Last year, reports about the slow performance of older iPhone models broke out, prompting speculations and conspiracy theories about the sudden changes. Reddit users first highlighted the speed problem, contemplating about its possible causes.
Apps take longer than usual to load, and speakers are less loud. Other observable changes include lower frame rates while scrolling, backlight dimming. Apps refreshing in the background require reloading upon launch, and in extreme cases, camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI.
Some changes may not be noticeable for some users, but the furore has brought the issue to the fore, fueling a plethora of misinformation and accusations. Many theorize that the tech giant itself is largely involved, that the move to slow down the performance of older iPhone models is deliberate.
Some even go as far as saying that the motive is to convince users to switch to newer iPhone models. The uproar is understandable since Apple prides itself in providing the best user experience.
Indeed, it is a murky business of pure speculations and diverse claims, but what do the tech experts say? We have asked more than a dozen leading specialists about their opinions. Read on if you want to know whether Apple deliberately slowed down the performance of older iPhones.
After you finish reading, you can form your own judgment and make up your own mind. Keeping yourself updated about the happenings in the world of technology can enlighten you about pressing issues you experience yourself and avoid the unnecessary jumping to conclusions.
Jeffrey Mincey, Bohemian Boomer
“Yes, Apple has admitted to slowing down certain older iPhones to prevent performance issues as batteries aged. Apple did the right thing but should have been more open and transparent about the change. Any consideration of Apple ‘throttling’ iPhones to give customers an incentive to upgrade goes against Apple’s history of making iOS upgrades available on many older models; far more than Android OS. Think about what those upgrades mean to customers.”
About Jeffrey Mincey
Jeffrey Mincey’s passion is his family and the Mac. Sometimes forgetting which comes first, he makes a living using the Mac and PCs which helps his family do all that they love. That is why he together with his wife, Jesse, created Bohemian Boomer
For five years Jeffrey has been a staff writer for the popular Mac review site, Mac360. That association has given him a wonderful opportunity to review the best (and worst) of Mac applications
Benny Ling, Apple Talk
“Apple definitely slowed down older iPhones, saying as much in a series of public statements and support articles published to customers. From what I’ve read, it seems they slowed down older iPhones with chemically-aged batteries for the right reasons, even if they went about it the wrong way. Whether you think slower devices is better than the ones which operate at full performance but have a chance to shut down unexpectedly is up to you, which is probably why Apple will release iOS 11.3 in the not-too-distant future allowing iPhone owners to choose between the two.”
About Benny Ling
Benny is a Mac and PC enthusiast, uber-geek extraordinaire, all-around nice guy, keyboard warrior, and most definitely an introvert. He used to write for a little site called MacTalk, as well as a similar site called NZMac. Benny now manages and writes for AppleTalk Australia.
David Mark, Loop Insight
“I believe Apple throttled the performance to keep a specific set of iPhones from crashing in a specific set of circumstances. I think their goal was in service of the customer. Slowing down the processor placed less demand on the battery, extending the phone’s life as the battery started to die.” Was this intentional? I believe that is the case. But a better question is, did Apple do this to try to urge a user to buy a new iPhone. I feel certain that was never the case. If Apple was guilty of anything, it was a lack of communication about what they were doing
About David Mark
Dave is an author, developer, and entrepreneur. He’s written more than 30 books, including The Mac Programming Primer series, Ultimate Mac Programming, Learn C on the Mac, and Beginning iPhone Development.
Dave bought his first Mac back in 1984 and has never looked back. He worked at Metrowerks, purveyors of the finest black T-shirts and development tools, helped start MartianCraft, Kiddar, and SpiderWorks.
Ian Fuchs, MacTrast
“If devices showed abnormal battery performance, they may be subject to overall reduced speed to provide a more consistent experience. I believe that Apple had every intention of doing this to provide a more satisfying experience to iPhone owners, but their poor initial communication resulted in a large number of inflammatory comments about the matter. I do not believe this was done in any sort of effort to encourage upgrading, but instead to help extend the life of older phones for those that aren’t ready to upgrade .”
About Ian Fuchs
Ian, Senior Review Editor at MacTrast, has been an Apple enthusiast for years, starting in 2000 with an iMac and iMovie. In college, Ian developed skills and further interest in all things Apple. Ian’s expanding skill set increased his love for Apple’s products. Now the owner of an iPad Air 2, iPad mini, iPhone 6S Plus, Apple TV, MacBook, MacBook Pro, numerous iPods, and a classic G5 Mac Pro, he is “pretty familiar” with Apple’s products. Ian resides in Chicago, works as a Programmer & Systems Analyst at a college, loves his dog more than probably normal, spends most of his free time with his wife and plays various instruments (drums, guitar, piano, trumpet)
Jignesh Padhiyar, iGeeksBlog
“Yes, I believe that Apple deliberately throttled the performance of the older iPhones. But, the tech giant did so to prevent the smartphones from unexpected rebooting and manage power efficiently. It would be absolutely idiotic even to assume that the Cupertino-based company slowed down the older iPhones to force users to upgrade to the newer iPhones. Come on….Apple is too big a brand to even think that! All those who are calling for the heads of the iPhone maker and accusing the company to have cheated upon the users are desperately trying to malign its unparalleled reputation. They are either too jealous or cynic to distinguish between black and white! We wish Apple had been just a bit clearer on the battery slowdown issue—right from the ball one!”
