Why aging batteries don’t slow down Android phones like Apple iPhones

“After it was revealed in late 2017 that Apple intentionally slows down the performance of older iPhones as their batteries deteriorate, people freaked out. There were explanations, recriminations, apologies, lawsuits, and, finally, solutions,” Pete Pachal writes for Mashable. “But in the wake of that specific controversy, a question arose: Does this happen to Android phones, too?”

“For the most part, the answer seems to be ‘no,'” Pachal writes.

During their podcast, Mashable spoke with John Poole, founder of Primate Labs and author of the original study that provided hard evidence of the iPhone slow-down problem.

“The existence of this problem likely speaks to the fundamental ways that iOS and Android are engineered. As Poole explains, Apple has been able to get impressive results from its end-to-end product strategy where it designs the iPhone’s hardware, software, CPU, and more. The iPhone scores incredibly well on Geekbench compared to its Android competition, which often boast better on-paper specs,” Pachal writes. “‘Apple is the undisputed king of single-core performance. It’s astounding what they’ve been able to fit in a relatively small package. The problem is that with that great performance comes great power demands,’ [Poole says].”

“Apple squeezes every last bit of performance it can get out of its chips. Put simply, Apple’s chips are incredibly efficient, though that leaves little margin for error or problems,” Pachal writes. “‘What I wonder is whether Apple’s end-to-end process almost ended up as sort of an Achilles’ heel here,’ Poole speculates. ‘Maybe they made design decisions when they were designing the 6 and the 6S — this is the process we’re going to use, and this is the size of the battery we’re going to use, and we know from our data this will be OK — and maybe they didn’t factor in the aging process as well as they could have.'”

MacDailyNews Take: If you miscalculate or make faulty assumptions, the advantage of vertical integration – owning the whole widget – disappears.

To do things the way Apple does, mistakes are magnified. Extreme focus and fastidious attention to detail are required.

BTW, it’s a good thing Android phones don’t slow down any further or they’d be going backwards:

iPhone 8’s Apple A11 Bionic chip so destroys Android phones that Geekbench creator can’t even believe it – September 30, 2017

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This immediately brings to mind something we wrote back in December 2015:

What’d be wrong with slightly thicker iPhone with more battery life and a flush camera assembly?

Yes, we know Apple thinks thinness sets iPhone apart from all other so-called smartphones (actually, it’s the operating system, the software and the ecosystem), but the iPhone 6/Plus and iPhone 6s/Plus are simply too thin to house their camera assembly.

iPhone 6s is 0.28 inch (7.1 mm) thin. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is 0.27 inch (6.8 mm). The “thicker” iPhone 6s easily outsells the thinner Galaxy S6. Obviously, at this point, the selling point of “thinness” is overrated.

iPhone 6 and 6s has battery life issues for heavy iPhone users (hint: get an Apple Watch. You’ll use your iPhone less and the battery will easily outlast even the longest day).

The law of diminishing returns can also be applied to industrial design. Apple’s eternal quest for thinness eventually runs into issues such as bulging camera assemblies, battery capacity, strength (breakability), etc. – is Apple’s quest for thinness now bordering on the quixotic?

So, is it “you can never be too thin” or is it “thin enough is thin enough?”

SEE ALSO:
Hey Apple, it’s time to give up thinness for bigger, longer-lasting batteries – January 6, 2017
Open thread: What’d be wrong with slightly thicker iPhone with more battery life and a flush camera assembly? – December 21, 2015

Apple��s $29 replacement batteries expected to hurt new iPhone sales – January 4, 2018
How to see if Apple’s throttling your iPhone – January 4, 2018
Brazilian agency requires Apple to inform consumers on batteries – January 3, 2018
Analyst: Apple’s ‘batterygate’ solution may mean 16 million fewer iPhones sold this year – January 3, 2018
An Apple conspiracy theory blooms – January 2, 2018
Apple clarifies policy on $29 battery replacements: All iPhone 6 and later devices are eligible – January 2, 2018
Why Apple’s response to iPhone ‘batterygate’ is brilliant – December 30, 2017
Australian lawyers to launch largest-ever class action against Apple over iPhone ‘batterygate’ – December 29, 2017
The most annoying things about Apple’s iPhone ‘batterygate’ apology – December 29, 2017
iFixit discounts iPhone battery replacement kits as Apple cuts prices, apologizes for the confusion – December 29, 2017
15 class action lawsuits filed against Apple for throttling iPhones with aging batteries – December 29, 2017
Apple apologizes for poor communication about iPhone batteries and performance; slashes battery replacement cost from $79 to $29 – December 28, 2017
No, Apple’s throttling of iPhones with aging batteries is not planned obsolescence – December 28, 2017
Apple execs face jail in France after lawsuit over slowing down iPhones – December 28, 2017
Korea seeks explanation from Apple for slowing down devices without warning – December 28, 2017
Apple now facing 8 lawsuits over throttling processors in iPhones with aging batteries – December 27, 2017
Apple tarnished their brand with clandestine iPhone battery management and processor throttling – December 27, 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, 2017
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

33 Comments

        1. Android does indeed throttle, and they throttle from day one. Android devices are effectively neutered, and the throttling is more on the hardware level than on the OS.

          For the narrow purpose of this article (software throttling, based on battery age and capacity), Android doesn’t have that capability (yet; although I’m sure Google is thinking about it), but their hardware has to, by design, reduce the CPU clock when battery isn’t fully charged, even when the phone is brand new. Most flagship android phones reduce CPU and GPU clock speed by over 50% as soon as battery dips below certain percentage (I believe it is as high as 80%), which means that their users get top performance only during their morning commute.

