Apple admits it slows down iPhones with older batteries

21 Dec 2017

iPhone 6s. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Apple does slow down older iPhone models, but not for the reason you might think.

Since the inception of the iPhone, Apple has been beset with rumours that it deliberately throttles the performance of older iPhone models in order to force consumers into purchasing new devices.

Reddit user spotted patterns

This tale reared its head again this week when Reddit users noticed that Apple appeared to be slowing down old iPhones that have low-capacity batteries, with some people reporting that replacing the battery had brought their phone’s performance back up to speed.

According to research carried out by Primate Labs developer John Poole, Apple’s iPhone 6s and 7 models appeared to demonstrate weaker performance as they aged.

Apple acknowledged that it does take steps to reduce demands on older handsets, which can slow down the processor, but not to force consumers into buying new phones.

Often, an older phone’s battery can struggle with supplying the power that the processor demands. Numerous charging and discharging cycles cause lithium-ion batteries to degrade over time.

Inevitable degradation of batteries

In a statement, Apple explained that the problem is due to the inevitable degradation of all lithium-ion batteries, and the fact that these batteries find it tougher to supply big bursts of power as they age and go through charging cycles.

“Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices.

“Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, [when they] have a low battery charge, or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.”

The company said a feature was released to mitigate the risk of some iPhone models shutting down. “Last year, we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions.

“We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.”

Apple added the feature when sudden shutdowns of certain iPhones were reported in 2016, as it aimed to protect the processor from being damaged by power spikes.

iPhone 6s. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects