Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
France fines Apple €25M for iOS software that slowed down older iPhones (dw.com)
193 points by kilotaras on Feb 7, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 276 comments

This is so dumb. Apple has a lot of flaws but old hardware support certainly isn’t one of them. Firstly, they only slowed down older phones to prevent them from crashing as they had less and less reliable battery draw. Secondly, Apple’s support for legacy phone hardware is the best in the market. It’s absurd that they’re being punished for this.

The problem is they didn't tell anyone they were doing it.

So people thought their phone was just old and slow and bought a new one, when they could have just replaced the battery and made it fast again.

And the solution was to replace the battery to get your old iPhone fast again, not to buy a new one. Not intuitive for most people.

Exactly. I'd always considered a battery replacement a waste of money up til that point. Now I replace batteries in everything! Good lesson to learn. My 6S has had 2 replacements so far and is still powering on!

It isn't intuitive to anyone, given that it's not the battery at all. It's a software update slowing down the phones. People replace a battery when the battery doesn't last. But Apple realizes if people replaced their battery then they would likely wait another iteration to replace their phones because they've sunk more cost into their existing phone, so they've extended the life of the battery by sacrificing performance. This way, people don't replace their batteries, and their phone is so much slower than the new phone that they're even more likely to buy a new one.

Not only that but this is the second time Apple's being sued since they did the same thing to the 4 and 5. And the thing is, they pushed the update when they released the 6. I'm surprised (but not really) that they're still pulling this crap.

> The problem is they didn't tell anyone they were doing it.

Then France should issue fines for every electronic device sold that had this functionality. Except that would have meant fines being issued for effectively every laptop, phone, and tablet sold in the last decade. What Apple did is a near-universal function in battery powered devices with powerful processors.

It'd be funny id Apple disabled this functionality in France, thus bricking many old phones, and tell the French that they made this change to comply with French regulators.

Going after big offenders first is just common sense. France did right to go after Apple first since that would make the biggest splash.

Right. And between going after Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and now Apple one really has to wonder if "biggest offender" just coincidentally seems to mean the same thing as "non-European offender" or if there's a reason for this pattern.

So punish smaller European firms first just to not give the impression that it's anti-US? Or go after the companies actually doing it at scale and owning most of the market?

What irrationality, twisting everything to be some secret anti-US agenda than to just assume/see the obvious that the big players are the big offenders and they happen to be US players (for now).

> So punish smaller European firms first just to not give the impression that it's anti-US?

Yes, go fine every other company that throttled processor clock rates when battery power supply was low. Apply the law equally and that would convince me that this isn't discriminatory enforcement.

The reality is that this would never be carried out, since effectively every phone, tablet, or laptop maker would be fined. Throttling processor clock rates when battery voltage is low is something that every good electronics manufacturer does. Because if they didn't your device would stop working when the battery is old, close to discharged, too cold, or more. By throttling clock rates, the phone still functions but with a slower clock rate. The user impact is strictly better (a slowdown vs. a crash or not even being able to boot). Every mobile device manufacturer did (and still does) do the same thing that Apple did to its iPhones.

They actually said anti "non European", not anti-US. And it is anti-US for the very practical reason that FAANG and the rest, are all gigantic US corporations that consistently keep pushing the limits of EU regulations, abuse market dominance and won't listen to advisory rulings until years later it becomes law and they scream bloody free market.

It's not like many EU companies do that. And when they do, they also get fined, but they don't cry about it as much.

There is a reason: these companies aren't just the biggest offenders, they are the biggest in general, on a global scale. Silicon Valley is a powerhouse, there's no way around it.

Well it's clearly not generally "non-European" since they all just happen to come from the same single country, one where it's culturally okay for corporations to do whatever the hell they like, so yeah ... it's not at all surprising that corporations from the US need a little bit more "guidance" to behave themselves in the EU.

This seems like an American persecution complex more than anything else. Americans and their corporations seem to think that regulation is persecution.

I really don't I made it clear how universal clock throttling is to account for unreliable power sources. Every tablet, laptop, and phone does this. Your device wouldn't be able to boot up in cold weather if it didn't. Your device would start crashing sporadically when your charge is low. This is basic battery management. If a phone didn't do this it would start to crash with a 1-2 year old battery instead of just slowing down. This outcome is strictly better than the alternative.

The argument that customers should have been notified of functionality that strictly improves the usability of the product doesn't make any sense. How does extending the usable life of the phone (even if it is less powerful during the end of the usable life) making consumers more likely to buy new phones? Apple had acknowledged that old batteries could not drive the processor at the highest clock rate long before this became newsworthy. Like I said: if Apple pushed an update removing throttling it would lay bare just how absurd these penalties are.

IANAL, but you seem to be trying to apply law as a scientist. Has anyone complained (so massively that it has become noticed) that their tablets or laptops run slower after some time?

(BTW, laptops would report bad-battery condition usually, this is how you know you need a replacement, which is an easy operation with them.)

People have indeed complained - for decades - the same way people complain that their cars run like crap of they never change the oil. But companies can't change the laws of physics. Again, if this functionality does not exist then these phones wouldn't just be slow, they would be unusable.

As far as ease of replacement goes, Apple prioritizes form factor over ease of service. Mercedes vs. Toyota.

Faster I’ve toggled the switch before on an iPhone. It’s not a night and day type difference. Feature creep kills it way more than battery throttling.

I had an iPhone 6S Plus. The most affected phone. I was genuinely considering replacing it because it got so slow.

Then this happened, I replaced the battery and kept it another 2 years. I replaced the battery again and now my wife has it.

Definitely was on the verge of replacing it.

Yes feature creep plays its part but this was a big deal.

If you bought a top of the range machine for windows 95 and put windows 98 on it, it would have been slow.

Fortunately, you could've just reverted to a previous OS - unfortunately, that's another thing that isn't possible with an Apple phone.

No you couldn't, I remember this being a PITA.

Unless you had done the backups of your data yourself and wiped the installation of the machine, you were screwed. This is the same situation for iOS.


What you're describing is just inconvenient. With iOS you literally cannot downgrade very far at all. For example, they stopped signing everything older than iOS 13.0 when 13.1.1 released. You've got a very narrow window of opportunity to downgrade and the options are few.

Pretty sure windows 98 was about the same speed as windows 95. (And this is from someone who still remembers their windows 98 25-digit key by heart!)

But regardless, this is not the point. The point is they misled people and let them think it was that the new OS was slow, but it was not! When you replaced the battery the phone became very noticeably faster.

> Pretty sure windows 98 was about the same speed as windows 95.

A base install of Windows 98 was a hell of a lot slower than a base install of Windows 95. But that was mostly down to the IE4 integration. Once you installed IE4 on Win95 the two platforms were pretty similar.

> The problem is they didn't tell anyone they were doing it.

That’s called design.

You have to make the decisions yourself. Customers are paying you to do that, not present them with a million checkboxes.

Apple deserves a lot of criticism but this is a complete non issue.

Having your phone slow down instead of shutting randomly down when the battery can’t supply the proper current is the best choice for the customer in pretty much every conceivable situation.

There are a lot of other decisions they are making on your behalf without warning you. And that’s how it should be.

Personally, I'd like to know when I can just fix something instead of getting an entirely new one.

"This thing is mysteriously slow, so I guess I'll get a new one" is much more profitable for apple, and more user hostile than "You're phone is slow because the battery is old. It' x% slower now than at purchase".

So in my view, it's a dark pattern.

Or, you know, the OS could have displayed a prompt screen to the user telling them that the battery needed to be replaced.

No need for checkboxes. Or offloading decisions on the customer.

It's simple. Don't hide what you're doing. Either a notice in the UI, or even a press release at minimum. Something.

There are probably thousands of design decisions that go into making a phone like this. Who is supposed to decide which ones get a notice and which ones don't? Apple probably already has some sort of organization that deals with these communication issues. Is this fine a reasonable punishment for getting one thing wrong?

> Who is supposed to decide which ones get a notice and which ones don't?

The ones that change a feature after the phone is sold when that feature was prominently marketed to consumers is a safe minimum threshold for what you need to notify your customers of.

If they changed it after 6 months because of a battery design flaw, there would be a class action lawsuit for false advertising. Natural processes that all batteries exhibit that cause them to degrade are fine, and nothing to get up in arms about, but a third party "fixing" the problem for you without letting you know they did so (or giving you the option to opt out) is both not expected, and for many people, not wanted.

It's like buying some high-end car with a supercharger, and a few years later you take it in for a service and the service technicians "helpfully" disable your supercharger because it can sometimes cause problems in some circumstances now that the engine is more worn and the tolerances aren't as tight, but decide it's not worth telling you. That might be something you want, but ultimately you should get that choice.

Upgrading a phone is changing a feature. For example, an update that added features to the control center but sacrificed some accessibility. Would you want Apple and other phone manufacturers to stop shipping updates? Because if what you propose goes into legislature there's a non-zero chance that will happen.

Changing is not the problem, unless that change removes functionality that was marketed as a feature.

> Because if what you propose goes into legislature there's a non-zero chance that will happen.

It's already covered. Apple was hit with a class-action[1] about this very thing, and France is fining them, as this submission notes. That's it working as expected, and it hasn't stopped updates from rolling out (but it might have stopped some specific portions of updates that people wouldn't have liked, who knows).

Either companies are to be held accountable for what they say when they are selling you something, or they aren't. I prefer a world where they are.

1: https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/10/16/apple-hit-with-ne...

Let's say 6 hour battery life was advertised as a feature. Now your phone after 2 years of use only gets 4 hours of battery life. They changed the phone in an update that brought it back to 6 hours of battery life by sacrificing speed. You can't have the best of both worlds.

Nobody is asking for the best of both worlds, but when upstream makes a decision as to how they want to prioritize one feature over another that changes how it currently functions, then some notification at a minimum is needed.

Batteries degrade over time. That's expected. Processors don't process fewer instructions over time though, that's someone making a decision, rather than letting the natural laws of physics play out.

Is that really such a foreign concept? You've been sold something with promises, and those promises are subject to natural occurrences and common conceptions, which are that some things will physically degrade without any outside action. Outside action to change that but at the expense of something that would not normally degrade, when it's about something that was marketed for sale, should not happen without notification and in most cases the ability to opt out.

Don't change how sold features are handled after sale if it flies in the face of assumptions without taking care about letting people know and opt out. It's not really that complex. All it requires is actually respecting your customers.

Did the phone become fast again when put on charger? If not, then they deserve the punishment.

This is total bullshit. I would bet real money that a grand total of ZERO users "thought their phone was just old and slow and bought a new one" as a result of this issue.


I would very gladly take you up on this bet. You name the stakes.

What do you think the average user thinks when their older phone performs worse after an OS update? "Aha, I bet the vendor is throttling the performance to preserve battery life, which I can fix by replacing with a new battery, a repair process which the vendor makes clear and easy!"

This has not been my experience. I'm a technical iPhone user and I don't even research it this much, I just think "%#&* they updated the OS again and now my phone is slow again"

I upgraded an iPhone 6S for this reason.

I wouldn't so arrogantly claim to know how consumers spend their money on technology.

I literally nearly did.

It's what you normally do when the new phone comes out.

I did it with my iPhone 3G when they put the new iOS on it. It became barely usable and i got an iPhone 4.

That was real. The 3G was SLOW.

This time it was not real.

I have an iphone 7, and knowing this now I'll definitely replace the battery before I replace the phone. It probably added another year or two to its life for me.

My wife replaced her 6 plus with an 8 because it was crashing a lot before this feature was implemented.

The fine, it appears, is because users "were not informed." They "committed the crime of deceptive commercial practice by omission."

Not because they slowed it down, contrary to the headline.

This is true, however, their software is slowing down the phone. I recently compared the iPhone 7 with iOS10 vs iPhone 7 with iOS13: the camera app got slower and is shooting blurry pictures often, the gallery app is slower and less responsive, the keyboard takes a significant time to open now vs. always instantly available.

The phones do "get slower" - and this is annoying af.

The problem is only partly with slow OS. For me the real culprit is inability to downgrade OS and apps. I have iPhone 4S. It was amazing phone when it was running iOS 6. Now it's slow as molasses.

May be it should not be one-click, as it causes security issues and user must understand the implications. But there must be a way for official downgrade.

> Now it's slow as molasses

Given that the iPhone 4s can't run iOS versions past 2015's iOS 9, "now" would seem to be fairly relative. Also, I'm not sure I'd describe iOS upgrades as "one-click"; IIRC, you need to click through at least one screen telling you about the new OS and enter your passcode before the install. A lot of people probably do breeze through that without really understanding they're going through a major OS upgrade, but that's awfully hard to address. (People tend to just breeze past any boilerplate-text dialog unless it looks threatening and dire.)

I agree that Apple should make it much easier to downgrade the OS, though. (I'm not 100% sure it's even possible, although I think you may be able to do a clean install of an earlier version from iTunes if you've archived a backup.)

You can downgrade an iPhone's firmware IFF Apple is still signing that firmware version for your phone model. They don't make it easy to figure this out...but this site shows you what iOS versions are still being signed: https://ipsw.me/

You can see Apple is only signing iOS 7.1.2 for the iPhone 4. For the iPhone X (iPhone10,3) they're signing 13.3.1 and one version below it, iOS 13.3. So you could still downgrade to that.

In practice, if you're currently on the latest version and you update to a new version as soon as it comes out, you can almost always downgrade back to what you just had. But of course, if you wait too long without downgrading and Apple stops signing the old version you want, you'll be stuck with what you got.

It isn't possible. The OS can't install without an Apple-provided key generated from a random nonce created by the phone. Once they stop providing those keys, even if you could restore the OS onto the phone, it won't boot without the ticket.

No way they could do this securely. They would have to patch old OSes for flaws and such.

For devices that don't support more recent versions of iOS, Apple does make minor updates to old major versions. For example 6 months ago Apple released iOS 9.3.6, fixing some issues for the iPhone 4S which is forever stuck on iOS 9.

Yeah, that's the way I would think they could do it if they chose -- sign all of the releases of the current major version and the last release of each previous major version, going back, say, five years. I don't really see a compelling business case for not doing that, unless the worry is that they'd be on the hook for security flaws in old, no longer maintained releases -- which I imagine could be legally covered by a prominent disclaimer, e.g., "Releases older than [X] are no longer supported and audited for security fixes and you assume all responsibility for installing them."

Did you compare on the same device, or a device with very similar storage usage and both with new batteries?

The batteries issue is obvious (as per this thread).

The Flash memory slows down over time with usage. For example the Nexus 7 slowed to a crawl because the flash in that device was especially prone to slowing down. It happens eventually to all flash (although I presume that Apple uses high quality flash that stays fast for longer).

> shooting blurry pictures

That's a very strange symptom.

Look, boss. I've been to the "genius bar" half a dozen times, asking them to replace the battery on my phone, which would only last a few hours, and they refused not only warranty service but, could I just pay them to fix the phone? And they said no. In every case, my only option was to buy the newest phone. In once case, they blamed me for using Facebook too much for a faulty battery.

Same with various iMac models I've owned that they refused to admit fault with until they were well out of warranty.

I was, literally, the legal rep to Apple for a company with 500m a year in sales, and they would still bullshit me like this. I literally, had so much authority I could buy every single product at South Coast Plaza and have it billed to my company, and Apple wouldn't let me pay to have my battery replaced.

What phone? If they don’t have the parts, what do you expect them to do?

Sorry, I realized I didn't answer your question. It wasn't that they didn't have the parts-- they REFUSED to service the phone because the "computer says the battery is ok" even though it only lasted 3 hours.

I expect any process to be "honest."

Apple is not fundamentally honest.

>Firstly, they only slowed down older phones to prevent them from crashing as they had less and less reliable battery draw

If you put aside any fanboys and think the reasons why Apple did this behind the user backs:

- maybe the user won't notice and ask for a free battery replacement

- maybe the user feels that the phone is slow and buys a new one and Apple makes more money

- fixes the PR issues that phones close unexpectedly

Tell me any other reason Apple hid this from the users and from power users and the press(the issue is this thing was hidden and users did not know they had the right or option to get a new battery).

It seems as if you're trying very hard to accuse a company whose mobile devices tend to be supported way longer than their competitor's of intentional wrongdoing.

It's an option the user shouldn't have to deal with. I'd say it's in any user's interest to keep their device running in stable conditions rather than preserving a slightly higher clock speed at all costs and risking random shutdowns.

This is less true now than it once was, but one of the things Apple used to be good at is producing a new OS for the last generation of hardware that made it faster. Most manufacturers unerringly make the old hardware slower.

There's an old trick in software development, some of us learn it by example, others by experience: be conservative when rolling out performance improvements. If you have a feature you know will make things slower, pair it with changes to improve performance. If you make version 1.2 faster, and version 1.3 is as slow as 1.1, people will feel robbed (because performance is a feature and you just removed a new feature).

Pulling this off can be problematic unless you happen to work on both features. What if one slips to the next release? One of the perks of being a generalist and having some seniority is that you have a degree of control over such things, where others might not.

If Apple had wedded the clock throttling to a new major revision of the OS, people would hardly have noticed.

Recent major iOS updates have been great for performance. Where they’re being let down is in robustness, particularly where cloud syncing is involved.

The iOS updates most notorious for slowing down iPhones were generally slower for a good reason. Most famously, iOS 8 introduced whole-disk encryption and the oldest compatible phones ran like crap.

> Firstly, they only slowed down older phones to prevent them from crashing as they had less and less reliable battery draw

I see this posted a lot and I honestly just don't buy it.

Processor power draw for most high-priority OS tasks (eg: keyboard input) are virtually zilch compared to keeping the screen lit for that much longer.

Everything says this happens to older phones, not phones with high usage. If you get the battery replaced--will Apple speed up the phone again? If I am on my iPhone 24/7 and constantly discharge down to 5% SOC, how come Apple doesn't slow down my phone more than someone with scarce use?

Even unreliable power draw makes no sense. You may be not able to predict the SOC from the OCV of the cell as accurately as SOH diminishes than when it's 100%, but cell phones largely use lithium cobalt oxides which have well-defined OCV:SOC curves! There should be no need to guess how close to a low SOC you are--you can just read the OCV.

I definitely don’t know as much about batteries as you clearly do but yes, the phone will return to normal clock speed after a battery change. It keeps being reported as “older phones” but it’s really more like older batteries.

> Firstly, they only slowed down older phones to prevent them from crashing as they had less and less reliable battery draw.

Yes, and they did this to avoid a recall of millions of iPhones because the batteries were unable to provide necessary current for designed operation less than 2 years after purchase.

Then when they got caught, rather than issue a recall they instead offered replacement batteries at a discount from their normal price.

Basically they sold a defective product, hid it with a behavioral change after launch that encouraged users to upgrade, and when caught swindling people managed to convince everyone to instead pay them to fix the issue.

I think if Apple would have done any one of these individual things, it would have been okay:

- Communicated via release notes that the newer iOS version may make their device slower to improve battery performance

- Allowed users to downgrade their iOS version if they want to

- Informed users that their batteries may have degraded, and can be replaced

- Gave users a toggle (buried away in settings, if need be)

- Admitted publicly that they're doing this instead of lying

I actually don't think Apple had malicious intentions, but I do think they deserve the criticism because their communication was so tremendously sloppy here. They deserve the fine because the sloppiness happened to benefit their bottom line and sell more phones. France has decided that this shouldn't be an excuse for Apple, nor any actually malicious company in the future, and wants this kind of thing disclosed to consumers before it's rolled out.

Apple is not really known for their fantastic repairability and this is for sure a field in which they could do better work (as opposed to work against repairability).

Funny they always released software to slow down your phone the week before the new iphone released.

They also denied they were slowing down old phones for several years.

New iOS releases usually come out with new phone launches. The SoC had only recently gotten powerful enough that it could spike past the instantaneous capacity of the battery.

We know that throttling is real, and it has been well documented and was undoubtedly a communications failure of Apple, however it's remarkable how frequently throughout this discussion people are giving vague anecdotes about performance that should be easily verified and proven.

Sometimes, though, our old phones feel slow only in a relative sense. When you experience a newer device it does often suddenly make your old device that once seemed silky smooth and magically performant now look like a piece of crap. That's just the march of technology.

No, they didn't. Please cite a source for this claim, or retract.

They sent an update that slowed down many phones. They didn't tell anyone how to make it not slow.

If their intent was customer happiness, they would have notified. But they didn't, and there was a lot of upgrade money to be had.

Sorry. I don’t buy this. I had an iPhone 6S+ that slowed down massively when I upgraded to iOS (can’t remember the major version). I had no battery issues prior to the upgrade. Then when they brought out the fix to reverse the issue, my phone was back to normal. They definitely throttled the CPU so consumers would upgrade.

They slowed down old phones to get people to upgrade to newer models. Since the battery life stayed the same, why would anyone think to replace the battery to improve performance? For a faster phone, the obvious solution for most would be to upgrade.

I think it was only on old phones with faulty batteries too. Here you get a slower phone, but it still works. The alternative is the phone reboots

Is there any evidence that phones would crash due to less reliable battery draw? It sounds like an explanation that could have been posthumously invented after the performance degradation became public knowledge. Coupled with the fact that nobody was ever told about this functionality, one can wonder the true intent. For all we know, they A/B tested it, and found it got people to upgrade more frequently.

> Is there any evidence that phones would crash due to less reliable battery draw?

Yes, it happened a lot. Do a quick search on Google, reddit, wherever with, say, "iphone crash", "6S crash" and there will be thousands of articles and posts about it, many from 2016 and 2017 when this problem was most pronounced. Anecdata, I know, but I also had a 6S that shut down almost as soon as I took it out in the cold, or when some power-hungry app was launched, and it all went away with the battery replacement.

I suspect those replacement batteries were some kind of "old new stock" as it didn't really last all that long, it went pretty bad within a year.

They slow down the phone after an unexpected shutdown, when the battery is unable to deliver the necessary peak power.

Mine did. It would get down around 30% or so, and then just randomly shut off with no warning.

My old iPod Touch slowed down very noticeably after an iOS update.

yes. I'm sitting here amused because a coworker is borrowing my 4 year old iPhone SE because her 3 year old ZTE is too slow and is not getting updates from Verizon...

If apple was being honest they would have some interface to show the battery life. When I upgraded iOS recently I got a notification saying "hey we only charge your battery to 80% now to preserve its life." That was fine and appropriate! So it's not like Apple can't do that. But if my phone had just stopped charging to 100% with no notification I would have been annoyed. Same thing here, especially since theres a fairly obvious conflict of interest in that slowing down old hardware is very useful for continued revenue. I just want a screen that says, hey, you're running at 70% speed because your battery is now garbage.

There’s literally an interface for this.

It's a pretty tiny fine (0.04% of Apple's yearly revenue) for a pretty major offense: quietly slowing down old phones without telling customers that they could replace the battery to make it fast again. We can have a conversation as to whether this rises to the level of planned obsolescence, but this was absolutely not the correct way for Apple to handle this.

Apple was actually fined for failure to INFORM consumers that the update would slow down their phone.

To quote the regulator:

> were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices [...] committed the crime of deceptive commercial practice by omission" and had agreed to pay the fine.

This is kinda clickbait reporting from the BBC. Which depressingly has become more the norm in the last few years.

Context: This comment was moved from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22271306, which linked to a BBC article.

Yes :) apple did not swindle people, they just did not INFORM them how they were swindling them.

I'm not sure swindling involves negating a battery peak performance issue for users on old hardware. I still use an iPhone 6 and had noticed less crashes with upgrades (loading big apps would often crash it), less now with iOS upgrades. I can disable it if I want, but I prefer not to.

On the flip side, I have friends with Android phones that are 4 years old, and barely usable.

Why don't they do what every other industry is doing? Have you wondered why in your phone battery degrades significantly after a year, in the mean time the battery in a hybrid such as Prius lasts about 10 years?

They are overvolting them and don't implement mechanisms to keep battery change using optimal levels.

Apple also pioneered the move to make batteries non-removeable (and other companies followed) most people are then forced to get new phone when battery gets bad.

Just to correct an incorrect fact: Apple’s phone batteries are replaceable.

Just not by the average user.

But in the same way you don’t have to trade your car in when it needs an oil change or new breaks, you don’t have to buy a new phone when the battery degrades. You can take it in for a non-prohibitive fee, or do it yourself for a little less if you’re a little more technical or adventurous.

iPhone batteries are replaceable as much as any other android non-removable batteries are. You know what I meant.

They're constantly working on making their processors better in this regard, every processor has more efficient cores compared to the high-performance cores. Most Androids have comparable battery degregation and performance rates because competitive performance requires pulling more power.

Apple implemented this to help users extend life of older devices.

Apple should just have phones in France run full clock at all times to comply with this regulation. These types of things don't recognize that phone design is a CONSTANT power management / speed tradeoff. If you demand things run 100% speed at all times - poof - your batter life is gone.

Apple throttling phones to preserve battery life was the right thing to do.

Doing it without telling users their batteries were expired and causing their phone to slow down was the wrong thing to do.

Whether that merits a $27m fine is debatable.

I might be one of the few, but I think it does warrant it. People buy devices and expect them to work and keep working. If the battery had an issue then it should have flagged up that the phone was saving battery life and that they should replace the battery. We can't keep throwing away devices like this; it isn't good for the environment.

Why do I think it is important to be told? My old iPad has almost overnight slowed right down and it is unusable - utterly pointless using it. Why do you think that it slowed down? A new update? Maybe. Or maybe it is the battery. Let me go check... yes, the battery has an issue. Only because I know where to check means that I know how to resolve the issue. And I know that the battery replacement cost will be ridiculously expensive. If I didn't know this then I would buy something else. That's pretty bad.

> We can't keep throwing away devices like this; it isn't good for the environment.

Someone should tell that to Apple, throwing devices and buying new ones their strategy when the same devices can easily be repaired but repairing things is not encouraged by Apple.

