The controversy first emerged in late-2016, when it was reported that since a recent iOS update, some iPhone models had begun to experience unexpected shutdowns when their battery capacity reached 30%. In December 2016, Apple stated that it would begin to investigate the issues, and reported a reduction of unexpected shutdowns for iPhone 6 and 6S phones on the iOS 10.2.1 update released in February 2017.
In December 2017, benchmark evidence of performance degradation caused by the update was publicized by the developers of Geekbench. Apple subsequently admitted that it had added performance controls to iOS for preserving system stability on devices with degraded batteries, and stated that it had never intentionally degraded operating system performance on older products to encourage sales of newer models. It also offered battery replacements for selected models at a discount during 2018, and changed iOS to provide more battery health information, as well as a means to disable the throttling.
Apple faced criticism over the performance controls, with critics arguing that the company was engaging in planned obsolescence. The company became subject to proposed class-action lawsuits, and in 2020, was fined by the French government over the matter.
Upon the release of iOS 10.1.1 in late-2016, reports surfaced of battery usage issues with the update. There were also reports of device instability from some users on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S models, including situations where the device would unexpectedly shut down once its battery capacity reached 30% (with one user having described the battery percentage as unexpectedly jumping down to 1% before doing so, but still appearing as 30% after the device was plugged in and rebooted).
Apple confirmed in December 2016 that some iPhone 6S models manufactured in September and October 2015 had suffered from a battery manufacturing defect. The company stated that this defect was not a safety concern, but that it could diminish capacity, and cause shutdowns to "protect [the device's] electronic components". In regards to other instances of shutdowns, Apple stated that it would include an "additional diagnostics capability" in the next iOS update so that it could "improve algorithms for managing battery performance and shutdown operations" in future versions. With the release of iOS 10.2.1 in February 2017, Apple stated that it had reduced unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6S by "more than 80%", and by "over 70%" on iPhone 6. Apple also reported that these issues were separate from the aforementioned defects in the 6S.
In December 2017, the developers of the benchmarking tool Geekbench issued a report which showed a pattern of performance degradation on iPhone 6 models upgraded past 10.2.1, and iPhone 7 models upgraded past iOS 11.2. There had been anecdotal evidence in the past that Apple had intentionally degraded the performance of older iPhone models on newer versions of iOS as a form of planned obsolescence, to encourage sales of newer models.
In response to these reports, Apple issued a statement to CNET, confirming that it had implemented software performance controls based on battery health on older iPhone devices, in order to preserve system stability and prevent unexpected shutdowns. The company stated that its goal was to "deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices", and explained that "lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components".
Soon afterward, Apple issued a formal apology, admitting that it initially believed that the issues were caused by iOS bugs and "normal, temporary" performance decreases following an update, but that "continued chemical aging" of batteries in older iPhone devices was also a factor. Apple stated that replacing the device's battery would restore full performance, and also announced that it would offer a US$50 discount (from $79 to $29) on battery replacements for iPhone 6 and 6S from January through December 2018, and that it would include more prominent battery health information in later versions of iOS. The company stated that it had never, nor would ever "do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades."
USA Today columnist Jefferson Graham felt that Apple should have made the battery replacements be free, arguing that it "would go a long way towards erasing widespread suspicion that Apple purposely tries to make its older products obsolete in order to coax consumers into buying new ones."
As of January 2018, 32 class action lawsuits had been filed against Apple over this issue. A Chicago lawyer who proposed a $5 million class-action considered the battery discount "an insult to loyal customers who consistently and with much fanfare have flocked to Apple stores worldwide to purchase every version of the iPhone."
In January 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that the company had cut its earnings projections due to "fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated", as well as lower-than-anticipated revenue in markets such as China.
On February 7, 2020, French consumer authorities fined Apple €25 million following a formal investigation into the decision. On February 28, 2019, Apple agreed to a $500 million settlement in a California court, under which it plans to pay at least $25 to all U.S. residents who had purchased iPhone 6 or 7 devices.
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