About Jignesh Padhiyar
Endowed with the keen eye and huge passion for sharing info as well as killer hacks that set netizens on frenzy, Jignesh Padhiyar has come to be recognized as a new-age blogger. Mr. Padhiyar’s approach to blogging is beyond the usual lines and entirely rests on what appeals to readers and lateral thoughts.
When he is not exploring the web, discovering the cool tips in apps, you may either find him playing badminton or chess.
Christian Boyce, Christian Boyce
“Yes, I do think that Apple deliberately slowed down the performance of the older iPhones, but they did it to help users, not to chase them into purchasing new iPhones. Older iPhones have older batteries, and older batteries don’t perform the way they did when they were once new. Apple realized that older batteries (under some circumstances— that is, under heavy loads) would not be able to deliver the power needed, so they slowed the phones down— when they thought they had to— in order to keep the phones from shutting down altogether. Apple’s goal with the performance reductions was to extend the lives of older iPhones, not to get people to buy new ones. The fact that Apple has reduced the price of the battery replacement to $29 serves to emphasize the idea that Apple is really, really trying to make it easy for you to stretch the life of your iPhone— and to maintain peak performance.”
About Christian Boyce
Christian Boyce is an iPhone consultant, as well as an author of Mac-related how-to books. He started his business in 1987, three years after the introduction of the original Macintosh computer— and twenty years BEFORE the introduction of the original iPhone. His customers include art departments, designers, small businesses, and individuals wanting to learn how to use their Apple devices better and faster. Mr. Boyce resides in Santa Monica, California.
Adam Rosen, Vintage Mac Museum
“The short answer is no, I don’t think Apple deliberately slows down the performance of older iPhones But the situation is more complicated than that. Each newer iOS version tends to use more resources than its predecessor, which puts a greater strain on the hardware. The same thing happens with desktops and laptops. Without some upgrade to the hardware, a newer OS version will often run pokier than an older version. As the years go on, small changes add up. Apple tries to mitigate these effects by disabling performance throttling features. And as we’ve learned, old batteries cause problems themselves – with all computing devices.”
About Adam Rosen
Adam Rosen is an IT consultant specializing in Apple Macintosh systems new and old, and curator of the Vintage Mac Museum. He has over 30 years of experience on the platform and lives in Boston with two cats and many Macs. He also enjoys a good libation.
Marty Yawnick, Life in Lofi
“Not really. Each new iPhone usually gets a significantly faster processor than the previous iPhones. My iPhone 6s Plus – still a pretty beefy device – is glacially slow compared to the speed of the new iPhone X. Personally, I think the problem is that Apple is just too generous with the older devices that each new iOS supports. Just because an OS can run on an older iPhone, doesn’t mean it always should. I think while beta testing iOS upgrades, they should keep real world usage of older devices in mind. If those devices bog down and run slow, the device should not be supported. I really believe that it’s not planned obsolescence. I really believe it’s nothing sinister on the part of Apple. I just think that’s the life cycle of old hardware, whether it’s a computer, and iPad, or an iPhone.”
About Marty Yawnick
Marty Yawnick is the creator and publisher of LifeInLoFi.com, one of the original iPhoneography blogs. He is also a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex as well as an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, Pink Floyd, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé. If you’re wondering where he’s been lately, Marty is currently working on a project about Pink Floyd The Wall, which you can check out at TheWallComplete.com.
Lloyd Chamber, DigLloyd
“One need not over-analyze this issue—it boils down to one this: The most rational approach to a real issue (degraded battery performance over time) is when and how to communicate the solution and when to release the solution. Apple’s mistake was twofold:
(1) It did not clearly announce the aging-battery life issue and effects months before enacting mitigating software changes.
(2) Apple implemented aging battery mitigations before implementing software control over it, so that anyone with time on their hands could just turn it off instead of having a few beers and talking about class-action lawsuits.
With millions of users, software changes are bound to cause problems for someone. That coupled with “no good deed goes unpunished” can only lead to headaches for users and Apple alike. The solution as with all other Apple goofs, is to communicate changes well in advance, and to ship changes only when thoroughly tested and with a “kill switch” for things like this that might go awry for some users— or at least to deflect grumpy irrational users.”
About Lloyd Chambers
Lloyd’s eponymous diglloyd.com website publishes a popular blog and a wide variety of articles and guides geared towards professional and advanced photographers. Lloyd’s print articles may be found in Photo Technique magazine. He also runs Macintosh Performance Guide, which he gives the most sage advice on selecting and configuring a Mac, especially for photographers.
