In a rather unexpected twist, Samsung is now under investigation for intentionally slowing down older phones in order to sell new ones.
Apple was recently caught deliberately slowing down iPhones with aging batteries. The uproar that immediately followed forced Apple to issue a statement apologising to users and offering a no-questions-asked $29 battery replacement program (Rs 2,000 in India) for all iPhones for a year. Apple CEO Tim Cook also confirmed that the next iOS update would give customers an option for disabling battery-related throttling.
In Apple’s case, the decision to slow down iPhones was a sound one from an engineering perspective. Batteries deliver a certain amount of power to a phone’s components. As the batteries charge and discharge over time, they lose their ability to retain or deliver their designed power. When such a battery is under stress — when a phone is running a demanding application, say — it’s unable to deliver sufficient power and the phone reboots.
Apple’s solution to the problem is to throttle the performance of the device to match the power delivery capabilities of the battery. Contrary to what one might expect, this move enhances the longevity of the product, keeping it slow, but usable. To get the device back to peak performance, one must simply replace the battery.
This seems like a commendable move on Apple’s part, especially since no other device manufacturer appears to have even considered the possibility of optimising performance to battery capabilities. However, Apple took heavy flak for not coming clean about this measure. Customers were not informed that this was happening, and neither were they told that replacing the battery was a viable option. Apple is currently under investigation and facing several lawsuits over the issue because it’s not clear if Apple used aging batteries as an excuse to get consumers to upgrade their devices.
When it was first revealed that Apple was indeed slowing down older iPhones, Samsung, LG and several other manufacturers quickly and gleefully issued statements saying that their phones weren’t being throttled in any way.
However, it now looks like at least in Samsung’s case, that might not be true.
According to Slashgear, the Italian Antitrust Authority (Autorita Garante Della Concorrenza E Del Mercado) are investigating Samsung for deliberately slowing down older devices to get users to upgrade to newer models. Samsung and Apple both now stand accused of “exploiting the shortcomings of some components to reduce the performance of their products over time and induce consumers to purchase new versions of the same”, quotes Slashgear.
Samsung issued a statement stating that they take various steps that ensure extended battery life. They also stated that they do not reduce issue updates that deliberately reduce CPU performance over the life of a phone.
According the Authority, Samsung and Apple issued updates that negatively impacted the performance of their respective devices while neglecting to inform customers of the consequences.