Apple Admits It Is Slowing Down iPhones When Batteries Get Old

There's been a long-held suspicion, or conspiracy theory depending on your point of view, that Apple deliberately slows down older iPhones in order to drive their annual sales push when new models are released. But it seems that the reason older devices perform poorly is related to battery health. Apple has admitted that as batteries age they deliberately, through software, limit the amount of current the device can draw in order to stop sudden shut downs. In other words, they slow the device to preserve the battery.

I was the owner of an iPhone 6 that suffered an issue with sudden shutdowns. Apple replaced the phone, no questions asked, with the Genius Bar dude telling me it was a known issue. That issue was resolved in later models and through a software update.

An iPhone benchmark developer, Geekbench, carried out some experiments recently. The researcher compared the benchmark results from a new iPhone with one that has an aged battery. There was a notable performance dip from when the device was new to later on. So, the researcher replaced the battery in the iPhone (which is possible although it is not a user-replaceable part)

Then, he re-ran the benchmarks and found the iPhone returned to its "as new" performance level.

Apple has made a statement confirming the practice saying this was about smoothing peak current draw so the device didn't suddenly shutdown even when it looked like there was plenty of juice left in the battery.

Is this a reasonable course of action? On one hand, no-one likes their phone to suddenly stop working. And Lithium-Ion batteries do have a finite life. So this looks like a reasonable way to minimise the chance of your iPhone shutting down unexpectedly. And a "study" published by the Daily Mail that claimed Apple was deliberately slowing phones down when new models were released has been debunked.

The question then becomes, if we take what Apple has said at face value, about whether sudden shutdowns are a price we are willing to pay for faster, ongoing performance.

Or perhaps Apple could get its engineers to work out how to make a device with a user-replaceable battery.


Comments

    It'll be interesting to see how Apple deal with this. My money is on their usual approach "We're Apple, we'll do what we want and you'll like it".

    Ideally however, they should be taking the approach of tweaking the algorithm to be a bit more forgiving, warning the user whats actually happening and potentially even providing a toggle so the user can choose to override that behaviour for the sake of performance.

      The toggle sounds like it could be a win-win solution. Users don't get the performance drop, and Apple gets users who'll likely upgrade once they run their batteries to death.

      My money is on their usual approach "We're Apple, we'll do what we want and you'll like it"

      That's what they've done traditionally. I was managing a store in the years after Apple started distributing iPods through other retail stores (they were previously Apple store only). If someone returned a faulty iPod, Apple would refuse to deal with the store, and insist that the customer had to deal directly with them. The thing was, the law states that the customer can choose to have it dealt with directly, or via the store. With Apple refusing to play ball, this made for a lot of very difficult conversations with angry customers.

      Apple, like many big companies, consider themselves above the law. They don't care if they can or can't do something legally, they only care about if they can get away with it.

    It's an interesting approach, covering up the bad battery life with poor performance.

    People are less likely to be repeat customers if they think the problem is caused by a battery that decays after a year or two. Most people wouldn't notice the slowdown as an issue, they'd probably just think they need a new phone as apps and software is more power hungry.

    I wouldn't buy an apple product again after reading this. Everyone thinks that having a company make the hardware and software is great but obviously they can use that to mislead you into buying more of their products like this.

    Unfortunately it sounds like a damned if they do and damned if they don't situation.

    Had they done nothing, the reports would all be about battery issues with older iPhones, now that they have that they are stealing horsepower from your phone.

    Based on Futremark's Analysis (https://www.futuremark.com/pressreleases/is-it-true-that-iphones-get-slower-over-time) which they claim is based on over 100,000 data points.

    They indicated that GPU performance remains pretty consistent as the devices age and CPU performance while it does drop is so slight that they would not expect the user to even notice it.

    My anecdotal evidence? I ran my iPhone 5 through to just prior to the release of the iPhone 7 and never noticed any issue with battery performance or system slowdown. I kept the OS up to date right up until I retired it as well.

    Heck, I walked around with it having a swollen battery for nearly a year and it still worked like a charm.

    Seems we like to have storms in tea cups these days....

    A replaceable battery would be great, but it's a lot harder for Apple to delivery now that the phones are supposed to be waterproof

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