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A top U.S. lawmaker isn’t too happy that Apple is slowing down old iPhones

And Senator John Thune is pressing Apple to explain its “feature to throttle” to concerned lawmakers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook onstage in front of a giant iPhone Qi Heng/VCG via Getty Images

Apple’s practice of slowing down new software on iPhones with older batteries didn’t just peeve its customers — it’s generated new criticism from Capitol Hill.

Sen. John Thune, a Republican lawmaker who chairs a key congressional committee that oversees tech issues, is pressing the company in a new letter this week to explain its thinking and commit to being more transparent about its “feature to throttle” in the future.

The controversy stems from Apple’s mobile operating software, iOS, which the company has slowed down on older phones in order to improve battery performance on those devices. Developers at Geekbench first discovered the throttling, which Apple later admitted in December. The tech giant quickly apologized, saying it would never “do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.” Apple also announced it would lower the price of replacement batteries.

For Thune, though, Apple’s recent comments aren’t enough.

“However, even if Apple’s actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns on 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 to these practices,” the GOP lawmaker wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“Moreover, Apple’s proposed solutions have prompted additional criticism from some customers,” Thune continued, “particularly its decision not to provide free replacement batters to affected customers.”

To that end, Thune is demanding Apple answer a series of new questions — including whether its “feature to throttle” in previous iterations of iOS slowed down performance on even older devices, like the iPhone 5.

Thune also wants to know if Apple plans “to release a similar software update feature to throttle back processing performance for newer models,” and if so, how it plans to communicate that with customers.

And the GOP lawmaker is asking the company to explain how it settled on a $29 battery replacement for iPhone 6 or later — as opposed to offering it for free. Replies to these and other questions are due to Thune by Jan. 23, he said.

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