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I Told You So: Apple Admits to Slowing iPhones with iOS Updates

Every year I try to discourage unnecessary iOS updating. Primarily because there are always complications in every iOS update, followed by months of developers scrambling to fix them. Secondarily to this, there have long been suspicions that Apple was deliberately crippling older hardware with new iOS versions as a form of forced obsolescence. The former has always been good advice, while the later has been dismissed for years by the Apple faithful.

This week Apple admitted to crippling older iPhones. They were caught red-handed when benchmarks revealed the pattern. The iPhone 6s started performing badly at iOS 10.2.1, and even worse at iOS 11.2. Now iPhone 7 owners are finding the same performance hits if they've updated to iOS 11.2, while an iPhone 7 on iOS 11.1.2 continues cruising at full-throttle. Because Apple stops signing older versions of iOS, you are not allowed to down-grade back to a previous version.

Apple stopped signing iOS 11.1.2 this week. If you update to iOS 11.2, you are stuck.

Here is Apple's response to TechCrunch:

"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."

Many in the community have tried to write this off as a, "Oh well, just get your battery replaced and the problem is solved." In fact some news organizations are parroting this claim. But note that Apple does not indicate replacing the battery will alleviate the throttling in any way. This is because it probably doesn't.

This throttling is meant to address unexpected iPhone shutdowns, but iPhone 6s owners reported that those shutdowns continued after using Apple's battery replacement service. If the shutdown problem persists after a battery replacement, it seems like pretty fucking irresponsible journalism to tell readers a battery replacement will also fix Apple's throttling.

While Apple has admitted to iPhone throttling, they haven't mentioned if they are doing the same to iPads. My iPad Air has been my faithful sidekick for years, and I haven't felt the need to upgrade. I did however, have to update to iOS 11 last week. I have since noticed everything feels a lot more sluggish. I would be very surprised if Apple isn't crippling iPads in the same manner, in order to "deliver the best experience for customers."

Reader Comments 28

What Apple SHOULD have done:

"You are about to update your device to OS x.xx? Because your device may have an older battery, would you like to enable a power-saving mode to increase battery life?" [YES] [NO]

If they would alert the user during/after the update, and allow this to be a system preference, they will accomplish several things: let the user choose which unpleasant experience they prefer: poor battery life or poor performance. People who have replaced their batteries can choose a good performance.

Their current (and embarrassing) practice is part of Apple's policy to try to protect consumers from making choices about how they want to use their devices. "Choice is bad."
December 22, 2017  | favorite_border stub
Thanks for elaborating on this Tim, Its exactly what I feared was going on. I remember some really shady behavior from the bat on an ipad4 back around 2014 and then it totally got better, made me wonder. Also, roomate worked at two telephone companies and shes seen all sorts of shady issues that point toward Samsung and Apple doing everything they can to push us on to the next product.

This too shall pass... Everything we have built here on ios will some day be ported over to sustainable technologies when we make it happen. The consumerist mindset and fanperson culture shouldnt exist in a bunch of artists, and it doesnt in many, out there somewhere are the people who will bring the next evolution :)

The resources exist, we probly have what it would take to get it going right here in the discchord and audiobus community.

Imagine if we all got connected and worked together, truely utilized all the combined, or just a little of the combined resources, expertise and capability right here on discchord.

Rather than mindlessly consuming and running on the mans treadmills we could do anything, the mere existence of Apple is proof of that.
December 22, 2017  | person_outline Ian
I detest jailbreak because it was an ugly confused mess compared to custom roms on android but i guess jailbreak suddenly seems more appealing as a future defence against apple crippling hardware.
December 22, 2017  | person grammatonfeather
It sure seems like their bullshit excuse doesn't hold water. iPad Air 1... sloth-like speeds now!!!

The "user experience" is FAR worse than if they left it alone. If they really want to offer a better user experience, they should offer a toggle switch in the settings for turning on/off the "throttle". I'd leave that sucker off until my Air shuffles off this mortal coil. Only at that time would I gladly buy a new iPad model. I'll still buy a new iPad eventually. I just don't want them to force me into it by ruining my existing device.
December 22, 2017  | favorite_border Tony
Tim wrote:
"This week Apple admitted to crippling older iPhones". "

Crippling" is a dramatic word.

How much are they slowing older models? 50% slower? 20% slower? 5% slower?

50% slower could be described as crippling, but 5% slower in return for better battery management is a fair trade off.

