Apple has been clobbered with another lawsuit that claims the Californian company intentionally slowed down older iPhone models. The lawsuit, which was filed in Italy by consumer advocacy group Euroconsumers, is seeking €60 million from the world’s most valuable company, which is currently valued at around $2.4 trillion. If the lawsuit is successful, owners of affected iPhone models will be awarded around €60 per device, which is roughly £53 converted.
The smartphones impacted by the so-called batterygate scandal are the iPhone 6, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 6S Plus. So, if you bought one of those devices and the lawsuit is successful, you could be eligible for the compensation awarded to Euroconsumers. Head of policy for the consumer advocacy group Els Bruggeman said: “When consumers buy Apple iPhones, they expect sustainable quality products. Unfortunately, that is not what happened with the iPhone 6 series. Not only were consumers defrauded, and did they have to face frustration and financial harm, from an environmental point of view it is also utterly irresponsible.”
Batterygate refers to the fall-out from iOS 10.2.1, which introduced measures to throttle the performance of iPhone models with ageing batteries. Apple introduced the feature without informing customers that it could be deliberately slowing down the chipset inside their handset. According to Apple, without tempering the performance of its processor, it could draw too much power from older, degrading batteries – causing a shutdown of the phone. Before the feature was implemented, there was an increasing number of reports of users complaining about their iPhone shutting down with some 20-30% battery life purportedly left in the tank.
Apple claims these shutdowns were due to the ageing battery capacity and the power needed by its processors to operate at full-speed, when launching graphics-intensive games or video editing, for example.
Following the controversy, Apple added the option for iPhone owners to disable the limitations on peak performance, although the US firm warns that – as the lithium-ion battery continues to degrade – it could lead to more unexpected shutdowns when using the smartphone. Apple has also subsequently added a Battery Health indicator in iOS that shows an estimation of the maximum capacity of your battery cell. Lithium-ion cells are only capable of a certain number of recharge cycles – that’s complete recharges from flat.
The issue likely captured people’s attention not because their iPhones were no longer getting the maximum output from the chipset in order to prevent frustrating shutdowns, but because it followed years of unsubstantiated rumours that Apple would intentionally slow older iPhones around September to push customers to upgrade to the latest model. Dubbed planned obsolescence, Apple says it has never degraded performance to convince people to buy a new handset.
Apple says that it has never artificially slowed down any of its smartphones – only aggressively managed performance to maximise the lifespan of its batteries, which cannot be replaced without specialised tools usually only found at Apple Stores.
Interestingly, the speed of the processor is only one component of the software fix that Apple introduced. iPhones with degraded batteries will also dim their screens more aggressively to conserve power, lower the maximum volume of the built-in speaker, and even disable the LED flash within the camera app to prevent the system pulling more power than the battery can provide.
Apple has already agreed to pay $500 million to settle a United States lawsuit over the batterygate scandal. It also paid $113 million to settle a separate multi-state investigation into the matter.
Speaking to The Verge about the latest lawsuit filed against, a spokesperson elaborated: “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, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”