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Apple Faces Rising Number of Lawsuits Filed Concerning iPhone Slow-Downs

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At least 26 lawsuits have now been filed against computer giant Apple Inc., after the company admitted to purposely slowing down older iPhones because of battery issues. So far, cases have already been filed in California, Chicago, New York, Texas, Ohio, Israel, France, and Korea.

The slow-downs affected iPhone 5, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, and some iPhone 7s. Apple also allegedly failed to disclose power management changes it made starting in iOS 10.2.1.

Lithium-Ion Batteries Degrade as They Age

The problem is that as these batteries get older, they aren’t as capable of handling performance peaks, and are at an increased risk of suddenly shutting down. According to Apple’s support page, all rechargeable batteries have a limited lifespan, and eventually their capacity and performance decline.

Cold temperatures can also affect battery performance, and together with age, can increase the risk of unexpected shutdowns, particularly during times of high power requirements. To prevent these shutdowns, Apple—without informing consumers—released the iOS 10.2.1 update in January 2017 to purposely manage performance peaks in batteries that had lost a certain amount of capacity.

This update resulted in fewer shutdowns, but it also reduced performance of the phones. Users may have noticed longer app launch times, lower frame rates while scrolling, lower speaker volume, backlight dimming, and more. Frustrated users were given no way to address the issue but to purchase new phones.

Apple Failed to Give Consumers A Better Way to Manage Battery Degradation

The battery issue Apple is facing is not unique. Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries naturally decline with age, and many companies have faced challenges when dealing with them. Since the early 2000s, there has been a steady flow of warnings and product recalls tied to burning and exploding lithium batteries. In 2016, for example, Samsung recalled 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones because of exploding batteries.

The issue here is the fact that Apple did not inform consumers of the changes they were making to prevent shutdowns, or of the potential for the older batteries to cause problems. They also did not give consumers the option to refuse the update if their batteries were still operating correctly.

In one class-action Apple lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of New York, plaintiffs claim that Apple disregarded the rights of consumers “by its failure to have previously disclosed that it was intentionally slowing down performance of older devices to compensate for battery degradation in order to push people to upgrade their iPhones faster and failed to provide iPhone owners with better ways to accomplish the same goal such as replacing the batteries of an older iPhone model.”

Apple Apologizes for Decreased Phone Performance

According to the Washington Post, Apple apologized to customers on December 28, 2017, for “not being clear that the company slows down phones with aging batteries.” The company promised to be more transparent in the future, and to give users notifications and ways to see the health of their batteries, and whether the battery’s age could affect performance.

Apple also offered a discount on battery replacements to users with an iPhone 6 or later, reducing the cost from $79 to $29 starting in late January 2018. The company denied allegations that it was purposely slowing down old phones to dupe customers into buying new ones.

These changes may be too little, too late for many consumers. According to the plaintiffs who filed the New York lawsuit above, some purchased iPhone 7s because of the slow-downs they were experiencing with their iPhone 6s, and later experienced the same issues with their iPhone 7s.

The plaintiffs also claim that had there not been an independent investigation into the Apple slow-downs (performed by John Poole, founder of Primate Labs and Geekbench developer), Apple may have never admitted what they were doing.

 

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