Apple Inc is facing withering consumer outrage and lawsuits across several countries and states in the U.S. after it said it deliberately slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries.
The popular electronics company is now pledging to slash prices for battery replacements and will change its software to show users whether their phone battery is good.
Apple apologized in a website post over its handling of the controversy and pledged to make various changes to restore customer confidence in recognition of users' “loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions."
The move came as consumers demanded Apple address concerns about the quality and durability of its products at a time when it is charging US$999 for its newest flagship model, the iPhone X.
The company also promised to cut the price of an out-of-warranty battery replacement from $79 to $29 for an iPhone 6 or later beginning next month. Apple also pledged to update its iOS operating system to let users see whether their battery is in poor health and is affecting the phone's performance.
"We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down," Apple said in its posting. "We apologize."
Apple France will also likely face criminal court proceedings after the organization Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée (HOP), whose name translates to Stop Planned Obsolescence, accused Apple of violating a 2015 French law that prohibits “the practice of planned obsolescence, which is defined by the use of techniques by which the person responsible for the marketing of a product aims to deliberately reduce the duration to increase the replacement rate,” according to The Independent.
“These practices are unacceptable and can not go unpunished. It is our mission to defend consumers and the environment against this waste organized by Apple,” HOP co-founder Laetitia Vasseur added.
Earlier this month, the Cupertino, California-based company admitted to slowing down some phones with battery problems. Apple said the problem was that ageing lithium batteries delivered power unevenly, which could cause iPhones to shutdown unexpectedly. The company claimed the slowdown was meant to protect the product's circuitry.
Consumers had long perceived a purposeful slowdown of older phones to encourage customers to buy the pricier new iPhone models, which are considered a lifestyle item for those with the cash to spend. While no credible evidence has ever emerged that Apple engaged in such conduct, the battery disclosure struck a nerve on social media and elsewhere.
An iPhone 8 can range from US$699 to US$949, depending on the model, while an iPhone 10 costs a whopping $999.
At least eight lawsuits have been filed in California, New York and Illinois alleging that the company defrauded users by slowing devices down without warning them.