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Apple Alone: Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC All Deny Crippling Phones to Preserve Battery Life

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In the wake of Apple’s admission that it slows down older iPhones to preserve battery life, there’ve been numerous questions as to whether or not Android manufacturers do the same thing. While Apple and the Android OEMs pursue very different strategies for device updates and improvement, they also rely on very similar technologies for batteries, displays, storage, and power management. Apple may not have moved past using two high-powered CPU cores for major workloads, but it’s been integrating more low-power cores for power savings and efficient operation. If other Android manufacturers were stealthily lowering phone performance to keep their batteries from failing, it would give Apple a leg to stand on when claiming this was simply done to improve hardware longevity.

Unfortunately for Apple, this does not appear to be the case. Samsung, LG, Motorola, and HTC have now all stated they do not slow down phones with older batteries. LG writes that it avoids this behavior because ” We care what our customers think,” while Samsung states: “We ensure extended battery life of Samsung mobile devices through multi-layer safety measures, which include software algorithms that govern the battery charging current and charging duration. We do not reduce CPU performance through software updates over the lifecycles of the phone.”

There’s still a life-cycle argument to be made, here, though I’m not certain how strong it really is. Apple does support its phones longer than comparable Android devices. Sure, plenty of people upgrade every year or two, but you can buy an Apple device and know you’ll receive four OS updates with attendant security patches throughout that time. That’s a significant increase over Android hardware, which makes no such promises, and typically receives 1-2 OS updates.

But part of the reason why this issue has gotten such coverage is because Apple doesn’t just implement this strategy on old devices with a demonstrable loss in power. As someone with an older iPhone that suffers from precisely the “fails with a high reported percentage of charge remaining” that Apple claims drove its own solution, I can understand and sympathize with the company’s justification. There are indeed places and times when I’d much rather have a slow phone than no phone at all.

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The iPhone X is a very quick phone. How fast will it be in 12 months? I have no idea and that’s a problem.

But this isn’t a feature Apple turns on when your phone battery hits 50% health, or even 70% health. All accounts indicate the throttling is far more conservative than that, with some users reporting slowdowns when their batteries are at 80-90% health. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish, and it speaks to the larger problem. If I have to replace the battery on my device because the battery can suddenly drop from 50% to 10% in a manner of minutes (and it can), that’s one thing. If I have to replace my battery when the only sign of wear is that I get slightly less battery life overall, that’s entirely different.

This would also be easier to understand if the performance declines were subtle, but in many cases, they aren’t. Geekbench’s initial investigation showed that some iPhone 6s and 7s have been throttled to 44-50% of their base performance. If a smartphone is so ineptly designed that it has to be throttled to 44% of base performance after just two years of use, it’s a fundamental failure on Apple’s part. The lifecycle argument may not completely fall apart on such examination, but it takes a heck of a beating.

Apple claims it doesn’t design its hardware to reduce longevity or harm the user experience. Maybe it doesn’t — but it’s not designing its batteries for longevity, either. Forcing users to buy new batteries, even if they’re temporarily discounted, is not in the best interest of the user. And until Apple starts offering the option to disable this setting, it’s going to look like a further attempt to wring more money out of its customer base.

 

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Apple Investigating iPhone X Phones That Can’t Make Calls

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It’s easy to forget people still make calls with phones, since that’s not what most people buy them for. Now there are reports Apple’s iPhone X is falling down at that particular task, and that the problem is spreading.

9To5 Mac reports hundreds of users have reported an increase in problems, with a typical 6-8 second lag before they can answer calls. Other reports suggest the gap is as long as 10 seconds, and that some calls are missed because the phone doesn’t wake up and display unlock controls. The issue appears to stem from excessive lag between when a call is received and when it can be answered. While the reports seem to focus on the iPhone X, it may not be completely isolated to that handset; ZDNet claims the issue may go back as far as October and reports from an iPhone 6 user running iOS 11.0.3.

This is just the latest glitch to hit Apple devices, after reams of bad press over its decision to throttle phones to preserve battery life and general concerns over how well the iPhone X is (or isn’t) selling. iOS 11 is troubled enough that Apple is once again pushing back from introducing new features or capabilities in iOS 12, so they can keep patching the iOS version they already released. The iPhone 7’s components are failing in some cases, to the point that Apple has had to begin replacing phones due to component failures. And Gizmodo catalogs how the iPhone X’s screen apparently scratches extremely easily (we can’t confirm this, not having used an iPhone X).