Personally the turnaround time on new device updates has caused me to stop believing that I can expect to use the same device three years from now.

I used the original Pixel for 3 and a half years and at this point it's gotten completely unbearable to use. If it wasn't so I wouldn't have felt forced to upgrade to a phone lacking the features I wanted. Maps takes half a minute to load, the share dialogue is O(n) since the list of targets is regenerated every time you open it, the screen runs at 30FPS or something, taking pictures has several seconds of delay between shutter presses and a quarter of them come out as a solid green, and there's just general slowness of several seconds on nearly every app. And that was after I downgraded to LineageOS from Android 10, when I was getting four hours of standby time (!) and a hole burnt in my pocket.

The thing was as smooth as the OnePlus 7 Pro I'm using now at the time I got it. It was criticized at the time for being overly expensive and an iPhone clone. And now, using it in 2020 feels like using a $20 knockoff device. It was released in 2016. Three years isn't terribly long in the span of human life - at this rate I'll have to buy about 17 new phones if I live another 50 years just to be able to use them at a bearable level of performance. (Certainly a lot of potential money to be extracted for the manufacturers.)

Three years later I'll have to remember this post to see if this still holds true for this new phone.

Also there are practical reasons for this besides social ones (the insistence that OS and hardware refreshes are pushed out yearly or so at the cost of increased CPU and battery usage for existing devices). Flash memory has a limited lifespan and I would imagine it's incredibly cumbersome to replace. It's one of those things where you would just buy a new phone with the money it would cost.

Reusability in the phone market is severely lacking. I run Linux on a ThinkPad manufactured a decade ago and have zero issues running 2020 software. You can't realistically expect to do the same on a smartphone that old. PostmarketOS can't become polished soon enough - I just need to be able to make calls and can't do so using it yet.

My OP3T is running just fine. It's three years old now. I've put Lineage on it, sure, but that's to escape the Chinese data hose more than anything. I do miss OxygenOS, it's actually pretty decent.

The specs are perfectly sufficient to run anything modern. Granted, I don't play games. But browsing, navigating, chatting, watching silly videos, they all work flawlessly. So far, the battery has been holding up, too, even though I use dashcharge all the time.

So that's just that, two data points. I do believe a lot of people could probably fix their phones by hard reset or using Lineage — in turn, that puts the burden on the OEMs to produce good OSs for long-term use. They don't want to, obviously. I don't think the mobile market is FUBAR, but I do agree it's not in the best state. That's not due to the phone per se, it's due to the ridiculous vendor/OS situation we're in with Android.

And don't get me started on security patches…

I am sorry to read that you have problems with Google Pixel, but I wouldn't extrapolate it to all phones in general. I'm writing this on an almost three year old Huawei P10, and frankly the device works as well as new. I do miss its original camera and alarm apps, which were replaced with more generic versions in Android 9, but speed, stability and battery life are OK.

I did have an awful experience with the original Google Nexus phone and its updates.

I see. I guess I just got unlucky going with Google - it was the first entry in a new phone line after all. I went with them due to the impression they were the "official" Android manufacturer, the OS was as close to stock as possible and it got the latest security updates quickly (an annoying issue with Samsung when I had one). People said good things about the Nexus also.

Having to install LineageOS just to be able to keep using it invalidates the "first-party" argument though.

Not having easily replaceable batteries is definitely the root problem. Everyone knows that batteries can't last forever and the weak link in having something last for years yet everyone is perfectly fine with non replaceable batteries. I know so many people who have bought new phones when all they need is a new battery. It's mind boggling.

Apple replaced my battery for $29. Not bad.

Replaceable batteries come with their own trade-offs, namely water intrusion through failing seals. I'd rather pay occasionally for someone skilled to replace the battery than replace the entire phone after a drop in the sink.

Honestly, how many times you damaged your phone with water? In the last 23 years I spilled a bit of water on the phone once and it survived.

I ski, kayak, and do a lot of hiking. The trend towards more waterproof phones has been a godsend to me.

Why wouldnt Apple let people change the battery?

I absolutely disagree.

These phones were unusable with the throttling. I switched to Android because my iPhone 6 was unusable less than 3 years after getting it.

This is like saying that an appropriate fix for a car manufacture is to limit the maximum speed of a car to 25 miles per hour. It breaks so many use cases that the car becomes worthless.

> This is like saying that an appropriate fix for a car manufacture is to limit the maximum speed of a car to 25 miles per hour. It breaks so many use cases that the car becomes worthless.

Would you prefer the car simply turn off entirely while driving at highway speeds? Because phones with this issue would turn off entirely below certain charge levels, when the batteries had this issue.

A more appropriate analogy would be that your car's fuel pump could randomly fail at highway speeds when below 1/2 tank, so the manufacturer just started arbitrarily limiting the car to drive 25mph to avoid the pump shutting off, when it detected this issue.

Point being, the real problem is not the mitigation they employed, but the fact that they didn't tell users in any way, users just saw a slower phone (equivalent to a slower car.) If my car detected a fuel pump issue for me and said "Fuel pump needs replacing, car is limited to 25mph when below half-tank to avoid catastrophic failure, please take to service center", it would be acceptable. Arbitrarily limiting to 25mph without any indication why, not so much.

I think people would prefer to know about it and be in charge of the decision.

Unlike a car, a phone doesn’t pose a threat to my safety so I’d like to at least turn the throttling on/off according to my needs - given that Apple provides accurate information about the implications.

In retrospect throttling might look like a good idea, but back then it was outright bizarre.

Some people were already suspecting that older models don’t get along with newer software, but there was no certainty.

I remember I avoided some iOS updates without being sure it’s helping my phone - all until Whatsapp (or some other critical app) stopped working and I had to upgrade.

as a matter of fact, modern cars (including French manufacturers like Renault) implement a "limp home" mode that limits the speed when problems are detected in the engine or transmission. It's hard to believe that Apple's action could be so poorly understood.

That limp home mode is not offered as the real fix, is it?

This Apple situations has a good analogy in car industry history: the Ford Pinto.

Speaking of car industry, Apple might have gone through a cost-benefit analysis reminiscent of the Pinto Memo.


Ford converted the likely injuries and deaths that would be caused by an unfixed issue into a dollar amount, and the compared that dollar amount to the cost of fixing the flaw in every vehicle.

Apple might have done the same sort of cost-benefit analysis: as in, just let the throttling cover up the flaw so the phone doesn't abruptly shut off, and then we only have to deal with the lower cost that comes from any complaints about performance, from those who notice.

A substantial difference as others pointed out is that Apple did this quietly, whereas limp mode is typically notified to the driver about loudly as anything can be.

> Would you prefer the car simply turn off entirely while driving at highway speeds?

If the vehicle's age is only the equivalent of a phone being two or three years old, I would prefer a real fix, free of charge, in addition to any safety mitigation. I wouldn't want the mitigation to be regarded as the fix.

People have decade-old phones that aren't throttled and still have usable battery life at the same time.

I don’t disagree, and that’s what Apple did: they implemented the battery control panel which let you know your battery’s health, gave an alert when a bad battery was causing throttling, and extended a battery replacement program for affected models.

Nobody’s saying their initial fix wasn’t flawed, I’m only saying that “throttling is bad” is an ill-thought-out knee-jerk reaction.

I wonder why they didn't use this simple argument in court, or else why it didn't work.

Standard practice is engine check light, then mechanic looks at it, then you replace the part for £X using one of several generics, or a first-party part if you want.

So, Apple could instead have had a "battery EOL" warning, sold batteries and specs to 3rd party market, and ensured batteries were easily replaceable.

Oh, why didn't they do that I wonder, maybe because they've spent the last decade making their stuff hard to repair and ensuring parts aren't available in order to encourage upgrades instead of repairs? Surely not, not Apple, they hate sacrificing the welfare of others for the sake of their profit!

If the idea that Apple would rig this didn't fit perfectly in the rest of their narrative then perhaps the judgement wouldn't have come.

They did implement a battery EOL warning. What are you blathering about?

It’s been established many times, my argument is not about their initial response, but what they implemented in the next iOS version. A battery control center that tells you your battery’s health, a warning when it’s in bad enough shape that it’s being throttled and needs replacing, the ability to control whether it’s throttled, and a recall/replacement program for affected models.

The initial fix was to throttle the phones, but we all (including myself) agree that was insufficient. But I also believe engineering resources are finite, and I have trouble believing apple would have been able to do the whole control center/notification thing as the first emergency fix.

Ah, OK, so when the battery started failing a dialog came up "battery expired: do you want to enter low power mode" and people clicked yes?

I thought that instead of telling people they'd just underclocked all the systems secretly?

Do you have a reference for what the on-screen warnings looked like?

They did the throttling without any dialogs in the beginning. In the very next point release of iOS, that evolved into a battery health control panel where you can see the health of your battery, and it alerts you if it’s being throttled.