Anyone know the amount of slowing?
December 22, 2017  | person_outline Simon
It feels more like 50% slower. The difference is SUPER noticable.
December 22, 2017  | favorite_border Tony
Same here on iPad Air first gen. Waiting for a podcast to play for about an half an hour, then gave up and switch to iPad Pro (unupdated and it seems never will). I've used that podcasts app a thousand times before on iOS 10, now it's just even can't stream nor download the podcast for me!. I'm afraid even to look into some music app now on this iPad :((
December 22, 2017  | person eVr
Tony wrote:
"It feels more like 50% slower. The difference is SUPER noticable. "

What version of iOS are you running on your iPad?

My Air 1 is still at version 10.3.3 and runs fine. Is this just an iOS 11 thing?
December 22, 2017  | person_outline Simon
1. The "throttling" feature should be an option in the iOS Settings, with a setting for a low level threshold amount when to engage it and a message pop-up added to the "low batter 10%", "5%" warnings.

2. Does the speed shrottling apply when the device is plugged in to power /charging ?

Mick.
December 22, 2017  | person_outline Mick
Dammit. Apple is going to phase out their serious creative-type customers if they continue these kinds of behavior. Makes me think about moving to another platform that's more stable and geared towards making music and film etc
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Harison Zamperla
On December 22, 2017 - @Simon said:
Tony wrote:
"It feels more like 50% slower. The difference is SUPER noticable. "

What version of iOS are you running on your iPad?

My Air 1 is still at version 10.3.3 and runs fine. Is this just an iOS 11 thing?

I have the latest iOS 11 release... and yes, it’s an iOS 11 thing.
December 23, 2017  | favorite_border Tony
On December 22, 2017 - @Mick said:
1. The "throttling" feature should be an option in the iOS Settings, with a setting for a low level threshold amount when to engage it and a message pop-up added to the "low batter 10%", "5%" warnings.

2. Does the speed shrottling apply when the device is plugged in to power /charging ?

Mick.

It is irrelevant whether you are plugged in or not!
December 23, 2017  | favorite_border Tony
I guess I’m keeping my iPad Air 2 on iOS 11.1.2
My iPad 2 is still st iOS v5.1
My iPad Air 2 is still on v8.3

Is there a choice of which iOS to upgrade to, or only the latest / current ?
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Mick
This Really stinks.

What about brand new devices in the box with iOS v11 pre-installed.

Apple promote their devices as being X*times faster, capable of x*number of megaflops per-second.
Now they're clamping the iOS so the device performs x-10% megaflops.

Stinks of misleading specifications and false advertising ... grrr...
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Mick
Tim wrote:
" I would be very surprised if Apple isn't crippling iPads in the same manner, in order to "deliver the best experience for customers." "

An Apple spokesperson told iMore:
"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."

So, no mention of iPads or iPods being "crippled". Interesting to see if anyone does tests on these devices to see if there is an issue with them as well.

iMore also reported:
"An iPhone battery replacement at an Apple Store costs $79 and takes barely any time at all. Putting in a new battery comes with a reset charge cycle counter and restores performance back to like-new — not to mention bringing back the battery life of a new phone as well."
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Simon
Ever since updating the iPad Air to iOS 11, I have seen a very noticeable decrease in performance, even app updates take longer (no this is not an Internet issue, been using same service as when on ios 10 & Internet bandwidth speed test fine).

I previously Googled this and seen a large number of other iOS users experiencing the same drop in performance. Guess we now know why!

How about Apple let us change our own batteries instead of charging $79 or in the UK £102.44, can I just say... F' That Apple, i'll give you one of my kidneys while i'm at it yeah?!
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Tyler
Mick, no there is no choice with apple, stay where you are , the exception would be if you have a downloaded older update for say ios 10 already downloaded, you can check by going to SETTINGS, then ICLOUD STORAGE , then look in your list of apps installed, you should see an ios update there if you have one, THEN YOU NEED TO CHECK N MAKE SURE THEY ARE STILL SIGNING IT BY ASKING GOOGLE..... dont update past ios 10.3 on your newer device and check to be sure your older device will not be affected by what you update to, really , if its not broke, just leave it. If u want ios 11 get a newer ipad, or better yet wait till this bullshit is resolved.

We forget so fast that what we have already kills what 99% of the music we know and love was built on, we need to stop trying to get bigger better faster newer, fixing things that work already risks our creativity and workflow more than life without the new gimick. And AND DEVS need to make thier apps BACKWARD compatible, which is why folks need to release stable work so we dont get locked into choising between the lesser of two " evils" ...
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Ian
I could be wrong, if i am then please somone jump in and answer better...
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Ian
Tyler wrote:
"Ever since updating the iPad Air to iOS 11, I have seen a very noticeable decrease in performance, even app updates take longer (no this is not an Internet issue, been using same service as when on ios 10 & Internet bandwidth speed test fine).

I previously Googled this and seen a large number of other iOS users experiencing the same drop in performance. Guess we now know why!"

No we don't.

