Apple on Thursday copped to something users have long suspected: It slows down older iPhones. While conspiracy theorists have suggested it was part of a planned obsolescence gambit, Apple says it is, on the contrary, trying to make sure older phones continue to work. The admission came after Geekbench, a processor benchmarking outfit, on Monday published a post that charted how older iPhones operate in a speedier fashion when running an older version of iOS. And John Poole found than when it came to iOS, the difference between 10.2.0 and 10.2.1—the latter a patch that rolled out in February—was dramatic. His theory: "that Apple introduced a change to limit performance when battery condition decreases past a certain point." The answer, and what it means, in three quotes:
- Apple's statement in part: Per NPR: "Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands ... 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."
- Poole's take: "Users expect either full performance, or reduced performance with a notification that their phone is in low-power mode. This fix creates a third, unexpected state. While this state is created to mask a deficiency in battery power, users may believe that the slowdown is due to CPU performance, instead of battery performance, which is triggering an Apple-introduced CPU slowdown. 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.'"
- Secrecy is the issue: At Slate, Will Oremus writes, "The problem here, in short, is Apple's secrecy. ... In this case, Apple let its many advocates and apologists in the media and tech world confidently brush aside concerns about iPhone slowdown for close to a year before it was forced to admit that there was something to the allegations after all. ... This episode simply underscores that iPhones really do degrade rather quickly over time for such an expensive product. Planned or not, the result is still obsolescence."
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