Investigations into Apple’s iPhone Battery Slowdowns Spread to Italy and South Korea

Italy and South Korea on Thursday joined a growing list of countries in which class-action lawsuits and government investigations into Apple's iPhone battery slowdowns are underway.

Italy's antitrust body revealed it had opened a probe into allegations that Apple used iOS updates to slow older smartphones and push clients into buying new models (via Reuters). The Italian watchdog said Apple had failed to inform customers that the updates might have a negative impact on the performance of their phones, suggesting the company might have infringed four separate articles of the national consumers' code.


In a first among the recent wave of battery probes, Samsung is also suspected of orchestrating "a general commercial policy taking advantage of the lack of certain components to curb the performance times of their products and induce consumers to buy new versions," said the Italian watchdog. If found guilty, the two companies risk multi-million euro fines.

Meanwhile, a South Korean consumer group has filed a criminal complaint against Apple CEO Tim Cook, accusing his company of defrauding iPhone users by slowing down devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance.

In its complaint, filed Thursday, the advocacy group Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty accused Apple of destruction of property and fraud. According to Reuters, the group also represents around 120 plaintiffs in a civil damage suit filed against Apple earlier in January.

Apple has already admitted that it slows down some older iPhones with degraded batteries during times of peak power usage in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns, and accepts that it should have provided a clearer explanation when it introduced the power management feature in iOS 10.2.1.

Following an apology, Apple has implemented a battery replacement program that allows all customers with an iPhone 6, 6s, 7, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, 7 Plus, and SE to replace their batteries for a reduced fee through the end of 2018.

Apple has also said it is introducing better battery monitoring features in a future iOS update, which will include the ability for customers to turn off the power management feature it introduced in iOS 10.2.1. However, despite efforts to rectify the issue, the company is now facing lawsuits, state investigations, or consumer group probes in countries including China, France, and the U.S. over the controversy.


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Apple’s 500th Store and First in Korea Opening January 27 Ahead of 2018 Winter Olympics

Apple today announced that its first retail store in South Korea opens on Saturday, January 27, at 10:00 a.m. local time, just a few weeks prior to the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday, February 9.


The store is located in the upscale Garosu-gil shopping area in the Gangnam District of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The location will be open seven days per week and, like other Apple retail stores, it will host Today at Apple sessions and have a Genius Bar for device repairs and troubleshooting.

By the looks of it, this should be Apple's 500th retail store around the world. That total includes the Apple Park Visitor Center and Infinite Loop locations, which both sell Apple products alongside promotional merchandise, and it also factors in the rare permanent closure of Apple's Simi Valley store last year.

It's possible that Apple could announce at least one other new store opening between now and late January, such as its nearly ready Vienna, Austria location, in which case the Korean store would obviously not be exactly 500th. We've reached out to Apple for an official store count and we'll update if we hear back.

Apple is promoting its Garosu-gil store with a colorful, animated greeting in both English and Korean on its website, with a matching mural along the storefront that now reveals the January 27 opening date to those passing by.


Apple confirmed plans to open its first store in South Korea just over a year ago, and both construction and hiring have been underway since. The store was originally reported to open December 30, but the location evidently wasn't quite ready in time, and it'll now officially open in less than two weeks.

Apple's first two stores opened in May 2001 at shopping malls in Tysons Corner, Virginia and Glendale, California. By our count, Apple now has 271 retail stores in the United States, while this Garosu-gil location will be its 229th retail store elsewhere, pushing it to the 500 mark in less than 17 years.

Apple remains in the process of renovating dozens of those stores with a fresher aesthetic. Many of the locations have expanded by adding a floor or taking over adjacent storefronts, while some stores have relocated entirely.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores

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Apple in ‘Early Stages’ of Discussions for Apple Pay in South Korea, Android Pay Likely to Launch First

A few Apple executives have had meetings with South Korean financial authorities, spurring a rumor that the Cupertino company is beginning to make headway in its attempt to launch Apple Pay in the country. Sources speaking with The Korea Herald said that Apple's legal director and senior counselor met with the country's financial authorities back in November to discuss Apple Pay, but the company has yet to have another meeting with the government.

As it stands, Android Pay is believed to launch in South Korea ahead of Apple Pay. According to an anonymous source from a local card company, "the technology development with Google for Android Pay is in full swing," with Google having already partnered with card companies like KB Kookmin, Shinhan, Lotte and Hyundai in order to develop online and offline payment systems.


For Apple, the country's involvement and work on Apple Pay "is still in an early stage," potentially due to South Korea's lack of wide NFC terminal adoption in retail stores. Google is said to be developing an online payments feature for Android Pay that could circumvent the need of an NFC terminal. For Apple Pay to be widely adopted, the company may have to wait for more NFC support -- which its mobile wallet requires -- in the country.
Apple’s executives recently held a meeting with South Korean financial authorities, a move that can be viewed as the company testing the waters before fully reviewing a potential launch here, sources said Wednesday.

