Apple confirms iPhones with older batteries will take hits in performance

“Reddit users have noticed that Apple appears to be slowing down old iPhones that have low-capacity batteries,” Tom Warren and Nick Statt report for The Verge. “When reached for comment, Apple basically confirmed the findings to The Verge.”

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

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. 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 Inc., December 20, 2017

“Apple is effectively saying that it’s not slowing down older iPhones just to urge people to upgrade to newer devices,” Warren and Statt report. “Rather, the company says it’s addressing an issue with devices containing older lithium-ion batteries that results in unexpected shutdowns.”

“It all makes sense. As battery life degrades, a smartphone’s ability to achieve the same performance with less efficient battery use degrades as well, and Apple has released updates to address that problem as best it can and avoid embarrassing device malfunctions or even potentially dangerous component failures,” Warren and Statt report. “However, the company isn’t doing itself very many favors by being a bit opaque.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As has almost always been the case with Apple, unfortunately, transparency comes later, not sooner, and usually as a reaction to negative publicity.

A simple Knowledge Base article would have preempted all of this Reddit sleuthing and the attendant handwringing and erroneous presumptions.

SEE ALSO:
iPhone performance and battery age – December 18, 2017
Apple met with Chinese regulators to discuss iPhone 6s unexpected shutdowns – February 10, 2017
Rumor: Apple may extend iPhone 6s battery replacement program to iPhone 6 – January 17, 2017
A message from Apple about 
iPhone and unexpected shutdowns – December 2, 2016
Apple offers free battery replacement for ‘very small number’ of iPhone 6s units with unexpected shutdown issue – November 21, 2016

78 Comments

  1. Well, this won’t look good next time Apple denies planned obsolescence practices.

    Yes, I know batteries wear out over time and I know we can and should replace them. At least be honest with the public and tell them what you’re doing with the software instead of “deceiving” them into thinking their phone is old.

      1. Look, I am sure that every other smart phone is also designed similarly as iPhone. Picking on Apple isn’t fair because this is standard operating procedure on the planet. Right?

    1. Wow, this is a terrible bit of news and they deserve to have the literal shit sued out of them for this bullshit. I can also see this comment section turning into a giant shitstorm.

    2. My main point against Apple is stop telling me how environmentally green you are when you don’t allow users to upgrade certain parts like ssd, ram, etc.

      Doing these types of upgrades allows for the product to have a greater extended life and is much better for the environment.

      Tim Cooks Apple is just turning more hypocritical with each year he stays on as the ceo.

      1. Sorry, but by not making batteries user replaceable, they insure that every battery that is replaced (by Apple or a third party) gets properly recycled instead of having them tossed on the trash.

        1. Just replace the battery when it wears out after about 500. Imports charges. DIY. Or pay a third party to do it. And stop complaining. Battery degradation is a reality. It is not Apple’s fault.

        1. Egg-friggin-xactly.

          The Android morons and dweebs who think they know even 1% of what they are talking about have spoken, and removed all doubt that they’re doofuses.

        2. Like I told you above, expanding storage or replacing a battery is routine on other phones. This extends the life of such devices.

          It also allows applications you cannot do on some models of non-expandibles. Example:

          -I always keep my music (~45 GB) on SD, but I also keep offline maps of the whole world on a separate SD and can swap them from phone to phone.

    3. Batteries eventually degrade. It is no secret. It is fairly easy to replace your iPhone battery yourself, though (and many other things, too). Check out “ifixit.com”. I recently replaced my 6s plus battery and headphone jack, too, and replaced my wife’s 6s screen. Or you can pay to have someone else do it.

  2. slightly off topic, just for interest:
    Since Apple CAN throttle at software request, are they doing that in the low power mode, too? Can someone with Geekbench check this out?

    1. It was my impression that one major aspect of ‘low power’ mode in devices was CPU speed throttling. Other methods that may be used by OEMs include reduced screen brightness, turning off the antennae, rendering in b&w and reducing audio volume.