I don’t know why this is so hard to understand: their initial response was wrong, but they corrected it. Everyone who says “why didn’t they do X” is ignoring that they did the right thing, eventually.

Implementing the battery control panel the first time would have been the best route, but developing such a thing takes time, and with sudden shutdowns happening for a large percentage of customers, they did a stopgap that was questionable. Is it really so evil to make a quick hack at first and make a better solution in a software update? I feel like the whole industry does this.

If you are making high end cars and they don't last three years you have a big quality problem.

If the car detects damage then this is exactly what happens in limp mode. https://mechanicbase.com/engine/limp-mode/

Can't us computer people just agree to stop using car analogies?

Another issue with iPhone 6 was the amount of RAM it had. With the newer iOS and updated apps, the memory consumption went up and the device would run out of memory, slowing down everything.

So does Android use some type of magical battery technology that doesn’t degrade over time?

And good luck getting operating system updates after only two years on Android.

Idk, anecdotally my iPhone 6s (ok, it’s 6a not 6) is perfectly usable 4 years after the purchase. I have the throttling on.

My iPhone 6 that I bought at launch was useable for all five years it was supported by iOS, on the original battery. Only upgraded for iOS 13. I still switch it on as a Netflix terminal sometimes, no issues.

Crucially, I never once left it plugged in all night - I believe not constantly fully charging the battery massively extends the useful life.

That actually happened to my car once, due to some defect it got stuck to 30km/h.

That's probably not the throttling. That's new iOS being too heavy for your old hardware.

Which is the bigger problem here. iOS devices are completely impossible to downgrade, so if an update slows down your phone, you're stuck.

It's hugely wasteful. iOS isn't substantially more capable than it was five years ago—why is it so much heavier?

Forget impossible to downgrade. Stop pushing updates on devices that can't run them.

Exactly. Apple did not get fined for slowing phones down but for failing to inform the users. It's the first sentence of the article. Perhaps the title on HN is misleading?

The first sentences are this:

France fines Apple €25 million for slowing iPhone software

France's consumer watchdog slapped on the fine two years after Apple admitted its iOS software slowed down the performance of older phones.

Then a huge photo.

The failure to notify thing is fine - Apple should notify folks that

a) they may be using a non-apple battery if they can detect that - was a common scam to replace the battery with a junker just before resale to show full battery for those checking

b) showing battery life for batteries they know are legit

c) warning users (and/or giving the user an option) to extend battery life by running phone slower.

I find it hard to see legitimate criticism of Apple for their state of charge management when this kind of technology is effectively universal for any substantial battery powered device. Almost every phone or laptop built in the last decade has functionality that lower clock rates when the battery is not outputting enough voltage. The alternative is crashing because the processor is not being supplied sufficient voltage.

It'd be funny if the US turned around and started fining French electronics that have this same functionality - it'd lay bare the double standards being applied here.

My pretty new phone will also throttle when the battery gets low (at close to 1%). It's very noticeable, but there's no warning.

Where do I collect my $27M?

It doesn't matter if there's no warning when it hits 1%, it matters if the behavior of the device changes several years into the product's lifespan for the worse, and without any warning that it will change or has changed.

It's also a bit nefarious that the slowdown coincided with a new product launch, so side-by-side comparisons show that the new devices are much, much "faster" than the old ones (which were slowed down without any notification). It's borderline fraudulent.

Good thing we've got people like you standing up for the trillion dollar companies of the world, though. They really need your help.

It merits a fine that is 10-100x as high.

They could've given users the choice to enable that "protection" from the beginning or leave it off at the end, but instead they chose to implement something that looks suspiciously like it was designed to make people replace their devices way prematurely. We call that planned obsolescence and I believe in France it is illegal.

I own a Samsung phone from 2012 that runs fine, and has okay battery life.

Yep. still using my Galaxy S3 here. Battery still lasts through the day.

It's not, but a lot of people got really mad, so it makes the politicians look good to their constituents if they do something punitive to satisfy the mob's anger.

> Apple throttling phones to preserve battery life was the right thing to do.

I don't buy this for a second. They've been throttling devices for many years and conveniently never mentioned it or built features that allowed control of it until they were forced to. It was always their fallback excuse in the event they got caught.

Their next strategy is building hardware that forces devices to constantly hold full battery charges at all times so it kills the (un-replaceable) battery faster which leads to a faster re-purchase (i.e. airpods).

They've literally started adding features for iPhones to do just the opposite of what you claim, optimizing charging based on your charging habits.


I'm saying the only reason they just started doing this is because they got caught doing the complete opposite (which directly lead to millions in extra unethical sales). Why aren't they adding these "new features" for any Apple devices besides iPhones? Are you saying they don't have the capability or that the underlying issue isn't the same?

> Apple implemented this to help users extend life of older devices.

Is there a statement from them to this point ? I couldn't find it in the article.

But this isn't the point anyway really.

The users were not told. > IPhone owners were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices

This means that the users would definitely just assume their phones were now in need of upgrade.

Also as for the trade-off between performance and optimisation, thats fine. That was there previously also.

They did [0], and to me it's a legitimate course of action to extend device life and minimize support load a bit. However, it should be disclosed clearly and not covered up until it blows up.

[0]: https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-slows-down-older-iphone-batt...

Yeah, they _eventually_ got to an acceptable balance where they announce it and show the current status in the battery settings. But that was only after the PR blowup about it.

I'm sort of conflicted about the fine hitting now, as a result. If they were still being intransigent about the issue, sure, but they've already fixed it...

> I'm sort of conflicted about the fine hitting now, as a result. If they were still being intransigent about the issue, sure, but they've already fixed it...

It seems right to me. It's a relatively small fine; Apple makes a few hundred Euros in profit per phone. I'm not sure how many iPhones are in France, but I'd venture to guess this is less than 2 Euros per device.

They found a way to legitimize planned obsolescence at the eyes of the public. Apple should be celebrated for this, not sued. /s

The phone being unreliable and constantly shutting down would arguably be a way more effective method of “planned obsolescence”.

My 2015 MacBook Pro has the issue of shutting down or turning off when still at 20% or 30% battery and I find it immensely frustrating (I assume it’s a similar issue of an old battery not being consistent). I’d much rather it be throttled and be reliable.

They found a way to cover up an ongoing design flaw in the phone/battery capacity combination. The phones are too powerful for the batteries that Apple uses.

Almost no other line of phones has this issue.

It is amazing how people twist this situation to make Apple the hero for saving "old" phones.

That's FUD.

The phones absolutely did not behave like that when new. And, if the battery is replaced, they go back to their original performance.

You are FUD. You obviously dont own an iphone 6/6s and havent been impacted by ios updates

That's the problem, yeah. If they'd made the tradeoff clear and advised that a battery replacement would alleviate it, that would be one thing. But the margin on a $50-70 battery replacement is a lot thinner than the margin on a $500-1000 new phone, so...

While keeping revenues and margin is certainly a priority, I think the bigger issue is a desire to not split the Apple userbase across multiple iOS versions.

"Less than a year after release, iOS 12 has reached 88% of all active iOS devices" [0]

By contrast, Android has an insane amount of fragmentation, though the link is outdated, at the time, Marshmellow 6.0 had the most users, at 16.9% of all Android users, while Android 9 had just 10.4% (this was 10 months after Android 9 had been released) [1]

I know this comparison isn't perfect by any means. Apart from the differing time frames, Android has more use cases than just mobile devices. Nonetheless, the difference is staggering.

[0] https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/ios-distribution-news/

[1] https://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html

I'm not sure how this is relevant. Throttling has been present in iOS since at least version 10 (2016), if not longer - IIRC 10 added the settings UI to override throttling if you want to, but I'm not sure when the actual capability landed.

Preventing ecosystem fragmentation is well and good, but it's orthogonal to publicizing that the OS does CPU throttling on devices with batteries whose power delivery is compromised by age, and making clear that a cheap battery replacement will do as much to solve that problem as an expensive new phone will.

(I do my own refurbs, so I can vouch from experience for a battery replacement solving throttling. There's no deliberate derating of older devices qua older devices that I can see, but it's reasonable that people believe there is, because Apple has done a terrible job of making clear what's actually going on. One of many cases where their habitual allergy to transparency has harmed them and their userbase alike; it's hard to blame kremlinologists for being kremlinologists when that's the only way to try to figure out what the hell your company is doing.)

> IIRC 10 added the settings UI to override throttling if you want to, but I'm not sure when the actual capability landed.

11.3 in March of 2018 added the override UI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOS_11#11.3

Oh yeah, that checks out. That was after the huge stink over silent throttling, wasn't it?

Yup! All the silent throttling drama hit the mainstream in December of 2017, and Apple reacted with discounted battery replacements starting in January of 2018 and this update a few months later.

