Apple has come under fire in recent weeks for its decision to slow down older iPhones with degraded batteries, but it wasn’t just the actions that got Apple in hot water. What really irked consumers is that Apple did it without telling anyone or providing a way to opt out of the “optimization” features. Now, Apple CEO Tim Cook has relented, saying users will be able to turn off the power management features.
Apple’s PR nightmare begins a year ago with the release of iOS 10.2.1. That was the first version of the OS that checked battery health and made changes to system performance when a battery was not working well. All lithium-ion batteries lose some voltage as they age, and Apple found that some of its phones were unable to keep the high-power CPU cluster powered as the batteries got old. The solution was to throttle performance on these devices to prevent unexpected shutdowns.
After months of increasingly frustrated complaints from iPhone owners, benchmarking firm Geekbench poured over its data and confirmed that, yes, newer versions if iOS had introduced throttling without telling anyone. Apple is currently defending itself against several lawsuits related to the incident. It has also offered to replace the battery in any affected iPhone for $29. A new battery resets the optimization settings, returning a device to full performance.
In an interview with ABC News, Tim Cook admits the company could have been clearer with its customers. That’s a kind way to put it. In an upcoming version of iOS, Cook says users will be able to check the settings and see the status of their battery. If problems are detected, they’ll still be able to head over to an Apple store and have the battery swapped out.
This update will also include an uncharacteristically extreme user setting. Owners of phones with degraded batteries will be able to deactivate the performance throttling, returning the phone to full speed without a battery replacement. A warning will remind people that phones with degraded batteries could suffer from stability issues and random shutdowns, though. If Apple had done this in the first place, it probably could have avoided the PR headache entirely.
We don’t know what the new user settings for battery optimization look like yet, but it won’t be long. This feature will be included in a new developer preview later this month. It will roll out to users in the following weeks.