    1. Considering all the Android smartphone manufacturers there are, some Android smartphones must be affected by aging lithium-ion batteries the way iPhones are. Maybe not all of them but at least some of them. However, those Android smartphones are not going to be throttled back by an update if they do experience shutdowns because many Android smartphones never get updates at all. Although I don’t entirely know Apple’s motives, I would still think a slowdown would be better than a shutdown. However, I agree that Apple should have notified iPhone users about getting their batteries replaced.

      Too late, now. The news media damage has already been done and Apple’s reputation is smeared even more. Apple’s battery problem is still seen as a bigger incident than intel’s processor flaw which has been around for ten years. What company name gets the most clicks? Apple, by far.

      1. As far as I can tell reading reddit, Android phones have numerous boot-loop and shutdown at 30% issues that seem to be related to aging batteries, and the problems seem to happen just a year after sale.

      1. Android phones don’t need to be throttled because they run slower out of the box as stated in this article. Apple squeezes every bit of processing power out of there chips as long as they have the power to do so and then slows them down when they don’t, I don’t have an issue with this. What I have an issue with is Apple not notifying their customers when this is going on so we can make the decision to get a new battery. I believe this is most likely because quite a few of us have Apple Care and if they reported the Batter needed to be changes prior to the end of the warranty they would be required to replace batteries for free. Therefore I believe that anyone who has or had Apple care should get a replacement battery free and those that didn’t should get it for the discounted price.

        1. slower out of the box and still needs to throttle due to heat even with brand new devices. I would be interested in real world use case tests to see if older throttled iphones are still performing better than same age Androids. I bet iphone wins that comparison.

    1. Actually, Apple stated no such thing.

      On December 28, 2017, Apple actually stated that “in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance… Of course, when a chemically aged battery is replaced with a new one, iPhone performance returns to normal when operated in standard conditions.

      On January 4th, Apple further stated:

      All rechargeable batteries are consumables and have a limited lifespan—eventually their capacity and performance decline so that they need to be serviced or recycled. As this happens, it can contribute to changes in iPhone performance… the user may notice effects such as:
      • Longer app launch times
      • Lower frame rates while scrolling
      • Backlight dimming (which can be overridden in Control Center)
      • Lower speaker volume by up to -3dB
      • Gradual frame rate reductions in some apps
      • During the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI
      • Apps refreshing in background may require reloading upon launch

      So, are you lying or just ignorant of the facts? If you’re lying, why and for whose benefit? If you’re ignorant, why are you bothering to comment on something you obviously do not understand at all?

      1. If you bought your iPhone 6 Plus in the first year after it’s release, the battery has easily been through 1,000 or more charge cycles.

        It’s a credit to Apple that your device still runs at all, given the old dilapidated battery.

  1. Storm in a teacup is my reaction.

    I have a 3 yr old iPhone 6 always running latest iOS.
    If they have slowed it down, it has been smartly-done, and I am not feeling like it is unduly hobbled or achingly slow. Maybe some things are very slightly slower, can’t be sure.

    3 solid years of usage, and the battery easily lasts all day, with BlueTooth and Apple Watch in use. I would rather it be throttled than have sudden shutdown issues.

    I agree that if Androids were updated to latest/greatest OS releases as promptly as iPhones, the OS feature creep would certainly start to tax the older phones.

    iOS 11 has been great, and I’m glad it runs on my 3 year old phone even if it’s a bit slower.

    1. The problem is the “perceived” issue. Most people can outperform a new battery and hardware within a short time. We keep expecting thought like responses from our hardware when that is still years away. There is a reason Apple keeps rolling out new phones each year, the technology and speed keeps improving. You can only rush tech evolution so much. Most people I know still have 6s and 7 iPhones and are very happy with the performance of these models. If you’re in the high end performance category you can always enroll in the new iPhone a year program. But if you keep a phone for 3-4 years before upgrading, it’s nice to know it’ll keep working until you do so.

  2. So, android runs slower out of the box. iPhones run slower when the battery is consumed. Who’s done tests comparing the two OS’s with 2 or 3 year old phone with upgraded OS and the original batteries? Does the iPhone now run the same as the Android? Is the android running better? It would be interesting to find out.
    My guess is an old iPhone will run like a new Android.

  3. “If you miscalculate or make faulty assumptions, the advantage of vertical integration – owning the whole widget – disappears.”

    In all seriousness , that’s a commendable and honest position. I made similar arguments about the ‘whole widget’ before. In that regard, MDN’s comment is even more admirable, because they are fans, and that comment must have hurt.

    The biggest problem with ‘whole widget’ is that we are not all Steve Jobs. Some of us like to salt our soup, and eat it with a spoon. And I might like to have a sandwich with it with ingredients from another store.

    We should not have to adapt to ‘being the way Steve likes it’ as much as we do.

  4. The irony about “planned obsolescence” is this: PCs have been dirt cheap and expected to last like 2 years – for ages.

    Macs have generally lasted 4-5 years and then still fetched a decent resale value.

    Who is the bad guy here? Apple? for having long lived hardware, and high resale value?

    I still have an original iPad, and it still works fine. My laptop using to post this is a mid-2011 MacBook and it shows NO signs of issues. That’s six plus years of usage I have gotten from it.

    Apple products generally are built to last.

    This is why they throttled some iPhones, to HELP not not HURT the consumer. (And they will be richly rewarded.)

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