I did the battery replacement and it didn’t help at all.

I've done several, and it did. Make sure throttling is disabled (Settings, search for Battery Health); in my experience the OS doesn't do that on its own, presumably relying on the playbook they give their support techs to cover that. It also doesn't hurt to do a "battery calibration" process like the one found at https://help.ifixit.com/article/265-battery-calibration - I don't know that I've seen a huge difference from that, but I always do it, so I wouldn't really be able to say that it's not necessary even if it isn't.

>Apple implemented this to help users extend life of older devices.

Or to encourage users spending $500-$1,000 to upgrade their slowing devices.

>Apple should just have phones in France run full clock at all times to comply with this regulation.

Why does tech always seem to have the attitude of "we know whats best for you" and if you challenge us we will make things as bad as possible just to prove our point? Is there not a common sense approach of giving users the ability to throttle their own devices to manage power/battery trade-off?

> throttle their own devices to manage power/battery trade-off?

With modern power management, the system constantly makes decisions on throttling up and down at the sub-millisecond level, balancing performance, power usage, battery lifetime and thermal constraints which affect component lifetimes. There are probably hundreds of combinations of criteria it uses to decide what to do and when.

This has nothing to do with Apple versus Android or open versus closed. All modern phone systems do this, the Android device makers face exactly the same issues. There isn't a single modern smartphone on the market that doesn't throttle the CPU in order to preserve device lifetime, because that's a big part of what thermal management is about. It's why people overclocking their CPUs are taking a risk. That running older batteries hotter and harder degrades them rapidly and risks device outages is simply a fact of physics. Painting these practices as 'planned obsolescence' is, frankly, incredibly ignorant.

Because for >80% of users, they DO know better.

I can try to start this conversation with my grandmother, but as soon as I say "throttling," her eyes glaze over - and just says "can you do it for me?"

Apple is trying to cut out that middleman. Even Android is getting on the "smart battery management" AI train, as no one outside of experts wants to do this.

Then don't use the word "throttling". Just say Apple made it slower to make the battery last longer.

There isn’t, because most users actually don’t know how to do things like regulate speed vs performance, and the whole point is that the throttling is dynamic to prevent shutdowns. What do you think the control should look like? An always present display of voltage levels, temperature, and throttling status?

And what do you mean - ‘make things as bad as possible to prove our point’? Where is that coming from?

I think on Android if you show developer tools, you can set the CPU governor mode.

It’s definitely a multifaceted issue, especially because Apple’s communication was so poor.

Though it’s not like companies are in the habit of communicating their CPU scheduling strategy to their customers. The customers don’t care nor can the comprehend that information.

It still boggles my mind how many people I know refuse to get batteries replaced. The price is totally reasonable from all manufacturers, way more so than plunking down another $700 on a phone. They just want a new phone at that point because who doesn’t like new things? In a lot of ways Apple was responding to customer behavior - customers allow their phones to limp along with cracked screens and dead batteries and Apple was essentially helping them do so for as long as possible without disruptions, but it also looks like planned obsolescence.

A lot of the people who essentially say that a random shutdown due to lack of supplied voltage is preferable to throttling are flat out wrong.

> A lot of the people who essentially say that a random shutdown due to lack of supplied voltage is preferable to throttling are flat out wrong.

Agreed. My iPhone SE running iOS 13 has randomly shutdown (I guess due to cold? In London, and in my jeans pocket?) about a dozen times in the last 2 months. It's really annoying. I'd much rather throttling. Apparently, this is what Apple does already though, just not well enough it seems.

Battery health is marked as 88% and peak performance capable though, so yay?

> Though it’s not like companies are in the habit of communicating their CPU scheduling strategy to their customers. The customers don’t care nor can the comprehend that information.

I think nobody’s talking about publishing their actual scheduling or CPU throttling algorithm, just about saying "we're slowing the phone down to save battery life, which it seems nearly everybody would understand.

“Slowing down the phone to save battery life” is happening during 90%+ of your phone’s life, even from day one.

There’s no conspiracy here. This was almost certainly just a well-intentioned part of their power management design that affected the performance of older phones more than anyone in a position of leadership intended or realized.

Bug report comes in: phone shuts down unpredictably when the battery is aged. Engineer see the issue, tweaks some values to make sure the peak power draw is kept in check when voltage drops, closes bug. How anyone who’s ever worked as an engineer in a large organization thinks this was some intentional decision to sell a handful more phones at the cost of upsetting customers is a mystery to me.

Nobody is perfect. Apple is far better than most.

Apple is punished for trying to push the issue under the rug, perpetuating a situation that was beneficial to their revenue.

It would be the same if an ISP silently slowed a user's internet when detecting their ISP provided router is getting flacky. That's not the right way of handling this, users should be warned of the issue so they can act accordingly, and not stay in the dark until someone discovers the hack.

The alternative would be to have phones turn off when they requested more power than was available. What do you think would cause people to want to replace their phones faster?

Part of the issue was that replacing the phones was not needed, getting new batteries was enough (that was initially a 85$ replacement I think, that got down to 29$ after the issue was made public if my memory is correct. Don't quote me on this)

Case in point, when Apple explained the issue and their hack, people got way more interested in checking the state of their battery (wether they were affected or not), and there was a rush to replace used up batteries.

I tried to replace mine 2 months after the announcement, there was still a 3 weeks backlog of replacements.

Also to note: those phones were still turning off in some circumstances. It wasn't like Apple's hack completely removed the need to replace the faulty battery.

> users should be warned of the issue so they can act accordingly, and not stay in the dark until someone discovers the hack.

What part of this sentence did you not understand?

It's about WARNING the user before they do the upgrade so they 1) know what will happen and 2) know how they could fix it.

There’s no need to be condescending.

Imagine if ford started to detune your engine as you added miles to the car, but DIDNT TELL YOU. You lost X horsepower every 1,000 miles.

Imagine if, to avoid damage to engine parts, engines would keep their heat limits in safe zones to not blow up when friction goes up. Imagine if, when you don't tune up your car, it starts running, factually, with less horsepower.

You do lose X horsepower every 1000 miles. You get it back with your tuneup. Which involves changing the oil.

You lose X MHz every Y% of battery discharge capacity lost. You get it back with your tuneup. Which involves changing the battery.

You don't need to detune maliciously to get the effect Apple is getting here. The system just needs to self-calibrate to a depleting battery... Which is super good for the battery because it won't actually get worse as fast. Discharge cycles, especially close to the discharge limit, puts strain on cells, which have voltage sag closer to end of life.

When a vehicle overheats and goes into limp mode the car tells you. Changing a vehicles oil does not increase the horsepower in a measurable way like the percent apple lopped off as batteries aged. If that was the case oil changes would be a much bigger deal.

Again, this is all semantics. The whole point is apple never told people they were throttling. And you've got two groups saying "Oh they are so nice, they did it so you could keep using your phone, how nice of them" and then the "my phone is slow I guess I need to buy a new one".

Did Apple turn the "check engine" light on?

I remember a few messages saying my battery was degraded/degrading and needed replacement a few months before my iPhone 6 started dying at 20+% battery because of battery issues. Post-patch, it was slow, but worked.

What's annoying about this particular issue is that the problem that users don't like isn't Apple's battery saving measure, or even being lied to, it's phone performance slowing over time. That is what users care about. The battery peak load degrading over time is a factor, but even with battery replacements phones will feel more sluggish over time because the NAND is a disposable part. Fill up a higher percentage of your total storage? Feels slow. Take videos for a year? Feels slow. There is no reasonable oil change for this and it's something that is not being talked about anywhere.

Is there any reference at all for this?

My iPhone X is 3 years old, and feels just as fast as when it was new.

Reference for what, exactly? There are no references that highlight the issue of storage performance in iPhones. I haven’t even found a review that looks at storage performance of iPhones in the past three generations. Brand new performance, not even performance over write cycle. That is the issue I’m raising.

If you want a reference that proves that NAND performance degrades over write cycles: then I will only list one, but there are hundreds, at least.


Sure - entropy.

But is there any evidence that translates into an appreciable impact on device performance?

Perhaps it doesn’t, and this is why nobody is talking about it.

> Imagine if ford started to detune your engine as you added miles to the car, but DIDNT TELL YOU. You lost X horsepower every 1,000 miles.

Would you guess, this is actually what's happening.

ECUs constantly adjusts for current conditions (EGR, variable gem turbo, o2/fuel ratio, fuel inlet timing, combustion timing, variable cam timing and phase, knock sensor...). As the engine is used, wear makes its performance degrade over time, and the ECU adjusts in real time for that. Maintenance such as timely oil change mitigate that, some parts may have to be replaced at some point (from spark plugs to turbo), and over time the engine itself wears out.

