Apple's apology for Batterygate didn't go far enough



Consumers are not happy with Apple’s admission that it intentionally slowed down older iPhones to keep up with declining batteries, reports USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Talking Tech.

LOS ANGELES — In the grand tradition of past Apple fiascos like Antennagate (dropped calls on the then-new iPhone 4) and the launch of Apple Maps (directions that weren’t accurate), the tech giant apologized again to consumers this week.

The question is whether the iconic iPhone maker’s apology went far enough. We don’t think that it did.  

First, Apple was forced to admit that it intentionally slowed down the performance of older phones in order to keep up with declining battery life. It acted after a 17-year-old user performed a test that proved it.  

Critics howled, the Twitterverse pounced and several consumer lawsuits were churned out by hungry lawyers. One asked for a $5 million in compensation on behalf of all the consumers who felt forced to upgrade their otherwise healthy older phones after they were slowed down by Apple’s software update. They were not given the choice to opt-in for the battery-saving slowdown feature. 

Analysts had suggested Apple pen an open letter to consumers. While the world awaited a beefier response from Apple than its initial admission, we tried to do some of the work for them. We wrote the letter that we hoped Apple would write, and posted it. A few hours later on Thursday, Apple came clean and released its own take. 

One major difference between our proposed apology and Apple’s: We suggested Apple say they were sorry and offer free battery upgrades for any consumer who wanted one. Apple saw it differently. It offered an apology but not a free battery. Instead, it is offering a new (normally priced $79.99) battery at a discount: $29.99, $50 less than usual cost. The deal is available starting in late January and running through the end of 2018 and only on iPhone 6 and 6S.

Remember, this is the world’s most profitable company, a firm that paid CEO Tim Cook $102 million in salary and bonuses in 2017. Apple generated $10 billion in profit for just the most recent quarter.

Yet it refuses to give away free batteries to inconvenienced Apple customers who have been suffering from slow downs of their phones that they bought from Apple in good faith.


Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights says Apple’s replacement battery costs less than $10. He estimates that only around 100,000 consumers will take up Apple on its offer. Even if the battery replacement was free, he says some 250,000 people would participate, the result of which would be “barely a blip to Apple’s earnings.”

A free battery 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.


Apple denied this in the open letter.

“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,” the company said.

But rivals Samsung, LG, Motorola and HTC all say they don’t slow down their phones to factor in older batteries. 

“Apple’s offer of discounted batteries fails to compensate consumers who were forced to purchase new iPhones,” said James Vlahakis, a Chicago-area lawyer who filed the $5 million class-action lawsuit. The $50 discount on the price of a new battery “is an insult to loyal customers who have consistently and with much fanfare have flocked to Apple stores worldwide to purchase every version of the iPhone.”

Still, Moorhead believes this latest fiasco will blow over for Apple and fans will continue to wait on line breathlessly when the next generation of iPhones are announced and come to stores, typically in September. I tend to agree, but it will be harder to take Apple’s statements at face value again. 


In other tech news this week

•Amazon Echo Dot. Amazon said this week that its Echo Dot speaker was the best-selling product among the thousands of items it offered on its website during the holidays. The Dot is the cheapest way to get the Alexa personalized assistant into the home. It’s normally $49, but was discounted to $29 beginning in November. 

•HQ Trivia. The game app is set to launch on Android Monday. Who wants to win some quick cash? The ultra-popular mobile game show, open to anyone who wants to try answering 12 questions for prizes of around $1,500, had said it would move beyond the Apple iOS base to launch on Android phones as well. Search for HQ Trivia on the Google Play Store to pre-register and get a notification when the app is live. 

•Tweet archiving. The Library of Congress won’t archive everyone’s tweets. All tweet activity has been archived since 2010, but beginning next week the Library of Congress says it will “continue to acquire tweets but will do so on a very selective basis.” The library says tweets collected and archived will be thematic and event-based, including events such as elections or themes of ongoing national interest, like those involving public policy issues. 

ICYMI — My rundown on favorite tech gear from 2017, highlighted by that new Sony RX10IV and the Fusion Guitar. (See more below.)


This past week on the Talking Tech podcast

Seven apps made me say Wow in 2017 – Who’s playing HQ trivia? 

This tech investor bought 365 gadgets and here are his 15 favorites. We meet up again with Peter Pham. 

Crazy CES pitches. You’ve got to hear some of the requests from people who want to meet up at the world’s biggest trade show. 


Have you checked out Facebook Marketplace? Re-selling your unwanted items? Facebook is giving Craigslist and eBay a run for their money. 

Consumers riled up about Apple’s Batterygate. We spoke to iPhone owners in the historic Gaslamp district of San Diego about Apple’s admission that it slowed down older phones purposely. 

Rockin’ with the Fusion Guitar. My take on the electric guitar that gets its power from an iPhone. 

Talking Tech in 2017. Looking back at 365 episodes of the podcast, and some of our favorite topics. 

The apology letter from Apple we wanted to see — We channeled Apple on the apology letter we thought the company should write. 


Jefferson Graham reviews the Fusion Guitar, which has a built-in amp, and can be powered by an iPhone, on #TalkingTech

Look for me on Twitter (@jeffersongraham) and Facebook and if you haven’t checked out the daily #TalkingTech podcast yet, now’s the time. You can listen on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to online audio. 


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