Apple owns up to slowing iPhones with aging batteries

Takes a hit for lack of transparency.

From Tom Warren at The Verge:

Reddit users have noticed that Apple appears to be slowing down old iPhones that have low-capacity batteries...

Some Reddit users report that replacing their batteries has returned performance and CPU clock speeds back to normal. The reports are particularly troubling because any perceived slowdowns by iPhone users might tempt owners to upgrade their entire device instead of replace the battery. “This fix will also cause users to think, 'my phone is slow so I should replace it' not, 'my phone is slow so I should replace its battery,’” says Geekbench’s John Poole.

When reached for comment, Apple basically confirmed the findings to The Verge, but disputes the assumed intention:

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.

My take: Apple, as usual, is focused on the user experience. Its penchant for secrecy, as usual, breeds conspiracy theories.


  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    I don’t get the angst. Everybody knows (or should know) that if you drive slower you get better gas mileage. Unconsciously many drive slower when their gas gauge indicates a near empty tank.

    What Apple has done is automate the “drive slower” reaction to a near empty tank.

    In other words, you can’t have a near empty tank and continue to drive at 65 mph (not for very long anyway).

    With electronic devices, slowing a battery’s discharge is the equivalent of lightening your foot on the gas pedal. You get longer battery life but don’t get there as quickly.

    Is Apple slowing older devices to generate more sales? Well let me ask, if Apple didn’t slow the device would you automatically think to replace the battery (that needed more frequent recharging and less run time), or would you say, “my battery is shot and the new devices are more powerful and more capable” therefore I’m going to buy a new device? The issue is six of one and half a dozen of the other.

    On average we buy a new car about every 4 years and they cost $25K to $40K. A new device every 3 to 4 years at $500 to $800 each time is far less expensive, and instead of being parked (UNUSED) 95% of the time, a new device gets used 20% to 40% of the time it is owned.

    This is a non-issue except for those that complain about every perceived slight, real or imagined.

    December 20, 2017
  2. Gianfranco Pedron said:
    The automotive industry has been doing something similar for years without conspiracy theorists setting their hair on fire to alert the populace.

    Many modern gasoline powered internal combustion engines are designed to produce high output/displacement ratios with as wide torque bands as feasible. Obtaining maximum power output is often contingent on using premium/high octane fuel.

    Using lower grade fuel with high performance settings can seriously damage the engine so manufacturers install knock sensors which will signal the ECU to retard ignition timing in order to prevent damage. This results in lower performance which the vast majority of drivers will never, ever notice while they go about their business.

    Imagine the outcry if iPhones randomly shut down during periods of peak amperage demand while the battery is no longer capable of satisfying few nanoseconds of peak draw.

    I wonder how other manufacturers deal with the exact same issue. Seems nobody is interested unless the device has an Apple logo on it.

    December 21, 2017

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