Apple, facing scrutiny for slowing down older iPhones, is considering rebates for some customers who paid the full price of $79 for battery replacements, the company said in a letter to the U.S. Senate.
Apple answered eight questions asked by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, earlier this month after Apple's admission in December that it slowed down iPhones to prevent unexpected shutdowns. Apple's response was filed Friday and made public Tuesday.
Thune, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, originally gave Apple a Jan. 23 deadline to reply but granted an extension at the company's request, according to the committee's communications director, Frederick Hill.
In addition to the possibility of rebates, Apple revealed that the new iPhone 8 and X have hardware updates that "allow a more advanced performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown," wrote Cynthia Hogan, Apple's vice president for public policy.
Hogan also doubled down on Apple's stance that it would never slow down iPhones to pressure users to upgrade to a newer model, which is known as planned obsolescence.
"As we said publicly, 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," wrote Hogan. "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."
Hogan outlined that in fall 2016, Apple received notice of iPhones unexpectedly shutting down. In January 2017, Apple released the battery slowdown update. The next month, Apple alerted iPhone users in the iOS 10.2.1 ReadMe notes.
In December, Apple announced it will make all battery replacements $29 -- $50 less than the original out-of-warranty cost -- until the end of this year. Hogan wrote Apple has seen "strong demand" for the replacements but did not clarify how strong the demand exactly is.
More than a year after its battery slowdown update, Apple has been besieged by a flood of lawsuits seeking class-action status, and government watchdog agencies in France, Italy and South Korea began probes into whether Apple engaged in planned obsolescence. Last week, the SEC and the Department of Justice announced investigations into the slowdowns. Hogan did not mention the SEC and Justice Department investigations in her letter to Thune.
"For advanced technologies like an iPhone, consumers rely on clear and transparent disclosures from manufacturers to understand why their device may experience performance changes," said Thune in a statement. "I appreciate Apple's response to my inquiry and the company's ongoing discussions with the committee. In those conversations, Apple has acknowledged that its initial disclosures came up short. Apple has also promised the committee some follow-up information, including an answer about additional steps it may take to address customers who purchased a new battery at full price."
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Posted: 2018-02-09 @ 1:06pm PT
While I applaud Apple for responding to the demands of their customers and lowering the price of replacement batteries from $79 to $29 in order to be more affordable to all people, this action avoids the real problem. Of course, having replacement batteries is far better than throwing out the entire phone and buying a new one, but when are we going to have phone batteries that last longer than a year or two?
Apple wants to make their phones and their batteries have short lifespans so that people are forced to buy new ones frequently, but this contributes to the growing problem of e-waste.
E-waste contains dangerous toxic chemicals that primarily affect the health of the poor in developing countries who are more likely to be exposed to e-waste, as well as people in our prisons who are forced to deconstruct old electronics. Health effects can include "substantial digestive, neurological, respiratory, and bone problems" according to this site (http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2013/e-waste.aspx) that can provide further information on the health and environmental effects of e-waste if you're interested.
If we want to stop this environmental and health disaster, we need companies to take greater responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. If Apple was forced to deal with the e-waste of their phones and batteries, it would become economically smart for Apple to begin creating phones and batteries that last longer and e-waste would decrease.
Forcing companies to take responsibility for the whole lifecycle of their products would be a major change to our market structure, but it can be done through heavy lobbying for legislation that would enforce this new responsibility.