Tim Cook says Apple told users it was slowing their iPhones, but adds, 'I don't think a lot of people were paying attention'

Tim Cook says Apple told users it was slowing their iPhones, but adds, 'I don't think a lot of people were paying attention'

Tim Cook


Apple CEO Tim Cook bows at the opening ceremony of the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday made his first public comments on last year's iPhone battery scandal, where the company admitted that it was slowing down some devices with older batteries.
  • Apple had informed customers of the practice before it became a controversy, but they weren't paying attention, Cook said.
  • Still, Cook apologized, saying Apple could have explained more clearly what it was doing.
  • Cook also commented on Apple's announcement that it plans to hire 20,000 new workers and open a second campus, saying that only some of its new investments are due to the tax law passed last month.

From Tim Cook's point of view, Apple customers shouldn't really have been surprised that the company was slowing down iPhones with older batteries, because the company had already told them it was doing so. 

Cook addressed the battery controversy publicly for the first time Wednesday in a wide-ranging appearance on ABC News. Apple introduced the slowdown via software updates and has said its motive was to prevent phones from unexpectedly shutting down. Although Cook said Apple had been transparent, he apologized if anyone thought the company had ulterior motives for slowing phones and acknowledged that Apple could have done a better job explaining what it was doing.

"When we did put [the software update] out, we did say what it was, but I don't think a lot of people were paying attention," Cook told ABC News. "And maybe we should have been clearer, as well." 

Apple acknowledged last month that it was throttling some iPhones to prevent them from turning off prematurely due to weakened batteries. The acknowledgement has drawn public criticism and even scrutiny from public officials.

The disclosure to which Cook apparently was referring was the release notes of the operating system update in question, which Apple released early last year. In those notes, the company said it was making "improvements to reduce occurrences of unexpected shutdowns that a small number of users were experiencing with their iPhone."

When it acknowledged the slowdown last month, Apple explained that the batteries in some phones can no longer meet their peak power needs thanks to their age or repeated use. Apple rejiggered its operating system to slow down phones with these older, weaker batteries so that they don't tax them and force a shut down. In response to the controversy, the company has offered to replace users' batteries at a reduced price.

When the news broke that Apple was slowing down older phones, some Apple fans charged that the company was doing it to get them to upgrade to newer iPhones. But Apple didn't have "some other kind of motivation" for slowing down older devices, Cook said. Still, he said, Apple wanted to "deeply apologize" if anyone thought that was the case.

Cook also discussed Apple's announcement Wednesday that it is paying $38 billion on its overseas cash and plans to hire 20,000 workers and open a new campus. The decision to hire so many new workers was only partially spurred by the tax law Congress passed and President Trump signed last month, he said. 

"Let me be clear, there are large parts of this that are a result of the tax reform, and large parts of this that we would have done in any situation, Cook said.

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump tweeted his personal appreciation of Apple for its announced plans, asserting that they were all "a result of TAX CUTS."

Here's the full Cook interview, courtesy of ABC News: