Apple Confirms iPhones Suffer Slower Performance After About One Year of Usage, Gives Explanation

Apple Confirms iPhones Suffer Slower Performance After About One Year of Usage, Gives Explanation

Apple has now confirmed long-existing rumors about purposely slowing down their customers’ iPhones, although they dispute it being a tactic to make consumers buy their newer models.

The Internet has been awash for years that iPhones conveniently slow in speed and become riddled with bugs whenever a new model is being released. These have remained nothing but rumors, until Apple seemingly confirmed it after being challenged by a tech expert. Geekbench Developer John Poole observed the performance of an iPhone 6s and 7 over time and concluded particular iOS updates reduce a phone’s speed. According to The Verge, iOS 10.2.1 drew significant attention in the experiment, as it was “designed to reduce random shutdown issues for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S,” but ends up reducing the phone’s processor speed.

There have been widespread reports that replacing your iPhone’s battery can significantly improve performance. The problem lies in that most users would tend to purchase an entirely new handset altogether, not realizing that a battery replacement could be a much cheaper solution.

When faced with the allegations, Apple responded:

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.

The response is Apple’s way of saying they’re not slowing down devices just to make customers purchase a new phone, but rather they are addressing the problems (such as unexpected shutdowns) caused by old lithium-ion batteries. Older batteries are incapable of handling the phone’s operation with the same effectiveness as an iPhone with a new battery. As such, they risk the device shutting down in order to prevent damage to its internal components. Ultimately, Apple is trying to avoid embarrassing malfunctions, although in not being transparent while doing so, they risk their customers losing trust in the brand.

It has to be said: replacing an iPhone battery is also no easy (or cheap) task. Alas, it’s a better alternative than forking out for an entirely new iPhone.

What do you make of this development?

Lead image credit: Torsten Dettlaff via Pexels

[via The Verge]

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38 Comments

Piotr Maksymowicz's picture

Yup totally agree, Apple is just a shit company. I owned iPhone myself and had same issues. Never again going to buy an Apple device again.

Kawika Lopez's picture

I think it’s actually pretty simple concept. A battery is capable of outputting a range of power based on the tasks of the phone and because those tasks change, the power draw fluctuates. It makes perfect sense that an older battery wouldn’t have the stamina to keep up with the power fluctuations as much as a brand new battery.

Same reason you don’t see a ton of 60 year olds running post routes in the NFL.

Kawika Lopez's picture

Ok. First off, if you don’t understand that a CPU performing at 100% consumes more power than when it’s performing at less than 100%, then this conversation is a lost cause.

Second, it is extremely common for a modern day laptop to have some sort power-save mode. One very common side effect of putting a laptop in that mode is limiting the CPUs performance to achieve greater battery life. Obviously the big difference is that you can choose to turn it on or off.

Essentially, Apple built in an intelligent “long-term power-save” mode into their phones and didn’t tell anyone. And I’m using the term intelligent loosely. I’m not saying it’s right and I’m not saying I agree with their decisions. All I’m saying is that I can understand why might have thought it was a good idea. After 2 years and 500+ battery cycles, I’d rather have a slightly sluggish phone that lasts most of the day than a pretty fast phone that’s dead by noon.

Kawika Lopez's picture

Haha. Sheesh man. Ok, this is my last attempt at making my simple points clear.

Do I think Appleʻs approach to increasing battery longevity is super shady and almost unethical? YES

Should they have been upfront about what happens to your device over time? ABSOLUTELY

Would I have gotten a new battery instead of upgrading my device last year? PROBABLY

Am I a little upset about it? YEP

Am I a reasonable and sensible human being who can kind of see what they were thinking when they decided to program the phone in this way? SURE

Will I take them up on the offer to replace my battery for $30 (instead of $80) which should restore CPU performance? DEFINITELY

Hope this clears some things up my friend.

"What makes you think I wouldn't understand something so basic and obvious?"
- You didn't seem to understand why limiting a CPU would have any benefit at all.

"Considering that "big difference" it makes no sense for you to mention such a thing."
- You said you never heard of a laptop CPU being throttled to save battery. Well this is an example of the actual user being able to throttle their CPU.

"Use a little critical thinking and experience, assuming your old enough on the later. What electronics manufacturer permanently slows down a lithium powered device due to older batteries? Good luck with answering that."
- I was agreeing with you, but I was being reasonable about it.

