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QA: Apple slowing down older iPhones

Tara from MacFixIt Australia asked:

Do you think Apple deliberately slowed down the performance of the older iPhones?

Sorry, but everybody following the story knows what happened and that the question is wrong. Rather you should have asked it to be technically accurate.

Update, April 28th: MacFixIt Austria used parts of my comment in a larger post.

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Apple was having the problem that iPhones with older batteries shut down under load, while the battery gauge showed that it was still 30% or more charged. I was hit by this myself multiple times listening to podcasts (over cellular), on bluetooth headphones while it was relatively cold outside.

So Apple decided to throttle devices meeting certain conditions to avoid this unfortunate shutdown. Apple solved the issue as they always do: they gather a lot of data, „captured“ iPhones that were being sent in by people like me to have an AppleCare exchange for this reason, and then they devised a technical solution that would limit the number of shutdowns.

What they didn’t do is to properly communicate their conclusions and decided upon solution, maybe hoping that most people would move on to newer phones and thus the problem going away by itself. When somebody noticed that their iPhone suddenly performed like new, after having gotten a new battery, the whole story came to light.

Now about my opinion: since we cannot do anything about Lithion-Ion batteries having a limited life span and Apple decided to not have user-replaceable batteries, there need to be several things happening:

  1. Users need to be made aware right from the start that they can only charge their new iPhone a limited number of times. Also this information needs to be easily accessible via the system information facilities.
  2. When batteries have reached the end of their useful life the user should be asked whether they want to continue to use it at degraded performance, get an inexpensive replacement battery or get a discount for trading in their phones (so that the battery can be recycled)

Apple seems to be doing all of this now. My opinion is that it should not have needed such a media uproar for them to being proactive in that regard. By waiting until “somebody complained“ the damage is now done that people tend to think Apple was doing it intentionally, to avoid service costs (from people calling AppleCare and getting devices replaced) and to leave this thorn in peoples side that might cause them to upgrade to new devices sooner.

Long story short: Apple should have acted more openly and sooner and communicated modifications they did to users phones (to their benefit) unmisunderstandably.

 


Also published on Medium.


Categories: Q&A

1 Comment »

  1. Like Winston Churchill once said: “Never Attribute to Malice That Which Is Adequately Explained by Stupidity”.

    I agree to some extent. Technically, your description is correct. But there is a higher level reasoning here, of WHY Apple go to that point of complaint. Why they decided to throttle the older devices instead of fixing their iOS to perform better with existing battery, and why-oh-why, older iOS systems ran so much better on those same old machines – even with older and much-used batteries.

    Here I offer my own insight into this. Apple long stopped being what it used to be – a company that cared for the overall quality and usefulness of their products. Apple has became another big American corporate with brainless corporate robot-soldiers doing what they’re told to do. And this leads to the top – which currently cares only for looking cool, keeping in shape, and staying on top of the current fashion. Morals are left outside.

    I have long (3 years) stopped upgrading iOS devices, despite any security threats, and I will NEVER update any iOS device, until arrogant Apple will provide a way to downgrade back. 3 iOS devices I own (an iPhone 4s, and 2 iPad-2’s) became unusable and were practically “bricked” by Apple’s “upgrade” to iOS 9. They performed marvelously at the time of upgrade, and died immediately afterwards. Zillions of crashes (because newer Apple apps could not live with lower RAM demands) battery couldn’t support the monstrous OS for more than 20 minutes, etc.

    Newer iOS versions are presenting more and more features – that many people do not want or need. That is OK – however, They cannot be turned off, and that is NOT OK – this is cruel and arrogant. People cannot even delete Apple apps they don’t like to make room for photos or music they do like.

    I think Apple response to the issue is – arrogant (our new iOS is great, your device is old and miserable – hence we despise you using it, and force you to either upgrade, or become more miserable until you give up). What Steve Jobs’ Apple would do was:
    1. Fire the lousy engineers who made newer iOS perform so badly (take twice the battery as iOS 2 versions earlier).
    2. Fix the OS iteratively, until it is OK.
    3. Allow poor customers who complained about the throttling to downgrade immediately to their iOS os choice, until time that Apple fixed their lousy OS.
    4. Provide a cheap and welcoming way for owners of throttled devices to upgrade either their battery or the whole device – should they still want it (have any trust left in Apple).

    Of course, of these – only the easiest, last line of defence – the “Corporate answer” thing (#4) was taken.

    And that, for me, is the last line for Apple. Apple is dead from the inside. It is like Microsoft. It is buried in money and egos, and no spirit is left there. My only optimism is that whenever something like this happened in the technological world – someone was emerging, with innovative suggestions for the future. I am really curious what it is going to look like, and impatiently waiting for it to appear. If I can’t have my old beautifully functioning Mac, and my amazingly performant iPad 2 + iOS 6.3, If I cannot choose to downgrade, or uninstall things I do not like — I will say bye-bye- and move on – the very moment there is something else.

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