Apple Apologizes for iPhone Battery Issue -- Update

By Robert McMillanFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Apple Inc. issued an unusual apology for its handling of concerns about performance issues in iPhones with older batteries in the wake of a wave of consumer complaints.

"We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down," Apple said in a note posted to its website on Thursday. "We apologize."

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The company said it will slash prices of replacement batteries and add, in the coming year, software that gives insight into the health of an iPhone battery.

Apple has been under fire since early December from users and tech analysts who said they had noticed a slowdown in the performance of older iPhones. The criticism was fueled further last week when John Poole, founder of the computer-performance testing group Geekbench, wrote a blog post speculating that Apple was intentionally throttling performance on phones with older batteries.

Apple said last week it slowed the phone's performance as batteries age to prevent the iPhone from unexpectedly shutting down. When it is struggling to meet power demands, the phone can suddenly shut down to protect its "electronic components," the company said. Apple initially slowed older phones, including the iPhone 6, 6s and SE, but recently extended the throttling to newer iPhone 7 models.

Apple was quickly criticized by bloggers and technology pundits for not disclosing this behavior sooner, and the incident has caused some users to question the quality of Apple's devices, and the motivation behind Apple's choice to curb performance. The company also is facing numerous lawsuits over the issue.

"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 Thursday.

The company said it would reduce the out-of-warranty cost of battery replacement to $29 from $79 for customers with an iPhone 6 or later model. Apple said it plans to introduce an update to its mobile operating system in early 2018 that reveals the health of a phone's battery.

Reduced battery replacement costs may cause people to hold on to their devices longer. Customers increasingly hold on to smartphones for longer, pushing the time between device upgrades toward three years from two years, according to Guggenheim Partners. Those trends have slowed iPhone volume growth in recent years. Shipments of iPhones peaked at 231 million units in fiscal 2015 and fell to 216 million units in fiscal 2017.

Apple seldom apologizes. In 2010, co-founder and former Chief Executive Steve Jobs apologized for an antenna issue on the iPhone 4 that affected phone calls but stopped short of saying Apple's design was to blame. His successor, Tim Cook, has been more inclined to apologize. In 2012, he responded to customer complaints about the company's Maps app with a letter of apology.

--Tripp Mickle contributed to this article.

Write to Robert McMillan at Robert.Mcmillan@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 28, 2017 18:18 ET (23:18 GMT)