The Headline Factory: Putting words in Apple's mouth

by Uluroo — January 1, 2018

Whatever Apple did not promise is sure not to happen.

As you may have heard, Apple recently issued a statement in which it said some of the things it will do to make amends with customers after the whole Batterygate thing. It's slashing prices for battery replacements over the next year, and it's also providing more visibility into an iOS device's battery health. What we can all agree on is that anything Apple did not mention in this statement will certainly not happen.(?)

Forbes' Gordon Kelly says that "Apple Admits Every iPhone Has Serious Problems."

Having admitted iPhone batteries are substandard, here was Apple's moment to stand up and make the same kind of changes Samsung pledged and delivered after the Galaxy Note 7 debacle. Instead Apple just promised to make the bandages cheaper, for now…

Wait, what? When did Apple admit that its batteries are substandard? This will come up again later, but Uluroo wishes to express the shock he felt when he read the first part of that sentence. [shocked face emoji]

In a message entitled ‘A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance’, Apple did admit “We apologize” and it finally came clean 13 months later about the iOS 40% Bug I exclusively broke saying: “It should go without saying that we think sudden, unexpected shutdowns are unacceptable.” And yet when I chased Apple about this for month after month at the start of the year, it went unsaid.

Sorry... you may have missed this article from February of 2017, which contains a direct comment from Apple about the 40% Bug. Whoops! Looks like you may have been unnecessarily looking for Apple's comments for the past 11 months. The 40% Bug was actually what caused Apple to implement the throttling in the first place, and iOS 10.2.1 was the first time this happened.

There were also pledges: reducing the $79 charge for battery replacement services to $29 for 11 months “for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced”. Apple also said it will improve visibility into iPhone battery health so owners can work out whether battery condition is affecting their iPhone's performance.

And this is great. Uluroo thinks that the problem that caused Batterygate to be such a huge issue was not what Apple did by throttling iPhones' performance but what it didn't do with the lack of clear communication that let speculation to get out of hand.

To all of it I say: what a load of rubbish.

The man is right! Why should Apple try to fix the problem?

While Apple apologised, it never admitted a mistake.

apology — noun (plural apologies) — a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure. —The New Oxford American Dictionary

Seems like kind of the same thing.

It didn’t follow Samsung’s pledge to overhaul its battery technology (Samsung now promises 95% battery capacity remains after two years) or the lead of LG and Google which provide two year smartphone warranties.

Is this even classified as an argument? "Apple hasn't said it will improve iPhone batteries! So it doesn't look like it will!" Apple has neither confirmed nor denied that iPhone batteries will get better. Neither has it confirmed that it will make a successor to the iPhone X. Or a lot of other things.

Apple sure should make iPhone battery technology better — that's one of the ways it can get out of this mess — but Uluroo thinks it's pretty petty to ask a company notorious for secrecy to promise consumers of any sort of plan. Apple's silence on battery improvements is neither a confirmation nor a denial. Please, let's try to keep it that way.

But also, Gordon's mention of Samsung's 95%-capacity-for-two-years guarantee is irrevelant to Batterygate. Battery capacity — how much charge it can hold — is not what causes iPhone speed throttling; rather, the throttling happens when a battery simply cannot provide as much power. There's a difference between how powerful a battery is and how long it lasts.

In a Tweet, Gordon added:

Any battery that needs the phone throttling to help it cope after 1 year is substandard. HTC, Motorola, Samsung, LG, etc all said no need to do the same on their phones...

Uluroo has been thinking about why iOS devices' batteries seem to degrade more quickly than Android phones'. He thinks he may have found some of the answer. Several people Uluroo knows, including Uluroo himself, have been experiencing major battery drainage on their iPhones. The thing is, they're all on the latest version of iOS. New iOS versions have recently become notorious for their bugs, particularly battery life hits.

Uluroo thinks that because so many people are able to update their iOS to the latest version, many people are exposed to the bugs that lead to low battery performance. Whereas on Android, the platform's notorious fragmentation keeps many people on older, more refined versions of the operationg system, which keep battery performance relatively stable. Samsung's increased estimates for battery capacity over time are a symptom of the fragmentation that can make Android such a pain. The iPhone 6s, for example, started to receive throttling in iOS 10.2.1. The iPhone 6 was designed to run iOS 9. If the 6s had been kept on iOS 9 for, say, two years, its battery probably would have lasted a lot longer. Android phones are often stuck on the same version of their OS that they shipped with; it's the operating system they were designed to run.

Instead iPhone owners got a temporary window to replace defective iPhone batteries at a reduced cost (which won't help iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus owners in a year's time when their batteries are degraded)...

Let's take these one at a time. First, the claim that iPhone X and 8 owners will find their phones slower in one year. In a later Tweet, Gordon said that he bases this off the fact that iOS 11.2 introduced the throttling feature for the iPhone 7, which is just over a year old. This is ridiculous. There is no data to show throttling actually happening on an iPhone 7. Uluroo thinks the feature was brought to the iPhone 7 to account for defective phones or isolated incidents that may turn up. Remember, throttling doesn't happen based on your device's age — it only happens if necessary to stop random shutdowns. So far, there is no data to prove that the throttling program found any iPhone 7s that needed to be slowed down. Apple is just preparing newer iPhones to be able to use the feature if necessary.

... a reiteration that slowing down iPhones without warning is a feature owners should appreciate...

This is a feature that you should appreciate. Under extreme conditions, your hardware will slow down enough that the weaker battery can handle it. Your phone will no longer shut down randomly under these extreme conditions. This is the fix for the 40% Bug that Gordon found last year, and it has been proven that it works and reduces the numbers of these random shutdowns.

... and finally the implication that in future it will be the responsibility of mainstream users to proactively monitor their iPhone battery condition and act accordingly, not Apple.

Yes, because your device is your responsibility. Apple is now giving you the tools you need to know if your battery needs replacing. And also, isn't "proactively monitoring their iPhone battery condition and acting accordingly" what Apple did by having the software monitor the battery and adjust the processor speed accordingly?

Until Apple promises major battery refinements, ongoing (not one-off) battery replacement policies (a service which should take one day, not three), transparent and proactive warnings about your battery health and iPhone performance and it volunteers to extend iPhone warranties beyond one year (including battery cover), then this isn’t the apology we are looking for.

Design changes do not need to be promised. They just need to happen. Apple does not need to keep battery replacements cheap if it can reduce the need for them. And it is increasing transparency and visibility of iOS devices' battery health. Why are you asking for something that's already been promised?

What Apple did was not enough. Not even close.

What Apple did was enough, at least for now. It improved consumer communications and transparency and it increased the flow of battery replacements. In the future, Apple needs to improve its batteriese or root the bugs out of iOS to stop battery life hits. But right now, Apple's apology was definitely enough.

When you act as though because Apple hasn't promised battery improvements, they'll never come; pretend that iPhone batteries are substandard; and even say that iPhone speed throttling is a bad thing; you're misleading yourself and your readers.