Yes, Apple Is Slowing Down Older Phones a Bit; Here’s Why

For many years, people have claimed that Apple has been intentionally slowing down older phones to get people to buy new ones. Apple has now admitted that they do, indeed, do this. But it’s not as black and white as this sounds.

First, for as long as I can remember, people have been accusing Apple of intentionally sabotaging old iPhones when new models are released. This wasn’t true, and testing had proven this, but Apple, in the face of some research, has admitted that since last year, they have been slowing down the iPhone 6, 6s, and SE if their batteries were not in good condition. Here’s Apple’s statement to TechCrunch:

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.

What has happening was that certain iPhones were shutting down when their processors demanded too much power; too much for the batteries that were not at optimal health. As such, Apple changed the software so the phones would not shut down, but would rather be slowed down at peak usage. As the TechCrunch article says:

As that battery ages, iOS will check its responsiveness and effectiveness actively. At a point when it becomes unable to give the processor all the power it needs to hit a peak of power, the requests will be spread out over a few cycles.

There are a number of things to bear in mind. Lithium-ion batteries have a limited lifespan, and, depending on how intensely you use your iPhone, you may have a two- or three-year phone whose battery is in poor health. But Apple should be alerting users to this. If you have AppleCare, and the phone is less than two years old, they will replace the battery. And if not, it’s not that expensive ($79 in the US) to have Apple replace it for you. That would make your old phone seem like (almost) new again.

In the Battery settings, there should be an indication of battery health. This information is available on macOS laptops in the System Information app. Click Power, in the Hardware section, and you see this:

Battery info

You can see under Health Information that mine is “Normal,” and the cycle count is 9. (It’s a fairly new MacBook Pro.) It would certainly be possible to display some of this information in the Battery settings, so users can check if they want.

But if an iPhone’s battery reaches the point at which the phone will be throttled, they absolutely should be alerting users. And not just once; several times, since users may not pay attention to all alerts, or may not have the time to check them out when they appear. There could be a red exclamation point on the Settings app, then the Battery settings, until users have acknowledged that they understand the issue, and the possible solution of a battery replacement.

Apple looks really bad here, while they were trying to do something positive. They have fed the long-standing conspiracy theory, and I expect the class-action lawsuit to be filed very soon. Yet another blunder from a company that should really know better.

Update: As expected, there have been so far two class-action lawsuits initiated since I posted this article.