back to article Apple slapped with €60m lawsuit from Italian consumer rights org for slowing down CPUs in old iPhones

Apple may have to cough up €60m ($73m, £53m) after Altroconsumo, an Italian consumers rights group, filed a class-action lawsuit railing against Cupertino's practice of throttling the performance of its older smartphones. Altroconsumo, backed by parent consumer group Euroconsumers, claims Apple's iOS deliberately slowed down …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Apple

    Next time, just warn them that this will cause old iPhone models to explode and make sure its repeated several times in the release notes, and the clickthrough terms of service

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When you least expect it, Apple suddently reply back to TheReg

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      A minor oversight. Normal service will be resumed shortly

  3. Totally not a Cylon
    Black Helicopters

    When does Apple buy Italy?

    Normal practice when some small company sues a larger one is for the larger to buy the smaller.

    So, when is Apple buying Italy?

    Seriously it's going to happen at some point......

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: When does Apple buy Italy?

      Italian debt and spending can eclipse Apple's revenues and cash reserves too...

      1. Totally not a Cylon
        Paris Hilton

        Re: When does Apple buy Italy?

        Apple can write Italy off as a tax loss.....

        Might be cheaper than paying/fighting EU fines?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: When does Apple buy Italy?

          "Apple can write Italy off as a tax loss....."

          ...and then sue the auditors when they discover it's not worth what they paid?

    2. Zyzzyx

      Re: When does Apple buy Italy?

      Might be a better investment to buy the UK or France, since they are not a lot more expensive (about 30%-40% bigger GDP) and have less debt ;P

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Something fishy...

    "Apple, however, insisted reaching said agreement in the US was not an admission of wrongdoing."

    So they just gave the US $113m for philanthropic reasons then right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "philanthropic reasons"

      No - they paid up because it was less than the years of court action would have cost otherwise.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: "philanthropic reasons"

        So why in other trials they try to fight over and over despite the costs? There's a patent dispute where they continue to refuse anything, whatever the costs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "philanthropic reasons"

          Because winning / losing a patent fight potentially has other implications.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: "philanthropic reasons"

            so, apparently, does "settling" the US claim when others are clearly going to sue too.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enough all ready...

    Whilst what they did was very badly explained when it was introduced, the "throttling" actually allowed people to continue to use their phones for longer than they could have otherwise (i.e., when they battery was so badly worn that heavy use of the phone would cause it it reboot). The change was also applied to _all_ iPhones, not just the older ones.

    The feature helped me recently when the battery in my iPhone 7 failed when all the stores were closed due to Covid lockdowns - I was able to continue using my phone without any major performance hits for the six weeks I had to wait before I could get the battery changed*.

    I just wish someone could get a court to understand this and balance it against the "Apple did this to force people to buy a new phone" claims.

    Awaiting down votes from the Apple haters...

    * Which is another story - they broke my phone, replacing it there and then with a new one (same model / spec).

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Enough all ready...

      ".... introduced, the "throttling" actually allowed people to continue to use their phones for longer than they could have otherwise" .... because Apple had designed software updates which took no account of older phones' capabilities. FTFY

      I'm well ensconced in the Apple garden and have been for years, so not a hater by any means, but seeing features forced on me that knacker my phone as Apple doing me a favour is taking the piss.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Enough all ready...

        While I would agree, @Anonymous is correct. Unfortunately iPadOS does not have the 'please use performance management' options that iOS does on the older devices... my iPad mini 4 is exhibiting the same behaviour as my old iPhone 6S when it was being managed, without me being able to actually switch battery management on. That sucks.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Enough all ready...

      Personally, I think Apple is culpable for selling some number of people new iPhones when they would have been happy with only battery replacements, especially where those people went to an Apple shop and specifically discussed the issue with Apple employees.

      But the Italian lawsuit here seems to be predicated on the rate at which Apple's batteries became less effective being a malfunction? That feels like a stretch.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Enough all ready...

        The batteries start to fail to deliver the power needed by the hardware after a year or so of usage. Other electronics ... don't do that. They don't do that because the engineers looked at their power usage when choosing the battery they would use, planning to have a battery that would last for an actual expected usage amount rather than the length of the warranty. I choose to believe that it was a mistake on Apple's part. They just didn't think too hard about the battery and oops it's too late. Still, it's possible that some or all of the steps taken were intentional, because a phone slowing down or suddenly dying (which it still does after slowing down) makes people think their device has a problem requiring replacement.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Enough all ready...

      "Whilst what they did was very badly explained when it was introduced, the "throttling" actually allowed people to continue to use their phones for longer than they could have otherwise (i.e., when they battery was so badly worn that heavy use of the phone would cause it it reboot)."

      For context, I have one of the affected models. The following are true:

      1. The first unexpected reboot I know about occurred a year or so after purchase. It's not possible for me to check if any occurred beforehand.

