What Apple should have done instead of slowing down iPhones with aging batteries

“On Wednesday, Apple confirmed what many customers have long suspected: The company has been slowing the performance of older iPhones. Apple says it started the practice a year ago, to compensate for battery degradation, rather than push people to upgrade their smartphones faster,” Jordan McMahon writes for Wired. “But even giving that benefit of the doubt, there are plenty of better ways Apple could have accomplished the same goal without betraying customer trust.”

“Apple could have simply educated users about the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that sells repair kits and posts repair guides for consumer electronics,” McMahon writes. “While Apple does say in the iPhone user manual that batteries degrade over time and should be replaced, you’d have to dig through a few links outside of the manual to learn that by 500 charge cycles, your phone’s battery will hold a charge of about 80 percent.”

McMahon writes, “Another tactic Apple could employ is selling battery replacement kits to consumers, letting them pop a fresh battery into their aging iPhone.”

MacDailyNews Take: No. The average iPhone user is not equipped nor do they want to pry apart their sealed, watertight iPhones in order to monkey around with a dangerous Li-ion battery. It’s $79 for an Apple battery replacement. That quite a good price for the parts and labor required to hand you back an iPhone with a new battery that retains its water and dust resistance. It’s like buying a new battery for your car. They degrade, eventually fail, and must be replaced. Or you get a new car (or a new iPhone) for a lot more than the cost of a new battery.

Apple “had a much better option than making its software solution covert,” McMahon writes. “Rather than quietly push out an update that crimped older iPhones, it should have made that throttling opt-in. As it stands, there’s no way to avoid having your phone slowed down once the battery reaches its limits. By giving users the choice, and giving them the information necessary to make their own decision, Apple could avoid the frustrations many have expressed over the policy.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: That last idea is best.

As we wrote earlier this morning, Apple should provide a toggle switch in Settings where users specify if they’d like to keep running at high processor speeds even if it means rapid shutdowns or if they’d like to run at lower processors speeds to accommodate an aging battery that requires replacement.

Again, lithium-ion batteries are to mobile devices as tires are to vehicles.

As with your car’s tires, which are not covered in even the most comprehensive vehicle service arrangements, your iPhone batteries are your responsibility. Normal wear and tear. Apple, if they should do anything, should make this point exceedingly clear and even include an alert on devices to inform users that states something like:

Your battery has just completed its 500th charging cycle and, to maintain peak performance, needs to be replaced. Your battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles. Your warranty covers a defective battery, but it doesn’t cover battery wear from normal use. For your convenience, your device will continue operating at reduced processor speeds until replacement can be performed.

• If you’re covered under AppleCare+, we’ll replace your battery at no charge if it retains less than 80 percent of its original capacity.
• If your iPhone needs battery replacement and it’s not covered, the service fee is $79.
• If your iPhone has another power issue, we’ll give you the repair price after we determine the cause.

The three bullet points above are exactly Apple’s policy today.

Information on how to maximize your iPhone’s battery life and lifespan is here.

SEE ALSO:
Apple sued after it admits to slowing down iPhones with aging batteries – December 22, 2017
Should Apple replace aging iPhone batteries for free instead of throttling processor speed? – December 21, 2017
Apple confirms iPhones with older batteries will take hits in performance – December 20, 201
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

49 Comments

  1. Nothing except provide a notification that the battery is at a point that it should be replaced.
    Apple does that with their laptops and displays a warning in the battery icon on the menubar. I had to replace the battery in my 1st gen rMBP. Cost me $250 but their also replaced the top surface, mouse pad and keyboard (which was starting to not register spacebar hits). They also replaced the screen which had some delamination. Now the machine has another 3-4 years of life and I have made it my media server (replacing an aging 2009 Mac Mini).
    The point is if you want to extend the life of your phone and Apple provide clear notifications then you will be fully informed and the choice will be yours if you want to change your battery or get a new phone.

    1. “Nothing except provide a notification that the battery is at a point that it should be replaced.”

