in an effort to better handle the power output that aging batteries can offer. Some users were upset. So much so, in fact, that several lawsuits have been filed against the company.

“Defendant breached the implied contracts it made with Plaintiffs and Class Members by purposefully slowing down older iPhone models when new models come out and by failing to properly disclose that at the time the parties entered into an agreement,” reads a lawsuit filed by Wilshire Law Firm on behalf of Stefan Bogdanovich and Dakota Speas. The pair are seeking both California and nationwide class-action status for their suit, according to a report from TMZ.

Apple Insider has reported that attorneys on behalf of Keaton Harvey have filed another suit against Apple. The class-action suit alleges that the company’s decision to slow down old iPhones “allowed Apple to conceal the true nature and scope of the battery defect and to avoid expending time, money, and effort on correcting it.”

The suit requests that Apple notify owners about changes to the OS, repair the flaws in the software that led to the throttling, and reimburse those who bought affected iPhones.

In light of the suits, on Thursday, December 28, Apple released an apology for the confusion surrounding battery and performance issues. In its apology, the company stated “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.”

Lawsuits aren’t the only problems Apple is facing. Reuters has reported that four members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to Tim Cook seeking answers regarding Apple’s policy of slowing down older iPhones. Greg Walden(R.-Oregon), who serves as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was one of the signatories of the letter.

Apple also promised to release a software update in 2018 that will allow users to better monitor battery performance and health on their devices. Additionally, it stated it will reduce the price of battery replacement on all iPhone 6 phones and later to $29 for the next year. And more recent discussions with Tim Cook on ABC has revealed that a future update will allow users to turn off the CPU throttling if they think it’s having a detrimental effect on their iPhone’s performance. It’s definitely worth keeping in mind that this may cause iPhones to unexpectedly shut down, but it’s nice that Apple is giving customers the chance to choose for themselves.

Recent throttling accusations began when a Redditor shared Geekbench results taken right before and right after the battery in an iPhone 6S was replaced. According to the Redditor, who goes by the name TeckFire, the iPhone performed as much as 20 percent better after the battery replacement.

After the Reddit post, John Poole, who founded Primate Labs, offered a more visualized look at the link between battery health and iPhone performance. Benchmarking tests were performed on iOS 10.2.0 and 10.2.1, and show some pretty serious differences in performance. Apple introduced an update in iOS 10.2.1 aimed at fixing an issue where some iPhone 6S models shut down due to uneven power delivery from older batteries in the phones. That power-management feature is what was causing the performance dips on some iPhone models.

According to Apple, there is a good reason for the performance dip.

“Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge, or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components,” Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch.

In other words, when an iPhone’s battery gets older, it becomes less capable of delivering enough power to the processor during a peak of performance, and when that happens it has to spread out the power requests over a few processor cycles. The result of that is a dip in performance.

That’s what is triggered when benchmarks are run — they look like performance peaks and valleys to an operating system, and as such on older batteries, the power requests will be spread out. Upgrade to a new battery, and power will be delivered much more effectively.

It’s not all that surprising. As a battery ages, it stops working as well. That has always been the case and likely always will be. That doesn’t mean that the average performance of a device is being affected, nor does it mean that Apple is throttling your phone to make you upgrade. Of course, Apple could have been a little more transparent — a simple notification telling users that their battery is getting old and that they may see a performance dip because of it would have gone a long way. That lack of notification may be a serious point of contention when and if the lawsuits ever gains ground.

Update: Added information regarding South Korea’s investigation into Apple over the iPhone slowdowns.