Apple responds to iPhone 6 battery debacle

Apple iPhone 6 (Apple)
Apple said that it’s seeing "strong demand" for replacement iPhone batteries, but added that the latest versions won’t suffer the same performance degradation that earlier iPhones have seen. (Image: Apple)

Apple is considering offering rebates to iPhone customers that have paid full price for battery replacements, and it may extend its discounted battery replacement program beyond the end of the year.

Early last year, responding to a widespread clamor that iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE battery performance was significantly declining over time, Apple issued a software update that throttled the processor performance of the handsets in an effort to offset the battery drain issues. However, initially the Cupertino giant didn’t disclose that the update would affect handset performance.

It was a miscalculation: The slowdowns were obvious, prompting yet further hue and cry from users. In December, Apple admitted that the update purposefully slowed performance. Customers were less than ecstatic with the battery issues and subsequent handling of the problem, so the company apologized and lowered the price of battery replacements for affected models from $79 to $29.

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In a letter this week responding to questions from Senator John Thune, R-S.D., the company said that it’s seeing "strong demand" for replacement iPhone batteries, but added that the latest versions won’t suffer the same performance degradation that earlier iPhones have seen.

“iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X models include hardware updates that allow a more advanced performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown,” it said.

Apple also said that as far as it was concerned, the update did its job: “After gathering and analyzing data, we issued the iOS 10.2.1 software update in January 2017, for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. Then we looked at the diagnostic data made available by the update, and it indicated that the rate of unexpected shutdowns was greatly reduced for iPhone 6 and 6s owners. In February 2017, we updated our iOS 10.2.1 Read Me notes to let customers know the update ‘improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns.’ We also provided a statement to several press outlets and said that we were seeing positive results from the software update.”

Thule took the company to task for its lack of transparency.

“For advanced technologies like an iPhone, consumers rely on clear and transparent disclosures from manufacturers to understand why their device may experience performance changes,” Thune said. "[Apple] has acknowledged that its initial disclosures came up short.”

The availability of rebates and a discount extension should be announced in the coming weeks.