      2. It applied the performance decrease then, which I normally don't notice but sometimes it's clear.

      3. I never turned off the slowing feature. I figured I could live with the performance decrease.

      4. It still shuts down unexpectedly, and actually somewhat frequently. Battery level measurement is unreliable and sometimes it will shut down when the battery supposedly has more than half of its life remaining. It will then not turn on again until connected to mains power, and it will report a very low battery level then.

      5. Apple-authorized service providers tell me that they can't replace my battery yet because the battery health percentage needs to be at 79% or lower. It has been stuck at 81% for months.

      6. I have no method to measure what the faulty battery has done to the performance or the reliability because the only metric is a never-changing number.

      Now you are probably right that, had I disabled the throttling, I'd have to deal with even more crashes and worse battery life. That, in my mind, is no excuse for the problems caused by their failure to consider how much power they need a battery to give. I am out of warranty, so I can't require them to fix the problem, but I do view it as the fault of their design, and it does cause problems. Fortunately, I don't rely on my phone very much, so it crashing and requiring a wall connection is simply an annoyance. For others, it may be much worse.

  6. phogan99

    I guess they'd rather charge their battery more often and accelerate the decline. The solution is just to replace the battery. Also, I don't think you can even update iOS on an iPhone 6S anymore. Seem odd to point out the battery as planned obsolescence when you can't even update it and apps will eventually end support.

    Companies aren't going support products forever and even if they tried the devices naturally degrade from use. Caps wear out, thermal cycling takes it's toll etc.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      "Companies are'nt goint support products for ever"

      I am currently waiting for a full gasket and repair kit to arrive in the post, for my 1977 Briggs & Stratton engine on a generator, incidentally, the genny is British made and I can still buy parts for that too.

      Companies like Apple are primarily sales organisations driven to maximise profit by selling new units an charging as much as possible for both the items and their maintenance.

      Lifetime is pre-planned as a part of the basic business model even if the quality in Apple's case is reasonably high it is still a marketing operation driven by the company and not the customer.

      Companies like Briggs became ubiquitous by selling a well engineered product as well as excellent service, a pity that few manufacturers use their business model anymore.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes, and spares are available for iPhones long after they no longer receive software updates.

        Can you "upgrade" the engine on your generator to make it more fuel efficient, or does that require a new model?

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          "Can you "upgrade" the engine on your generator to make it more fuel efficient"

          It's a good point but, for the majority of phone users, a poor analogy. I'm still using my iPhone SE and none of the subsequent phones or any of the real functionality changes in the software are of any value to me and certainly not the equivalent of getting better fuel efficiency. I just looked through the specs of the iPhone 12 and there's nothing about it for me and my use-case that makes it better than my SE.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      No, the point is that the battery is unable to push out enough power to run the chip at full speed, so rather than have the chip run at full speed and crash due to a brown-out, it it runs a bit slower.

    3. ThomH Silver badge

      The iPhone 6s is supported by the current version of iOS; rumours have it that this year's release will be the first to cut off the 6s and the rest of its generation.

    4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: The solution is just to replace the battery

      Yep, but this is Apple we're talking about.

      The company that makes products in which glue is a major component.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The solution is just to replace the battery

        It takes one hour to get the battery swapped out at an Apple store. I dare say other places can do it in a similar amount of time (and for about half the price).

    5. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

      If 'thermal cycling' breaks a product within a few years then it's poorly engineered. I've got a number of phones from 2012 or earlier which are still working, the only reason they were abandoned or retired to run a limited selection of apps (i.e. a device for Viewranger) is because the continual bloating of Android apps and the web made them unusable now.

      This is being typed on an 11 year old PC, which still operates fine for the majority of purposes (I have later and more power hungry systems to run demanding workloads) whilst being quieter, cooler, and cheaper than alternatives.

      Why do we accept the shoddy engineering and limited lifespan of mobile devices when the same is not expected from other systems?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Security

    We have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product

    Apart from dropping security updates for older models, thus rendering them dangerously unusable in the modern world.

    1. gryphon

      Re: Security

      You can criticise Apple for many things (and we all do) but not for the length of time they support older phones.

      I just upgraded to a 12 Pro Max but had my previous 6+ for 6 years, it got an update for something or other a couple of weeks ago despite being on iOS 12.

      My daughters SE classic is working quite happily on iOS 14 and I think that model is also around 6 years old although she's only had it a couple of years.

      Only place you get near that in Android world is pretty much with Android One which gives 2 O/S updates and 3 years security. Although I think I read in another article that Samsung is now starting to promise long-term-support for their current models.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Security

        Quite. Whilst it would be nice to get updates for a longer period (I don't think I'll be needing to replace my 7 for performance reasons for a few years yet), it does get to the point that the engineering costs in maintaining multiple OS branches becomes unacceptable. Sure, Apple could use more of their profits, but...

