Yes, Apple and Samsung Have Been Slowing Down Your Phone On Purpose

Both companies are being fined millions in Italy for forcing customers to install updates.
October 25, 2018, 5:51am
Woman uses an iPhone
Image via Shutterstock

So you know that annoying thing Apple and Samsung do where they force you to install the latest software update on your phone which slows it down? Turns out they’re not allowed to do that—they’ve never been allowed to—and now they’re being slapped with multi-million dollar fines in Italy as a penalty for their shitty practices.

Both Apple and Samsung were issued sanctions to the tune of AU$16 million and $8 million, respectively, by an Italian antitrust watchdog who found that they were participating in “dishonest commercial practices”, The Guardian reports. The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM)—a competition regulator tasked with enforcing consumer protection laws in Europe—launched an investigation into the matter in January, and officially ascertained what most of us already knew: that unless you have the latest model, there’s a good chance the new software will seriously affect your phone’s functionality.

In the watchdog’s words, the updates “caused serious malfunctions and significantly reduced performance, thus accelerating phones’ substitution”. This is known as “planned obsolescence”: when an iPhone 6 owner is prompted to install software designed for the iPhone 7, for example, and their device slows down so much as a result that they’re forced to buy a newer model. The AGCM’s investigations confirmed that, yes, Apple and Samsung are doing this on purpose.

“These companies have, in fact, induced consumers—through the insistent request to download and also because of the existing information asymmetry with respect to manufacturers—to install updates on devices that are not able to adequately support them, without providing adequate information, or no means of restoring the original functionality of the products,” the AGCM said in a statement.

The ruling is believed to be the first of its kind against smartphone manufacturers, and both companies have been issued the maximum fine. Apple were also handed a second penalty for allegedly not providing customers with important information about their phones’ lithium batteries—including their average duration and what needs to be done to properly maintain them—Fairfax reports.