If you’ve been thinking your iPhone has been slowing down over time, you aren’t imagining things: Apple has confirmed that it intentionally curbs performance on devices with ageing batteries, including the iPhone 7, 6, 6s and SE – and it will continue to do so for other products, too.
On Monday, the blog Primate Labs, a company that makes an app for measuring the speed of an iPhone's processor, published data that appeared to show slower performance in the Apple's iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 models as they aged.
Apple on Wednesday acknowledged that the company does take some measures to reduce power demands - which can have the effect of slowing the processor - when a phone's battery is having trouble supplying the peak current that the processor demands, Reuters reported.
That has left tech experts and users questioning the company's motives.
Why not just be totally upfront about this and notify users about battery wear,? asked the website thenextweb's Abhimanyu Ghoshal.
TechCrunch writer Matthew Panzarino also pointed out that giving users too much information about that could see them replacing batteries too early, or unnecessarily replacing phones.
Mr Ghoshal added: "There is also the issue of how conservative or aggressive iOS should be in determining when to start throttling performance. Again, that’s a sticky wicket for users, who may form their own opinions about how it should work."
What Apple should be upfront about is the fact that it does engage its power management features to ensure incident-free performance, even if things do get slow, he said. It should also make it easy to replace batteries so that iPhone owners don’t have to ditch their pricey handsets when a cheap fix will keep them going for another couple of years.
"Right now, the company just looks like it’s kept this important function a secret in the name of earning more money through planned obsolescence, and that’s not a good look for Apple,: Mr Ghoshal said.
The problem stems from the fact that all lithium-ion batteries, not just those found in Apple products, degrade and have problems supplying the big bursts as they age and accumulate charging cycles, Apple said. The problems with peak current draws can also occur when batteries are cold or low on charge.
"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," Apple told Reuters. "We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.”
Apple is effectively saying that it’s not slowing down older iPhones just to urge people to upgrade to newer devices.
When an iPhone's processor makes a big current draw from a flagging battery, the battery can deliver the current in spikes that can potentially damage the phone's electronics. As a result, iPhones would suddenly shut down to protect the pricey processor from being damaged by the power spikes.
The sudden shutdown problem became widespread among iPhones in late 2016, forcing Apple to issue a software fix that had the net result of slowing the phone somewhat with an old, cold or low-charged battery, the company said.
The problem can be remedied by replacing the phone's battery. Apple charges US$79 to replace batteries not covered under the phone's warranty. The company has long faced criticism from repair advocates for making its batteries difficult for users to replace on their own.
Users have taken to the internet to express their feelings.
"Battery deterioration is expected. But Apple primarily sells me on high performance," a post on theverge tech website by Phat Dummy said.
"They need to inform users every time the OS automatically reduces performance to help preserve battery life so I know my phone isn’t lagging like a slideshow because it can’t handle the latest update."