“Apple said they will partner with local credit card companies in the future but did not elaborate on the specific details,” the source said.

To start such a mobile payment service in Korea, the company should have another meeting with the financial authorities to decide whether it will be registered as an electronic financial business operator. Apple is not yet scheduled to have such a meeting with the government.
In participating retail locations and apps, Apple Pay is currently available in the U.S., UK, China, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, and Spain. Apple previously had trouble introducing another of its services, Apple Music, in South Korea due to the country's strict copyright laws.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tag: South Korea

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Pokémon Go Makes a Late Debut in South Korea

Pokémon Go finally launched in South Korea today, almost six months after the popular game's initial launch.

Developers Niantic had to overcome some unique challenges to bring Pokémons to the hugely lucrative gaming market because of the way the game relies on Google Maps to work.

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Those functions are limited by the government for national security reasons, because the country is technically at war with North Korea, so Niantic had to use publicly available data sources to fill in the gaps.

Last year, some fans of the augmented reality title travelled to Sokcho, close to the border with North Korea, because the city is not classified as South Korean territory in Google Maps, which allowed the game to be played there.

According to The Associate Press, dedicated tour and travel packages were created for gamers to stay in Sokcho, where local businesses and restaurants embraced Pokémon to appeal to gamers, whose annual average gaming spend is said to be the highest in the world.


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Apple Will Open its First Retail Store in South Korea This Year

Apple will open its first retail store in South Korea this year, according to a report on Friday (via Reuters).

The country's Yonhap News Agency said that construction was underway for a store in the southern district of Seoul and that work on the site would likely be completed by the end of November.

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Image: Flickr
"We're excited about opening our first Apple Store in Korea, one of the world's economic centers and a leader in telecommunication and technology, with a vibrant K-culture," Apple told Reuters in a statement Friday.

"We're now hiring the team that will offer our customers in Seoul the service, education and entertainment that is loved by Apple customers around the world."
Yesterday, Apple listed hiring notices for 15 positions on its website, including a store leader and business manager. The exact location and start time for the jobs was omitted from the listings.

Apple's first Korean brick-and-mortar store will be in Samsung's back yard – the rival smartphone maker has its main headquarters in Suwon, about 13 miles south of the capital city.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores
Tags: Apple retail, South Korea

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Apple Criticized by Korean Game Developers for its App Store Refund Policy

Apple has been criticized in South Korea for its mobile app refund policy which game developers say removes them from the process and is regularly being abused.

Apple controls the App Store payment refund process for paid-for apps and determines whether to give refunds to consumers. According to The Korea Times, because Apple does not provide information about who has been issued a refund, developers have no other choice but to manually track down users and check if they continue to use the charged content they have already received the refunds for.

Korea App Store
Apple says it does not provide information about users who have requested a refund in order to protect consumer rights. But some users have reportedly abused the loophole in Apple's refund policy to purchase charged content multiple times, request refunds and continue to consume the content without actually paying for it. According to The Korea Times, some of the abusers even run profitable businesses to operate the refund process on others' behalf.

Mobile game companies in the country are said to be taking their own measures to counteract Apple, which has so far remained silent on the issue. Korean game development studio Flint said it had independently tracked down 300 users who they suspected of abusing the App Store refund policy, and pledged to "root out the abusers" by requesting judicial authorities for an investigation.

Next Floor, distributor of Korean game Destiny Child, also complained about the difficulties in dealing with abusers without Apple's help.
"We are regulating those who abuse the payment process and damage other users under our management policy," the company said. "Unlike other application stores, Apple does not provide refund information to the game companies and we are having difficulties in promptly counteracting the problem."
Mobile game studio Nexon and Longtu Korea said it had asked Apple for the lists of users who requested refunds several times, but the company did not respond. "I cannot understand Apple's policy in that it does not provide the list of people who abuse the system even when it is already causing problems in the market," said a source from the studio.

By contrast, Google's app store refund policy states that users can receive refunds on charged mobile content only once if they request it within two hours after payment.


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Protests in South Korea just keep getting bigger: organizers estimate 1.5 million people

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South Korea’s protests against President Park Geun-hye continue to gather steam.

This is the fifth straight weekend that the protests calling for Park’s resignation have taken place, and the numbers keep climbing. Organisers in Seoul said 1.5 million people came, while authorities said it was more like 270,000.

But for a country of just 50 million people, even several hundred people showing up is absolutely mind-blowing.

Protesters holding up candles.

Image: AP

South Korean protesters shout slogans and hold up placards during a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. For the fifth-straight weekend, masses of protesters are expected to occupy major avenues in downtown Seoul on Saturday demanding the ouster of Park who is suspected of helping in the criminal activities of a secretive confidante who is accused of manipulating government affairs and extorting companies to build an illicit fortune. The signs read "Park Geun-hye, Step down." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Image: AP

Candles are placed to form words that read "South Korean President Park Geun-hye should step down."

Candles are placed to form words that read “South Korean President Park Geun-hye should step down.”

Image: AP Read more…

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