Senator John Thune, the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s chairman, has fired off a round of questioning to Apple over its decision to slow older iPhones, according to a leaked document. The issue revolves around Apple’s confirmation that it slows older iPhones that have aging lithium-ion batteries, which experience a drop in peak voltage.
The questioning was revealed by Reuters, which says it got a hold of a copy of the letter. In it, Thune reportedly questions Apple about the device slowing, including whether it alerted customers to the issue during software updates, whether customers could decline the updates to avoid the slowing, and whether it has considered giving rebates to customers who paid full price for replacement batteries. The letter also reportedly asks Apple whether it considered offering affected iPhone owners a free battery replacement.
Many iPhone owners criticized Apple’s decision to slow down the handsets following confirmation that it was happening. In light of the backlash, Apple announced that it will replace batteries for $29; that applies to customers who have an iPhone 6 or newer that aren’t covered by warranty. The regular price is $79.
Though some customers were pleased with the news, others further criticized Apple over that move, demanding free replacements while accusing the company of cashing in on the news. Others criticize Apple for failing to alert iPhone owners to the performance throttling, though they may find the company’s reason for doing so justifiable.
At the heart of the matter is an issue with lithium-ion batteries, the variety found in almost all consumer electronics. As they age, their peak voltage decreases in addition to the capacity. This means that an older li-ion battery may not have the peak voltage necessary to power a device even if it can still store energy. To prevent sudden shutdowns or potential device damage, Apple now limits older iPhones so that the peak voltage needs during intensive tasks don’t exceed the aging battery’s capabilities.