Apple iPhone, iPad and MacBook users now have a more complete picture of what happens to the batteries in their devices as they age, along with a series of suggestions from Apple about how to lengthen battery life.
iPhone users also got a $29 battery replacement deal. All of this came in a letter from Apple Dec. 28 explaining its battery issue and apologizing for making customers unhappy.
“We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down,” the unsigned message said. “We apologize.”
“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,” the message explained. “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’s apology and the supporting documentation that goes with it serves multiple purposes. First, it attempts to right a perceived wrong in the eyes of customers. The company lost a lot of credibility when the truth about the performance throttling came out, which required a serious mea cupla, along with some groveling as well as something to sweeten the pot.
In this case the pot sweetener for iPhone users is the $29 battery deal which will allow owners of the iPhone 6 and later to replace the batteries in their phones at a $50 discount. The deal lasts for a year, after which Apple will apparently hike the replacement cost back up to $79.
The message from Apple also noted that a new version of iOS will provide more insight into the health of iPhone batteries, but it didn’t specify what version or when it will be available.
Considering that Apple has said that iPhones 7 and older are already affected, the company does need to do something to make customers happier. The letter also reiterates that replacing the battery in an iPhone is all that’s required to get the device running at full speed again.
What’s equally interesting is what Apple didn’t say in its message. First, it didn’t apologize for the throttling. The apology was for the lack of communication and for the fact that Apple annoyed its users. Apple also didn’t say anything to indicate that it would stop or even revise the practice.
Users of iPhones older than the iPhone 6, iPads and MacBooks aren’t included in the battery deal. However, Apple does offer battery life extension tips for these devices. Apparently the surviving numbers of these devices are sufficiently small that Apple isn’t as concerned about torch- and pitchfork bearing crowds as it is with later-model iPhones.
But it appears that Apple also has its corporate eyes on users with enough clout to make a bigger difference, for example in court. The first suit against Apple was filed Dec. 21 in Los Angeles.
Since then two more lawsuits have been filed in Chicago and New York federal courts seeking class action status.
While Apple probably doesn’t have to worry about the expense of a lawsuit, considering that it has more cash than nearly any corporate entity, however, losing such a suit would be a real blemish on its reputation.
There’s an even bigger hammer in France, where planned obsolescence is illegal. Legal actions have been filed against Apple there and there’s more than money involved. Apple executives could get jail time.
While we are unlikely to see Tim Cook tossed into a French bastille, the fact that it could happen is bad enough. Apple has enough problems due to the battery bungle that prison tattoos aren’t necessary.
But what is necessary is a greater level of transparency at Apple and not just about batteries. While some secrecy is necessary at Apple if the company is going to keep its competitive edge, the company can’t simply exist as an island. The company and its products have reached the point that they’re very much part of mainstream life as automobiles, aircraft and even plain old landline telephone service. This means the company’s produce decisions and policies affect people in very substantial ways.
For example, it may not seem like a big deal to the people at Apple that many of their customers felt like they had to go buy a new phone as the performance on their previous phone deteriorated. But for those people who may have struggled to buy an iPhone, the cost is significant. They can’t just drop 700 bucks on a phone every year or two.
The same thing is true for business users. That $700 is magnified by orders of magnitude, and having to spend it again a year sooner because of battery throttling makes a significant impact on the balance sheet. Apple’s lack of transparency magnifies the issue in ways the company probably hasn’t thought of.
For example, one solution to the high cost of owning an iPhone is to get a used one. But unless that comes with a new battery, what’s the point? Especially if the 80 bucks you have to spend on a replacement can be nearly the cost of a used iPhone.
The problem for Apple is that its success has also bred a level of responsibility that the company apparently didn’t anticipate. Now that it’s become one of a handful of must-have devices, it needs to approach that status with the seriousness it deserves. Apple needs to be up front with its customers and prospective customers so they know what they’re getting, and especially what they’re not getting.
If Apple is going to sell phones that will degrade in a few months, it needs tell customers about it up front.