back to article Finally, someone takes a stand against Apple, Samsung for slowing people's phones. Just a few million dollars, tho

Apple and Samsung have been fined a relatively sod-all amount – just a few million dollars – by Italy's antitrust watchdog for purposefully slowing down old phones. Still, it's the thought that counts, eh? In a statement on Wednesday, the Italian competition authority, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato ( …

  1. electric owl

    Obsolescence.

    It's not 'built-in obsolescence' it is *forced* obsolescence.

    1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: Obsolescence.

      Bastards! Utter, utter, UTTER bastards!!!!

  2. David Kelly 2

    Wrong Metric

    Did one purchase a phone that runs X hours, or one that renders Y frames per second of your favorite video game?

    What Apple (and apparently Samsung) has done is to preserve the battery runtime spec at the expense of faster screen updates. This is the right and correct thing to do because it is a phone and as a phone it is more important that the charge last the time one has come to expect than to have snappy screen updates.

    1. Phil Kingston Silver badge

      Re: Wrong Metric

      But there are those who say they'd rather keep the performance.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Wrong Metric

        And there are also those who want to be informed of the options and make their own informed decision. And don't forget that one of the options is to swap the battery for a new one!!!

        And regarding the OP comment "...or one that renders Y frames per second of your favorite video game?...":

        Or one that is able to retouch photos, access a banking app or read mail* before the heat death of the Universe.

        Note*: among many other similar activities.

      2. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: Wrong Metric

        But you cannot keep the performance, the battery simply cannot supply the needed current to run the CPU at those clock speed, the alternative is the device powers down which is what they did before the update.

        Say a device had a degraded battery that causes it to shut down below 40%.

        100% - 40%:

        Pre-update: CPU at full clock speed, device as normal.

        After-update: CPU at full clock speed, device as normal.

        39% - 1%:

        Pre-update: Device powers down.

        After-update: Device continues running but at reduced CPU speed.

        How is the pre-update better?

        1. JassMan Silver badge

          Re: Wrong Metric @Spazturtle

          You could argue that since processor speed is just one aspect of battery use, they could improve user experience AND save battery life by over-clocking once the battery gets old. If the user completes his/her task quicker, they might revert the phone to standby sooner thus not using the screen, Wifi, bluetooth etc. Slowing the processor forces the user to keep all the power consuming ancilliaries powered up longer.

          In reality most users would just say, "wow that was quick" then think about all the extra time they have to hand over yet more personal data to FB Google+ etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wrong Metric

      I've got a better solution rather than talking about performance and battery life lets address the elephant in the room which is the update itself. Why do you need an update when it runs fine? Security updates are needed of course but anything else is just there to make the phone obsolete.

      The solution which I'm sure some day will present itself once enough people get their fingers burnt is that they will stop buying these phones and that will be that.

    3. silks

      Re: Wrong Metric

      I agree, IMHO the only thing Apple did wrong was just not publish the information.

    4. DasWezel

      Re: Wrong Metric

      So I buy a new battery, pop the back cover off, swap out old for new and keep on truckin'.

      ... What do you mean I'm not allowed to replace a consumable part of my device?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Wrong Metric

        So I buy a new battery, pop the back cover off, swap out old for new and keep on truckin'

        Yep. That's what I did. Five minute job.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    So will Apple get a refund for iOS 12

    Since that makes older phones faster?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So will Apple get a refund for iOS 12

      Ios12 possibly makes old iPhones faster only because of legal processes like the AGSCoM fine being launched?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: So will Apple get a refund for iOS 12

        Being fined a few million euro isn't going to change Apple's direction. I think they finally woke up to people saying that each version since iOS 7 seemed to be a bit less polished than the last - that's definitely gotta be due to Jobs' absence since he never would have tolerated the sort of lack of attention to detail issues that have come since.

        I wish every software vendor had a "polish/performance" release now and again since everyone suffers from this, because software developers like to create new features not fix things that are hardly noticeable or refactor code for a 20% speedup.