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It’s gorgeous — and kind of broken.

Then there’s the unresponsive cold bug that appears to hit iPhone X’s hard, the faster burn-in seen on OLED panels, the iPhone 6s’ battery life problems after components were exposed to air for too long in a Chinese factory, and even claims that the iPhone X’s and iPhone 8’s batteries may hit their 500 cycle-time limit much more quickly than anticipated. In short, there’s a lot of not-great news about Apple’s iPhone family swirling around the iPhone X and to a much smaller extent, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7.

Ever since Steve Jobs died, there’s been no shortage of people willing to write lofty think pieces about Tim Cook, his leadership of the company, and how he compares with Jobs. In many cases, these comparisons aren’t particularly useful. We don’t know how Jobs would’ve responded to various changes in market conditions and we certainly don’t have all the information necessary to compare any given decision Cook makes. Jobs himself was far from perfect. Devices like the G4 Cube and the famous iMac “Lump-Stick-Rectangle” design didn’t exactly set the market on fire.

I don’t want to say that Steve Jobs would have avoided these problems, because that’s simply not clear. Jobs may have put an extremely high bar on product quality, but that was quality as defined on his terms. “You’re holding it wrong,” and the iPhone 4’s antenna issues are exhibit A for this kind of thinking on his part. I don’t think we can say, categorically, that he simply would’ve avoided the problem, or that he would’ve responded to it differently.

But even if this problem resists a simplistic “Jobs would’ve done better” analysis, I think we’ve got enough data points in hand to draw a line. Smartphones are complex and can absolutely have problems. You can even argue that most of these issues are small, compared with devices like the Galaxy Note 7. But the trend here isn’t positive. Starting with the iPhone 6 Plus and Touch Disease, Apple seems to have real, sustained problems with building devices that aren’t hit by a major defect or problem. It hasn’t exactly been distinguishing itself on the software front either, if the legion of complaints about iOS 11 are any indication. And OS X macOS fans haven’t been thrilled with the company’s direction, either.

The smartest thing for Apple to do might well be to take a year off launching hardware to polish designs, the same way it has periodically taken a year off launching major new software versions to polish its OS. But that’s not going to happen. While the company’s overall iPhone sales did fall in Q1 2018 (that’s Apple’s fiscal Q1, not the calendar quarter), they only dropped from 78.3 million units to 77.3M units, a fractional decrease. Meanwhile, revenue grew 13 percent, thanks to dramatically higher ASPs on the iPhone X.

In short, financially, the company’s strategy is working brilliantly. And that’s all the reason Apple needs to keep right on doing what it’s doing.

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EU to review Apple’s reported $400m purchase of music app Shazam

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European Commission to investigate deal following requests from Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden
The company’s planned takeover of Shazam would be its largest since the acquisition of Beats for $3bn in 2014. The EU said on Tuesday that it launched the inquiry into the reported $400m deal for London-based Shazam following requests from Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. The commission said it was concerned that Apple’s purchase of the market-leading company could have adverse effects on competition across borders.

Apple announced it would buy Shazam in December in a deal worth less than the “turnover threshold” for the EC, but above the merger notification threshold for Austria, which leads the quorum of countries worried by the deal. The iPhone-maker will now be forced to notify EU authorities about the deal and await the investigation into the implications of the deal.

The EC will have up to 35 working days for initial investigations and a further 105 working days should serious concerns be found. Apple will then have the opportunity to obtain approval by addressing any concerns.

Apple declined to comment.

The company’s planned takeover of Shazam would be its largest since the acquisition of Beats for $3bn in 2014, the company that formed the basis of Apple’s music-streaming service and line of headphones and accessories.

Shazam is the market leader in song recognition that listens to snippets of tracks and tells the user the artist and track, allowing them to buy it or find it on streaming services. It was founded in 1999 in the early age of online music, and now accounts for about 1m referrals to Apple Music and Spotify. But Shazam has struggled to find a way to make money from its technology, even as it said that it had reached 1bn downloads on smartphones last year.

Shazam only recently announced it had become profitable, thanks to advertising and click-through to other sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.

While Shazam was a pioneer in music recognition, the technology is also no longer quite as novel, with Google integrating a similar feature directly into its search app on smartphones, as well as local recognition on its Pixel smartphones, and rivals such as SoundHound performing similar functions

 

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