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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  • jjj - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    The right reaction would have been to recall all products impacted by this design fault but nobody does that nowadays and regulators are far too soft to do their most basic duty.
    A practical solution would have been for battery replacements to be free in perpetuity for the devices impacted by this but Apple is far too greedy to do that and they are not ever going to pay for their own mistakes. As it is, folks are forced to pay extra because some Apple engineers messed up and that's not cool at all.
    Reply
  • jimbo2779 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I'm no apple fanboy, not by a long shot but this is not a fault by the engineers but an intentional design decision taken to ensure the phone keeps working. I don't like it but the fact is that batteries degrade over time and an official battery change for $29 is reasonable for an out of warranty phone imo.

    I am still not convinced that certain aspects in new iOS updates aren't inte tionally bumped for more nefarious ends but this particular issue is one of those "damned if you do damned if you don't" type scenarios
    Reply
  • Kaggy - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I feel that this is more of poor battery QC forcing them to do this.
    I've known quite a bit of people complain about their battery life and auto shut down problems for no reason.
    Seeing how they selectively offered free battery replacements for certain batches i think the battery quality forced them to do this to hide the issue.

    Nothing against Apple, most other companies have skeletons in their closets. Just that for the price you're paying for it becomes a lot worse.
    Reply
  • lmcd - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I'm sorry but as an owner of previous devices who still turns them on and uses them from time to time both my SGSIII and Nokia Lumia 929 shut down at higher loads despite listing 40+% remaining battery. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    My Lumia 920 is still working fine even after 5 years. No shut downs, slow downs or anything.
    I did upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy Note, so donated my Lumia to my granny who uses it as a daily driver just fine.

    The batteries don't last forever, but if you get a good one they can last for years.
    Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Thursday, January 04, 2018 - link

    Note that almost all those come with bigger batteries - apple has high efficiency so makes do with a weaker battery. Looks like this might just be the price they have to pay for that... Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    The Nexus 6P does something similar. It will just shut down even though it has a decent amount of charge left. Google was just replacing batteries in affected units. Reply
  • lmcd - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Did not intend to reply to this comment, sorry! Anandtech comment system is not my friend today :-/ Reply
  • uhuznaa - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    No, this is just a software fix for a hardware problem. Normally you would expect a phone with a battery that is degraded to 80% capacity to run as fast as ever but have only 80% of battery life. If it shuts down with the battery half full because the voltage drops and you have to throttle it to keep it running at all, this phone is defective.

    I know of no other device that has to throttle its hardware with a degraded battery just to keep it from shutting down all the time. Both the throttling and the cheaper battery replacements are nothing but damage control here and I would be very surprised if this would be the end of that.
    Reply
  • ahw - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Degraded capacity and degraded supply voltage are two separate things that happen to batteries as they get older. Phones don't shut down because of degraded capacity, they shut down due to degraded supply voltage.

    I know several people with very old Android phones that do not throttle and, presumably as a result, experience frequent unexpected restarts and generally unstable performance.

    People are mad at Apple generally for the wrong reason, IMO. IMO, what they did was fine (lots of people on Reddit complaining that Android isn't doing this to their very old phones, resulting in unstable phones). But what they should've done is made it much more transparent: i.e., a prompt that tells the user that supply voltage is degraded and the phone will throttle to compensate.

    Apple did not take the transparent route, presumably because 1) they wanted to save money by hiding a hardware problem from users, thereby avoiding warranty repairs, and 2) they don't want iPhone users to receive a hardware warning as the last thing they see on their phone before they buy a new one (and jump ship to a different manufacturer).
    Reply

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