Yesterday Apple issued an apology for the intentional slowing of iPhones because of aging in the iPhone battery. As part of that they announced a number of changes, like a $29 battery replacement and actually giving people information and choices about how their device functions.
This says a few things to me. First, it says that have gouged consumers for the cost of a battery all these years. Second, it tells me they are scared enough of these class-action lawsuits to admit fault publicly.
There are a million reasons why an iPhone might perform poorly, especially after an upgrade. This has little to do with the battery, and likely more to do with background maintenance tasks that happen after an OS update. Of course, I am guessing at this, because Apple never tells anybody anything about what is going on. Don’t believe me? Look at the release notes for a software update. They don’t tell people what they fixed or what they changed, or when they do it’s either a lie or a lie of omission. “Improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns” is what iOS 10.2.1 said. The word “improve” is a blatant lie, given what we now know about their fix. Perhaps they also feel Steve Jobs’ health has improved since his death.
Beyond lying, they don’t expose controls to users that might allow the users to customize behavior or make choices. After all, they’ve been throwing shade at PCs for years essentially saying choice is bad because it might add complexity. They make it very difficult to service devices which forces people to choose between Apple’s own now-apparent price gouging and a third-party that might disable the device. Apple builds their devices in ways that make common end-user repairs very risky, while saying that those measures are for our own protection. Nor do they expose information about the devices that might enable a user to make informed choices on their own, or enable an honest secondary market for these devices.
The net effect of all this tight-lipped behavior is that they have opened themselves up to legal action from everyone that has a slow iPhone 6, 6s, or 7, for any reason. The average consumer now has very plausible reasons to think that Apple is and has been screwing them into buying new iPhones. After all, Apple has a long history of being dishonest. Look at the iPhone 4S and the faulty water detection devices. Look at Antennagate and all the other problems with cracking, bending, and subsequent screen malfunctions that they blamed on user behavior instead of their own impeccable design. Watch their “geniuses” at an Apple Store weasel out of covering anything under AppleCare. Observe how they’ve quietly brought back the DRM that Steve Jobs removed. Look at their corporate behavior, talking out of both sides of their mouths about their Congressional lobbying, as well as their hiding money offshore. They have made this bed for themselves.
Some folks are saying that this was a colossal communications error on Apple’s part. For a company that prides itself on appearing intentional about everything they cannot say now that this was a screwup. It was a calculated risk, a big bet on a massive lie of omission. They could have chosen to expose battery information in iOS, like my PC laptops have done for decades. They could have written their battery “explainer” then, too. Instead, they bet that they could keep their secondary market & repair lock-in and the status quo by hiding it all, all while their sales go up. And up they went, to record valuations of their company based on sales they dishonestly forced.
So here’s to hoping that the worldwide legal system gives Apple the comeuppance they are due. I hope it’s big enough to cause stock losses, penalizing the investors that support such ongoing dishonesty. More than all of that, though, I hope this is a warning to other organizations. Up-front honesty is always the best policy, even if it seems hard. It never — never — gets better if you let your customers figure it out themselves. And they always will.