By Jeremy C. Owens, MarketWatch
After facing a wave of criticism and lawsuits for slowing down iPhones with older batteries, Apple Inc. posted an open letter to consumers Thursday, a rather common practice under Chief Executive Tim Cook, and offered something much more uncommon from the company: A big discount.
In the letter — which was not signed by Cook, as previous letters about encryption , Chinese warranties and Apple Maps have been — Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +2.56% apologized to consumers who felt “let down” by “the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process.” That refers to Apple’s recent admission that it slowed down performance on iPhones with older batteries to avoid shutdowns that result from overtaxing degraded lithium-ion batteries.
Many critics have said that Apple’s admission last week gives credence to long-held conspiracy theories that the company slows down older smartphones to push consumers toward buying newer models. At least four lawsuits have been filed against Apple in response, including one that seeks class-action status.
To address the issue, Apple offered a steep discount on battery replacements, which typically cost $79 for iPhones that are not under warranty. Apple said it would instead charge $29 to replace batteries in an iPhone 6 or later model, starting in late January and running through December 2018.
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The company also said it would push out an update to its iOS mobile operating system “with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.”
“We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible,” the letter reads. “We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.”
Apple also added a new support page called “iPhone battery and performance” to explain the issue and offer tips.
Apple stock has declined about 1.7% since the company admitted to adjusting performance based on battery degradation last week, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which counts Apple as a component, has gained 0.5%. Shares dipped about 0.2% in late trading Thursday after Apple posted its letter.