Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is now among the growing list of government units around the world which are investigating Apple over the decreased performance of iPhones with older batteries inside. The company’s poor messaging about an iOS update that was intended to prevent unexpected shutdowns (a change that required throttling the processor and slowing performance of iPhones with chemically-aged batteries) led to a widespread controversy and customer frustration late last year.
According to the reports reaching us, the new probe comes after Seoul’s Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty filed a complaint against Apple that claimed the company was really slowing down iPhones to influence consumers to upgrade sooner than would otherwise be necessary. This accusation of intentional deterioration is one that many people have turned to, although it doesn’t really hold up from a customer loyalty perspective. Apple has denied any kind of early-upgrade conspiracy, and last week CEO Tim Cook said, “We deeply apologize for anyone who thinks we had some other kind of motivation.” Apple also published an open letter on the matter on its website and reduced the battery replacement fee to $29. .
In an interview, Cook commented on the problem that led to this landslide of bad press and angry customers. “When we put it out, we did say what it was, but I don’t think a lot of people were paying attention. Maybe we should have been clearer as well.” Apple is also facing probes in Italy and France. With the release of iOS 10.2.1 in 2016, Apple indeed touched on reduced shutdowns and deeper battery management, but then any update that eventually slows down a very expensive smartphone deserved a more up front, obvious explanation.
CEO Tim Cook has said that an upcoming iOS update will provide more detailed battery health information and allow users to disable the performance throttling. Doing so would leave the user experience unaffected but might enhance the risk of annoying shutdowns when the battery still has a charge.