back to article Apple may have to cough up $1bn to Brits in latest iPhone Batterygate claim

Another day, another legal claim against Apple for deliberately throttling the performance of its iPhones to save battery power. This latest case was brought by Justin Gutmann, who has asked the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) to approve a collective action that could allow as many as 25 million Brits to claim …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    FAIL

    Jedi mind trick

    Of course we didn't do this. Just ignore those settlements in other countries.

    1. sreynolds Silver badge

      Re: Jedi mind trick

      They will probably try to make the same argument that (0) It was for your own good, (1) we actually saved you money from having to buy more of our overpriced shit and (2) we didn't really slow it down that much as the average for most users was negligible.

  2. DS999 Silver badge

    Last week I just collected

    A whole $20 or so in some optical drive settlement thing I was emailed about and must have filled in information for 5 or 10 years ago. At least one of the payment options was Amazon gift card email delivered the next day, so I didn't have to wait months for a check that probably wouldn't come and I wouldn't remember to miss.

    If the people in this suit are as lucky as me, they'll collect their £20 in 2029 or so.

    1. EricB123 Bronze badge

      Re: Last week I just collected

      Exactly! Like the 2 cent check i mentioned in a comment a few days ago.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      I was curious

      So I found details of the settlement I got this payout from. It was for PCs/laptops purchased between 2003 and 2008, the cases were consolidated into a class action in 2010.

      So I guess my estimate of 2029 was rather optimistic if Apple doesn't settle and it goes to trial.

      I also noticed it had a limited list of states, and I don't live in any of them so it turned out I wasn't actually eligible. Oh well!

  3. Paul 87

    This is why engineers shouldn't decide new features....

    ... the engineers undoubtedly decided on this feature being necesscary, to solve a percieved problem and went about solving it in a practical, common sense way.

    Unfortunately no one took the time to ask a 5 year old how people would feel about this, who would have told them to put in an on/off switch for the feature, and deployed it turned off with lots of hype about how the battery saver feature has been added to iOS to help owners of older phones get more lifespan out of their battery.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is why engineers shouldn't decide new features....

      Engineers almost never decide features, especially at a place like Apple.

      The engineers are almost always the ones pushing back, and getting overruled.

      The most probable reason for this misfeature is someone in product management insisting on throttling as the specific "solution" to a small number of complaints they received.

      Any engineer could tell of multiple cases where that kind of thing happened, instead of asking them for some more sane options and the consequences of each.

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: This is why engineers shouldn't decide new features....

      "... the engineers undoubtedly decided on this feature being necesscary, to solve a percieved problem and went about solving it in a practical, common sense way."

      I think this is exactly what happened.

      From a technical/solution perspective, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with what Apple did; in fact it was very well designed and implemented. What they THEN did was not communicate it effectively to customers and "Genius" staff; which led to many* people being driven to upgrade their phone, when they could have just bought a battery.

      Not an absolution of guilt, but worth understanding where the process broke down. The engineers who came up with the solution are probably howling in frustration about how their good work turned into a PR disaster through no fault of their own.

      1. Johnb89

        Re: This is why engineers shouldn't decide new features....

        Indeed. If they'd told me 'Here's the thing... your battery is getting old. You can either slow the phone down but have it last longer each day, keep it at full performance but have to plug it in more often, or get a new battery' with tickboxes to select 1 or 2, that would have been fine.

        But 'It just works' means never telling users anything and making usuallly good but sometimes bad decisions for them.

        I'm looking forward to getting my £4.

    3. DenTheMan

      Re: This is why engineers shouldn't decide new features....

      I think you will find that China's consumer rights board ordered them to fix the problem.(battery replacement program)

      Before that it was head in sand stuff, the throttling covering up the defect.

      The luvvies now say Apple did them a favour by preventing them from having to throw the phone away.

      It can't happen so much today, the power envelope reducing. However, faster Socs do still push boundaries.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: This is why engineers shouldn't decide new features....

        ” the throttling covering up the defect.“

        What defect?? The fact that all batteries lose capacity as they age??

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "We have never – and would never"

    Um, except you have.

    In the Age of the Internet, it really is a bad idea to blatantly spout nonsense that can be proven wrong with a simple search.

    Apparently, some companies really think that people are just going to trust whatever they say blindly.

    Doesn't work like that, guys. It really doesn't.

    Not even if your name is Apple.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "We have never – and would never"

      "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," Apple told The Guardian

      That statement has Johnsonian (or Trumpian) in its level of shamelessness, but I guess there are enough of the credulous who blindly trust such nonsense that it makes annoying the rest worthwhile.

      1. innominatus

        Re: "We have never – and would never"

        Nowadays Putinesque or Lavrovian, Shirley?

