Following the attention that Apple had gotten over the past few weeks regarding the discovery of mechanisms that reduce CPU frequency on devices with aged batteries, Apple has now issued a more comprehensive statement and apology addressing the matter:

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.

When power is pulled from a battery with a higher level of impedance, the battery’s voltage will drop to a greater degree. Electronic components require a minimum voltage to operate. This includes the device’s internal storage, power circuits, and the battery itself. The power management system determines the capability of the battery to supply this power, and manages the loads in order to maintain operations.

The statement doesn’t address any new information as to cause of the issue and confirms my initial technical explanation of the battery impedance causing the battery to no longer be able to supply a stable voltage supply during transient loads.

What we do have as new information is the various other effects that the throttling mechanism touches:

  • Longer app launch times
  • Lower frame rates while scrolling
  • Backlight dimming (which can be overridden in Control Center)
  • Lower speaker volume by up to -3dB
  • Gradual frame rate reductions in some apps
  • During the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI
  • Apps refreshing in background may require reloading upon launch

As it appears, CPU and GPU frequency reductions are not the only things done by iOS to prevent shutdowns of iPhone 6, 6S, SE and 7. The system also reduces backlight dimming (which can be overridden in settings), lowers speaker volume by up to -3 dB, disables camera flash cease app refreshing in background. All of the said performance-related features are important to the user, yet are not crucial when it comes to phone usage in general and in emergencies in particular. Apple stresses that while it reduces SoC frequency, it preserves cellular call quality, networking and GPS performance, location accuracy, captured photo and video quality, operation of sensors as well as Apple Pay. In fact, the FCC and other regulators have a set of emergency-related requirements and recommendations for wireless service providers and hardware manufacturers, there is also the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and the iCanConnect program to provide people with disabilities a viable way of communications (including video communications during emergencies). To participate in this and similar programs a vendor probably needs to guarantee that its hardware can make the aforementioned features (and therefore emergency services) available to users at all times.

Based on the large media attention and relatively negative feedback which prompted Apple to this second official response and statement, Apple promises three key points to address consumer’s concerns:

  • Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

Reduction of the cost of an official battery replacement from $79 to $29 is a much welcomed change that makes this a much more attractive option considering replacement batteries only cost $10-15 depending on model; Apple’s previous pricing at $79 was extremely extortionary given the critical aspect of this service. I would now recommend any users who hesitated on replacing their iPhone batteries on their own to make use of the official service as it will have very noticeable impact both on device battery life as well as device performance (due to the nature of this story). Meanwhile, the program has been announced for the U.S. and it remains to be seen how Apple handles it in other countries, including smaller European states that barely have official Apple service providers that can handle additional workload

The way that Apple has handled disclosure on the throttling mechanisms has also been heavily criticised as users felt their devices slowing down with iOS updates and not knowing the reason. Here Cupertino promises key changes in the way that iOS handles information sharing on battery health and reporting, as well as promised improvement on performance management under degraded battery conditions. The issued time-frame for when we can expect these updates are “early 2018”.

Overall the response from Apple was the only possibly correct one to the whole fiasco, and the only one which was to be realistically expected, though it took longer than it should have to implement changes such as drastically reducing the battery replacement cost.

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  • kfishy - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    You forget that it's less the continuous current but more the peak current, SoCs nowadays can boost up several times its base currency and consume exponentially more power for short intervals, so there may be milliseconds in which the phone is drawing over 1C from the battery (for example when both the CPUs and the GPU are on full with the RF transmitting). Reply
  • shadowjk - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    The numbers were fictional, as I said.

    But for every battery, there is a point at which voltage will collapse. Whether that be 1C, 2C, or 30C. Generally, for a battery rated for 1C discharge, if you do 2C or 4C it might still "work", when the battery is new, that is. There will be a point where voltage collapses. That point will become lower and lower as the battery ages.

    In general, cellphone batteries and similar, are optimized for storing the maximum amount of energy, which means that the amount of discharge they can tolerate will be lower. The 1C you mention is typical for a cellphone battery. 30C is typical for a RC Drone battery.

