In recent years there has been a running debate about whether users can pretty much expect Apple to slow down their old iPhone’s battery, possibly to convince consumers to buy the newest, fastest model. The debate has arisen yet again on Reddit, and now Geekbench has provided analysis suggesting that those allegations just might be true.
Is Apple slowing your old iPhone’s battery life?
The newest Reddit thread raising the issue of an old iPhone’s battery slowing started with a post about a user’s iPhone 6s, which suddenly and dramatically slowed down recently. Interestingly enough, the Redditor said his brother’s iPhone 6 Plus seemed faster and hypothesized that Apple slows down an old iPhone’s battery when it gets too low so that it can last a full day.
Geekbench developer John Poole went on to test that theory and try to put some real numbers on the debate, given how many people have said anecdotally that it seemed like their old iPhone’s battery slowed down when it reached a certain age. His tests seem to suggest that Apple could be throttling the batteries in old iPhones via the iOS updates.
Here’s what he found
Poole mapped the performance on an iPhone 6s and 7 over time and found that the iOS 10.2.1 and iOS 11.2 updates in particular seemed to throttle those two devices and possibly other models. Of note, iOS 10.2.1 was the update aimed at fixing the widespread issues with the iPhone 6 randomly shutting down when it reached 40% capacity. The data seems to suggest that in order to prevent those random shutdowns for the iPhone 6 and 6s, Apple could be throttling the processors inside them.
According to the Geekbench data, iOS 11.2 utilized a throttling process that was similar for iPhone 7 models with batteries that had low capacity. However, Apple never confirmed battery problems in the iPhone 7 that were similar to those in the iPhone 6s, which some might think is suspicious.
Why throttle an old iPhone’s battery?
Although it’s unclear why Apple would throttle iPhones in this manner, the company’s motive does seem questionable. Poole notes that some users might think that the slow speed means there’s an issue with the processor, which means they need to replace their entire device rather than just replacing its battery. Others might think about replacing the battery but decide in the end just to upgrade to the newest model.
Some Redditors reported that replacing their old iPhone’s battery fixed the speed problem so their device was as fast as before the throttling, so that’s certainly a solid option, particularly when budget is an issue or if you just don’t see any reason to upgrade other than the slow battery.
In October, another benchmarking firm, Futuremark, released its own analysis of this same debate, and it actually found in Apple’s favor, claiming that the anecdotes and allegations about Apple slowing an old iPhone’s battery are baseless. The firm looked at more than 100,000 benchmarking results starting last year covering seven different models and then compared the performance in each benchmark to see whether it actually dropped in iOS 9, 10 and 11. Futuremark found very small differences in performance with new iOS updates.
Perhaps one reason for the conflicting results is that issues were only found with iOS 10.2.1 and iOS 11.2, which of course weren’t the main updates.