    2. Lis

      Re: "We have never – and would never"

      @Pascal

      I have done a "simple search" and have drawn conspiracy theories. So I am calling you out. What were your original "simple" search keywords? Please note I said original, not some hurriedly "spontaneous" keywords to back your claim up. I will wait.

      Cheers... Ishy

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: "We have never – and would never"

        Well, there's this article.

        Conspiracy much ? I don't think so.

  5. 45RPM Silver badge

    I’m genuinely not sure that I understand this. My understanding (and I’ll caveat this by saying that I’m not sure that I care enough to do further research either) is that performance was being throttled as the battery aged in order to ensure that one of the primary functionalities (the phone) had the longest life possible on a single charge. I also understood that there’s a setting which allows the user to prioritise performance over life. I could be wrong on any of that but…

    I am an iPhone user. I recently replaced my aging iPhone 7 with an iPhone whatever the latest is (13?) And yes, at some point in 2019, the iPhone 7 started dragging. At that point I took it to Apple, had the battery replaced (for not a large sum) and Hey Presto! All the performance returned.

    As a software developer I think that I might have made the same design decisions. So is this a legitimate complaint (feels like No to me) or a spot of ambulance chasing (at the moment I’m voting Yes to this)

    1. Tessier-Ashpool

      Throttling is a reasonable technical solution to a problem, the problem being that certain older phone models with degraded batteries would unceremoniously shut down. Better that your phone runs a bit slower than just crap out on you.

      But Apple implemented throttling on the quiet. Unannounced, with no option to disable it (at that time). That’s what upset users, and quite rightly so.

      1. Archivist

        Furthermore

        While it may have aided some people by extending the battery life albeit with a slower phone, Apple probably had to replace fewer batteries under warranty. Thus the accountants win again.

      2. balrob

        I dare say you're right. Some other commenters are clearly saying or implying it was a deliberate ploy to force upgrades and/or that Apple never cares about it's users etc etc. Some comments *really* sound like they are from people who have never owned an Apple device and wouldn't because walled-garden-evil-type-stuff. They're happy with Google owning their data though ... and getting no updates after 2 years.

    2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      I can see both sides of this, although one side is probably more motivated by money than their emails taking a bit longer to open.

      From my perspective I'd rather they did things like this and supported my old phone for a couple more years instead of making it obsolete and stopping updates. I never noticed my phone slowing down and took advantage of the battery offer to replace a battery that was already way beyond its best.

      My concern is that it will reduce support lifetimes because companies won't want the arseache of supporting older devices alongside the new-shiny so instead of supporting devices for about 7 years, Apple will default to the Samsung model.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      It didn't throttle in normal use. The problem was that the aged batteries couldn't cope with a sudden high power demand and this would cause a restart. So to fix this Apple prevented that by throttling those power demand peaks, so when a phone needed to do something that required full power where the battery couldn't cope, it ran slow. Phones with good batteries or new batteries didn't have the problem.

      But they put it in full time instead of putting a switch in settings somewhere so that people could choose to have phones that hung or turned off under load if they preferred.

  6. Jamesit

    "The Register has asked Cupertino for comment."

    Holding my breath.:-)

  7. James R Grinter

    Users will complain about anything

    I remember when one of my older phones would shutdown with a high percentage of charge left, and of course it turned out the battery was on the way out and could not meet the power demands.

    I’m glad they started throttling, as shutting down is far more disruptive than going slow. Though the PMs involved should have thought about the “PR” and had it advise the user to get their battery replaced.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IOS Tom’foolery

    I think most people won’t have delved deeper into this as the battery ‘claim’, is smoke and mirrors! The truth is the change came about at the introduction of iOS 11 when Apple went 64bit. As developers had to make the move to 64bit apps the problems and so called “battery” issues started. In testing I run iOS 10 and 11 side by side on identical iPhone 6s Plus phones with the the iOS 11 device having a brand new battery and yet the iOS 11 device had considerably worse performance. This issue stems back to the disk system also changing to APFS and a war on jailbreaking and cracking and extracting apps from other “comparable phones”. It also allowed Apple to drop support for 32bit devices and force developers to either re’write their 32bit apps to ensure compatibility while making older 32 bit apps obsolete, without support or unable to run on a 32bit system. I would say Apple also signed off a ‘Kerching’ moment while realising the huge drain on resources and incompatibility with Apple 6S Plus and lower spec devices and then the battery drain and subsequent iOS updates to circumvent this drain. In truth Apple not only misled millions by throttling their phones, it also saw swathes of people having up get new apps “64bit” to replace non running or incompatible 32bit apps. Every change inplimented at the iOS 10 to 11 translation I fear was orchestrated and planned to make the hundreds of millions of iPhone 6S and 6S Plus devices obsolete in the very near future. Let’s face it, how many people still had their 6S Plus devices years after newer devices were released? In truth the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus were the phone that people had no desire to upgrade or change as it done just about everything they desired. The screen size has changed very little even to the release of the iPhone 13. Apple realised that the iPhone 6S Plus was a top seller but subsequent phones as the iPhone 7 and 8 sadly stayed shelved. If you think Apple didn’t need to come up with a rapid strategy to ween people from their 6S Plus devices......... then you need therapy. They done it in software and they done it to blunt the edge on all 6S Plus owner user experience. As a developer I kept 7 x 6S Plus devices for testing on iOS 9, 10 and 11 up until 11.3.1. Without a doubt the 32bit to 64bit transition and restrictions on performance had deeper more sinister aim...... people still had iPhone 6S Plus phones when the iPhone X came out and it took that long for people to start upgrading.... well it did in the UK as commuter trains were packed with 6S Plus users.