      That’s a good idea. Turns out Apple already added that to iOS as of 10.2.1, almost a year ago.

      1. I’m suing Eveready because my flashlight is not as bright as when I bought it and they did warn me of this serious engineering design flaw causing me great harm and anguish

    2. Apple did this change 11 months ago on January 23, 2017. It was discussed in contemporary articles such as this comment describing how the power management upgrade works by Rene Richie written in iMore on February 23rd:

      “My understanding is that, if a particularly processor-intensive task, such as a complex photo filter, caused a significant spike in power demand, an older battery unable to meet that demand could prompt a shutdown. So, by improving the advanced battery management in iOS 10.2.1, Apple has reduced the likelihood of that happening.

      Batteries do age with time and charge cycles, though. To help with awareness, Apple is adding a service notice to Settings > Battery in iOS 10.2.1. It’s similar to the one already in place on the Mac. Anyone with a particularly weak battery who still experiences the issue should contact AppleCare.”

      The funny thing is that this is tested and found by running Geek Bench which is a processor-intensive app that forces the very condition which actually causes a “significant spike in power demand, (which) an older battery (is) unable to meet that demand” thus triggering the spreading of the task over a longer time. . . Which results in a report of a slower speed. So, when Geek Bench runs doing the test, the power management DOES slow down the device because Geek Bench would otherwise cause a shutdown due to a battery over draft condition. Instead, the device completes the test, only slower and keeps the phone running so the user has functionality instead of a dead iPhone.

      1. If a battery is subpar, slowing the phone does not fix it. It masks the problem. It should say battery is defective and phone running in low power mode.

        I should expect Geekbench to run, always. Or I need to get my device fixed not lamed…

        Why is this at all complicated?

        1. I’m only lurking for a bit, holidays you know. You should in fact get a pop up note if the battery is in bad enough shape. If the battery is still good enough to do most things normally and a few higher end tasks a bit slower, why replace it? Seems unnecessary and I’m fairly sure you would complain Apple was making you spend money on a battery or a new device by not managing power better. Apple can’t win, someone is going to complain no matter what they do.

            1. Meh, I buy Apple stuff because they take care of details like this for me. I’d rather they didn’t bother me with every little decision, just get on with it and do what you think is best. If I don’t like it I’ll buy something else.

            2. It’s not about property rights. Every vendor gets to make their own decisions about what they sell and this power management feature falls well within what Apple should be allowed to do. If I don’t like it I won’t buy it, however, Apple made the right move in this case, the power management is a smart solution.

            3. You own it in a country that has laws and regulations about lots of things. Owning something doesn’t mean you get to do anything you like. You don’t get to turn off a battery management feature if that means your phone might start a fire and burn somebody’s house down. We have to use some common sense here.

            4. “Why do you believe the user shouldn’t be informed?”

              I do believe users should be informed, within reason. Not sure why you’d ask the question, I never said they shouldn’t be. Swordmaker demonstrated that there was some degree of informing, the question is whether it was enough, not that there was none. I don’t want Appke spending a stupid amount of time informing me about every little detail, there has to be some balance.

              There are in fact laws about negligence and if Apple knows they can reduce the risk of a battery fire through power management and they don’t do it or allow users to opt out, that’s a huge law suit waiting to happen.

              We have to use common sense, and also consideration for our fellow man. You cannot be allowed to configure your property in ways that could cause harm to others, and if you believe you should be allowed to then you’re not a very good person, or you’re Donald Trump.

              I own a dune buggy, off road only. It isn’t safe to drive on the street, I would have to add a number of safety features, not only because that’s the law but it’s common sense and consideration for others.

              I own my property, yes, but I do not own the world around me. We should conduct ourselves accordingly. I don’t need a law about battery power management to tell me it’s a good idea and decreases risk for everyone. I would have hoped you didn’t either.

            5. PS- If this is truly to avoid the dramatic public safety concern you fear, all the more that it be transparent…

              When cars get recalled full disclosure comes, with this none. Or is the danger not so imminent?