"Good for you, but I'm sure most people would simply rather not have a phone manufacturer cripple their phones."
- I agree and I think transparency as well as cheeper battery replacements should have been instituted a long time ago.

Kawika Lopez's picture

Literally didn't even read past the first line of your reply. Good luck in life bro. Peace.

Patrick Karbownik's picture

Oh yeah, great comparison. People are not trying to install the lates iOS on their commodore 64s or older devices. The article says that the guy experienced it on his iPhone 6s and 7. The 6s was released just over 2 years ago. And for some strange reason the battery noticed it gets weaker just as the new update arrived. What a nice coincidence.
Imagine getting an artificial hip when you're older that needs replacement every 2 years and you have to pay in full for that.

As Bob Brady stated in his post, the logical thing to happen would be a battery that discharges at a faster rate, not slowing the whole device down just to keep the same battery runtime.

In addition to that they could at least disclose this "feature" instead of keeping it secret if it really has this purpose (which I don't believe at all), especially when not giving their consumers the opportunity to change batteries like so many other companies do.

But we will never know for sure. Maybe the people at Apple never heard of planned obsolescence and they're just looking out for iPhone users.

Sander van der Veen's picture

And why again is this on Fstoppers?

Simon Patterson's picture

Probably because it's mainly a photography website, and this article is about the most used camera in the world...

Chris PLUNKETT's picture

Is there any particular reason you think it shouldn't be on Fstoppers? It's on here because these devices have cameras in them that are in daily use in every country on earth for posting images to the internet.
Apple are VERY famous for having clandestine stuff going on in their mobile devices and denying it exists even when they're caught with a smoking gun in their hands.For example the tracking software first secretly included in the 3rd generation iPhone and upwards.
This idea of throttling back the processor speed to save power when the battery gets too old to run it at full speed for any length of time has it's merits.High end Mercedes cars do a similar thing and give a message on the dashboard saying something like 'Consumer electrical devices de-activated to save power'.This switches off electric seats,air con,infotainment systems etc etc if the battery has low charge or is just knackered.When it has a new or fully charged battery in it,everything works again as it's supposed to.
The car manufacturer is of course honest about this sort of thing.The consumer electronics manufacturer would never ever even think of having their devices flash up a warning on the screen that warns of impending battery failure (easy to do).Instead they monopolise on the inherent gullibility of their loyal fanbase who would follow them to the end of the world and throw them selves into the abyss if told to by their omnipotent overlords.Or buy the very next iPhone because the last model is soooo last year.

Michael Holst's picture

Not entirely the same thing but car manufacturers are strategic in how they plan their warranties based on the life expectancy of major parts. While they don't physically make changes to the car after you own it, they do expect people to buy cars more often than in the old days. Planned obsolescence is widespread. The shitty part with phones (anyone thinking their non-Apple phone is safe is misinformed) is the phone has no other reason to lose performance other than wanting people to buy a new one.

To help with why batteries can perform worse other than just age we have to remember that software updates can demand more from the hardware thus making them drain faster than they were originally designed to.

On the other hand. There are real reasons we should buy a new phone every so often. Security is one of them. Phone companies will sunset older phones by not offering software updates (Cleaning house for newer phones) and its wise to not allow ourselves to be venerable to hackers.

Michael Holst's picture

Not everything is a debate Bob... I was in agreement with you.

Michael Holst's picture

Should be a pop-up before you enter Fstoppers that says

"Welcome to Fstoppers!
Rule #1:
No one gets to determine when debates begin or end....Except for Bob

Rule #2:
You're always going to be wrong even when you agree with Bob.

Rule #3:
Don't talk about Fightclub"

Michael Holst's picture

1- I just said it's ok for you to be exempt. I'm not asking if you agree.

B- And i've agreed with you too.

3rd- Quit breaking fight club rules.

Michael Holst's picture

Let me comment on whatever I want Bob.

Michael Holst's picture

I don't pretend to have that kind of power over people. I'm just having a conversation with you.

Michael Holst's picture

If you don’t like what I have to say no ones forcing you to respond.

Michael Holst's picture

Haha ok Bob. Happy holidays

Michael Holst's picture

I celebrate Festivus which is tonight good sir!

