We thought we’d finally got to the bottom of this.
A couple of months ago, extensive tests conducted by benchmark company Futuremark put to bed an old conspiracy theory: that Apple intentionally hobbles old phones when it release new operating systems, in order to slow them down and force you to upgrade to the latest model.
Their tests found that it simply wasn’t true, with the report concluding: “Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions.”
However, as we noted at the time, what does happen with newer iOSs is that they give apps the ability to perform more complex tasks, which may, in turn put greater strain on your phone’s processing power. In addition, your battery will degrade over time, leading to a lethal combination of ‘a greater demand for power and a decreasing ability to provide it’.
And it’s this latter point that’s led to an intriguing new discovery: that Apple is slowing down old iPhones that have low-capacity batteries.
When the battery is replaced, processing speeds are returned to normal.
On one level, this makes sense - Apple is noting the reduced power available to the phone’s systems, and is introducing a bottleneck to try and put less strain on the battery. However, as Poole notes: “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.’”
The Verge contacted Apple for comment - and they essentially confirmed their findings, saying:
“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 Verge explains how Apple is justifying the throttle by explaining that the feature has been put in place to address an issue with older batteries suffering unexpected shutdowns - which could damage internal components.
However, you can be the judge of whether a side effect of this - your phone slowing down in performance and nudging you toward buying a new one - is merely a handy one for Apple to introduce at the same time.
The moral of the story? Go get your battery replaced when it’s old. Just go to any Apple store and it will cost around £70. And that’s a lot cheaper than a brand new phone.