Why Apple Really Slows Down Older iPhones

A rumor that has long circulated the world of iPhone users finally came to light when Apple admitted throttling iPhone performance on older models shortly before Christmas. Many iPhone users have long suspected their iPhones work less well after a new model comes out. Now, those suspicions are confirmed. The reason they do it, however, makes the company look a lot less nefarious.

A developer investigated several generations of iPhones

Woman watching Instagram news from RossHelen

Yes, your iPhone might be getting slower. | iStock.com/RossHelen

John Poole, a developer at Apple speed test platform GeekBench, figured out what was going on. According to Poole’s data, iPhone 6’s and 7’s do slow down after a certain age. It also happens after a new operating system comes into play. “The problem is due, in part, to a change in iOS,” Poole found. “The difference between 10.2.0 and 10.2.1 is too abrupt to be just a function of battery condition. I believe (as do others) that Apple introduced a change to limit performance when battery condition decreases past a certain point.”

Next: Poole’s tests revealed a longstanding problem.

Older iPhones can shut down unexpectedly

Apple announces the iPhone X

A still from the iPhone X announcement. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple did acknowledge that older iPhones did shut down suddenly at around 30% battery life. As a result, it instituted a fix to keep that from happening. If the phone detects a performance drop and determines it’s due to the “sudden shutdown fix ” the phones will start working more slowly, without notifying the user. Poole explained that, “While this state is created to mask a deficiency in battery power, users may believe that the slow down is due to CPU performance, instead of battery performance, which is triggering an Apple introduced CPU slow-down.”

Next: This, in turn, will cause users to reach the next conclusion.

If phones start running more slowly, most people get a new one

Customers handle a new Iphone 7 at Puerta del Sol Apple Store

Customers handle a new iPhone 7 at Puerta del Sol Apple Store. | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

As TechCrunch explains, this slowdown issue does not stand unique to Apple. “It’s important to note that this is a lithium-ion chemistry issue, not an Apple issue,” it wrote. “This is an attempt to make your phone work for longer with less issues, not to get you to switch away from it.” That said, when phones start working less efficiently, most consumers decide to upgrade. Even if the shutdown fix does keep phones working longer, it also plays conveniently into the planned obsolescence narrative.

Next: Apple did confirm the practice.

Officials explained why the slowdown happens

A set of programs from famous brands of social networking

No, it isn’t your imagination if your phone seems slow. | Prykhodov/iStock/Getty Images

According to Business Insider, an Apple representative explained the process. “Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices,” the official said. “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.”

Next: Apple also intends to introduce the feature elsewhere.

The feature will spread, officials say

Woman holding in the hand iPhone 6 S Rose Gold in cafe

Apple confirmed the practice, and said it will implement it in new devices. | iStock.com/Prykhodov

“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,” the anonymous Apple representative said. “We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.” While experts say most users will never see a slowdown, they also would like more transparency from Apple about when it does occur, and what users can do about it.

“I think users who experience significant slowdowns due to battery wear would want Apple to be more transparent about this issue,” Poole said. “A notification stating that the battery needs service would be a simple way to reduce users’ concerns and help them address this problem.”

Next: Several other factors can affect battery performance.

Your iPhone will last longer under these conditions

An Apple employee helps a customer at an Apple store. | Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Apple says its batteries should still have 80% of their original capacity after 500 charges. The company also says it expects an iPhone to get three years of use. If you, like many users, plug in your phone next to your pillow each night, that could mean you need a new battery before those three years is up. Apple also says iPhones work best at room temperature, or between 32 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and both spikes and drops in temperature can affect performance, as well. If you’re taking your iPhone skiing or you leave it in the hot sun too often, expect battery drops.

Next: Even if you treat your iPhone like a prince, it won’t last forever.

Yes, your iPhone will run slower, but you don’t need a new one

An Iphone 7 Plus with its new dual camera is displayed at Puerta del Sol Apple Store the day the company launches their Iphone 7 and 7 Plus

No, you don’t necessarily need a new phone. | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The New York Times’ tech writer Brian Chen explained that even though the fix may look like planned obsolescence, it actually keeps the devices going longer — provided users do a little legwork. “I don’t find the power management technique that surprising or unusual,” he said. “You have probably noticed that when your smartphone (iPhone or Android) is running out of battery, like when there is less than 10%, the device begins to run more slowly. That is partly to keep it running for longer.”

Keep your devices in tip-top shape, and you won’t have this problem. “Many people believe that because gadgets lack moving parts, they should keep working as intended. But we still need to take care of them,” Chen explained. It’s important to keep maintaining electronic devices, which includes replacing aging batteries, freeing up storage, and even blowing out dust. These tips will keep even planned obsolescence at bay, at least for a little bit longer.

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