    1. David Hicklin

      Re: IOS Tom’foolery

      Eh ??

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: IOS Tom’foolery

        Eh ??

        Faecebook facts. Gotta love 'em.

  9. FirstTangoInParis

    Lawyers getting rich here

    This surely has to be ambulance chasing of the highest order. Manufacturer helps users not to have to replace their phones for $$$ by tweaking the performance a bit when necessary.

    What’s next? CPU designers being sued for daring to make MS Word run slower as CPU clock rate is adjusted because user isn’t typing at a zillion words per minute, thereby making lawyers PA work nanoseconds longer than they need to? Come to think of it, any software company with product not legally proven to run at maximum speed is now open to litigation.

    1. Graham 32

      Re: Lawyers getting rich here

      It depends what your priorities are. Some may want the phone to run slower so they don't have to charge it more often as the battery ages. Others may be happy to tolerate more frequent charging as long as the apps continue run at the same performance level.

      I think most users would expect the latter as that's a natural consequence of ageing batteries - they just don't last as long as new ones. The issue here is an iOS update changed that decision, was undocumented, and Apple took an active decision to degrade performance and by how much. If they'd just made it an optional feature it would have been seen as a great innovation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lawyers getting rich here

        AFAIUI, the update slowed a phone down if the battery had degraded, through use, to the point where what the user wanted to do would have shut it down. Instead, what happened was that the phone would slow down so the battery could continue to deliver the required power. Following the furore caused by people not actually understanding that batteries have finite life, Apple offered free battery replacements to affected users (or, ISTR, a £25 battery replacement if you had a model that hadn't yet been affected).

        They're certainly not perfect but I've yet to hear of any other manufacturer supporting their phones for as long as Apple seems to do. The only people likely to make money out of the case will be the lawyers...

  10. VoiceOfTruth

    Apple may have to cough up $1bn to Brits

    I'll believe it when I see it. Government chair polishers: we think this is worth £0.001 per person. And be thankful, serfs.

  11. adam 40 Silver badge
    FAIL

    iPhone 4 bricked by "upgrade"

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

    well I still have an iPhone 4 that was bricked by an iOS upgrade, with no prospect of compo so the moral of the story is, never buy crApple.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: iPhone 4 bricked by "upgrade"

      Never buy any phone that might brick after a software update? I'll just go without a phone then.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple problem

    To me it seems fairly simple. The idea of throttling to prevent premature shutdown of a failing battery is a good one. It does indeed prevent those who don’t want to fork out for a new phone (or battery) that expense.

    However, those who think the phone is now old and too slow will buy a new phone instead of a new battery as they don’t know the phone is running slower because Apple thinks the battery is duff. Some may have the money to do that and don’t care, which is fine, but others don’t have the ability to buy a new phone when the apps they need don’t work or run slowly.

    The solution:

    Add the throttling as an option, and by all means turn it on by default, but make sure it is well known that the feature is there. If anyone believes their phone is running slower to an unusable level then they can go in to settings and turn off the throttling. If the phone speeds up to a usable level then they go out and buy a new battery. If on the other hand their favourite game/app still runs slowly then go buy a new phone. At least they know they haven’t bought a new phone for no reason when a new battery would have done the trick.

    So yes, Apple should have informed customers they had done this so the customer can decide for themselves if they really need a new phone or just a new battery. Without this knowledge customers will mostly assume the phone is now too slow because of all the unnecessary added ‘features’ to the OS that few people want or need. That’s a whole other issue which includes Apple, Android, Microsoft, Linux, etc.

  13. Lis

    2 things I have to say

    The ghost of "never had an original design idea in my life" Jony Ives still lives on. For fucks' sake he can't even spell his name right.

    And just how much has he cost Apple so far because of his shit designs?

    And just how the fuck did he get away with all his bullshit for so long?

    Yes I know that is 3 things but, come on it's Friday afternoon and I am celebrating the start of a brand new weekend... in my local.

    Have a groovy weekend y'all

    Cheers... Ishy

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