  3. A knowledge base article wouldn’t have changed anything, people would still have their conspiracy theories and blow them out of proportion. Given the performance of A9+ processors, it makes perfect sense for Apple to have done this, and disclosing it just would’ve fanned the flames of that “you’re forcing me to buy a new phone” bullshit. The fact that they can control this so well is actually kind of amazing, I’ll take preventing random shut downs over an extra Geekbench performance bump any day of the week.

    1. I have to strongly disagree with this. Since the actual issue at hand is battery performance due to temperature and age, informing the user of what’s happening provides the tools needed to make an informed decision.

      The idea that a device slows down with age like it’s a human body is ludicrous, so anyone who thinks “Oh, it’s been 2 years, my phone got slow” fails to grasp some fundamentals. But since you’ve likely installed a newer OS in that time, the idea that your 2018 OS runs poorly on your 2016 hardware is an understandable conclusion for owners to reach, prompting them to buy the latest hardware to run the latest OS.

      When the actual case is that a single replaceable part’s failure due to age is prompting the OS to switch itself into low gear, it’s abusive for Apple to hide that.

      1. I see that side of this also, and I don’t disagree with your analysis. I just feel like no matter how they handled this someone would complain or jump to the incorrect conclusion. Even now, every article I’ve read about it hasn’t characterized it correctly or explained what’s actually going on to their readers. Would replacing batteries be a better strategy? Maybe. But how do you put a 5 year warranty on a lithium polymer battery that can have hundreds of failure points along its lifetime? How do you prevent the machine from randomly shutting off and causing even more problems for the customer if it’s racing power drain that causes it? I honestly don’t know the correct solution, but it appears they have chosen the best path in my eyes. I could very well be wrong, but I get it form an engineering perspective.

  4. It’s dishonest. Period!
    Do they advertise that as the battery ages, it slows down the phone to achieve longevity? No! They advertise speed.

    If a dialog box came up suggesting low power mode, it would be a different story, but Apple is the IT department…

        1. I can guarantee you zero people will think anything differently about anything as a result of your crazed ranting on a comment thread on a fan site. Zero. As long as you’re having fun though 🙂

            1. You’re not being objective though, that part of my post went right over your head. Here’s an actual balanced article on what is really happening:

              https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/20/apple-addresses-why-people-are-saying-their-iphones-with-older-batteries-are-running-slower/

              Hindsight is always 20/20, you can say Apple should have this or should have that, but do we really expect Apple to give us reams and reams of info about every software change they make? Don’t users know batteries get worse as they age?

              Apple isn’t trying to hide anything, they’re trying to solve a real problem which is caused by the nature of lithium ion batteries. Apple could communicate that better, sure, but there’s nothing nefarious happening here. Yet your first instinct is to shout “It’s dishonest. Period!” You’re not the slightest bit objective.

            2. I am being highly objective.

              Recognizing that batteries weaken, the user should be given a choice at the time the system realizes the batteries are weak and offer a low power mode. In fact it should be reversible and used at the owners discretion. How dare they slow down my computer without telling me.

              Yes I fully expect Apple to tell me exactly what their updates do, especially since it changes the behavior of the device I purchased. They control the whole widget after all.

              Finally, and most importantly, when the battery begins to weaken and you slow down the cpu to compensate, you go from one compromised part to two. Keep your paws off my device if you’re not going to tell me.

            3. “How dare they slow down my computer without telling me.”

              The part you’ve missed, because you are NOT objective, is that Apple isn’t slowing down your computer in general, they are managing peaks of processor power that the battery cannot deliver. So it happens here and there, and only when you’re doing something CPU intensive that the aged battery can’t keep up with. If you want a feature to either turn this on or off, what it will mean if you turn it off is that your device will simply shut off when the battery can’t deliver enough power at a peak task time.

              It isn’t possible to notify you in real time when this is happening and have you make that choice, it happens second to second. So you have two options. 1. The power curve-smoothing algorithm Apple has implemented, or 2. have an option to turn that off and instead of your phone slowing down during peak processor loads it just shuts off and guess what, you can’t do that particular task. That’s the problem Apple is trying to solve. Do you get it now? You either have your phone slow down during a peak load, or your phone just can’t do that particular task anymore because the battery is too degraded, and Apple can’t magically make batteries defy the laws of physics.

