Apple Testifies Before Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Explain iPhone Battery Controversy

BY Gautam Prabhu

Published 1 Mar 2018

iPhone battery controversy

Apple was forced to testify in front of the Canadian parliamentary committee earlier today about its role in the iPhone battery controversy.

As you probably know by now, Apple introduced a power management feature in iOS 10.2.1 for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus and iOS 11.2 for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to prevent unexpected shutdowns because over time the battery runs out of capacity, and cannot supply enough power to the iPhone in times of peak processor usage.

However, after receiving a lot of criticism, Apple announced plans to add new features in iOS 11.3, which will not only give iPhone users better visibility about the battery health, but it would also allow users to disable the power management feature. Apple has also announced a battery replacement program, which allows affected iPhone users to replace their batteries for $29.

John Poole, the founder of Primate Labs, the makers of Geekbench, and Apple Canada were brought in to testify today in front of a House of Commons committee. The controversy broke out after Poole confirmed that Geekbench scores showed a correlation between degrading iPhone batteries and reduced performance.

Jacqueline Famulak, Manager of Legal and Government Affairs at Apple Canada, reiterated that Apple did not intentionally slow down iPhones to force customers to upgrade, and explained that Apple had introduced the power management feature in iOS 10.2.1 to prevent unexpected shutdowns. Here’s the full statement Apple has issued to theHouse of Commons committee:

Apple Canada Inc. is a sales and distribution entity. We also have 29 retail stores across Canada. The design, manufacture and testing of devices has always been done by Apple Canada’s parent company, Apple Inc. (“Apple”) which is based in California.

I’m here to help the Standing Committee understand the facts of Apple’s efforts to make sure that users of Apple devices get all the benefits from the devices they use, and that these benefits last as long as possible, even in a world of rapid innovation.

Apple Inc. has recently answered a series of questions posed by the chairs of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. Apple’s comprehensive answers to those questions are attached to my written statement.

I am here today to answer your questions, but before doing so, I would like to share a few important points at the outset about Apple’s actions regarding iPhone batteries and performance and what the Canadian consumer may have experienced as a result of those actions.

First, Apple would never intentionally do anything to shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience in order to drive customer upgrades. Apple’s entire philosophy and ethic is built around the goal of delivering cutting-edge devices that our customers love. Our motivation is always the user.

Second, Apple’s actions related to performance of iPhones with older batteries were designed specifically to prevent some older models from unexpectedly shutting down under certain circumstances. And we communicated this publicly. Let me explain.

In order for a phone to function properly, the electronics must be able to draw power from the battery instantaneously. But, as lithium-ion batteries age, their ability to hold a charge diminishes, and their ability to provide power to the device decreases. Very cold temperatures can also negatively affect a battery’s performance. A battery with a low state of charge may also cause the device to behave differently. These things are characteristics of battery chemistry that are common to lithium-ion batteries used in all smartphones, not just Apple’s.

If power demands cannot be met, the iPhone is designed to shut down automatically in order to protect the device’s electronics from low voltage.

We do not want our customers to experience interruptions in the use of their iPhones, whether that is making an emergency phone call, taking a picture, sharing a post, or watching the final minutes of a movie. To address the issue of unexpected shutdowns, we developed software that dynamically manages power usage when, and only when, an iPhone is facing the risk of an unexpected shutdown. This power management software helps keep iPhones on when they otherwise might turn off – it does this by balancing the demand for power with the available supply of power.

The sole purpose of the software update in this case was to help customers to continue to use older iPhones with aging batteries without shutdowns – not to drive them to buy newer devices.

Third, Apple regularly provides software updates for iPhone and our other devices. These software updates can include everything from new features, to bug fixes, to security updates. Whenever we issue a software update, we include a ReadMe note which has a description of the contents of the update for the customer to review prior to the software installation. In the case of iOS 10.2.1, we stated that it “improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone.”

Those things said, our intention has been to give our customers the best products and the best experiences possible. We take our customer concerns seriously and have taken a number of steps to address them.

First, Apple is offering to provide out-of-warranty replacement batteries for $35 instead of the original price of $99, to anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whether they have experienced any performance issues or not. This offer began on December 28, 2017, and is available through to the end of December 2018, so customers have plenty of time to take advantage of it.

Further, Apple is also providing customers with additional information on its website about iPhone batteries and performance including tips to maximize battery performance.

In addition, iOS 11.3, which is now in public beta, will add new features to give customers easy access to information about the health of their iPhone’s battery. Available this spring, the new software will offer power management which will recommend if a battery needs to be serviced. It will also allow customers to see whether the power management is on, and they can choose to turn it off if they wish.

Famulak’s statement is in line with statements Apple and Tim Cook have made previously. Apple will be forced to testify in United States and France over slowing down older iPhones.

Our Take

Apple made a mistake in handling this situation. It should have been transparent about the power management feature when it introduced the feature. However, Apple has taken sufficient steps to address the issue. I think it is a waste of time and money for a parliamentary committee to look into such matters. It seems more like a publicity stunt by politicians rather than genuine concern about protecting customer interests.

[via CBC News, iMore]