Battery scandal takes bite out of Apple

Updated 2018-01-05 10:01:06

Incidents gradually damage lofty brand image of tech giant

Chinese consumers are expressing mounting disappointment with Apple products despite a long-awaited apology.

"As an iPhone fan, I can understand technological limits and automatic shutdowns in winter, but I can't bear that Apple furtively lowers battery performance," a 30-year-old woman iPhone 6s user told the Global Times. She refused to be named.

"If all electronics manufacturers followed suit and began slowing down your computers and reducing the performance of your refrigerators and water heaters, customers would get accustomed to buying new products every year" she said.

"But then manufacturers would make more and more money, leaving customers' legal interests hurt and without them noticing."

iPhones have better user experience and longevity than many domestic brands, another iPhone user said.

"Nowadays, high-end smartphones have become luxury goods. I never expect to use an iPhone more than two years. Thus, slowing iPhones is no big deal for me at least," he said. He refused to be named.

The comment came after Apple's apology on its website of December 28. "There's been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue," the statement read.

Apple stressed that it had never - and would never - do anything to "intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades."

Continued chemical aging of the batteries - a normal, temporary performance impact when upgrading the operating system - plus minor bugs in the initial release which have since been fixed, may together have contributed to slowing batteries, Apple said.

Conspiracy or not?

Since 2008, Google searches including the words "iPhone" and "slow" seem to have surged around the time of each new iPhone launch.

But for almost a decade nobody could prove whether the battery issue was just a user illusion or a true slowdown in the Central Processing Unit performance under the upgraded operating system.

Tests by John Poole, founder of Toronto-based software analysis firm Primate Labs, found that "Apple has introduced a change to the limit on performances when battery conditions decrease past a certain point."

In response, Apple said in a statement: "Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We've now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future."

Rather than helping Apple, the explanation instead triggered anger, with many users accusing the tech giant of purposely slowing down old iPhones so as to entice them to buy newer models.

After the statement was released, two people in California began suing Apple, claiming the tech firm never gained their consent to "slow down their iPhones," CNBC reported on December 22.

The two Californians, Stefan Bogdanovich and Dakota Speas, said they suffered interferences with their iPhone usage from the slowdown, prompting them to claim damages from Apple.

A smartphone engineer told the Global Times that it was understandable that Apple attempted to avoid unexpected shutdowns of iPhones due to slowing algorithms. He refused to be named.

"Due to technological limits, smartphone battery capacity will drop remarkably after being used for some time. And if consumers overuse the device, like upgrading all the applications at the same time, the device may automatically shut down. This is more common in low-temperature environments," he said.

Shun Yu, an industry analyst based in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, said that Apple actually has the ability to solve these problems if it truly wanted to benefit users.

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