The fallout over Apple’s decision to throttle the performance of older models of iPhone with degraded batteries has continued to mount despite the company’s apologies, with Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chair Sen. John Thune asking the company to give Congress more information.
Per Reuters, Thune sent a letter on January 9th asking Apple CEO Tim Cook to clarify whether “the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency.” He also requested Apple clarify whether it had considered issuing free battery replacements, rebates for new batteries, and whether the company had ever offered customers the ability to opt out of throttling.
Thune’s letter is likely a political maneuver—but congressional involvement or even just grandstanding will add to Apple’s headaches over the matter, which include several lawsuits and the possibility it could motivate states to pass right-to-repair laws. It could also spur renewed speculation Apple deliberately chose the phone-throttling solution with little disclosure in order to push consumers towards upgrading their older iPhones to newer, expensive models.
Apple only admitted that it was throttling phones with degraded batteries after benchmarking companies and Reddit sleuths demonstrated that the affected phones were running at a reduced clock speed. It was eventually forced to apologize and slash the cost of battery replacements from its prior price of $79 to $29. The tech giant also promised to update iOS “with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.”
As the Verge noted, however, Apple could have also avoided this issue by designing phones with bigger batteries that don’t degrade as quickly or making it easier to replace them. Other phone companies including HTC and Motorola have insisted they don’t throttle their phones, though it remains unclear how widespread the practice may be beyond Apple.