              Then you’d be complaining that Apple is forcing you to get a new battery and why oh why can’t they just manage the power better and slow it down a bit at peak times so I don’t have to get a new battery.

              You see, your phone isn’t being throttled all the time, this isn’t an either/or, on or off feature. If you give the user the choice to turn this off all that happens is your phone will shut off, seemingly randomly. What a great idea. Not.

            4. The user may not recognize the battery is weaker, but Apple does since they implemented subroutines to ‘manage’ power peaks as you say.

              The policy to perform this w/o the users’ knowledge is plausible when the peaks are infrequent but when the frequency of what is recognized as ‘peak’ for the aged battery increases beyond a certain point it is irresponsible for Apple to not notify the user that it may be the battery that is failing and to go replace it. Keeping silent and depending on the users’ ignorance to ‘encourage’ upgrades is no way to treat your loyal customers.

            5. I think what we’re all forgetting is that the ‘slow down’ isn’t onerous. Older iOS devices work just fine. I have two that are five years old and still work great. I agree Apple should do a better job telling users a new battery could give their device a bit more life, but come on, iOS devices last a long, long time and this peak throttling will actually help that.

            6. “managing peaks of processor power that the battery cannot deliver.”-Without telling me.

              “and only when you’re doing something CPU intensive that the aged battery can’t keep up with. ” – Without telling me

              If my phone can no longer do a task it did when I opened the box, it’s time to warn me to get it fixed, and at a minimum, tell me it must slow down until it is fixed.

              No one is asking Apple to break the laws of physics. But I suspect this possible happens during the first two years (due tio battery physics) and Apple doesn’t want to seem the phone doesn’t last during the time of a typical contract. Which just might be the case…

              Then, who told Apple to design a phone so space constrained, that an adequate battery can be included, or a removable one, or… wait a minute, why should I solve their problem…

            7. Don’t even try to put forth the notion that iOS devices only last two years. Many, many, many iOS devices are in use for four or five years and often longer.

              I agree Apple should do a better job informing users, but there’s nothing nefarious happening here, you are overreacting because you are NOT objective. The idea that you are objective is laughable. You crap on Apple every chance you get.

              “If my phone can no longer do a task it did when I opened the box”

              You’re missing the point, again because you are NOT objective. It’s not that your phone can no longer do a task, it’s that it can’t do it quite as fast, and in a lot of cases the difference is half a second or a second, so Apple decided to implement a feature that helps your phone do that task for longer, it makes your device useful for longer, increasing the usable lifespan of the device. Yeah, so user hostile, how dare Apple make your phone last longer.

              By the way, it isn’t your phone that can’t do the task quite as fast, it’s the battery. So should Apple aggressively promote battery upgrades? That may not be practical given Apple’s scale, and there’s an environmental issue to consider. Surely you thought of both those aspects of this before you shot off your mouth, right? Right?

            8. It’s quite possible that the battery would reach failing levels within 2 years. Regardless of when it is, the system should tell me to fix it, not throttle without telling me. Throttling at all, without telling me is masking the problem. Stop making excuses for Apple.

            9. “By the way, it isn’t your phone that can’t do the task quite as fast, it’s the battery.”

              Is the battery not a non-removable component of the phone? Talk about not being objective!

              “So should Apple aggressively promote battery upgrades? That may not be practical given Apple’s scale, and there’s an environmental issue to consider.”

              Not! My! Problem!
              Apple should design better AND stay the hell off my device unless they tell AND get permission.

            10. applecynic brings up a good point though. If the user’s measure of their iPhone battery being ‘full’ capacity is the time between charges, the current practice of throttling speed w/o notifying the user can also hide batteries ‘failing’ earlier than expected (2 years?). For example, if the battery degrades prematurely after several months, well within a year.

