Apple questioned by US agencies about slowing iPhones

Andrew Ross Sorkin, a DealBook columnist for The New York Times, using his Apple iPhone X.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, a DealBook columnist for The New York Times, using his Apple iPhone X.PHOTO: NYTIMES

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Apple on Wednesday (Jan 31) confirmed it is fielding questions from US agencies about its move to slow down older iPhones as batteries weaken.

"We have received questions from some government agencies and we are responding to them," Apple said in an email response to an AFP query.

The reply came as comment regarding a Bloomberg report that the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple broke the law by failing to disclose a software update that made older iPhone models function slower.

It was said to be too early in the probe to speculate regarding the potential for Apple to be accused of wrongdoing.

Critics have accused Apple of nudging iPhone users to upgrade to newer models by letting them think it was the handsets that needed replacing, rather than just the battery.

Apple faces lawsuits in the United States and Russia over the matter.

"We have never - and would never - do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades," the California-base technology colossus said.

The DOJ declined to comment, and the SEC did not reply to an AFP inquiries.

Apple admitted late last year that it intentionally slowed down older models of its iPhones over time.

The company said this was to extend the performance of the phone, which uses less power when running at slower speeds, and was to prevent unexpected shutdowns due to a low battery charge.

It plans to release a software update later this year that will let people turn off the iPhone-slowing feature. The update will also alert users to when batteries need replacing.

In late December the company issued an apology for slowing older models and said it would discount replacement batteries for some handsets.

A French investigation into possible "planned obsolescence" or "fraud" by Apple is being led by antitrust and consumer protection specialists in the French economy ministry.

Planned obsolescence is a widely criticized commercial practice in which manufacturers build in the expiry of their products so that consumers will be forced to replace them.