We've heard this riff being played before. Apple is about to release a new version of iOS and a new iPhone will follow. Folks download the update and discover that their previously OK iPhone is slowed down so they feel that they are being pushed towards an expensive upgrade by Apple as part of a program of planned obsolescence. Naturally, Apple has denied this. And what they have to say on the matter is an interesting contrast with Samsung's recently stated view during a court case.
On Monday, during the WWDC 2018 opening keynote, Apple's software engineering kingpin, Craig Federighi, said iOS 12 will improve the performance on all devices it's installed to - going all the way back to the iPhone 5s and original iPad Air. Those are devices that were released five years ago.
Long-time Apple follower John Gruber spoke with Apple's VP of marketing Greg Joswiak and VP of AR/VR engineering Mike Rockwell for his The Talk Show podcast. In that broadcast, Joswiak was asked specifically about planned obsolescence. Here's what he had to say:
Which is about the craziest thinking in the world, where I give you a shitty experience so you go buy our new product. Software updates are super important. You have got to remember, we're supporting devices that were introduced in 2013. Devices that are more recently introduced - iPhone X - are a lot faster than those, just by the nature of how fast our chips have gotten. We've got the fastest chips in the business. Our chips last year are faster than theirs this year.
Apple has put some data on their iOS 12 Preview site, saying apps will launch twice as fast under heavy loads, the keyboard appears 50% quicker and access to the camera from the lock screen is 70% quicker on older devices than with iOS 11.
That's good news as some recent research from Finder found people are hanging onto their smartphones for longer - with many saying they planned to keep their current phones for three years rather than two - the typical period for a contract with a carrier.
Of course, Apple has been under fire over the recent battery issue where they were slowing down iPhones in order to preserve battery life on older devices. That caused the company to issue an update to iOS 11 that gave users the option of whether they preferred a faster device or lower battery life as a device's power plant ages.
And there's this less-than-scientific bit of research from 2015 that pointed to Google search results for "slow iPhone" peaking when a new model is released. While older versions of iOS, at least anecdotally, resulted in some performance degradation on older devices, Apple has made some improvements in that regard.
Interestingly, Samsung won a court ruling in the Netherlands saying they aren't obligated to support smartphones for longer than two years.
What's all that mean? Apple does have some fences to mend when it comes to customer trust and iPhone slow downs. It looks like iOS 12 is as much a step towards rebuilding that trust as it is a software update.