        Now that they've finally got everything on ARM64, they are probably looking to lengthen support cycles even longer than they already were - i.e. iPhone 5S still being supported by iOS 12 even though it will be six years old by the time iOS 13 rolls around (and I wouldn't be surprised if it supports the 5S also) If you keep supporting that old hardware you have to make sure the OS isn't being wasteful of resources - making it run faster on that hardware like they did (and was confirmed by someone who benchmarked it) is the best way to assure that.

  4. conscience

    No excuse

    Deliberate sabotage of items belonging to your own customers is about as unacceptable as it gets. Reducing performance to the point of making a device useless or a pain to use is surely criminal damage, reduced functionality is technically theft as they are depriving the legal owners of the full use of their product, and if manufacturers claim an update makes things better and it doesn't, or it makes it worse, then that is fraud too.

    There is no excuse, even given the option of accepting an update like this nobody in their right mind would have agreed to it if they knew the full consequences.

    Imagine a house builder returning every couple of years to remove the roof because they want to sell everyone a new one, or a car manufacturer replacing the engine with a set of pedals to force people to buy a new vehicle?

    If this is to be stopped, there needs to be some meaningful consequences for this crime, a comparatively tiny fine like this will sadly make no difference for corporations as rich as the likes of Apple so the punishment needs to be far bigger. Maybe a fine equal to a large percentage of global turnover for each infraction, full refunds for all affected customers plus compensation would stop them ripping their customers off.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: No excuse

      ^^^THIS!

    2. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: No excuse

      How is fixing a bug that causes the device to pre-maturely shut down sabotaging the device?

      Say a device had a degraded battery that causes it to shut down below 40%.

      100% - 40%:

      Pre-update: CPU at full clock speed, device as normal.

      After-update: CPU at full clock speed, device as normal.

      39% - 1%:

      Pre-update: Device powers down.

      After-update: Device continues running but at reduced CPU speed.

      How can you call that sabotage?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: No excuse

        People won't have it. Your explanation of the change to mitigate old battery performance is correct but it interferes with the right of people to whinge themselves to orgasm. So give up now.

    3. TVU Silver badge

      Re: No excuse

      "Deliberate sabotage of items belonging to your own customers is about as unacceptable as it gets. Reducing performance to the point of making a device useless or a pain to use is surely criminal damage, reduced functionality is technically theft as they are depriving the legal owners of the full use of their product, and if manufacturers claim an update makes things better and it doesn't, or it makes it worse, then that is fraud too"

      ^ I fully agree which is why I welcome both the fines for Apple and Samsung and the accompanying adverse publicity for these two miscreants.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Unintended consequences

        So basically one way for OEMs to avoid these sorts of fines are to quit supporting them with software updates if they aren't 100% certain the performance will not degrade. If Samsung didn't offer a major Android update (i.e. Android 7 to 8 or whatever) in Italy to avoid that potential, would the Italians be ending up better or worse off as a result of that fine?

  5. Marcus000

    Phone purchase

    I maybe wrong but I thought one purchased a handset (hardware) and a software license that grants you permission to use the software. Therefore my thinking is that Apple still own the software and the right to change or upgrade it as they wish. I agree that communication appears to be the issue here rather than the actions.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Phone purchase

      Regardless of that, you control whether your phone gets updated. You can refuse them if you don't want them.

      At least Apple controls the OS so they can do like they did with iOS 12 and insure that supported phones get faster, or since that won't be possible with every OS release at least not appreciably slower. Samsung has no control over Android, so if Google releases the next version of Android with more eye candy that's more demanding of CPU/GPU/memory then it will by necessity run slower on existing hardware. To avoid such fines, Samsung would decide not to provide that Android update for existing hardware.

      What would be their alternative, turn off the eye candy, fix Google's code?

