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US investigating Apple's use of software to slow older iPhones

The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are putting questions to the company, says a Bloomberg report.

Apple iPhone

Apple says its software slows down older iPhones to counteract issues from aging batteries. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple may be the target of a federal investigation for using software to slow down older iPhones, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The news agency reported Tuesday that the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple violated securities laws when it issued a software update that slowed the performance of iPhones with older batteries. Unnamed sources said the investigation is in the early stages and that the government has asked Apple to provide information.

An SEC official declined to comment. Apple wasn't available for comment.

Apple confirmed in December that it had released software in 2016 that makes your phone operate more slowly to offset problems with its aging lithium ion batteries. As batteries get older, they don't hold their charge as well as newer batteries, and can have worse problems when the charge is low or the temperature is cold.

The aging battery means your phone could have trouble operating or might unexpectedly shut down, as happened to the iPhone 6 and 6S last year. To address the issue, Apple said, it incorporated better power management capabilities. Apple said it slows down the device only in certain instances, such as when it's cold outside, when the battery charge is low, or when the batteries are very old.

Apple admitted its software could slow performance, following a report earlier from Primate Labs, the company behind the Geekbench processor benchmarking software.

iPhone users have long complained that their devices seem to slow down when new models are released. Some people have accused Apple of purposely slowing down their devices to entice them to upgrade.  Apple has long denied this assertion. 

CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

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