How will new iPhones manage power? Apple’s response to U.S. Senator raises questions

“In early January, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called upon Apple to answer for the lack of transparency it showed surrounding its slow-down practices for aging iPhones,” Valentina Palladino reports for Ars Technica. “Today, Thune’s office released Apple’s response: a five-page letter in which Apple reiterates the slow-down saga.”

Appel touches on “how it may handle customers who already paid full price for battery replacements,” Palladino reports. “The company also hinted at how newer iPhone models will deal with aging battery issues, but Apple did so in a way that doesn’t instill confidence that it will, in fact, be more transparent with its practices in the future.”

“The Apple letter contains two pieces of information that prompt more questions rather than shed any light on the situation. First, Apple writes that it is ‘exploring’ options for customers who paid full price for battery replacements before the new program was put in place,” Palladino reports. “Second… the newest iPhone models have some sort of improved hardware that allows the handsets to better handle peak performance workloads and avoid sudden shutdowns — but Apple hasn’t detailed what these hardware improvements are. The statement also raises questions about whether the existing power management system will also be deployed in iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X models when they’re considered “old” (if at all) or if the hardware improvements are enough to withstand the effects of aging batteries on iPhone performance. Currently, iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, and 7 Plus models are equipped with the slow-down feature.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yeah, what, if anything, happens to iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X units with chemically aged batteries, Apple?

SEE ALSO:
Apple tells U.S. Senate company may offer rebates for battery purchases amid iPhone blowback – February 6, 2018
Apple previews iOS 11.3 with new battery health features, ability to turn processor throttling on and off, and more – January 24, 2018
Tim Cook: ‘Maybe we should have been clearer’ over throttling iPhones with aging batteries – January 18, 2018
China consumer group seeks answers from Apple over batterygate – January 16, 2018
South Korean consumer group considering criminal case against Apple over iPhone batterygate – January 11, 2018
Republican Senator John Thune, Chair of the U.S. Commerce Committee, has some questions for Apple over throttling old iPhones – January 10, 2018
French prosecutor launches probe into Apple planned obsolescence – January 8, 2018
Apple’s design decisions and iPhone batteries – January 8, 2018
Apple now faces over two dozen lawsuits for ‘purposefully’ or ‘secretly’ slowing down older iPhones – January 5, 2018
Why aging batteries don’t slow down Android phones like Apple iPhones – January 5, 2018
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

12 Comments

  1. It seems to me that it is none of their business exactly how Apple, using advanced proprietary techniques, will handle anything technically. More intrusive showboating by the legislative branch. They should focus on issues that are their job. This one is not.

  2. We have here another illustration of why reading is FUNdamental:

    1) The Ars Technica writer asks “whether the existing power management system will also be deployed in iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X models when they’re considered “old” (if at all).”

    Anyone who is even close to literacy would have seen in Apple’s response that the “existing power management system” is ALREADY deployed on younger phones—because it is part of the operating system—and has been since iOS 10.2.1 was released on January 23, 2017. The writer is spreading the false narrative that “throttling” was only applied to old phones to encourage the owners to upgrade.

    2) The writer also asks “if the hardware improvements are enough to withstand the effects of aging batteries on iPhone performance.”

    Even if the Apple document didn’t explain that ALL older batteries lose their peak performance, the average third grader knows that already. There may be ways to mitigate the effect to reduce the consequences (which Apple has been striving to do for the last decade), but the inevitable choice between either slowing performance or shutting down entirely will still remain. There is no special “Apple physics.” Physics is physics.

    3) Trondude scoffs at the MDN take.

    Our Fearless Leaders claim that the chemical aging of older batteries is just the way that chemistry works. You can replace the battery or you can replace the device. You can’t demand that Apple replace chemistry, even to please its customers.

