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Yes, Apple is slowing down your old iPhone. But if you’re angry, you’re crazy

Woman Using iPhone planned obsolescence global sales
Image used with permission by copyright holder
It’s true, there is a “feature” on your iPhone that slows it down over time. This isn’t a conspiracy theory anymore, Apple has said so after a researcher for Geekbench, and others before it, illustrated how much slower an aging iPhone 6S was compared to a sparking new iPhone 6S. Apple, most likely through gritted teeth, revealed the presence of algorithms that manage processing power on iPhone devices with batteries that are in poor condition.

Apple throttles the eager chip to avoid unexpected device shutdowns due to the processor asking too much of a doddering old battery. The iPhone remains active, just not performing at its best. If you own an iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, or an iPhone SE then it’s already embedded inside the software, ready to spring into action when the day comes. It’s also coming to the iPhone 7 as part of iOS 11.2, and presumably to other iPhones in the future.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Planned obsolescence is real, Apple is actively pushing it, and we’ve been tricked into buying a phone that will absolutely need replacing in the future because Apple’s making it that way. Why weren’t we told? We needed that information to make an informed buying decision! Batteries last forever, right? After all, I planned to keep my current iPhone for at least two decades, and I expected it to be as spritely on day 12,875 as it was on day 1.

Chemistry 101

Settle down and stop being so 2017 about it. Apple was stuck between the internet and a hard place on this. Those crying about transparency would have been the same ones crying over said transparency if Apple had talked about this before it was forced to. Apple, like every business out there, was hardly going to make a big deal — and it would have been a big deal however the news was revealed — over what would have inevitably been construed as admission of fault in its hardware.

Planned obsolescence is real, Apple is actively pushing it.

Except it’s not a fault. It’s chemistry. Batteries don’t supply infinite power at a steady rate, they get less efficient over time because we’re right on the limit of what a Lithium-Ion battery can do. Add in our regular abuses of the battery, whether it’s running it out until the phone switches off, then using every charger to hand — fast chargers, battery packs, third-party chargers, in-car chargers — to top up the battery a little every day, and it’s perhaps surprising they last as long as they do.

Anyone complaining about the slowdown would also be complaining if the phone kept shutting down unexpectedly each day. Understandably so, especially if they were right in the middle of an angry tweet or Reddit post. Apple’s solution — yes, solution — avoids that, and the world will just have to wait a while longer to read said angry tirade because switching between apps took a few seconds more than it did six months ago.

If anything, Apple’s algorithm and throttling of old iPhones proves again how desperate the technology industry is for new, improved batteries. We’ve been waiting for years, and since a viable alternative hasn’t arrived yet, we’re left with clandestine software “features” making our old phones feel even older.

The solution no-one wants

iPhone Logo
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Except we’re not. There’s a cure. It’s not expensive, it can be done in your Apple Store, and it’ll return your iPhone to tiptop condition. It’s called a new battery, and it costs from $80, depending on your phone. Tests have shown this stops the throttling, and as a wonderful surprise, your phone will last longer between charges too.

But that’s not good enough. CNBC’s Todd Haselton says Apple should offer one free “goodwill” battery swap to all those affected. Why, exactly? Companies (and people, if they cared to admit it) know the battery is the weak link in a phone, and many don’t even cover the cell for the entirety of its device warranty. Apple is one of the good guys, and covers it for a year. Honor, for example, covers the battery and charger for six months, while the phone is covered for 24 months. Demanding a freebie is like asking for free car tires because you spent hours doing donuts in the car park, and now they’re a bit bald.

How about the iOS equivalent of a check engine light?

Apple says its batteries are designed to retain 80 percent capacity for at least 500 charging cycles, which should take a couple of years to reach under normal use. At that time, if Apple’s throttling has kicked in, you can go and get a new battery fitted and everything will be fine. If it’s within a year, then you’ll probably get it under warranty.

But you don’t want to do that, and you never have either, right? We don’t want to know slowdown is due to natural degradation of the battery. We don’t want an easy and cheap fix, or a free battery replacement. We want to whinge and moan as we wander off to our nearest Apple Store, begrudgingly ordering a new iPhone because “the old one has got so slow.” You’ll swear it’s a conspiracy, and bask in the joy of the dopamine hit as the Genius hands over your shiny new model. “See you in 24 months,” you’ll imagine he slyly whispers as you leave the store.

Replacing the battery is boring. Conspiracy theories about slowdown and planned obsolescence, or just ignorance of the entire problem, are simply used as an excuse to upgrade. Which, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all want to do anyway.

Check your iPhone’s engine

Apple still needs to manage this situation now, so how does it get out of this and placate the angry mob? Now it has told us all about the throttling, because it was forced to, we’d suggest owning it. Not with great big notifications on the phone saying it’s throttling, or that the battery is coming to the end of its life, because those would be hateful. Instead, how about the iOS equivalent of a check engine light? A little indicator alongside the battery level meter that appears once 500 cycles have elapsed, or throttling kicks in early due to a duff battery.

When a car goes into limp home mode, or the check engine light comes on, we usually take it back to the dealer for a service. Why shouldn’t we do the same with a phone? Transparency achieved, and a hidden, misunderstood “feature” is turned into something helpful. All without much of a fuss. Ultimately, we want to understand why these things happen, and not feel as if we’re going mad because our phones do feel slower over time.

Imagine the happiness (and justification) of seeing the “time to upgrade” icon flash up on your old iPhone. The day has come, and you can point it out to everyone you meet. “Oh no, I need a new phone,” you’ll tut. It won’t actually mean that, but that’s what you’ll read into it. Will that make you feel better?

Alternatively, buy an Android phone and enjoy the eventual slowdown without anything being done about it at all.

Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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