Monday, March 9, 2020

Apple to Settle US iPhone Throttling Lawsuit

Benjamin Mayo (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Apple is set to pay up to $500 million to settle a United States lawsuit over the iPhone battery performance throttling debacle of 2018.

Via Reuters, Apple agreed to a preliminary settlement in legal documents filed on Friday. The company denied wrongdoing but said it settled to avoid lengthy court proceedings. The monetary suit is equivalent to $25 per impacted iPhone.

If you unnecessarily spent hundreds of dollars to get new phone—because of a design flaw that made the battery not last very long and a lack of communication that obscured the reason your old phone was slow—you get less than the temporarily discounted cost of a new battery.

Jon Brodkin:

The judge in the case still has to decide whether the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. A hearing is scheduled for April 3.


To identify people who are eligible for payments, the settlement says that “Apple will provide the Settlement Administrator with the email address of record on the Apple ID account of the members of the Settlement Class, as well as names, mailing addresses, and relevant iPhone serial numbers.” The settlement administrator would then contact those people via email or paper mail. Additionally, “A copy of the Class Notice, together with the Claim Form and various Court orders and other filings, will be posted and available for download on the Settlement Website. Finally, the Parties may jointly agree to provide additional notice with approval from the Court.”

Samuel Gibbs (Hacker News):

Apple and Samsung are being fined €10m and €5m respectively in Italy for the “planned obsolescence” of their smartphones.

An investigation launched in January by the nation’s competition authority found that certain smartphone software updates had a negative effect on the performance of the devices.

Believed to be the first ruling of its kind against smartphone manufacturers, the investigation followed accusations operating system updates for older phones slowed them down, thereby encouraging the purchase of new phones.


Update (2022-12-02): Juli Clover (in November 2020):

The investigation has now concluded, and Apple has opted to pay $113 million to settle the matter, reports The Washington Post. Apple has also agreed to be more transparent about similar changes to iOS devices in the future, providing more detail about battery health and power management.

See also: NPR, Hacker News.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Joshua Ochs

There was no design flaw - batteries degrade over time. That's *chemistry*. Rather than the phone start dying from a voltage dip, they made it slow down so it would be usable - but slower - for longer than it would be otherwise. This should have been communicated, but it is NOT a design flaw, and it is NOT planned obsolescence.

@Joshua The throttling was a good fix for the design flaw, as I described here. These particular iPhones had relatively smaller batteries and more power-demanding processors than previous iPhones and Android phones (and iPads), which is why sudden shutdowns hadn’t really been an issue before. Apple should have planned for the fact that batteries degrade over time so that no throttling was necessary on phones that were less than two years old (and in some cases only one). I don’t think it was planned obsolescence, but rather that they wanted thin phones that did well on benchmarks (in the first few months).

Sören Nils Kuklau

The throttling was a good fix for the design flaw


All of this could have been avoided if they had been upfront about the communication. I’m really baffled how poorly they handled it. To borrow a TV phrase, “the sheer fucking hubris!”

They didn’t even have to discuss it as a design flaw. Just do exactly what they do do now: tell the user that their battery health is poor, that the iPhone has been throttled as a precaution to avoid sudden shutdowns (as you say, I think it was a good fix for a bad situation), and that the user should consider servicing the battery (and that it will recover the iPhone to full speed). There may still have been an outcry (understandably so) that this is unreasonably short battery life, and then they could’ve gone into the negotiation of “alright, we’ll discount battery replacements”.

It would’ve saved them money and embarrassment, and it would’ve let customers feel better.

Not their finest or smartest hour.

Leave a Comment