For many years, iPhone users have complained about the degrading nature of the phone's performance. As the phone gets older, and particularly as newer models are released, users have noticed that their phones get significantly slower. Apple has denied for years that they are purposely slowing down older models, but that assertation, for at least the last year, has not been true.
Last week, the team over at Geekbench tested the theory that older iPhones run slower than newer models. Using the stats recorded when a handset was brand new and comparing it to stats taken after being well-used, they saw exactly what was expected: the well-used handset ran significantly slower than it had when it was brand new. The testers believed they had a lead, and replaced the battery in the phone and re-ran the tests. It turned out, with the new battery, the phone began running close to brand new specs.
After publishing their findings, and receiving major coverage of their tests, Apple finally responded to the claims, admitting that they had begun slowing iPhones a year ago. In a statement, the company said,
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.
As would be expected with a revelation like this, following repeated denial from the company and a secretive release of this new "feature," two iPhone owners have filed suit against Apple. Plaintiffs Stefan Bogdanovich and Dakota Speas, students at USC's law school, are seeking class action status for the case, which alleges that Apple interfered with the performance of users phones without their permission or knowledge.
If Apple is truly slowing older phones because of battery issues, it brings back a popular complaint about Apple's devices, and subsequently other manufacturers' devices: removable batteries. If Apple designed their devices to allow users to replace their batteries as they age, as all phones once allowed, then Apple would not need to dedicate their increasingly limited software development time to slowing their users devices. It would also increase user satisfaction, with users getting to use the whole device they purchased, and maintain them longer.