Apple apologized today for its handling of a battery issue affecting older iPhones and offered to replace aging batteries for just $29 — dramatically less than the $79 fee it would typically charge.
The apology comes as consumers in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere filed suits accusing Apple of deliberately slowing the performance of older iPhones to force consumers to upgrade their devices.
“First and foremost, 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 said in a statement released today. “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.”
Apple offered a lengthy explanation to address what it called a “misunderstanding” of what happened. The company started with a brief chemistry lesson, noting that as rechargeable lithium-ion batteries age their ability to charge diminishes. That could result in phones unexpectedly shutting down.
To address this problem, Apple began including a power management feature in its software updates to maximize the battery performance on its older devices — the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus and the following generation of phones.
Apple extended this feature to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
The company didn’t exactly publicize the practice, which came to light earlier this month, when a firm that measures app performance identified blips in processing speed and concluded that a software change had to be responsible for the change.
That produced backlash headlines like this one: It’s not just you: Apple really is intentionally slowing down older iPhones.
Apple said it initially attributed consumer complaints about slower performance to the kind of temporary sluggishness that can occur when an iPhone owner upgrades the phone’s operating system, or to release bugs.
“We now believe that another contributor to these user experiences is the continued chemical aging of the batteries in older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices, many of which are still running on their original batteries,” Apple acknowledged.
The company offered to replace out-of-warranty iPhone batteries for $29 — starting in January. Apple also will include a new feature in its next operating system update that lets iPhone users check the health of their iPhone’s battery.