Apple fans were shocked last year after the company admitted to intentionally slowing down older versions of their popular iPhone family. Long suspected by users to be the case, the company revealed that it had included a software update to some iPhone models that impeded the device’s ability to draw on its battery, thus impacting overall performance. While many consumers assumed the move was little more than a cynical attempt to force them into upgrading to newer models, Apple has said it was a misguided effort to maintain performance despite naturally degrading batteries.
Since the revelation the company has been hit with numerous lawsuits. Independent of that, Apple just received its first inquiry from government officials. In a formal letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota posed several hard questions regarding the scandal. Thune is the chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the country’s largest senate committee which, as part of its duties, oversees aspects of commerce and manufacturing.
In the letter, Thune chastised the company for lack of openness about the policy, stating that “there should have been better transparency with respect to these practices.” Apple, for their part, has already agreed on this point and promised to be more open regarding software updates that impact the battery. While their future plans have been vague, when initially addressing the scandal they promised to implement new features that would give users more insight into battery life. What this will look like, however, remains unclear.
Thune also criticized Apple’s response to the situation. The company has been offering replacement batteries at a discounted rate of $29, a sizeable discount given their $79 price tag. Sen. Thune argued in his letter, however, that the batteries should have been provided free of charge. He also suggested that the company should offer vouchers or rebates for customers who purchased new batteries before Apple began offering them at a reduced price.
Thune also directly asked if Apple offered customers the opportunity to decline the battery-affecting update, which by all signs does not appear to be the case given that customers were not even aware of the feature until about three weeks ago, long after it was implemented. Sen. Thune stipulated in his letter that the company is to reply by the 23rd of this month. Apple has yet to issue their own statement regarding the inquiry.