Momentous news from the US, where Apple has
reportedly agreed to pay between $310m and $500m to millions of customers affected by the so-called Batterygate iPhone problem.
Class-action lawsuits in the US accused Apple of deliberately slowing down older models of iPhone with iOS updates, in order to encourage them to upgrade to newer versions; Apple countered by saying that it was throttling processor performance to preserve battery life, although it did not originally disclose that it was doing so. (In fairness, the company is far more transparent about this now, and allows you to turn off the euphemistically named
‘performance management’ feature.)
How will this affect you?
If you’re from the US and have an affected iPhone, you stand to gain a small amount of money, even if you haven’t previously participated or even expressed any interest in the lawsuits. (The named plaintiffs will receive considerably more, so don’t feel guilty.)
Affected models are the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, and SE devices (assuming they are running iOS 10.2.1 or later) and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (running iOS 11.2 or later). In all cases, you need to have run those iOS versions before 21 December 2017 to qualify.
The payout is estimated to be $25 per device. It may be a little more or less, depending on how many people put their hands up – there’s a maximum of $500m, remember.
You can’t apply for the payout yet, however, because the settlement hasn’t been approved. But contacting the two legal firms representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuits –
Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer and
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy – is probably the best starting point.
If you’re an iPhone owner in any other part of the world, you’re unfortunately not eligible for the payout, although you may benefit indirectly from the way this influences Apple’s behaviour in the future. (And there are lawsuits under way in other places. EU consumer groups have
sued Apple in Belgium and Spain, for example.)
How will this affect Apple?
Half a billion is relative chump change for Cupertino, which made revenue of $91.8bn in its most recent quarter, and this isn’t likely to precipitate the company’s collapse. What may be a greater consideration than the money is the negative PR associated with this affair, which has been through multiple news cycles; this latest round of reports will settle the issue in many people’s minds that Apple was at fault, and add to the (sometimes unfair) perception that the company is overly controlling.
We’ve already seen a change in the way Apple handles device battery issues: it’s far more open about its rationale for throttling performance and has added settings to allow you to use this option, or not, as you please. But being dragged through the courts in this way may encourage the company to behave in this way more generally.
It’s often been remarked that Apple under Tim Cook is a very different beast to the one run by Steve Jobs, and this is true. But the change has been gradual, and it isn’t as simple as it’s painted. The tendency is to cherry-pick the anecdotes – Jobs bluntly telling an Antennagate complainant that he was
holding his iPhone wrong, Cook apologising for the
errors in Apple Maps – and ignore the larger trajectory.
As we’ve seen in this case, Apple’s management was capable of secretive and controlling behaviour as recently as 2017; maybe not to a Steve Jobs extent, and almost certainly with optimal user experience in mind, but in a way that affected a lot of people and caused a lot of upset. We suspect that the company will think twice about quietly implementing similar features in the future.
Update: As of November 2020 Apple’s being asked to
pay another $113 million in Batterygate scandal.
If you’d like to know more about iPhone battery management, you’re on the right site.
You can find out much more about Apple’s replacement programmes in our guide to
iPhone battery replacement costs. We’ve got more general advice on teasing better performance from your device, too: read
How to get better iPhone battery life.