Over the past few weeks, a Reddit thread has reignited the debate over whether or not Apple intentionally slows down older phones in order to spur users to upgrade. This assertion has been made repeatedly by disgruntled iPhone users for years, but there was something different about this specific thread. For the first time, there was proof.
Days later, Geekbench developer John Poole dove even deeper into the data and discovered that not only was the performance of older iPhones markedly different from that of newer phones, but that it appeared as though Apple had introduced a software feature in iOS 10.2.1 to explicitly limit performance of iPhones with older batteries.
As Poole points out, the goal of the feature is to prevent phones with old, degraded batteries from suddenly shutting down. It was a stopgap solution for power management, but Poole notes that from the standpoint of an average user, all they will notice is that the performance of their phone is dropping. When reached for comment by TechCrunch, Apple all but confirmed the findings, but attempted to paint them in a different light:
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, 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.
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.
In other words, Apple isn’t trying to force you to upgrade to a newer, more expensive phone (although I’m sure that the company wouldn’t be opposed to that). The result of this forced slowdown is quite the opposite — even as your battery begins to crap out, your phone will still run, just with lesser performance than it did when you bought it.