            6. “Within reason….
              What is unreasonable of telling me that my device has been altered, how, and why, and what Ican do to fix it? This is dishonest arrogance plain and simple.”

              Did you not read Swordmaker’s post? Apple announced this change to managing battery power a year ago, they just didn’t go as far as you would have liked with details. That takes “dishonest arrogance” off the table.

              The point of the battery management is that you can’t fix it, it has to be dealt with and Apple’s solution is a good one.

              You are avoiding the real issue I brought up, should you be allowed to configure your property in unsafe ways that could cause harm to other people and other property? You seem to be answering yes to that question, which makes you not great.

            7. Apple’s announcement does not inform that any given device is altered. Their announcement doesn’t even state the condition the condition that triggers it.

              Are you still suggesting Apple shipped a potentially unsafe product and had to mask it in this way? I don’t think you are, but that’s what your saying.

              To answer your question though, you should be able to use your product as you see fit, including configuration, within the law. Laws are set by elected officials, and accountable to the Constitution, not some board of a company.

            8. What makes you not great is supporting the position that the customer needs to sleuth to see if their phone has a slowdown. Where I come from, that’s called fraud. You are defending fraud. I hope it’s not intentional.

            9. “Apple’s announcement does not inform that any given device is altered. Their announcement doesn’t even state the condition the condition that triggers it.”

              If it isn’t apparent that Apple implementing a software fix to manage the battery isn’t altering the device, I’m not sure what to tell you. Some of the articles on the subject a year ago went into this.

              “Are you still suggesting Apple shipped a potentially unsafe product and had to mask it in this way? I don’t think you are, but that’s what your saying.”

              Lithium ion batteries are by nature unsafe. iPhones would shut down, that was the safety feature. Managing the battery power is a better solution and allowing you to turn that off could cause a worse safety problem. This is an issue now because of how powerful iPhones have become, it wasn’t happening until about a year ago.

              Imagine if you turned this feature off, your iPhone caused a fire, and people died. All because you think you should be able to do whatever you like with your property without any regard for common sense or consideration for others. That’s horrible.

              However, you are allowed to only care about your own stuff and not care if your actions harm others, lots of people are like that. Apparently you’re one of them. Have a nice day.

            1. A battery could fail within two years, it’s more about charge cycles than pure time. On average it shouldn’t fail after two years but any battery will not be 100 percent after two years. That reality has to be dealt with in some way. Replacement is an option. User-swappable isn’t a good idea, means the phone can’t be waterproof and is less dust proof, probably less damage resistant generally. Or put in some kind of power management solution. As Swordmaker points out there are only two options, spread the task over a longer time, or the phone shuts off. Or go get a new battery as a third option. I’m sure we can agree the phone shutting off isn’t a good option, so we’re back to two options. 1. Manage the power, 2. Buy a new battery. Personally I’d rather not have Apple telling me I need a new battery when the current battery is still good for almost everything I do and all that will happen is some processor-intensive stuff will take a tad longer. Who decides when the battery needs replacing? The user? Probably not a good idea, the user could cause a battery failure and in the case of lithium ion that could mean a small explosion or fire, and more law suits for Apple for not managing the device so this couldn’t happen. Worse yet, some user opting out of the power management causes a battery fire which damages someone else’s property. What then? Do I sue the user, or Apple, or both?

            2. I only mention removable batteries because some people are saying that would solve the problem, when a removable battery is not a good plan. Phones are better sealed up tight.

              The power management solution is, in my opinion, the only good option here. You can’t let users choose to turn that off either, too much risk. Swordmaker did state that this was more or less public information a year ago. Apple could always go further in notifying users but they weren’t silent on this, just not as vocal as you would like. Now everything has been clarified and the nut of it is that Apple did the right thing here, power management makes sense and has to be done whether you want it or not. Users can’t be allowed to configure their devices in an unsafe manner.