We know that this is an issue with iPhones but there is no mention of iPod touches or iPads.
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Simon
The battery life on the iPod Touch was already so laughable that I sold mine after several days. Fuck that.

Apple has some changes to make. Hopefully, they'll do right by users. The appearance of hobbling devices to boost sales of newer phones is hard to deny. And they can have it both ways, since they have their justification vis-a-vis "improving the user experience".
December 23, 2017  | favorite_border stub
I still say it stinks.

I bought my ipad-air2 to be able to run the latest music & synth apps.
I always use it connected to the charger - the battery is 100%
I give it a power reset very other week so expect it to run at 100% - as specified.

Many new apps only run on iOS 10~11.x
Why should my ipad have to perform at 100-n% because of a f----ng software hand-brake ?
December 23, 2017  | person_outline Mick
That is very nice Mick, but the problem is only on iPhones. Your Air 2 should be fine.
December 24, 2017  | person_outline Simon
>"Is it just iPhones?"
My iPod Touch 5th Gen ran great on iOS7. It's on v9.3.1 now (and still gets daily nags to update to v9.3.5, even if I delete the auto-downloaded update), and is slow as balls. I eventually caved and picked up a 6th Gen, but it and the iPads have been sticking to iOS10 until I run across a compelling reason to update them. Also haven't gone above Yosemite.

>"Apple's going to lose their creative users."
I doubt they care. They seem to be much more interested in wooing social media addicts, mobile gamers, health and "lifestyle" conscious users, and of course trendies who like to show off their expensive gadgets--the last one relating well with the forced-obsolescence model, since Apple needs to maintain their image as a luxury brand by making it clear that anyone who plays in their arena had to be well-off enough to afford to keep current. If a niche segment of their users is going to just be troublesome, good riddance is, I'm sure, their perspective.

>"Devs should make apps backwards-compatible"
From talking with devs in the past, I gather that Apple makes it difficult to release a new app with support for prior OS versions. Without first-hand experience I can't say for sure how true that is, just passing it on. Having had plenty of experience in the FOSS playgrounds, I've also seen way too many "devs" who couldn't tell their ass from a buffer overflow and whose code was happily incorporated into projects anyway, so I hesitate to go completely on their say-so. (Not that closed-source is immune, it's just harder to observe.)

>"Grass is greener"
It always is. $competingBrand only looks better because you're more familiar with the drawbacks of your current product. Old but still relevant is this Youtube video: watch?v=CPRvc2UMeMI
December 24, 2017  | person_outline Blaaaarghonaut
beside that - user experience can be improved by resetting to factory defaults when updating. and restoring a backup afterwards. that doesn‘t help circumvent the throttling but cleans up and helped speed up my 5s which i already wanted to replace with a newer model.
December 24, 2017  | person_outline h. p. holly daze
This is in ADDITION to the way new versions of iOS have poorer performance on existing devices (when compared to how they run on the newest device and when compared to previous versions of iOS on previous devices), which is a completely different issue that has been getting press as well. The problem is that people are confusing these issues and conflating one with the other. In one, the battery issue, Apple have throttled the CPU to avoid dealing with the underlying issue of bad batteries and battery wear, which may be complicated by the next issue: iOS gets increasingly bloated each major version. This is because Apple don't care to optimize performance on older devices and because they are addicted to the Wall Street BS of perpetual increases. Every year they want to sell a new device and that involves promoting new features and a new iOS version to supppet them. These features are growing more questionable by the year and the OS is getting worse on a yearly basis.

As a side note, I have so far avoided exiting iOS 10.x on my iPhone 6s and iPad Pro (12.9" first edition) because of software compatibility concerns and, more troubling, worsening system performance as a result of valueless features added to promote selling new product.
December 24, 2017  | person dysamoria
From a technical side:
* Any performance variation in software should not occur if a device is connected to charge power.
* The same should be based on the condition of the devices' battery - whether new, mid-age, old.
* There should be a mid and low battery threshold setting for when any variation will (or won't) take affect.

Form a sales /device specifications side:
I'm thinking if run a speed performance app to capture current status, then upgrade my iOS then run the same performance test. If there is an obvious difference - try to demand a money back /return of the device on the basis the device no longer performs as the advertised specification.

It's also possible we form a class-action to sue Apple with the claim that our devices no longer performs as the advertised specification after iOS upgrades!

I love my iOS music apps and our community of users but I hate Apple for their unethical modus-operandi.
December 25, 2017  | person_outline Mick
This iPad is the last I’m buying, I’m moving back to PCs. This kind of short-changing is not unique to Apple but for such a large company to be up to these kind of shenanigans is enough for me to reject their product line.
December 27, 2017  | person_outline Bobbus
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