            11. This isn’t even an opinion matter. The phone performs worse than it would without notice or permission. Regardless of how the user takes it, both the battery and cpu are performing sub-standardly.

              I’m NOT claiming planned obsolosence, I’m claiming artificial longevity on the battery, thus the phone. Had they informed, and offered and suggested a lower powered option, and were granted permission, then it’s not artificial. It’s like putting on your spare tire until you got you leaky tire fixed, what they did is make the car slower so the problem doesn’t get worse as fast.

            12. In response to my questions about whether battery upgrades are practical or environmentally sound for Apple, you said:

              “Not! My! Problem!
              Apple should design better AND stay the hell off my device unless they tell AND get permission.”

              So you admit you didn’t think of either of those aspects and don’t care about the environment. Nice.

              Why are you buying Apple devices exactly? It’s a free country, Apple gets to decide what they sell and they’ll succeed on their own merit. Are you against the free market as well?

            13. “Apple gets to decide what they sell and they’ll succeed on their own merit.”

              And it’s that very merit we are evaluating.

              If I were an environmentalist to the level you suggest, I would not be buying Apple at all, with a model every year and non-upgradable at that.

            14. “I’m NOT claiming planned obsolosence, I’m claiming artificial longevity on the battery, thus the phone.”

              Yessss… how dare Apple increase the longevity of the devices they sell to consumers. You also don’t seem to understand how the peak throttling is working, it isn’t slowing the entire phone down all the time, that’s why most people don’t even notice or care about this. You are literally losing your mind over things like an app taking a second longer to open and the trade off is that your phone lasts longer. You need some perspective bud.

            15. PS-Had I complained about battery longevity, before replacement, you might be right, but I would still be right. They should include a better, bigger battery for the job. If that means a bigger, thicker phone, it’s they, not I that’s trying to violate physics.

              Keep your paws off my device unless you tell me.

            16. Not sure if my other comment came through, but it turns out Apple did make people aware of the new approach to battery management almost a year ago and added a service notice in the battery settings that would tell users their battery may need to be serviced if it was too degraded. I am laughing at you so hard right now, all your outrage about big bad dishonest Apple not telling you about this, and it turns out they did, almost a year ago.

            17. Laugh away. They were dishonest about throttling. Gosh you’re an apologist. I’m done debating facts with you. Where did the inform of the slowdown? Repeat after me… they were covering their ass and hiding a malfunction from the user!

            18. Posted before I finished…
              So where do they tell you your battery is failing and you need to replace it? You know, so that you can get it fixed and restore performance.

              Of with you now….pfft!

            19. “So where do they tell you your battery is failing and you need to replace it?”

              It pops up as a notification. It was added to Settings > Battery in iOS 10.2.1 almost a year ago. This along with the battery power management was widely reported on at the time, almost a year ago. I’m still laughing at you. What was that about debating facts? LOL.

    1. This is too funny. There were stories about this when Apple released iOS 10.2.1 (almost a year ago) and Apple added a service notice in Settings > Battery so you DO get a notice if your batter is really degraded, it will say “Your iPhone battery may need to be serviced.”

      So not only did Apple make people aware of the new approach to battery management almost a year ago, they also added a service notice to iOS. What was that about Apple being dishonest? I’m sure you’ll change your tune now because you are sooooo objective, right? Right? *crickets*

      1. Okay, why isn’t that reported that way? And where do they say about the throttling? Where does the user agree to being throttled? Or does this happen after the battery suffers even more damage? Informed minds want to know.

        Until then, keep laughing. I’ll get you a mirror.

        1. I will keep laughing at you, thanks. You read some clickbait and because you hate Apple you lapped it up like a good doggie and didn’t do any further research to find out that this ‘news’ is almost a year old and Apple wasn’t hiding anything. I almost assumed it was ‘news’ but then I thought I might as well do a couple minutes research which is all it took to find out the truth.

          I also learned that having an option to turn this power management feature off would be a safety issue, you could cause a battery failure which could have negative consequences. That is almost certainly why you’re not allowed to turn the feature off.