Here's a very specific example: all those cars with hypermiling downsized engines turbocharged to compensate perform brilliantly, but when the turbo is dead they can barely crawl themselves in 1st gear. In less extreme situations, turbo wear will put you relatedly anywhere within that [perfect, broken] range, and the ECU will do its best to compensate, unbeknownst to you.

This is not an effective analogy. Apple slowed down processors when the battery was not producing enough voltage to run the processor at the normal clock rate. This can happen due to old batteries. It can also happen in cold weather, or any other circumstance that results in lower voltages.

It's more like, "Imagine if for reduced horsepower when your engine was at risk of overheating, and would not function properly at the standard horsepower".

Literally every electric car you can buy today does this exact thing.

They should have communicated better. I wanted a feature like this on my Android phone for years and this ended up being one of the reason that made me switch to an iPhone.

But I still think they should have implemented this how it is now (being able to turn it off). And inform the users that their phone is being slowed down. I can‘t tell if this was an oversight or deliberately done so users would switch to a new phone. To me a slower phone is better than s crashing or no phone but if I don‘t know why it‘s getting slower I‘m probably more tempted to buy a new phone instead of replacing the battery.

Why not prompt the user that the battery is weak, opt in or out to slowness, and mention that they can get the battery changed by a third party for $30 instead of buying a new phone (at the expense of waterproofness rating).

Exactly what they ended up doing (minus the 3rd party part).

Only after legal pressure though right? Are they suing them for how things went, or how things are continuing to go forward?

I think the message is that Apple (and everyone else) should deliver quality that lasts more than two years.

You're saying that Apple is somehow uniquely able to defy the laws of physics and that other companies shouldn't be required to do the same? This isn't a quality issue. It's an issue with the chemistry and physics of batteries.

Imagine if Apple took it into account and made their hardware servicable by end-users at an affordable cost...

They absolutely do, but batteries have physical limitations that result in lower power output over time. Under those conditions, the phone can either intermittently crash as older Android phones do, or adjust CPU power draw which will slow down the device. The only other options are to replace the battery or the device. There’s no free lunch to be had here.

IMHO, Apple’s “crime” here is bad communication.

> The only other options are to replace the battery or the device.

And battery replacement has been made to be as inconvenient as possible. 15 years ago, swapping the battery was a 15-second task that required no tools. Pull off the backing, pull out the battery, push in a new battery. Before Apple's response to bad press, it was $80 to have a battery swapped. Aftermarket kits were $30, so that is $50 on labor and markup. $50 to do what used to take 15 seconds by an untrained user.

This is a problem of Apple's making, by their design decisions.

Ease of battery replacement is another set of tradeoffs. 15 years ago, phones were bulkier and weren't as water resistant. Some phones still have easily replaceable batteries. Other phones, like the iPhone and Pixel optimize for form factor above ease of service - which is not surprising given that they're on the top end of the price scale. Nobody bats an eye about the fact that it's more expensive to service a Mercedes than a Toyota. iPhones are the Mercedes of smart phones.

> They absolutely do, but batteries have physical limitations that result in lower power output over time.

The same can be said of SSD media. It's well-known that flash memory is under-provisioned to allow for inevitable degradation: Defective sectors are flagged and re-mapped. This so that your 500GB SSD still has 500GB in 5 years.

This can be applied to battery tech as well. However, that would require either thicker, heavier phones, or less run-time between charges.

I would say Apple's "crime" is producing hardware where one particular component has a well-known failure mode that makes the entire device virtually useless after 3 years of moderate to heavy use.

This is a physical limitation of battery technology and cannot be fixed just by magically increasing “quality.” A lithium-ion battery will degrade after a few hundred charge cycles. In order to fix this, Apple would either need to make some serious tradeoffs (like drastically increasing phone cost and size) or make some world-changing breakthroughs in battery technology.

Apple are the only ones who actually do.

You mean the government full of non technical politicians make bad choices when regulating technology? Who would have thought?

Next thing they will be telling phone companies what types of cords to use....

if I pay say 500$ for 2Ghz and 3Gb RAM then Apple half it to 1Ghz and 1.5Gb RAM behind my back I would be upset, at least tell me what you did and if in warranty I expect you give me a new device and not try to trick me.

Selling something and using your software updates to bait and switch people is not ok, whatever the rationalization is.

how about giving the OWNER of the device the choice instead of doing it silently and in the back of everyone?

>Apple implemented this to help users extend life of older devices.

No they didn't. The software updates didn't properly work on phones with the older batteries, so this was their work around. The options they had were: 1. not allow the updates on those phones, 2. allow the updates and have users deal with potentially having the phones shut down. 3. Offer battery upgrades. 4. Jerry rig a hack to deal with it.

They went with the most subversive option. They were not being benevolent here.

What is subversive about their option?

If my recollection of the events is correct, I do think this fine is fair as the slowing down of people's iPhones when a new iOS was released, combined with newer iPhone models being launched made people think that it was due them perceiving the phone was old tech and unable to power the latest iOS features, not the software doing it for the lifespan of the battery.

Apple were silent about this for many years and were pressured to put the option to disable this in. This is what is important. They were happy to be silent and let users feel like the only option was to upgrade to have a fast phone. And since it's not feasible to replace batteries on older phone, everything was stacked in Apple's favour.

> I do think this fine is fair as ... made people think that it was due them perceiving the phone ...

> users feel like the only option ...

A fine is fair because people jumped to conclusions because of the proximity in time of an OS release and a new product release? No, that's called a conspiracy theory.

If people had convinced themselves this was a ploy to sell more phones, then why on earth would they go back to Apple for another round?

I think it's in everyone's best interest for Apple to have been more transparent, but there was not a shred of proof of intention of harming users, and they ran a battery replacement program likely at a loss for a year.

>> If people had convinced themselves this was a ploy to sell more phones, then why on earth would they go back to Apple for another round

They believed their phones were obsolete, which it turns out they weren’t as it was in fact Apple who had slowed down the CPU to save power and made a decision not to inform users this was happening.

I believe the consequence of this was those users feeling they needed to upgrade sooner that what would have been. That is my subjective take on it.

Google Trends has shown that there is a spike in people searching for ‘iphone slow’ at the same time there is an iOS release. https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/agkgha/oc_...

While not causation, it is certainly correlated that people are perceiving a slow iphone when Apple release new software. Turns out the cause may have been Apple slowing down the phone in those updates.

> As part of the agreement, Apple must display a notice on its French-language website for a month. It says Apple "committed the crime of deceptive commercial practice by omission" and had agreed to pay the fine.

I'm not seeing the crime notice on https://www.apple.com/fr/. Where do I go to see this thing?

See screenshot here https://imgur.com/1kH0t67

The disclaimer states :

Au cours du mois de décembre 2017, le procureur de la République du tribunal de grande instance de Paris a été destinataire d’une plainte émanant d’une association de consommateurs. Cette plainte vise le groupe Apple, pour des faits qui auraient notamment consisté en la diffusion de mises à jour du système d’exploitation iOS entraînant un ralentissement de certains iPhones, sans en avoir préalablement averti les clients et utilisateurs. Au terme de son enquête, le Service National des Enquêtes de la DGCCRF estime que le groupe Apple a commis le délit de pratique commerciale trompeuse par omission (article L. 121-3 du code de la consommation) en ne révélant pas aux consommateurs et utilisateurs, la présence d’un système de gestion dynamique de l’alimentation inclus dans les mises à jour d’iOS à partir de la version 10.2.1 et pouvant, sous certaines conditions, ralentir le fonctionnement des iPhones des catégories 6, 7 et SE, en particulier ceux équipés de batteries âgées. Un procès-verbal de délit a été adressé au procureur de la République. Avec l’accord du procureur de la République, une amende transactionnelle significative a été proposée à la société Apple Inc. qui l’a acceptée.

There might be some lag time, and your browser location probably has to be in France

This feels like a reasonable outcome. I think Apple could have done a much better job of communicating what was happening, and I imagine having to agree to having committed a "deceptive commercial practice" probably stings much more than the fine itself.

Apple has already made the settings for all of this much more apparent, which seems like the outcome that actually helps customers here.

I was glad when Apple “slowed down” my old iPhone.

It fixed the sudden shut down issue for me that was driving me insane. The shut downs were unpredictable and rendered my phone unusable until it was plugged in to charge.

It would have been better if Apple acknowledged the sudden shut down issue in the first place, rather than rolling out this secret fix.

They denied all knowledge when I took my iPhone 6 in for service, and refused to replace the battery as it was still showing more than 80% of its original capacity.

They didn't want to acknowledge the shut down issue because people might then have asked - Hey! why is my 2 year old phone randomly shutting itself down? That doesn't seem like it should be happening to a 2 year old phone - maybe you guys should fix that, by, say, replacing the battery.

Such a small fine as to not be worth reporting.