    Did Apple ask for a battery that is so heavily optimized for storing energy, that its maximum continuous discharge rate is somewhere below 1C? Or is the power draw of the SoC significantly higher than 1C in the first place?
    Reply
  • id4andrei - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    This "feature" was introduced on the background of a small recall of iphones 6s. It's not something thought of from the beginning of the iphone. Therefor I doubt Apple was trying to think too much about the overall battery design and instead was trying to sweep this under the rug. Reply
  • lmcd - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I'm sorry but this is no where near as constrained of a problem as you think. The only reason Apple is being targeted is because they're the largest user base of any individual phone models bar possibly Samsung, and because on average Apple phone users are satisfied with their individual phone models for far longer than their peers on Android, barring this issue.

    Android users literally don't run into this issue because they buy new phones before it can possibly crop up.

    This problem is demonstrable with a degraded battery on a Galaxy SIII and on a Lumia 929. In particular, the Lumia 929 is the same age approximately as the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 operates noticeably slower. The Lumia 929 powers off at 40%-50% "remaining charge" frequently, depending on the operation.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    > It takes 15 minutes tops to change an iPhone battery, experienced people can it in probably 5 minutes. $29 is reasonable for labour costs. $79 is not.

    So I take it you’ve never actually been to an Apple Store? Nothing happens in under 15 minutes (Except for the draining of your wallet part. That usually happens incredibly quickly.) or involves fewer than 3 employees. They also tend to lease an insane amount of square footage in some of the most expensive real estate on the planet.

    I think $79 was at the upper end of reasonable, but $29 is probably not a break even for them, unless someone else is underwriting some of the cost. The company I work for bills out technician labor at nominal rates up to $200 / hr. So even a 15 min repair would cost the customer $50 in labor. Fortune 500 companies tend to have a *lot* of overhead.

    As to this being a design flaw, what you’re saying is that in the past 3 years Apple has realeased 7 iPhone models, with 3 different SoCs, various PMICs, countless batches of batteries sourced from multiple suppliers and produced at different facilities, all with a similar hardware problem. Furthermore, Apple has known about and has actively been working on a solution to this problem for at least 15 months. Yet they continue to produce and sell at least 5 of those 7 models with no apparent hardware revisions. Do you really think the engineers discovered a hardware design flaw, but still pushed out some 350 million devices and thought, “Nah, it’s OK, we can fix this down the road in software.”? If a few capacitors could solve this issue, why wouldn’t they have added them years ago? That narrative doesn’t make any sense.
    Reply
  • lmcd - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    $80 is a lot when considering Apple is at fault for pushing non-removable batteries in the first place. Reply
  • pfesser53 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Sign on speed-shop door: Speed Costs Money. How Fast Do You Want To Go?

    TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Batteries cost money. How long do you want your battery replaced for "free?"
    Reply
  • Santoval - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    A recall would be irrelevant in this case, since it does not involve a hardware design but strictly iOS updates. Reply
  • Samus - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    Sure, let’s just recall all modern battery powered devices then. Android has had a similar kernel scheduler implementation since Donut, and Windows power management has had strategic component power optimization while on battery power since Windows 2000...although most of it can be overridden because the BIOS often allows CPU and chipset features, like turbo boost, to be forced while on DC power. By default, Intel mobile CPU’s do NOT boost on DC.

    But I don’t see HP and Lenovo being sued. They aren’t recalling anything.

    The only time this would warrant a recall is if it was a safety issue. It isn’t. It’s an aging equipment issue. Batteries don’t last forever.
    Reply
  • BehindEnemyLines - Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - link

    That maybe true. CPUs on laptops are throttled because of thermal limit. They are not throttled because the battery is at 80% of its life. My 8-year old laptop battery has zero charge left but my CPU isn't throttled when it's plugged in. Apple intentionally throttled the phone EVEN when the phone is charging. Reply

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