  2. Tim Cooks Apple strikes again.

    Someone fire this guy already. I’m so sick of Apple making stupid decisions and failing to deliver products on time. I can’t even say Apple has extremely high quality control anymore without getting reminded of all the recent mistakes that’s happened the last couple years. This battery issue is just another example.

    When you have to start telling your customers ahead of time what products you will be working on in the future, then you know your customer base is getting upset at you for messing up a lot.

    AirPods, HomePod, Mac Pro, and iMac Pro are just four examples where Apple announced the products prematurely to make people happy.

  3. Back to the car analogy. If car makers enabled a command in the car’s computer that effectively would allow top speed to be cut in half when the battery life level reached say 35-40%, they would be sued off the planet. Tires now are a whole other ballgame, but tires don’t slow a vehicle down when 70% worn. So this auto tire analogy is silly.

    1. On a lot of internal combustion cars, if a fault is detected within the engine, the engine management computer will run the engine at greatly reduced power in order for you to get home and then get it fixed.

      I don’t recall any users successfully suing car manufacturers over that.

    2. Actually, they do. Not the battery..but if the ECU detects certain faults/codes, it will put the engine in a failure mode and limit RPMs/significantly reduce power.

      It’s a good thing..unless you are an asshat that thinks it should be your choice whether to blow your engine 😉

      This is a no win for Apple. Battery longevity is common sense. The people who would sue/complain are the same that would ignore the education handed to them.

      Even if apple had a more elegant, more open solution (giving you the choice to kill your phone) they would still get sued.

      Hell..remember the lawsuit about “allowing” texting and driving? Same type of person.

  4. Shoulda, coulda, woulda!

    I could really do without these armchair quarterbacks. Apple did what they did. Enough tempests in teapots. Apple will probably hand these sorts of things differently. Or not.

  5. “Apple could have simply educated users about the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, which they did but I have to pretend it’s not satisfactory or else there would be no need to write this clickbait” says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit.

    1. You can lead a student to an education but you cannot make them learn.

      The information is on Apple’s website. it’s on the Internet. It/‘s on Google. I know it. I knew it before it about iPhone batteries. I know at about Android batteries. I knew it about all rechargeable batteries. What makes it different when those batteries are installed in an iPhone? Not a damn thing. If the battery needs replacing, it needs replacing and should be done when it gets chemically depleted. It ain’t magic.

      Apple even has it in it’s user agreement we all check off every time we do an update and when we first start up a new iPhone. Batteries are “Consumable” and not covered by a warranty except for manufacturing defects. That gets back to leading someone to an education but you cannot make them learn.

      How many people bothered to read the EULA and the Warranty? 1%?

    1. I think it is because the newer iPhones now have multi-core *up to 8 cores) processors and GPUs that are FAR faster than the processors and GPU that are in the dual core A8 processor iPhone 6 with its 1.4 GHz clock speed.

      New Apps and upgraded Apps are expecting to be able to use GPUs and multi-core processors will still upload to the iPhone 6 but then run in to the somewhat less than competent to run them dual core A8 processor. I have coined what I call the Swordmaker Principle, which is similar to the Peter Principle, in that tech devices are upgraded to just beyond the point at which their hardware is competent to handle the upgraded OS and the apps that will run on them. This particularly applies to Apple because Apple DOES update both mobile operating systems on a fairly regular schedule and the Apps get updated to match the advances in hardware on a fairly fast schedule. . . Both of which take advantage of the rapid advances in the hardware beyond the older devices capabilities and competence. Soon, the OS, and particularly, the Apps are expecting to be able to use the advanced capabilities of the newer hardware, especially more cores, that the older devices cannot bring to bear to process to app and its data and will bog down, or demand more power than the battery can bring to the table. This lack of competence results in slowdowns as the processor chokes on harder tasks or shutdowns as the built-in battery circuitry, sensing the voltage drop and amperage climb due to an over draft of power, causing heat, shuts down all power output resulting in the iPhone also shutting down.

