It’s not unheard of for Apple, that shining, glass-and-metal modernist beacon in the night, to apologize.
The company’s late CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs famously did after the so-called Antennagate controversy surrounding the iPhone 4. Tim Cook, who replaced him, published a signed letter on the company’s website after its Maps app left much to be desired.
Corporate apologies don’t happen often, especially in the at-arm’s-length technology industry, but they do happen. And there’s a cold-blooded calculation behind most of them.
The latest mea culpa from the folks in Cupertino, Calif. concerns batteries in the company’s most popular product in history: the iPhone. After much hullabaloo (and a few lawsuits) over complaints that the company was deliberately slowing its older devices down—the conspiracy theory being that Apple was forcing upgrades to its newer models—the company admitted: Yes, we do slow them down. But it’s complicated.
On Thursday, Apple issued a formal apology.
“We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize,” it wrote in an unsigned letter. “We have never—and would never—do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”
The company also offered an explanation for its actions relating to the chemical makeup of its rechargeable batteries.
“We delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE,” it said. “With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.”
To quell the outrage, Apple reduced the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery (from $79 to $29 for customers with an iPhone 6 or newer, starting in late January) and promised another software update offering more transparency into their battery’s condition.
The fuss will likely do little to negatively impact iPhone shipments, which continue to reach new highs despite some evidence that customers are waiting longer to upgrade older devices. But it is a moment that steals a little bit of shine from one of the world’s most valuable brands and its CEO, which Fortune named the world’s greatest leader in 2015.