Kevin Kelly's picture

Hey Bob, Chris and others... now I'm going to start saying I'm more the "Van Wilder" of the University of New Hampshire's EE (Actually renamed "ECE" Electrical and Computer Science Engineering) Department, having spent a good 6 1/2 years in pursuit on my degree, but I've taken many integrated circuits and computer architecture classes and ONE thing I do know is our "bread boards" for our chip design depended on a constant 5V supply to the board in order for the chips (and really the entire design by default) to function properly.

All the gates within the chips (technically the transistors) but for conversation we'll stick to the gate level like the basic AND and OR (or even the NAND like you see referenced in many newer TLC "triple level control" SSDs trying to economize silicone to bring prices down), ALL depend on that 5V input to make sure the gate's outputs registered the proper voltage (0V-2V="0" (Binary), 3V-5V="1", with 2V-3V="read again" (acting as a buffer so any added static or electro-magnetic charge didn't "bumped" a "0" to a "1" because of some accidental input.)

My fear is as a battery weakens the inability to maintain that constant 5V to the motherboard or basic bread board could have SIGNIFICANT consequences to those gate outputs and in an average CPU there are BILLIONS of these gates if not mistaken and registers holding indexed information made up of D Flip Flops and the like and to have a voltage drop from something like a battery given the job to supply this constant 5V could have catastrophic consequences where "1s" change "0s" and the gate outputs cascade as others rely on outputs from previous gates in the chain, so I could most certainly imagine crashing or even data loss just because that 5V wasn't maintained.

I've be trying to separate this idea from the idea behind thermal throlling of the CPUs in fan-less Intel CoreM chips because I have been mildly upset at the idea you could throw down for the higher end m7 Intel "Y" chips (that even worse Intel is now calling i5s and i7s while strangely leaving the m3 name alone) and your "1.4GHz" clock speed you paid so much extra for, could easily be thermally throttled to 0.9GHz, a speed below the base m3 chip!

I understand people thinking this iPhone "old battery" throttle is just a choice between having a phone run full speed for 3hrs vs. being under-clocked and maintaining the same 7hrs day's use, but having the schooling I've had, that's delved FAR deeper than just the "gate level" but into the transistor level where your average CPU I KNOW has a BILLION or more transistors whose design is inherently dependent on voltage to perform correctly. I can see people being upset if a battery replacement would have not effect on this throttle, but fact is a $79.95 battery replacement is all that's needed to make a $950 iPhone 7 Plus run at full specs and I find that hardly a reason to force a user into an iPhone 8 upgrade.

Even more the A10 (especially the A10X and A11) are some AMAZING chip designs and worth the $79.95 battery "maintenance" vs. anything Qualcomm Snapdragons have on the table. Android is inherently wasteful with it's RAM and can't even manage playable frame rates on games, getting as low as 8-13FPS with phones containing 3-4GB of RAM when at that very same time an iPhone 6 Plus with an A8 chip was able to muster 45FPS on 1GB of RAM. These chips exhibit some amazing efficiency I almost feel go unappreciated except by those in the world of chip design. If not for Apple's decision to forgo the retroactive H265 patent payment on EVERY A8 chip device, which included every iPhone 6/6+, Apple TV 4th gen, and the strangely & newly released (and worthless) iPad 5, to activate dormant H265 hardware decoders embedded in those chips, the iPhone 6/6+ would STILL be a competitive device.

Granted it also lacked a faster design to access to read & write to SSD storage which got implemented on the 6S, and it lacked MIMO (multiple Wifi antenna aggregation) to also speed up and improve Wifi experience adding multiple AC Wifi antennas, you still can't take away from Apple the efficiency they implemented in the A8 chip so that a mobile device with 1GB of RAM could swim circles around a Android device running as much as 6GB in devices like the OnePlus 3T etc.

I guess what I'm saying is if Apple permanently throttled previous generations that would be one thing, but we are talking about a type of throttling I don't find dissimilar to thermal throttling of the Intel CoreM? In fact, I sort of find thermal throttling WORSE despite it even more necessary to prevent total meltdown of device's components than if left up to the user to try and monitor temperatures themselves and pull back on their own would never work and people work fry their ultrabooks, so instead it's automated and forced upon them even when they paid $400 extra for an m7 (err.. i7 "Y") device. In case of thermal throttling there is essentially nothing a user can do to keep their device cool and not get throttled except restrain from CPU intensive tasks. This iPhone "old battery throttle" is only about changing a battery and getting back full specs they paid for? Hardly as much a reason as thermal throttling to get their undies in a bunch.