      Apple’s new power management algorithm added in January with iOS 10.2.1 was designed to spread out the power load over time by spreading the processor-intensive task over time, cutting the power draw over a longer period of time, thus not triggering the shutdown.

  6. Apples stated approach slows down the phone when they evaluate their battery as old (not by how much the battery is charged).
    So if I have use battery case they will still slow it down? Not recognizing that I have my own solution.

  7. Every single one of these articles is incorrect. MDN’s take is incorrect as well, there has been a battery replacement notification since 10.2.1, and most people who own iPhones are not engaged enough to know or undertaand a toggle switch/opt in message (which they’d ignore) would allow them to ‘opt in’ or know what’s going on with their older device. I realize I’m in the minority opinion on this forum, but after seeing all the nonsense that’s been written over the last several days, I believe Apple has done the correct thing in this instance.

    Intel based machines throttle when they get too hot, and they also throttle when the battery can’t provide enough juice in portables an nobody complains about that… average consumers do not need to know the technical reason for a throttle, especially if they don’t notice it. Most people (read 90+%) don’t notice it, because all they’re doing is everyday tasks. I’m sorry, I’m 100% behind Apple on this one as an engineer, and the more articles written about it the more it reinforces that opinion. Most consumers are not very smart, if they don’t notice the throttling to prevent random shut offs? (Which they definitely WOULD notice), then this is a ridiculous argument that isn’t even an issue. I am happy Apple has that level of control over their software and hardware, the vast majority of the 1billion + iOS customers probably don’t care anyway.

    1. I totally agree. It’s stunning how many other articles get it so completely wrong that most people think it’s a issue of throttling to preserve battery life as opposed to throttling to prevent a sudden shut down due to the battery not being able to supply a sufficient voltage for what the phone may be doing at the time.

      People who think Apple could’ve provided a choice don’t realize that the choice would’ve been “Do you want your iPhone to run at 75% speed, or do you want it to…” and then it shuts down.

      That said, Apple needs to be honest and transparent with this information.

  8. Freaking First World Problems – Wah Wah Wah My phone slowed down a little bit – Cry me a river at least it is still running and still does what it was advertised to do! – I still have a 3GS that keeps on chugging…

  9. I’m trying to think of any devices I’ve ever owned that have warned me about its battery degrading.

    Thinking, thinking…

    Nope, none spring to mind.

    But shame on you Apple for not doing what no one has done.

  10. From the responses on the recent MDN reposted articles I am seeing 3 camps. The first is “Apple did the right thing in throttling the CPU to prevent shutdown w/o telling the user” (note this is not the same as notifying the user the battery may need replacing). The second, “how dare Apple slow down my iPhone w/o notifying me”. And the third “Apple has not provided enough information/reason for an extended period of CPU slowdown”.

    I can understand the first groups reasoning that the user need not be bothered each time a large power draw occurs and the management subsystem throttles CPU speed down for short periods to handle heavy tasks and then returns the CPU to ‘full’ speed thereafter.

    The second group may simply be ignorant of how the power management system works and/or the way batteries degrade over time.

    The third group understands that power management for periods of heavy draw is necessary, however they find it unreasonable that there is no notification for when CPU performance is reduced for extended periods of time w/o proper notification to the user.

    Apple mentions that diagnostics performed on the iPhone result in the notification that the battery may need replacing in Settings > Battery. I would not find it unreasonable to have something added there to graph when the heavy power draw occurs. Such a graph could show the user that certain apps are cpu intensive or that the battery is degraded to the point where the user can decide whether to replace the battery, stop using certain apps, or purchase a new device. The contention of the third group is that Apple by its current method of handling the problem has prevented the common user to make an informed decision and intentional or not pushed them to purchase a new device when it was not yet needed.

    1. How about, “Your battery can no longer support the function of the phone in the condition and expectation it was originally purchased. You may continue to use the phone in it’s current lower performance state, is ,or have the battery replaced at an authorized Apple service center, to restore performance.”

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