Apple has had a tough time of it recently. A lawsuit with Epic Games, which may or may not threaten the way it runs its App Store, is echoed by similar legal action in Europe over alleged antitrust violations. But this isn't the first time Apple has been scrutinised for potentially behaving in a detrimental way towards its customers. Back in 2017, they came under fire for being suspected of deliberately slowing down older devices, pushing people to upgrade to the latest handsets as a result. But was this ever confirmed? Or was it just an internet rumour that grew arms and legs, before marching onto Twitter and mobilising the army of the righteously indignant? Let's see.
Does Apple slow down old phones?
In recent months, Apple finally paid a £21 million fins to the French competition and fraud watchdog, after it admitted back in 2017 that it did slow down some iPhones. This was in addition to a $113 million settlement last November, and a $500 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit the previous May. Importantly, Apple argued that it wasn't to drive customers towards new products, but to try to prolong the life of older handsets. They said this was because of the demands on older batteries which were less capable. This could then cause an unexpected shutdown of the device. They then released a software update for the iPhone 6, 6s and SE to "smooth out" battery performance.
The problem for Apple, was that, even if their intention was honourable, they didn't actually think they needed to tell anyone. You can make your own minds up as to whether you think Apple were being naughty or not. The French watchdog clearly did, and punished them accordingly. But even though Apple ended up in a spot of bother, they have confirmed that they have continued to throttle older handsets in more recent times. We'll examine this in more detail next.
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Which Phones has Apple Throttled?
Apple have added a detailed explanation as to why they slow down performance on older phones. They describe this as "performance management". The gist of it, is that older batteries don't have as much capacity and less peak performance capability. So in turn. the phone can then "dynamically manage" performance to prevent unexpected shutdowns. But which phones have Apple applied this to?
At the time of writing, the confirmed handsets are:
- iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S Plus
- iPhone SE
- The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
- iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (on iOS 12.1 or higher)
- iPhone X (on iOS 12.1 or higher)
- And finally, the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR (running iOS 13.1 or higher)
Apple emphasised that the performance management feature only activates once the battery degrades to a certain level. It is not the case that the phone will automatically slow down once it hits 3 years old, for example. Or when a new model is released. A lot depends on how many charging cycles it has gone through, and how intensively the phone is used. Newer models, with more advanced software and hardware, should also experience less noticeable effects.