Apple confirms iPhones with older batteries will take hits in performance

Reddit users have noticed that Apple appears to be slowing down old iPhones that have low-capacity batteries. While many iPhone users have experienced perceived slowdowns due to iOS updates over the years, it appears that there’s now proof Apple is throttling processor speeds when a battery capacity deteriorates over time.

Geekbench developer John Poole has mapped out performance for the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 over time, and has come to the conclusion that Apple’s iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2.0 updates introduce this throttling for different devices. iOS 10.2.1 is particularly relevant, as this update was designed to reduce random shutdown issues for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. Apple’s fix appears to be throttling the CPU to prevent the phone from randomly shutting down. Geekbench reports that iOS 11.2.0 introduces similar throttling for iPhone 7 units with older 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.

Apple is effectively saying that it’s not slowing down older iPhones just to urge people to upgrade to newer devices. Rather, the company says it’s addressing an issue with devices containing older lithium-ion batteries that results in unexpected shutdowns. Because those older batteries are incapable of handling peak current draws with the same effectiveness of iPhones with newer batteries and more efficient processors, they run the risk of the device powering down to prevent damage to its internal components. The same is true of devices running in extremely cold or hot weather, as evidenced by a recent kerfuffle with the iPhone X shutting down randomly in freezing temperatures.

It all makes sense. As battery life degrades, a smartphone’s ability to achieve the same performance with less efficient battery use degrades as well, and Apple has released updates to address that problem as best it can and avoid embarrassing device malfunctions or even potentially dangerous component failures. However, the company isn’t doing itself very many favors by being a bit opaque. It’s clear that controversies like this — underpinned by conspiracy theories around planned obsolescence — sprout up because there is a lack of communication between device manufacturers like Apple and consumers.

It’s also clear that Apple, which makes its devices hard to open and repair, could do a better job helping consumers understand the benefits of battery replacement. That’s something the company seems less inclined to do when it might mean forgoing the sale of a new iPhone every 12 to 24 months.

Update at 2:47PM ET, 12/20: Added comment from Apple, and updated the headline to reflect its statement. This story was originally published at 5:35AM ET.

Comments

So Apple devices have very powerful processors IN THE FIRST YEAR.
There’s a big problem there, because it seems the OS starts throttling the performance in the first year (since the iPhone 7 appears on the study), and Apple is definitely not playing fair here (and also whoever does the same). If the battery can’t provide enough power to the system after a few months, then this is a serious hardware problem. And the user has NO IDEA that the performance is being compromised in the first year of usage. They should at least show a "performance status", but it would quickly turn against them when in one year most of the iPhones sold are not 100% anymore.

Batteries aren’t getting tapped out in the first year. The article says this happens when batteries are low in capacity. This typically happens 20-24 months in, if not later by my own anecdotal experience.

I think the bad part here is Apple’s lack of communication. If they tell people this, at least in a support article then it is defensible. Just not telling people, which the article correctly assumes, would spurn people to perhaps upgrade instead. Apple, you service devices for 5 years! Let less-consumeristic consumers take advantage.

If the iPhone 7 is being throttled, it’s not just older phones as it came out just over year ago.

I cannot believe that people are still making excuses for Apple on this topic.

As one of this biggest Apple fans here, this is fucking ridiculous that Apple doesn’t disclose this. At the very least, users should be provided with the option of better performance or better battery life.

Battery deterioration is expected. But Apple primarily sells me on high performance. They need to inform users every time the OS automatically reduces performance to help preserve battery life so I know my phone isn’t lagging like a slideshow because it can’t handle the latest update.

Here is the scariest thing – this can literally give Apple control on how fast their revenues are recurring.

I think everyone has known this is the forced upgrade path Apple employ. We’ve all heard the stories of devices showing down after updates. Not cool.

Very true. This new info simply provides more material evidence supporting the claim.

Yeah I heard this and stopped updating my iPhone 6 and iPad mini 2. I’ll take on the battery degradation on devices I don’t really depend on daily as long as they don’t take big hits to performance.

Much easier to carry around a portable battery than to speed up time

This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve known an IT company to have done in recent years. This was intentional. There is no excuse. I own a three-year-old iPad Air 2 so I’m now wondering if my triple-core device, which was very fast when new, is being throttled.

I don’t understand. Apple users love to say that Android phones suck because they never get the newest OS version and slow down over time and iPhones keep getting the latest iOS updates and just keep working.

Now people are saying it’s a well known fact that iPhones do inevitably slow down?

Thing is Apple is Apple. Whatever they do that may not be customer friendly gets blown up 1000% worse than it would have been for another company.

People either look for a reason to reaffirm their disdain for Apple products or confirm their skepticism and fears, even as supporters.

Apple is one of the few companies that gives quality long term support for all of their devices and has some of the best customer service employees, period. They go well beyond pretty much EVERY tech company in their approach to customer service.

Yes, it sucks ass that they weren’t transparent with how they handle dud batteries. And I’m sure their approach to it is similar to others or more efficient for the end user vs. another phones who’s battery would just crap out in a half-hour if the device kept running at full power. But none of these revelations sit well with people who either expect Apple to do be better & be more transparent or were already skeptical of them.

