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Apple CEO Tim Cook Acknowledges Lack Of Transparency Around iPhone Throttling

Apple 'should've been clearer at a point in time' about slowing older iPhones to prevent battery drain and unexpected restarts, says Cook.

While stopping short of offering a mea culpa over Apple's throttling of the performance on older iPhones, Apple CEO Tim Cook this week acknowledged that mistakes were made in the handling of an issue that has become a major point of controversy over the past month.

In December, Apple acknowledged that it slows the operations of older iPhone models to help reduce the impact on batteries as they age.

The measures, initially delivered in January 2017 as part of iOS 10.2.1, also were targeted at reducing unexpected shutdowns on models such as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. At the time, Apple disclosed that the iOS update included measures to improve power management — but didn't specify that this could mean noticeable performance reductions for iPhone users.

[Related: Apple To Repatriate Overseas Cash As Part Of 'A $350 Billion Contribution' To The U.S. Economy]

That's what sparked an outcry from iPhone users, and led Cook to tell ABC News that Apple came up short in its handling of the issue.

"We felt it would be better to take something off of the performance to prevent [unexpected restarts] from happening," Cook said. "So when we did put [the iOS update] out, we did say what it was. But I don't think a lot of people were paying attention. Maybe we should've been clearer, as well."

Cook went on to say that he was sorry that the situation unfolded the way it did. The performance throttling was seen by many as a way to push customers to buy faster new iPhones.

"We deeply apologize for anybody that thinks we had some other kind of motivation" than to solve problems for customers, Cook told ABC News. "Our motivation is always the user."

Later in the interview, Cook again acknowledged falling short at transparency, saying that "maybe we've should've been clearer at a point in time."

The comments were welcomed by Jay Gordon, vice president of sales at Enterprise Mobile, a Plano, Texas-based mobile solution provider.

"I believe Apple acknowledging that they could have done a better job creating awareness of the change is important," Gordon said. "We operate exclusively in the enterprise, and these organizations utilize these devices to manage mission-critical processes and customer service. Therefore, it is essential that they are aware of any impacts on device performance.

"Having this information will allow a customer to assess the potential impact to productivity versus the cost to upgrade to the latest and greatest," he added. "As partners to the enterprise, it is important that OEMs are proactive in explaining these scenarios in a way that allows a customer to react and plan."

Along with the previous announcement that out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacements will be available this year for $29, down from the normal price of $79, Apple also plans to let users toggle off the feature that slows performance in favor of preserving battery life. Cook said that option will first be released to developers in February but didn't disclose when it will be generally available to iPhone users.

The move will "give people the visibility of health of their battery, so it's very, very transparent," Cook said.

The feature will tell users "'we're reducing your performance by some amount in order to not have an expected restart.' And if you don't want it, you can turn it off," he said.

However, Cook noted, "we don't recommend" turning off the throttling because a resulting restart may cause major problems for users.

Cook made the comments as Apple unveiled plans to repatriate an unspecified amount of its overseas cash as part of what it is calling a five-year, $350 billion contribution to the U.S. economy.

Apple said that an estimated $38 billion tax payment, combined with other planned capital expenditures and investments in U.S. manufacturing, will amount to about $75 billion of an estimated $350 billion the company said it will contribute to the U.S. economy over the next five years.

"Apple fumbled the ball on the battery issue slowdown, and it made them look greedy, or using planned obsolescence," said Phil Poje, CEO of Tech Orchard, an Overland Park, Kansas-based mobile solution provider. "On the other front, the recent tax reform that caused Apple to bring billions back into the American economy and add $38 billion of taxes in the U.S. Treasury is a huge win for everyone. In the end, the repatriation of Apple cash, 20,000 new jobs, and additional headquarters is a much bigger deal than any battery issue. Apple has always been seen as a socially responsible company, and the recent announcements have healed their black eye."

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