Asides from being a photographer and a computer expert, Lloyd is also an avid cyclist.
Steve Hildreth, MacPrices
“Apple has stated that their intention was to allow iPhones to operate as close to normal as possible with a depleted battery, with minimal shutdowns and freezes. This makes sense from an engineering standpoint, especially if the speed of an iPhone relies partially on battery power. Unfortunately, in this case, it appears that their engineering sense backfired from a marketing standpoint. Giving users the option of manually changing this setting is a good solution.”
About Steve Hildreth
Steve Hildreth is a publisher, webmaster, & editor-in-chief of MacPrices.net. Steve is a registered Apple Developer Connection Member and has been writing for MacPrices since 1998.
Jim Martin, Tech Advisor
“There’s empirical evidence that iPhones become slower as they get older. Whether that’s done by actual throttling of performance to maintain battery life or because the older hardware simply cannot cope with the demands of the new software, iPhones running the latest version of iOS can be less responsive than when they were new. Unfortunately owners largely have no choice but to update to the latest software as Apple regularly ends support for features and apps on older versions of iOS. Some people therefore feel they’re being forced into upgrading to newer hardware.”
About Jim Martin
Jim is editor of Tech Advisor and has been testing and reviewing products for almost 20 years. These days he covers smart home, drones, laptops, tablets, gadgets, Windows, iOS, dash cams and storage. Jim is also a petrolhead and connoisseur of fine beers.
Oliver Drobnik, Cocoanetics
“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 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.
Since we cannot do anything about Lithium-ion batteries having a limited life span and Apple decided to not have user-replaceable batteries, there need to be several things happening.
First, users need to be made aware right from the start that they can only charge their new iPhone a limited number of times.
Second, 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.”
About Oliver Drobnik
Oliver Drobnik has been developing on Apple platforms since the first SDK was released at 2008. At the end of 2009 he turned full time developer and started his blog Cocoanetics.com. Besides doing mostly contract work for several international clients, he wrote Barcodes with iOS published by Manning. He loves to share his love for Swift by speaking at conferences. At the moment he is kept very busy by his growing family and building his first house.
Anthony Caruana, Macworld Australia
“The real question isn’t whether they did. The question to ask is whether they were right to do so without letting customers know. When we think about performance, there are several dimensions. Processor speed is just one metric. There’s also network speed, how quickly data can be read and written to storage,and the performance of the display and battery life. All of those things are balanced and traded off against each other. qSo, what we really need consider is whether slower overall system performance is a price with paying for longer battery life and if Apple was acting reasonably to their customers in slowing devices with older batteries down in order to preserve the experience of longer battery life. In my view, the decision should have been left to users – which is what Apple will be doing with a forthcoming update to iOS.”
About Anthony Caruana
Anthony is an editor at Australian Macworld, but he has also contributed to many other publications. He appears on radio regularly but he has also appeared on A Current Affair, Today Tonight, The Project, The Business and other national TV shows.
Dan Moren, Six Colors
“Apple has acknowledged that its system which aims to preserve battery life can have an adverse performance impact on affected devices. Even though its intent—to prevent devices from shutting down suddenly under heavy load—was good, the company should have been more transparent about what it was doing in the first place.”
About Dan Moren
Dan Moren is a freelance technology journalist, prolific podcaster, and author of the sci-fi novel, “The Caledonian Gambit”. He’s been covering Apple for more than a decade and formerly served as a senior editor at Macworld.
Ric Molina, Mac Gamer HQ
“As much as I like conspiracy theories, especially those where “the man” wants to take advantage of us, I don’t think Apple did this in bad faith. Perhaps slowing down a phone could convince a few buyers to get a new iPhone, but I’d like to believe Apple has enough cash, earnings, and profits to not even imagine using shady tactics like that. But to answer your question, I do think they deliberately slowed down performance on some of the older iPhones. However, I believe they did it for the reasons they publicly explained: to prevent malfunction and devices unexpectedly shutting down. Their explanation makes complete sense. As battery life declines, performance declines too, and the only thing Apple can do to prevent embarrassing malfunctions is to throttle the few devices they have identified as critical in that regard. They should learn from this though, and try to be a little more transparent for a change.”
About Ric Molina
Ric Molina is a regular guy in his early thirties who decided to get his first Mac a few years ago. Like many, he grew up playing video games and was bummed to hear it would be difficult on a Mac. Ric realized it was a pain to find good Mac games not because they were rare, but because no one ever talked about them. Thus, he created Mac Gamer HQ in October 2012. Ric has been covering Mac gaming for the last 6 years and his work has been recognized and featured by some of the biggest tech outlets in the world, such as TechCrunch, Apple Insider, The Loop, Mac Rumors, iMore, Cult of Mac, 9to5Mac and more.