Nate Dorsey's picture

Wow, this answers so many questions. Over the last few weeks with what feels like Apple pushing out an update every week, my iPhone 6 has become nearly unusable. I suspected that there was something in their updates, and my battery life has been slowly going downhill. Maybe I'll try this first.

Via @ReneRitchie

"Apple did in-depth briefings on it almost a year ago explaining how batteries age (including prematurely), what was being done to prevent spikes and shut downs, etc. Tech press knew.

In hindsight, the power management is either overly aggreesive or notification overly passive."

Also

https://www.imore.com/apple-and-ios-1021-address-unexpected-shutdowns-ip...

Justin Berrington's picture

They've also been very pushy in getting people to update their devices with this semi-new method of alerting you to update. When you try to skip the update on that initial prompt they send you to a passcode screen where it looks as though you need to enter your passcode to unlock your device. Entering your passcode actually starts the update on your device. At the bottom of that screen in smallish text there is a second chance to skip the update. This to me is just another indicator that they indeed want you to get to that next version of software so they can slow your phone down and get you on to the next one.

Anonymous's picture

This is one of those things that would have been a million times less damaging if they were just transparent about it from the start. It's almost always a terrible idea to let people speculate and discover something like this for themselves.

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

I always felt with new performance updates it becomes harder on the hardware like computers. I update my computer every what.... 5-7years or so? I figured it's kind of like the same thing. My iPhone 6s is slowly going...Ive had that for about three years. I try to back stuff up etc/clean it up as much as I can.

Justin Berrington's picture

"It has to be said: replacing an iPhone battery is also no easy (or cheap) task. Alas, it’s a better alternative than forking out for an entirely new iPhone."

It's neither expensive nor difficult. For $29.99 you can get the toolkit and battery from iFixit. I've replaced mine on several devices and it's never been a difficult task as long as you get the right toolkit and follow the tutorials.

Parts:
https://www.ifixit.com/Store/iPhone

Videos:
https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown

Justin Berrington's picture

I have very limited experience with small electronic devices and have not had any problems fixing them myself. I’ve owned every iteration of the iphone except the S models and the 7. I have replaced batteries and home buttons on all of them except for the original iphone. I’ve never had an issue and I believe that’s because I followed a proper guide and used the correct tools. I don’t think you give the average person enough credit. I don’t think they gove themselves enough credit.

Justin Berrington's picture

Well, you got me there. I was an auto body mechanic for 7 years. But I still can't fix my daughters My Little Pony carousel. The music plays but I can't get the damn thing to spin. haha

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

And loose the warranty... or worst, do something wrong and put people life at risk if a fire happen later if you pinch something at the wrong time. Other phone with exchangeable battery have stronger enclosure. There is a reason why Apple want this to be done by professional only.

Apple is designing phones in a way to make battery not exchangeable, but at the same time, hide this weakness with some software trick without letting customers knows about the loss of productivity it will imply.
Thanks a lot for these researchers who show how customers is tricked by numbers.

Michael Kormos's picture

Perhaps 1 out of 100 iPhone users puts in the effort to replace their own phone battery. The rest don’t. They upgrade. You need to understand the marketplace first. Apple phones haven’t allowed battery (or memory) upgrades forever, and Samsung and LG quickly followed. They realized most consumers don’t know, and don’t care. It’s more profitable to sell cloud storage instead.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I work with lithium batteries in my broadcast work and as such have needed to understand their chemistry a little in order to maximise their use, (at £450 per battery, it can get expensive with 6-8 of the things on the go...)

What I have learnt is that:
Lithium batteries tend to have a fairly set number of recharges available to them. (Partial recharge can count as much as a full rechrage).

Lithium battreies die with old age. A barely used NiCad sitting on the shelf can still be very fresh after 4-5 years, but a Lithium Ion battery will be 4-5 years old and faded.

Lithioum batteries tend to hold a constant charge/voltage in use until a fairly steep fall off point where they'll drop voltage. This is fairly consistent even with older batteries.

Older / heavily used lithiums will find themselves less able to cope with higher wattage draws as they could when they were younger. (I've got some 10 year old batteries which are fine with lightweight monitor power requirements, but will die very quickly if I pop a light across them).

I don't know if Apple is covering itself, but it might be the case that processor use tends to push the wattage capability and so in line with my last point, it might be reasonable to reduce that power consumption to make things more stable.

However, if this is the case, then they should either be more transparent, have more capable batteries, or allow users to easily update their batteries without a service.

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