    1. Forgive and correct me if I’m wrong, but…

      Since the issue is that as the battery ages, its output voltage drops below what is required to keep the iPhone powered at peak performance, and that while older iPhones are stuck with the dilemma of throttling versus shutdown, couldn’t Apple design future iPhones such that the battery voltage so greatly exceeds the peak performance requirements that even after 2-3 years, it’s still able to meet enough to avoid the throttle/shut-down dilemma?

      Wouldn’t that just be a factor of using a larger set of battery cells?

      1. kevicosuave,

        Yes… but any device in the real world incorporates tradeoffs. Using larger batteries will certainly stave off the problem, but not indefinitely. People would still complain if the batteries only lasted four years, rather than two.

        Even more people would complain that the redesigned device has twice the weight and volume (the battery is by far the largest component). The extra battery capacity would add to the price of the phone, and people would complain about that, too.

        The extra cost and inconvenience would come without any benefits for the first couple of years. People who use their device lightly might not even see any benefits four years out, because the existing batteries would have been enough for their use case.

        At the time these phones were engineered, most people bought phones on two-year contracts. Even now, most “power users” upgrade every year or two. They will never see a battery problem, whether shutdown or throttling, with the existing design. If your solution were applied, they would have paid for extra battery capacity (with the attendant volume and weight) that they never needed.

        People who are satisfied with an older phone are probably not experiencing a noticeable problem with the existing design because they don’t cycle the batteries as quickly and they don’t require peak power usage very often. With bigger batteries, they would also be paying for something that they never needed.

        Yes, Apple should have been clearer about what it was doing. That does not mean that it was doing the wrong thing.

      2. Well, that is where the ultimate compromise is required (power vs. size), and as we had seen over the past ten years, Apple has remarkably successfully determined exactly where to put that line (proven by massive number of sold devices).

        One of the most important subjective qualities of the iPhone is its impossible thinness. Volumes have been written about it, and every reviewer has been gushing how incredibly sleek and beautiful these devices are. This is the point; Apple figured out how far to compromise the reserve power of an aging battery in order to get the desirability of an ultra-sleek device that nobody else can replicate without massive performance compromises. Making the battery that much fatter, so that a two-year-old phone can still perform as a two-day-old one, would inevitably lose that desirability lead that Apple now has.

    2. I think that there is a possibility of a hardware solution for this issue in the future.

      The fundamental problem is that during peak computational efforts, the CPU draws more current than an ageing battery is able to supply while maintaining a sufficiently high output voltage.

      The traditional approach to this might involve using a voltage inverter. Whatever the battery voltage, the regulator steps it up to the designed voltage, but in order to do that, it needs to draw even more current ( a given number of watts means either a certain current at one voltage, or a higher current at a lower voltage ). In the case of a battery already struggling to supply enough current, demanding more current could make things worse.

      I think that there may be a possible solution using super capacitors, but I’m unsure whether they are compact enough at the moment for this use, but it’s an area where there is a lot of active research at the moment. The reasoning is that peak demands, by their very nature should be infrequent. If a super capacitor were to store power from the battery and then release it during a moment of peak demand, then it could take the strain off the battery. Existing batteries, even when getting a little old, are comfortably able to provide the average power needs of an iPhone.

      With a super capacitor to handle surges in demand and able to be recharged very rapidly from the battery, there would be no need to choose between shutting down and slowing down. The super capacitor wouldn’t need to have much capacity as it would only be used briefly and occasionally, and could therefore be physically small. Obviously extended periods of high computational activity could not be sustained in this manner, but that would be a very rare event for most users.

        1. I’ve never been a fan of having iPhones excessively thin and I’m all for making iPhones a little bit thicker in order to accommodate a bigger battery, but I do find that my iPhones generally last for at least 3 years at a time of intensive usage and by the end of that period, the battery is still good for a typical 14 hour working day without needing to be recharged.

          Reports of an 18 month battery life don’t fit in with my experience, but I have no doubt that it’s concern to some who use their iPhones more intensively than I do, but I do use mine rather a lot each day.

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