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Security

        Also, iOS 12 is still getting security updates. So if you have a 5S which was released in 2013, you can still use it safely with all the features it had when you bought it.

        1. DS999

          Re: Security

          And at least one new feature - apparently the COVID tracking support was backported to it with the latest 12.x update.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPhones are always mentioned, but this must apply to iPad Mini, iPads too?

    Whenever these articles are published it never make any reference to iPad Mini, iPad 2/iPad 3/iPad4 etc.

    Just from the way my existing older iPad Mini, older iPads now respond, it's pretty clear the devices have been throttled at some point by an Apple iOS software update.

    They've become unusable, with very obvious delays to open Safari, or the browser just resets attempting to open a page.

    It's all a very different (slow and unusable) experience to when the devices were new, and that's with every conceivable graphical enhancement feature turned off, to speed them up.

    i.e. Was this done specifically to iPhones running iOS, or all iOS devices including iPads (which seems likely), which means it's a much bigger kettle of fish Apple are denying they slowed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iPhones are always mentioned, but this must apply to iPad Mini, iPads too?

      No, they have not been "throttled" - they simply have CPU (and other constraints) that mean they are not able to run the latest OS at the same speed as a modern machine.

      The performance reduction feature that was added to the iPhone to stop it crashing under heavy workloads* when the battery needed replacing was not added to the iPad.

      * Due to the battery voltage dropping too low.

  9. Adelio Silver badge

    Admition of Guild

    "Apple, however, insisted reaching said agreement in the US was not an admission of wrongdoing."

    Of course it is, why else would they settle.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Missing zeros

    €60m? Has Dr Evil surfaced in Italy? They need to add a few more zeros to that figure

  11. Noonoot

    Provided we given the money

    Going to any Apple store, we were given two options:

    1) buy a new battery

    2) buy a new phone

    One way or another they wanted money. In the space of one update, my iPhone started to slow down. Call it what you want, if you're going to affect performance with specific updates, communicate that to the customers when they go to the Apple shop to ask for your help.And don't release updates that reduce the phone to a a dinosaur.

  12. uro

    iOS 11.2 killed my IPhone 6S+, I have replaced the lightning port (just in case, even though it was clean) and the battery for a genuine Apple battery and the handset is kaput, it wont charge nor power on.

    It turns out from research and watching a few Louis Rossman videos that it's most likely burned out the silicon in the power/charge IC on the phones' board - something I have no tooling to be able to replace, let alone any available spares to replace the chip with.

    Thankfully most of my data was already backed locally up via itunes, I create a backup whenever I plug my phone into the PC/itunes which wasn't too long before Apple bricked my handset, so I restored onto a new iphone 12 and grabbed the rest of my data from the cloud.

    All in all it was a complete pain in the arse experience, Apple Support did reach out on twitter offering the usual "send it in and we'll take a look*" (* and charge you exhorbitant fees for each component that needs replaced), given its the power IC they'd most likely replace the entire board, the same board which has all my data stored on it. So I would in effect get a repaired / entirely different handset back without my data onboard along with a large bill.

    In any case I opted for the more future-proof option of a new handset. Some of you will be asking why go back to Apple - better the devil you know, I've never liked Android nor trusted Alphabet/Google, if Blackberry were still making their own handsets with their own OS I'd have jumped back to them.

    So for anyone saying the accusation that Apple deliberately release software updates that throttle and/or brick older handsets is false, you are talking bollocks.

  13. UCAP

    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

    Pull the other one, it has bells on it!

  14. The Sprocket

    Really . . .

    Various forms of this has been going on in the electronics industry since I remember when getting in around 1993. In those days it was new computer gear released 6 months after you bought yours that was twice as fast and two-thirds the cost. Consumer outrage ensued!!! Lawsuits were rampant, as were the accusations.

    Then it was updates of OS's that sucked machine performance that required more ultra-expensive memory that some couldn't (or couldn't afford to) install, or sucked up the puny hard drive space. Follow that with Apple's insistence of changing from '040 to PPC to Intel, and today, to M1. That can sideline perfectly good hardware in a short period of time due to dwindling updates to software for the old system.

    While I have lived through it, I can't say I like it, but that's the reality of the electronics world. I applaud the Briggs & Stratton business model, and I know of a few like that in my world outside of digital 'stuff', but I can hardly expect a 1998 Apple G3 Wallstreet to be fully functional, AND serviceable, in today's world. I think this Apple battery thing is really overblown by a lot of folks who haven't yet faced the reality of the electronics world. And I might add, Apple isn't alone in this battery thing.

    Would I like to be able to field-strip my MacBook Air (which is pretty easy already) and add in a new M1 chip to continue. You bet I would! Do I think for a second Apple is going to be a stand-up firm and accommodate me? Nope.

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