If this was HTC/LG few would care, this thread would have little traction. Many who are throwing flame Apple’s way would probably be defending another company. But it’s Apple & Apple is Apple.

Few things…

First, These are NOT dud batteries. iPhone 7’s are not so old that their batteries are hobbled. That is rediculous, I’ve been using the same battery in my Note 5 since I bought it, and it still lasts me ALL day, not throttling, no lowering my brightness since the day I got it.

Second, Throttling a device from 1400Mhz to 600Mhz is NOT saving a battery from cutting out, that is rediculous, that is insane, there is NO justifiable reason to cut a devices speed in MORE THAN HALF because of a 3 year old battery. Anyone with any understanding of how these devices works would agree.

Thirdly, don’t act like this wouldn’t make headlines if Samsung was doing this to their phones. I use them as an example because at least they have a comparable install base. The reason you wouldn’t have such backlash against HTC or LG is because their consumer base is a fraction of the other two giants. Apple isn’t some poor beaten step child that people love to hate. They lack respect for their customers, it is plain to see.

My iPhone 7 had no performance issues. But when the battery starts to tap out, it would have begun to slow down. It would be good if Apple communicated this & you don’t know if Samsung doesn’t do this, all you know is who does.

They lack respect for their customers, it is plain to see.

Apple supports their phones for much longer than any other manufacturer with unmatched customer service. Samsung sold you a phone that caught fire, recalled and then resold another phone that caught fire. Their phones are poorly supported years down the line.

Apple supports their phones for much longer than any other manufacturer with unmatched customer service

Yeah, pretty extravagant software "fixes" that cut performance in order to hide a battery issue that realistically should have been a recall.

Sounds like amazing customer service and product "support"

You folk are highly convinced this is a faulty product issue. When it’s not. It’s a "how Apple handles a naturally deteriorating product" issue. If the person above really thinks his Note 5 hasn’t been throttled OR doesn’t last as long as it could (unless he bought it brand new this year or last) he’s kidding himself.

It’s also shady as fuck that these are his ONLY posts as a reader.

Hey "Black Dude", ever heard about whataboutism?

"Yeah, Apple may cut your processor speed in half without telling you but but but, what about Samsung exploding phones, am I right? Right? Them Samsung is shady too so that makes this okay."

Stop deflecting. Stop getting in to hypothetical straw men about how "Well, maybe everyone is doing it, we don’t know! It’s possible". Stop.

Lance wasn’t the only one cheating on the Tour. VW wasn’t the only one cheating with software. There are endless examples. Where there is competition, someone will be looking for an edge.

I don’t know of a study where someone purchased x number of Samsung and Apple phones, pulled the batteries, and cycle-tested them, but lets assume Samsung’s batteries ARE somehow better – they still don’t defy physics. They WILL deteriorate over time. If Apple’s diagnostic data suggests slowing the processor down improves the OVERALL experience with the phone, so be it. The tipping point for me is, when you go to an Apple store with questions, looking for a resolution, what’s the suggested path? Do they push and upgrade, or do they suggest an $80 battery swap, which, as it turns out, brings back the full specs the phone is capable of.

If, on the other hand, you’re expecting Apple to put out TV ads in all markets around the globe, describing the throttling issue, you’re delusional.

By the way, the next time you walk out to your car… check the tires. If worn, their performance is drastically reduced in rain/snow/ice, which results in a very poor user experience.

And you’re turning nothing into something because you hate Apple. This would be the same thing as blaming the car manufacturer that you need new brake pads after using them up driving and claiming their cars have "brake issues".

No.

A more accurate analogy is:

This would be the same thing as blaming the car manufacturer for capping your speed at 45MPH when your brake pads are worn to 50% to prevent faster wear.

Seriously dude. Is Apple paying you?

Well you can tell that Android phones don’t do this because Android allows you to view the CPU clock speed live in the settings

Another shady ass post from someone who supposedly has been on this site since 2014. Why is this your only post?

It’s not a battery issue. All batteries degrade over time. That’s like complaining your car needs new brake pads and therefore has a brake issue and you want to blame Ford…. #facepalm

…and once your car needs new brake pads, its maximum speed is cut in half, and you should try fixing it by getting a tune up, and when that doesn’t fix it you need to buy a new car.

I have no dog in the race here (I use both platforms,) but why is it that every time there’s a negative article about Apple, the fanboys end up trying to attack other phone manufacturers instead of focusing on the issue with the product they back so vehemently? Like children arguing over whose game console is better.

That’s because often times only Apple gets blamed and attacked for things that are either normal, to be expected (but we just didn’t know), or done by everyone. This is the case because Apple gets the majority of press on everything regardless. The competition literally has to have exploding phones before they get any big stories. The negative article has to have merit and the main problem is that Apple haters use something that isn’t necessarily bad to jump on the "Apple is evil and sucks" bandwagon without first considering that it’s possible other manufacturers do the same thing. This isn’t an "issue".

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