Tim Cook: iPhone Owners Didn’t Pay Attention to Battery Fix Details

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| News

Apple CEO Tim Cook says his company was upfront about how the iOS 10.2.1 update affected iPhone performance to fix battery-related crashes. He also said users may not have been “paying attention” to the explanation when the update rolled out in early 2017.

Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac "hello again" event.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says users didn’t pay attention to iPhone battery fix details

Apple released iOS 10.2.1 in January 2017 to address a problem where iPhones with older batteries could spontaneously crash and reboot. The problem was that aging batteries can’t hold the same charge compared to when they’re new, and the processor occasionally needed more power for intense tasks than the battery could provide. That caused the phone to shut down, leaving users frustrated.

The fix Apple came up with took those intense tasks and split them up over multiple processor cycles. That stopped the crashes, and saved users from having to pay for a battery replacement, but their phones could run slower at times.

In an interview with ABC Mr. Cook said, “Maybe we weren’t clear. We deeply apologize for anyone who thinks we have some other kind of motivation.”

The notes users saw on their iPhone when installing the update only said “iOS 10.2.1 includes bug fixes and improves the security of your iPhone or iPad.” That’s the only place most users look for update information, and there isn’t any mention of a battery related fix, or potentially slower performance.

Apple’s Knowledge Base article that details iOS updates offers a little more detail saying,

iOS 10.2.1 includes bug fixes and improves the security of your iPhone or iPad.
It also improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone. For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/HT201222

That at least mentions the battery fix, but doesn’t say anything about phone performance. We compared the KB notes Apple currently lists to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine snapshot from March 17, 2017, and there haven’t been any changes.

While Cook’s admission that Apple may not have been clear seems spot-on, his suggestion that users weren’t paying attention feels disingenuous. Based on the information Apple published, it’s not clear that phone performance could be impacted by the battery fix.

Apple plans to release an iOS update soon that more clearly shows battery health and tells users when overall performance may be impacted. The company is also offering US$29 battery replacements to all iPhone owners, and free warranty replacement for specific phone models.

13 Comments Add a comment

  1. Lee Dronick

    In an interview with ABC Mr. Cook said, “Maybe we weren’t clear. We deeply apologize for anyone who thinks we have some other kind of motivation.”

    Have the lawyers, or geeks, write the release notes in legalese, then have someone who has everyday communication skills write a summary and put that above the fold.

  2. geoduck

    Has anyone done a test to see when and if this causes any real world degradation to performance? What I’ve read is that intense tasks are spread out over multiple processor cycles. That says to me that If and Only If you are really hammering on the processor will it spread out the load to soften the peak. People have been having a conniption and acting like their phone now sends and receives texts and surfs the web half as fast. I haven’t noticed any degradation in performance on my two year old SE, nor my wife on her 6. I suspect that all this hysteria about Apple “throttling” their phones is, for most people, pure BS and scare tactics..

    • NorthSaanichBC

      “That says to me that If and Only If you are really hammering on the processor will it spread out the load to soften the peak.”

      Exactly!

      The slow down of iPhones with failing batteries was imperceptible for most people… Which is why it has taken a YEAR for anyone to notice (iOS 10.2.1 was released on January 23, 2017).

      The slow down ONLY occurs if your battery is failing to the point of not being able to provide sufficient current to your iPhone hardware, and it ONLY slows down under those conditions if you are stressing the system (for example, running 3D rendered games, or editing videos).

      • geoduck

        Huh. You’re in Saanich and I’m in Nanaimo
        Could it be that those of us north of the border are just a bit quicker than most on the other side?
        LOL

  3. MacTechFreak

    Tim Cook NOW looks like a complete jack ass even to Apple Fans as myself. I have owned every iPhone model that was ever made and neither on my macs nor an iPhone update were update descriptions ever forthcoming!! In fact Apple is known for be very vague and least forthcoming about updates. Therefore “training” consumers to ignore the bullshit descriptions and instead paying attention to site like Macobserver to make sense of any updates in the past.

    • NorthSaanichBC

      “Tim Cook NOW looks like a complete jack ass even to Apple Fans as myself”

      For a self-proclaimed “Apple fan” you are ironically very disgruntled. Try buying and using an Android phone (if you are not actually an Android fan in reality) if you are so upset with Apple. If you think that Apple is so “bad”, you will find using the competition’s products and services to be much worse.

      But most Apple product users (whether they call themselves “fans” or not) have been very happy with Apple’s products, services, and support. Which is why Apple has consistently topped the ACSI ratings for products, services, and support, for more than ten years!

      But if you truly are an iPhone owner (which I doubt) then you are obviously in a small minority, judging by Apple’s ACSI ratings. 😉

      • MacTechFreak

        I love all my Apple Products. I am NOT disgruntled with Apple Products. (You should really read my post again!) I am not accepting of Tim Cooks lame response that users “didn’t pay attention” when doing the update. We also need better detailed “software update descriptions” written in plain English!!

        Apple Fan I am. A believer of any old bull crap excuse. I’m not.

  4. Jamie

    Give me a break. The wait times for this ‘fix’ are ludicrous. Tim is a master of spin, maybe he should run for office, he’d fit right in. I am really getting tired of excuses from this company. :/ Their internal culture is very obviously dysfunctional, I don’t know how we on the outside are supposed to fix that, but as customers we are sure paying the price.

    • BlackCorvid

      It’s your phone, your sick battery, your responsibility to replace said battery. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to provide the millions of owners of phones with failing batteries with an immediate fix. This takes time. You could go out and have a third party replace your battery (at higher cost) or do it yourself via iFixit. I may do that on an old 5C that I may hand down to a family member. In no way do I feel that it is Apple’s responsibility to provide me a cheap alternative (or a free battery as some have suggested). This is like asking the car dealer to fill my gas tank when the fuel runs out, or, perhaps more appropriately, to replace my 5 year old car battery that won’t start my car on cold mornings.

  5. NorthSaanichBC

    Regarding some of the lawsuits that claim that Apple is intentionally causing “planned obsolescence”, the facts show that Apple is doing everything feasible to avoid the impression of “planned obsolescence”, and to make iPhones as useable as possible, for the longest time within the bounds of reality.

    The irony is that using power management on iPhones with failing batteries allows the users to use their iPhones WITHOUT unexpected and premature shutdowns/restarts. It is the unexpected shutdowns (without the power management that Apple included in iOS) that is MORE LIKELY to cause frustrated users to feel the need to go out and buy a new phone.

    NOT having premature shutdowns/restarts means that the iPhone owner will NOT be encouraged to buy a new phone.

    Apple provides notice to the user, in Settings>Battery, when the internal rechargeable battery is failing, and directs them to replace the battery. Once the failing battery is replaced with a new one, the power management routine is no longer needed, and the iPhone runs at full speed again. Replacing the battery and getting unhindered operation again, is another reason why the iPhone owner is LESS LIKELY to want to buy a new phone.

    And Apple has been excellent at supporting older phones (up to 5 years old) by maintaining iOS updates for them… Something that you don’t see to the same extent in Android phones!

    If anything, Apple has done everything possible to avoid the appearance of “planned obsolescence”, by making older iPhones useful and productive for a very long time. 👍

  6. mactoid

    Ugh…I swear people look for something to complain about. You’ve got an old phone with a crappy battery, and you didn’t think there would be performance ramifications? Besides, what the heck are people doing with their old phones anyway that would make the slowdown that noticeable? Feels like a lot of whining to me, IMHO.

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