          1. Your point is well taken, but is there ANY indication of throttling under Settings>Battery? Is there in ANY advisory? We all know, even monkeys from space, that phones fail when batteries fail. There is also no indication which condition, or what level of wear triggers this condition.

          2. So now your telling me Apple had to put this in place to prevent a safety issue? My goodness, your the gift that keeps on giving…

            We will throttle the phone, and not tell them, this to prevent the iPhone from becoming a Galaxy Note 7! Magical thinking! Made my day.

      2. Maybe we need a raising of hands to show how many actually knew about any notification/notice showing up in Settings>Battery. Most users probably won’t even look there unless curious. Better to have an actual notification bar item pop up at least the first time the notice is triggered in Settings>Battery.

        What would also be helpful is if a notice does show up under Settings>Battery, having an estimate of what the current degradation of the battery is, or the level of throttling being implemented so the user can make an informed decision when the battery is degraded enough for them to have the battery serviced. Authorized Service centers may not be conveniently close after all.

        1. You can look through forums waaaaay back in February 2017 and people were reporting it pops up as a notification, just as you suggest.

          This whole ‘firestorm’ happening now is the result of some nerd digging into some benchmarks and posting results and then people running with clickbait stories, and then the trolls (applecynic, etc) jumping all over it.

          You could argue Apple should have been more aggressive about making this public, but there’s no debate about whether Apple was hiding this feature. They weren’t. It was widely reported on back in February 2017. Nobody freaked out then because Apple solved a problem of batteries causing a device shutdown. It’s also a safety issue, you shouldn’t be allowed the option of turning off this power management feature, that could cause a battery failure.

        2. Your point is well taken, but is there ANY indication of throttling under Settings>Battery? Is there in ANY advisory? We all know, even monkeys from space, that phones fail when batteries fail. There is also no indication which condition, or what level of wear triggers this condition

    1. around 20%, immediately after recently updating to iOS11. I know it’s not specifically on-topic, but touches on planned obsolescence. As one is advised to start looking for a new car when it starts to show “signs,” I’m now more motivated to buy new, so I can maximize resale return. Kind of a pissy situ.

  5. This is just advanced power management especially as processing speed and power demands increase.
    I used to hate it when my phone use to shut down with apparently 20% battery still left and be stuck with a non-functioning phone.
    It is much better that the OS manages the capacity once it is clear that the battery is losing the ability to provide peak power rather than shut down and leave you in the lurch.
    I do agree that it would be useful to be inform when this is occurring so that the owner can decide whether they want to replace the battery. Apple does this for Mac laptops.

    1. I actually had an old iPhone that began going dark at unexpected moments. A bit of performance throttling then would not have compelled me to upgrade. To the contrary, had a performance throttling feature to prevent the shutdowns been in place, I would have had a better experience with the device, avoided unnecessary time with tech support, and kept the iPhone _longer_.

  6. So by extending the life of the battery, Apple is making the phone obsolete? The moderate slowdown with the latest updates isn’t the end of the world. Strange thing to get worked up about.

    BTW: it’ll void your warranty but iFixit sells a $26 kit to replace the iP6 battery. However, my – now wife’s – iP6 has lasted over 3 years on the same battery and still seems to be as fast (or slow compared to the new 8) as ever for common tasks (including picture and video editing).

    1. “So by extending the life of the battery, Apple is making the phone obsolete?”

      No. It’s the not telling you and giving YOU the option of a low power mode. It’s about taking control away from you to cover their own ass.

      1. Exactly correct Apple should be upfront they intentionally hit the issue due to bad Publis city and look what happens. Just another example where Apple is not any different than any other company deception. They may be a little better than most but they’re all the same

  7. Thanks, Tim. It’s good to know that Apple f*cks it’s loyal patrons. So, how do you determine to acknowledge your faithful? Do you f*ck them more? Why don’t you at least admit that you couldn’t care less about your faithful consumers? It’s really about increasing Apple profits, isn’t it? You’re a POS, Tim. Apple exists only to pad your personal bank account.

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