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Apple, Samsung under investigation by Italian government over planned obsolescence allegations

Italy's antitrust organization has launched a probe investigating allegations that Apple and Samsung use software updates not as a tool to secure or expand upon smartphone capabilities, but to speed up the aging process and force users to buy new phones.




A statement by the Autorit Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) launching the investigation cites consumer complaints of slower devices after operating system updates. The group will determine in a pair of investigations if the companies are introducing the updates intentionally to cripple phones, and force Italian citizens to buy new ones, based on seeming obsolescence.

While not specifically calling out Apple's chemically depleted battery-related throttling by name, the group says that Apple failed to provide sufficient information to users to guarantee an "adequate level of performance." Neither Apple nor Samsung have ever guaranteed a minimum speed on their devices in any advertising.

AGCM claims that the behavior could be in violation of articles 20, 21, 22, and 24 of the consumer code, all relating to promises made by companies to consumers.

It has been conclusively proven in older testing, as well as in benchmarks collated by GeekBench that showed the depleted battery throttling routines in action that older iPhone hardware with an adequately functioning battery is no slower than it was at launch, and moves bits from register to register just as fast as they always have. Any "slowdown" is related to the additional load that more advanced software places on older hardware, as it always has since the dawn of computing.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview on Wednesday that Apple instituted the throttling mechanisms in an attempt to improve the reliability and reduce the crashing of devices with aged batteries. The revelation has since spawned numerous class-action lawsuits and government inquiries into so-called planned obsolescence.

"When we did put it out, we did say what it was, but I don't think a lot of people were paying attention and maybe we should have been clearer, as well" Cook said. "And so we deeply apologize for anybody that thinks we had some other kind of motivation."