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Senator questions Apple on older iPhone slowdowns

Senator John Thune wants Tim Cook to answer if Apple considered making free battery replacements available after its iPhone slowdown controversy.

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(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

A top-ranking Republican senator wants answers from Apple after its revelation it slows down older iPhones to prolong battery life without telling customers.

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Senator John Thune, chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking if the company made an effort to notify customers that their batteries were being slowed down and if customers had the ability to decline the update.

"Even if Apple's actions were indeed only to avoid unexpected shutdowns in older phones, the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency with respect these practices," Thune wrote (via The Hill).

Apple issued an apology in December for the misunderstanding of how it handles performance for iPhones with older batteries. In a letter, Apple told customers that is has never done anything to "intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrade."

Apple said it began the practice when it released iOS 10.2.1 last year, to stop the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone SE from shutting down from troubling power circumstances like cold weather, low battery charge or battery aging. In an attempt to remedy the situation, Apple discounted the price of out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement to $29 (down from $79).

In his letter, Thune asks Apple if it considered making free battery replacements available or a rebate available to customers who already paid full price for a battery replacement. Thune also questioned if iPhones older than the iPhone 6 are being slowed down.

"Apple's proposed solutions have prompted additional criticism from some customers, particularly its decision not to provide free replacement batteries," Thune wrote.

Thune wants Apple to respond to his letter by Jan. 23. We have reached out to Apple for comment, and will update you if we learn more.

Earlier this week, French prosecutors opened an investigation into Apple, after a consumer group lodged a complaint about the battery controversy. The group claimed Apple is engaging in "the practice of planned obsolescence with the aim of deliberately reducing the lifespan [of a product] in order to increase the replacement rate."