"Man in California fined 15cents over parking dispute"

It's not about the amount, it's about sending a message. It's in the news, it's a lot more expensive for Apple.

and the message was "pay 15 cents"

It has been lost in translation but France fined for the lack of communication, not for slowing down the phone.

They implemented a software feature to make an older, degraded battery last longer - while it should be optional and obvious, a government fine seems a bit over the top.

We've all now got houses full of IoT devices (Smart TVs, Webcams, etc.) that have serious security problems and don't get proper updates because the vendors lack incentive. This is a disincentive, and totally the wrong way to go.


A choice between telling customers you'll slow down their phones because <technical explanation nobody gives a shit about> and silently making their phones work better in a way that's likely to generate clickbait outrage if it gets out is one between a rock and a hard place. Companies do so much shit behind consumers' backs, and so many hardware vendors drop software support on ridiculously short timelines, that this feels wrong. Very legal and very cool, sure, but just barking up the wrong tree in terms of focus on good outcomes for consumers.

The solution seems straightfoward to me. Slow down the phone, and output a message saying 'this iPhone is being slowed down due to an old battery. Replace the battery to restore performance'. Then have a warning sign on the battery screen with a similar explanation.

My wife's iPhone got throttled, and it felt really bad to use. This wasn't some small hit to performance that you can just do without informing the customer.

They literally do just that. When it first happens, they’ll notify you with a notification. Go to the battery screen in the settings and tap “Battery Health.”

Yes, they do now. They didn't then.

According to the BBC[1]:

> As part of the agreement, Apple must display a notice on its French-language website for a month.

> It says Apple "committed the crime of deceptive commercial practice by omission" and had agreed to pay the fine.

I am unable to find this notice on Apple's French-language website.[2]

[1]: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-51413724

[2]: https://www.apple.com/fr/, https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https...

Edit/Disclaimer: I'm not saying such a demand is reasonable or agreeing with the decision; however, I'm curious as to whether Apple will comply.

Here's a thing to consider: your current phone, in your pocket, would it not be perfectly sufficient for the next 10 years if software wasn't making it obsolete? Is there any new app that really needs twice the processing power. Is the bajillion DPI screen hard on your eyes? Like, other than wear and tear, do you really have any reason to buy a new phone? I have an iphone 7, but to be honest I'd still be using my 5c if the battery hadn't kicked the bucket. This is no doubt a real problem for apple/samsung/etc.

I’m still happily using my 6s.

What I’m unhappy about is that iOS 13 broke a few things in Safari that have affected its stability. Double-tap to zoom is incredibly unreliable now and it worked perfectly for years. There’s some weird caching going on and some rendering issues, so sometimes a site will get stuck in a weird broken state that re-navigating or refreshing won’t fix. Have to exit Safari and reload it to fix.

The email client now has a huge amount of white space at the bottom with all of the features like Mark as Read bundled under the reply arrow.

And text selection is complete crap now. Selecting text in the url bar just defaults to highlighting the entire url and it takes 5-10 taps just to get a cursor. And in regular text, it’s impossible to see where the cursor is BECAUSE ITS UNDER MY THUMB. The old magnifying glass was a way better UI.

Right so, basically the software updates just made things worse. As an industry we're funneling people into these forced updates because most people dont want to update. And their reason for not updating is totally rational, it will almost always make things worse! I get the security aspect, but otherwise this is horrible.

> The French watchdog said iPhone owners "were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices".

I think that's reasonable. I doubt many people would've cared if Apple had TOLD us that's what they were doing, and also made it an switch. "Hey you can slow down your phone so the battery lasts longer now that you've upgraded" or something like that. It still feels like they made a deliberate choice to not let us know what they were doing so we'd buy new phones.

> I doubt many people would've cared if Apple had TOLD us that's what they were doing, and also made it an switch.

It’s just a few dozen of bucks to change a battery, and people did it in droves when Apple told what they were doing.

These electronics are marketed to perform better than the one before. They shows big numbers flaunting how the thing zips, has more cores, whatever.

Therefore, it makes sense that patches curving or throttle performance are made transparent to the consumer. If anything, these patches should ask for permission from the user and toggle-able via settings. Performance was promised.

If the "wear and tear" argument of batteries aging is true, they should be made replaceable. If an item is subject to wear and tear - it should be serviceable, not soldered.

It would be pretty ridiculous to have a firmware update for a car that makes it use more gas, in hopes they'll buy a new one. Especially if it was snuck in.

Maybe we need a regulatory bureaucracy to audit software patches and wire refunds when performance advertised degrades.

Perhaps the cost of the electronic should be held in escrow by the regulatory authority, made into a security for the model of the unit, and only vest to Apple/Lenovo/etc based on a timespan. That escrow can subsidize the cost of a $1000 soldered logic board replacement on their own balance/tab.

Or they could just make the units serviceable from the outset. The path of least resistance.

That way, it incentivizes honesty and success for businesses like Apple by tying their products to sustainability. Them being all about the environment: https://www.apple.com/environment/.

The battery is replaceable. It takes fifteen minutes at any Apple store.

They have to remove the glued-in screen to get at the battery. Much more difficult than it should be and with the risk of compromising the waterproofing. I don't buy the argument that this is somehow required for engineering reasons. Wristwatches have easily replaceable batteries while being a lot smaller than an iPhone and having much better ingress protection.

They’ll need a forensic accountant to find this fine in their balance sheet. What is even the point of a fine of this amount?

I’m not arguing for or against Apple being fined. It’s just such a pointlessly trivial amount for Apple as to be totally meaningless.

Everyone keeps talking about how Apple is only being sued for €25M which is a small amount for them, but no one is talking about the fact that France cannot have different fine amounts for different companies based on the company's profitability.

They are expected to fine a standard amount based on a certain case and this amount should be big enough for all companies to avoid the thing in future, but at the same time not bankrupt the company either.

The important issue is to let customers know. I just turned off the throttling setting on my iPhone SE, and I couldn't believe how immediately faster and more snappy my entire iPhone was.

I'll see if it starts shutting down while on battery power, I want that power and control over something so basic about my device. This HN thread has done what Apple should have in the first place: disclose.

What about every other phone that also does this? My Moto G5+ from 2017 still gets the same battery life that it did when I bought it, which is basically impossible, but the performance is a fraction of what it was. If you're going to focus on this issue, make it a law and go after everyone.

You're welcome to sue Motorola. However Apple did provide the ultimate proof by admitting to it.

i bought a cheap nokia 6.1 and the performance improved once upgraded to android 10

The G5+ is stuck on 8.1.

I've only ever had one iPhone and the reason I decided I'd never get another is that it slowed down unacceptably when a new OS version came out.

Every phone I've had since then I've switched from on my own schedule, never forced to by slowness like my one iPhone.

This is a real issue. My wife uses her Mac for netflix and maybe light photo cataloging/editing, and yet after 10 years it's now slower than molasses. Why should we upgrade? We're not doing anything that requires a new computer.

If you can downgrade back to El Capitan (just take care that there haven't been security updates for 4 years now), you'll probably find it completely useable. Sierra and later made my MBP from 2010 go from my primary workstation to being a pretty aluminum doorstop.

I thought they did this before because of the degraded battery over time.

without telling the consumers. They now have to tell them when performance management is on.

I have an iphone 6 (not even 6s), with the original battery. The battery health says capacity is 96%. Maybe that's a poor estimate? There are some things that run down the battery at a fascinating pace, but that's a very recent event. For instance, I can lose 20% charge in airplane mode. I now have to turn the phone completely off when I want to store it somewhere like in a locker when I work out (yeah, I'm a boomer I know- I'm one of the few people in the gym who don't have headphones on).

Definitely a bad estimate if that is an original battery. 500 charges should bring the health down to about 80%. Presumably yours has been charged 1000-1500 times since it was purchased new from Apple.

My 11 Pro is at 96% and it is only a few months old.

Lithium battery degradation is a chemical fact; it happens as reliably as, say, car brakes do with use.

There’s absolutely no valid reason why my iPad should have been a perfectly usable - even fast - web browsing device 5 years ago and is now so slow as to be basically useless.

I suppose that's true if you never update the OS. If you do, I don't think it's fair to say there's no reason.

Apple used to be a rare exception of making old hardware run with the latest OS. Old iMac would still operate fine with the newest OS X years later.

Rare exception? Linux is the most installed OS in the world and they support way more than just some old proprietary hardware.

In commercial OSes I meant. Otherwise yes, linux has always been more oxygen for your old machine.

I don't know, but 25M€ for Apple are nothing. They should have charged even more, since it affected millions of devices

That's less that Tim Cook's yearly stock bonus. How about fining them 25 billion euros?

Apple probably made that much money in the time it took to read the article.

25 M ? is it this just 1 second in Apple's time ?

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact