Apple in hot water for draining older iPhone batteries

Jocy He

The rumor is confirmed: Apple has been slowing down older iPhones, causing users to experience longer app launch times, shorter battery life and lower speaker volume. On Dec. 20, the tech giant’s statement affirming many theories that it has been slowing down phones sparked outcry even among its most loyal fans. In response, Apple has offered $29 battery replacements for iPhone 6 and later models; this, however, does not adequately justify Apple’s actions.

In its statement, Apple admitted that the design of their iOS software updates weakened the performance of their phones, claiming that the lithium ion battery in iPhones naturally degrades over time. Additionally, the chemistry of the battery can cause unexpected phone shutdowns, another common complaint of iPhone users. In order to save iPhones from unexpected shutdowns, Apple decided to slow down the phones instead.

“Devices need a certain amount of voltage and current. As you draw more current out of a battery, the voltage that the battery supplies goes down,” said math teacher Mark Kwong. “So, if I’m running a lot of stuff [on my phone], it is going to draw more current. When it draws more current, the voltage in the battery goes down. If the voltage goes below a certain level, the device just stops working. To solve that, [Apple] slowed down the processor as a way of reducing the current draw. Therefore, when you don’t draw as much current, the voltage stays above the critical shutdown level.”

To counter the shutdowns, Apple created the iOS 10.2.1 update for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE models and iOS 11.2 for the iPhone 7 line, which instead caused phone processing time to slow down. In order to restore their iPhones to peak performance, users would have to replace their old lithium batteries with new ones. Apple sought to remedy the issue by offering a $50 discount from their original $79 price tag.

The public has shown its dissatisfaction with Apple due to the announcement, raising over 26 lawsuits against the tech giant since the day Apple released its statement. The lawsuits primarily request free battery or new phone replacements, as well as increased transparency on iOS slowdowns.

The lawsuits find Apple’s biggest mistake to be their delayed communication regarding iOS updates and degrading batteries. Apple should have informed users about their batteries instead of allowing consumers to purchase entirely new phones when they could have simply switched out their batteries.

In addition to its lack of communication, Apple is only offering the discounted battery for one year. Its statement did not promise the development of a new battery, signifying that Apple’s newest models, the iPhone X and iPhone 8, will likely face the same battery problems in the future. If the discount is only offered for a year, phones will be caught in a cycle that forces users to replace their batteries once they reach their maximum capacity. The company should be able to extend longer warranties for the batteries to protect users against this defect.

“I have an iPhone 6, and the battery has been performing really badly,” said senior Sameera Aluri. “For example, if I use my phone for a few minutes on Snapchat, the battery would go down 10%. Before, I would charge it once a day, but now I have to charge it once I go home or the battery dies. I think Apple [delayed communication] purposely because people would not usually upgrade unless their phones are broken.”

Despite its prior miscommunication, Apple is taking steps towards fixing its issues. In the next iOS update, Apple CEO Tim Cook promised more visibility of battery health and an option to turn off the slowdown feature. Although the updates are a positive trend toward the right direction, Apple should have been more transparent earlier.

Apple caught itself in a web of lawsuits after its inability to communicate to their users about the shutdowns. Furthermore, their $29 battery solution in response to the complaints is only temporary at best. Without a new lithium-ion battery, iPhone users will continue to face this problem in the future. Apple is not justified in its incapability to provide more information earlier about the phones and charging customers $29 for the company’s mistake.