For a few weeks now, I have wanted to write an article about the slow-down of old iPhones. This desire started when I was having online conversations about it. In those conversations, many people did not understand clearly what was happening.
Then I went to the Apple Store to get my MacBook Pro fixed. On the way, I discovered that my Lyft driver totally misunderstood the problem. The final straw was that the Apple technician at the Genius Bar also did not understand the problem.
Then Apple announced that it was offering a $50 discount on battery replacement for old iPhones, and I assumed that that was the end of the matter, and that this article would be redundant.
But no, people were still saying, “Apple slowed down old iPhones to make us buy new iPhones!”
Apple did not write iOS code that runs intentionally more slowly on older iPhones so that people would be forced to buy newer iPhones. Apple also did not get caught red-handed by people who found that replacing their battery sped-up their old iPhones.
What Actually Happened
In the most recent releases of iOS, Apple added an algorithm intended to increase battery life and reduce shut-downs related to brown-outs in phones containing old batteries. A brown-out is a sudden loss of power. The intention of this was to improve user experience on older phones.
An unfortunate, but somewhat anticipatable, result was that the old phones slowed down. This slow-down was noticed by some users who then reported it on social media. They discovered that replacing the batteries with new ones resolved the slowdown issue.
Apple then reported that it had added this new mechanism for managing old batteries. Apple’s claim was supported by the reports of new batteries fixing the problem. I also replaced my battery in my iPhone 6 Plus, and my phone functioned at a normal speed again.
All the evidence points to the fact that Apple was honestly trying to improve the experience for users of older phones containing older batteries. I imagine that it’s very hard to beta-test those battery management algorithms because it would require lots of old phones containing aging batteries. So Apple made a poor judgement call, and determined that releasing an iOS that extended battery life and reduced brown-outs on older batteries outweighed the potential, and perhaps unquantified, device slow-down effect.
Apple made a mistake, and when it discovered that it had made a mistake, it was open and transparent and offered a solution: to replace the batteries at a large discount ($50 off). Apple didn’t need to do this. Apple had done nothing wrong. Old batteries are old and don’t work as well, and Apple had been trying to improve the performance of those older batteries.
If Apple’s intention had been to simply slow down older models, it would have been much easier to make the new versions of iOS run more slowly on the older models, regardless of battery health. Determining the health of the battery and slowing down based on that would have been a completely unnecessary effort.
Apple acted with transparency and integrity. Apple was clearly trying to improve the experience on old iPhones, and it made a mistake. Yet most people seem to have heard Apple’s message and discounted almost all of it. Many people choose to hear only, “We slowed down old iPhones,” and then they insert a false additional message of “because we want people to buy the new models.”
There is no evidence to suggest that Apple intentionally slowed down old models to make people buy new models. It’s also extremely unlikely that Apple would employ such a lack-mentality to business. Apple creates and enlarges pies; Apple does not desperately grasp at existing pies. I’m sure that Apple wants us to buy the new models, but it’s focused on making the new models faster and richer featured.
Companies like Apple know that it’s not worth behaving unethically, because at some point those unethical behaviors will leak and harm the brand.
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