Apple responds to U.S. government probe of ‘batterygate’

Apple has denied deliberately slowing down phones to force users into upgrading amid an investigation from the U.S. government.

The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are probing Apple to determine whether it breached security laws by intentionally slowing down phones without informing customers, Bloomberg reports. Apple confirmed the investigation but did not say what information the U.S. government has requested. The investigation is reportedly in its early stages, and it’s not clear what, if any, punishment will follow.

“We have received questions from some government agencies, and we are responding to them,” an Apple spokeswoman told Bloomberg. She reiterated, we “never—and would never—do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

In December, Apple admitted to intentionally slowing down iPhones through a software update to prevent them from randomly shutting down. It cited instability in older lithium-ion batteries for why the shutdowns occur.

Apple apologized soon after word got out, admitting it let customers down by failing to inform them of the changes. The company then cut the price of out-of-warranty battery replacements from $50 to $29 in an attempt to repair its damaged image. It will even replace for free batteries that pass all of its diagnostics tests.

Two class-action lawsuits were swiftly filed against Apple by furious U.S. customers. A week later, the French consumer group Stop Planned Obsolescence (Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée, or HOP) filed a criminal suit alleging the company deliberately slowed its devices to boost sales.

Apple now plans to add a way for iPhone users to control whether their phones are throttled as part of its iOS 11.3 update, which is set to drop sometime this quarter.

Apple sent Mashable a full statement regarding the government investigation. It includes much of the same language we’ve heard before in its attempts to justify throttling phones. Here’s the statement in full.

“About a year ago, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on certain iPhones with older batteries. We know that iPhones have become an important part of the daily lives of our customers and our intention was to improve the customer experience.”

“We sought to further improve the customer experience in December by announcing a significant discount on replacement batteries for certain iPhones. We also announced that we began developing a new iOS feature to show battery health and which would recommend when the user should consider replacing their battery. These actions were taken to further assist our customers and help extend the life of their iPhones. In addition, users will be able to see if the power management feature is being used to prevent unexpected shutdowns, and turn if off if they so choose. These features will be included in a developer release next month and a user release this Spring.”

“As we told our customers in December, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love. Making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”

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