  6. simonb_london

    Typed on my Ipad

    I hope I can f-inn-sh th-is p-o-s-t be....fo......re.......................

  7. simonb_london

    Great! Now tackle App Store

    I tried installing Garage Band on an IPad 2 only to find it wasn't there because the IPad can only support IOS 10.x and Garage Band isn't available any more for that.

    They could at least have a fall back to the latest version of Garage Band for the version of IOS that I Have. At least with a PC you can install older versions of software that are compatible with the OS.

    The latest IOS 10.x was released in July 2017 which really isn't that long ago.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Great! Now tackle App Store

      But the iPad 2 was released in March 2011 which by the standards of this type of device is a long time ago.

      1. simonb_london

        Re: Great! Now tackle App Store

        See my original post regarding the age of IOS 10. Its the IOS version that determines compatibility with an App. July 2017 is not long ago.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how should Apple have played this?

    Honest question: not trolling.

    Batteries lose their ability to hold a charge - that's chemistry. So what should happen when the battery is no longer performant under load? Should this known behaviour be covered by a warranty? Would the average punter be happy for a thicker phone with a replaceable battery? You might be, but you're not the average punter; I suspect many wouldn't.

    I personally think Apple were daft for not letting people know this was happening, and for not giving them some sort of setting to manage this from the get-go, but it's very difficult to word this in a way that won't panic the average consumer ('Hi, do you want your phone slow or crashy?')

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: So how should Apple have played this?

      Yes, the correct way for it to be handled would be for the phone to pop something that basically tells people their battery is being degraded through age, and the phone is slowing down to compensate and giving them an 'ok' button and a 'settings' button to click to go to the right place to change that behavior.

      Not telling people was never going to fly - something I'm sure the higher ups would have known but this decision was probably made and implemented by some middle manager and his team, and the execs didn't learn the details until the whole thing blew up in their face.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Informed consent

    There are two main problems here.

    The first is the lack of information provided in connection with the updates, which is a problem for all updates on all smartphones. An analogous situation would be where a mechanic made changes to your car during a routine service but ether did not inform you that they were going to so, or did not inform you of all of the consequences of making the changes. You would then be rightfully annoyed if, as a result of those changes, the car no longer performed in a way that was acceptable to you.

    This then brings in the second problem: the updates are wholly focussed on the newer models and are not designed with the interests of the users of the older models in mind. Sure, the users of older models might benefit from the same "improvements" as users of newer models, but for them those "improvements" all too often come at the price of rendering their older device annoying / impractical / impossible to use.

    Things would look a lot different if updates were designed with the objective of maintaining, as much as is possible, the functionality of the older devices. Thus, for example, users of such devices could be offered the choice of either the full update (which would provide the most "improvements" but would hamper performance) or a "stripped down" version containing only those updates that are strictly necessary or that do not hamper performance in any way.

    Let's not kid ourselves that such problems with software updates are confined to the world of smartphones. However, the problem with smartphones is that there is too often little or no choice but to accept updates (especially those that bundle together security patches with other changes). Whilst all this might be great for the profits of the phone manufacturers, it is clear that those profits are dependent upon the hardware and software providers working together to trample over the rights of the consumer ... never mind the damage to the environment caused by consumers being effectively forced to dispose of devices that, if things were done differently, might have years of life left in them yet.

  10. johncruz

    itune issue

    Yes, this is right that Apple, Samsung slowing phones. Recently i bought iPhone 7 and after 3 months issues started. Recently i am facing the iTunes Error 4013 when i try to restore the iPhone. i visit https://www.appletechnicalsupportnumbers.com/blog/how-to-fix-itunes-error-4013/ but unable to fix this issue. How can i fix it?

    1. Roopee
      Stop

      Re: itune issue

      @johncruz

      This is not an iDevice (or any other device) support forum. Please post on an appropriate site.

  11. cam

    So is no one considering stopping buying these overprices kids' toys yet? Best solution.

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