The Throttlegate Report: Let the Fear Mongering Begin

January 12th, 2018

Now that the U.S. Congress wants to meddle into Apple’s affairs in the wake of the iPhone throttling and battery scandal, you can bet the usual fear mongering from certain alleged tech pundits is in full force. Some of this comes from people who proclaim themselves Apple fans; only they have been betrayed because of this, that, or the other thing. Their lives are turned upside down and it’s time to fight back.

Well, perhaps it’s better than opening the nearest window, and screaming at the top of your lungs about your frustrations.

Regardless, I have to wonder: Does the fact that Apple failed to tell you that its 10.2.1 update not only fixed a sudden shutdown problem but lowered performance make you feel betrayed? Are you ready to open that window and throw your iPhone out as a result? Well, perhaps.

So one particular article from this faux Apple fan has it that the company foolishly played into the common conspiracy theory that it deliberately slows down older hardware to fool you into buying the new model. But I wonder why PC makers aren’t being accused of such things. Isn’t it actually true that older Windows computers do slow down over time? But that isn’t necessarily a conspiracy from Dell, HP or the others either. There are troubleshooting steps to speed up worn PCs.

In any case, I’d rather think that Apple’s decision to slow down older iPhones was done with good intentions, but somewhere along the line they failed to properly communicate this fact to users. It’s a classic case of supposedly good intentions having gone bad.

The blogger in question says, “I also find it hard to believe that a step as drastic as inserting code into the iOS platform wouldn’t need to get a green light from those at the highest echelons of Apple, which raises questions about the executive’s fitness to lead the company into the future.”

I wouldn’t suggest that someone be fired over this. Maybe a good dressing down would be sufficient to convey the message, if it isn’t already obvious.

The article goes further, way off into never land, “Then there’s the ‘solution’ that Apple proposed to the problem: the $29 battery replacement. Not only did Apple not consider how users might determine whether they needed to spend the money on having their iPhone’s battery replaced, but no consideration was given to those who had become frustrated by their iPhones and consigned it back to Mother Earth Gaia for recycling.”

Well, actually, Apple’s techs can run a diagnostic test on an affected iPhone to see if the battery is healthy, but it appears that they are replacing them anyway. What more do you want? Well, maybe shorter waits to get your battery replaced. Apple is back-ordered.

One thing that makes sense is to issue refunds to people who already paid full price for the battery replacement, even if it was done by a third-party dealer. All right, the customer should be responsible if the unit was damaged somehow in the replacement process, but otherwise this shouldn’t present a problem. Maybe set a 30-60 day period prior to the announcement? As I said before, though, I don’t see what could be done for people who went ahead and bought new iPhones under the belief the old models were kaput.

However, most people aren’t clinging to every single word on a tech blog, so I suspect the number of users who actually noticed or acted on those slower iPhones isn’t terribly high. One published report did suggest, though, that Apple might lose up to 16 million iPhone sales once users understand that they can replace the battery at a fairly reasonable price when it’s worn.

I accept that some people may not realize that iPhone (and iPad) batteries are replaceable, but I’d think they’d take it to an Apple Store or an independent reseller first to find out what was wrong, why it was running slow. Would they just assume it was broken beyond repair and act without checking? When your TV stops working do you throw it out, or call a dealer or a repair shop? What about the family car when it fails to start?

In any case, the blogger in question concludes that disaster has struck, that “Apple needs to take charge of this situation as soon as possible. Otherwise this is something that we’re going to be talking about for years, and it’s an issue that’s going to haunt Apple each and every time it releases new software. Trust in Apple is now shattered, and it feels like no one at the company cares.”

Evidently he failed to read Apple’s mea culpa: “We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.”

That widely quoted message goes on to explain the reasoning behind the decision to throttle performance and the discount battery offer. That, to me, is taking charge of the situation. Sure, perhaps they can do something to manage customers who already acted ahead of this apology, but otherwise it appears Apple has learned its lesson.

But not about activating features without need of a password, evidently. But I’ll avoid the macOS High Sierra glitch that allows you to unlock App Store preferences without a password. At least for now.

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5 Responses to “The Throttlegate Report: Let the Fear Mongering Begin”

  1. Ed Sagan says:

    Your usual critical analyses are turning into repetitive apologies for Apple!

    “Would they just assume it was broken beyond repair and act without checking? When your TV stops working do you throw it out, or call a dealer or a repair shop?”

    Yes, most people do NOT get broken TVs repaired —there are not many places that do such repairs; plus, even to look at a broken device costs a large percentage of a new TV anyway!

    As to slowed iPhones, many would assume that their old devices aren’t up to snuff and would replace them! After all, it is true that older devices run more poorly with the latest OSs.

    In any case, I’m with you that Apple doesn’t deliberately slow down devices to get people to upgrade — rather that what they did, in many cases, may have produced just that effect.

    • The answer depends. If you spent a lot on a TV and it’s not very old, you’ll probably want to find a way to fix it. There are indeed TV repair facilities, authorized by the manufacturer. BestBuy offers a TV repair service. But if the set is five or 10 years old, it may not be worth the bother.

      As to slowed iPhones, I suspect most people wouldn’t notice unless they are performing tasks that stretch the CPU, such as games and such.


  2. KJ says:

    I am ready for Apple 4.0. Hopefully it will regress back to when it made products the very best it could, rather than what is good enough. That’s what happens when you focus on the consumer market. It’s not nearly so demanding.

  3. Kaleberg says:

    I’m guessing that more people noticed their phone’s shorter battery life than its slower processing speed. Many more people look at the battery bar or run into battery low warnings, as opposed to running benchmark apps and knowing what the numbers mean.

    Apple should have been more proactive in dealing with signs of a weakening battery. If the slowdown was being triggered often, the user should have had a notice that the battery might need to be replaced. Then Apple would have only gotten flack for trying to push replacement battery sales instead of replacement phone sales. It’s not like they could win on this.

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