Technology

Apple Is Slowing Older iPhones: What Does That Mean For Your Device?

Apple received some serious criticism – ranging from customer outrage to a number of lawsuits – after a recent acknowledgement that the company is slowing older iPhones. A recent statement from Apple apologized for their lack of transparency regarding slowing older iPhones, and the company is offering a steep discount on battery replacements starting in late January.

Slowing Older iPhones
Image Source: Apple.com (screenshot)

In a fiasco dubbed “batterygate” by both upset consumers and various media outlets, Apple recently admitted that they were slowing older iPhones. According to the tech giant, the slow down was a necessary measure to protect an aging battery. The last few generations of iPhone have opted for a lithium-ion battery which, while having many advantages, starts to lose capacity after a few hundred charges. As apple updates their operating system, slowing older iPhones is an apparent necessity to protect the phone from crashing randomly.

Many customers aren’t so sure that the decision to start slowing older iPhones is truly in their best interest, suggesting that Apple may be implementing a form of planned obsolescence in order to drive up sales of their latest flagships. But according to the apology from Apple on Thursday, slowing older iPhones is truly because their batteries are “less capable of delivering peak energy loads.”

What Will Slowing Older iPhones Do To My Device?

Regardless of whether the decision is truly to protect aging batteries or if it’s a profits-focused decision by Apple, the fact remains that the organization is slowing older iPhones. If you’re on a phone that is starting to show its age, you’ll likely be affected by some pretty drastic slow downs that prioritize phone longevity over actual usability. But what exactly will change if your battery is on its last legs?

The “power management” has started slowing older iPhones in the following ways:

  • Slower launching of apps
  • Reduced frame rates while scrolling through your phone
  • Dimming of your backlight (although effect can be overridden using the Control Center)
  • A lowered speaker volume
  • Lowered frame rates in certain apps, leading to a less smooth operation
  • If your battery is truly damaged, even features such as the camera flash will be completely disabled
  • Background apps that are refreshing may need to be reloaded with each launch.

It’s clear that there are some significant drawbacks to the process of slowing older iPhones. Regardless of whether the process is necessary to keep your outdated phone working, it’s clear that there are some significant reductions in usability that can make your previously speedy iPhone a pain to use even for basic day-to-day tasks.

Apple has reassured users that basic phone functions won’t be affected, although the utility of a smartphone without “smart” features has been called into question.

Utilities that won’t be affected by slowing older iPhones include:

  • The quality of your calls and the power of networking
  • The quality of your photos and videos (provided your flash isn’t disabled, of course)
  • GPS capabilities
  • Location accuracy
  • Phone sensors such as the accelerometer, barometer, and gyroscope
  • Apple Pay

It’s clear from the explanation of how exactly Apple is slowing older iPhones that the functionality of a phone with an aging battery will be severely reduced. For people who rely on their phone just for basic calls and texts, the slowdown may not make that big of a difference. But for those of us who use their phones all day, every day, it’s going to be a pretty noticeable issue.

Fixing The Issue And The Right To Repair

Fortunately, there’s a decently easy fix that will address the issue of slowing older iPhones and get your phone back to tip-top shape. As mentioned above, during Apple’s apology, they announced a big price drop in the replacement of older iPhone batteries. Any iPhone back to the 6 will be eligible for a battery replacement for less than $30. Older iPhones are not affected by the slowdown, due to the older battery technology that doesn’t lose effectiveness as quickly. The massive PR backlash and lawsuits likely have the company scrambling to recover, and a reduction in battery replacement costs is a step in the right direction. Some users have pointed out, however, that Apple still stands to make a profit – even with the reduced costs. The thoughtfulness of an apology is reduced somewhat if the company actually turns a profit off of their mistakes.

Although the reduction in price is a welcome change, the company still refuses to allow 3rd party repair shops to service their iPhones. A “right to repair” movement has sprung up, largely in response to Apple’s resistance to allowing users to repair a phone that they own. Apple has argued that users are technically “leasing” the technology, but that doesn’t resonate with a group of consumers that have shelled out over $1000 for the “privilege” of using the latest iPhone.

At the end of the day, the fact that Apple is slowing older iPhones is an inconvenience – whether it’s a necessity for the health of the device or not. The lower costs of repair is a welcome change, but it’s another reminder that Apple isn’t as consumer friendly as some would like to think.