Ap­ple’s older iPhones do slow down ( just don’t call it planned ob­so­les­cence)

The com­pany has pub­licly ad­mit­ted it slows down its iPhones in cer­tain sce­nar­ios but, Shaun Prescott asks, is it re­ally nec­es­sary?

APC Australia - - Contents -

One of the en­dur­ing de­bates sur­round­ing smart­phones — not to men­tion other mod­ern smart de­vices — is the ques­tion of whether they’re designed to work poorly as they age. This is the con­cept of ‘planned ob­so­les­cence’, a (tech­ni­cally myth­i­cal, but in some cases prov­able) way of killing off older prod­uct mod­els in order to force con­sumers to pur­chase newer (and usu­ally more ex­pen­sive) it­er­a­tions. We’ve writ­ten about it be­fore in this col­umn, and pointed out bench­marks that seem to dis­prove the prac­tise — at least where Ap­ple was con­cerned. But that doesn’t mean cer­tain as­pects of phone won’t de­te­ri­o­rate and, of­ten, it’s not just a case of nor­mal wear and tear.

In­deed, Ap­ple con­firmed in De­cem­ber last year that older iPhones are slowed down, but the com­pany is nat­u­rally not call­ing it ‘planned ob­so­les­cence’. In­stead, it claims that the prac­tice of slow­ing phones down is to get more mileage out of its bat­ter­ies. This so-called fea­ture — which ap­plies to the iPhone 6, 6S, SE and the iPhone 7 if they’ve had the latest firmware up­dates in­stalled — will also ap­ply to all fu­ture it­er­a­tions of the iPhone. In a state­ment pro­vided to The Guardian, a spokesper­son said: “our goal is to de­liver the best ex­pe­ri­ence for cus­tomers, which in­cludes over­all per­for­mance and pro­long­ing the life of their de­vices.” It con­tin­ued: “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.”

Of course, Ap­ple didn’t pre-empt the in­evitable out­rage this in­for­ma­tion prompted: it did so af­ter Red­dit users no­ticed it, and then, af­ter bench­mark­ing com­pany Pri­mate Labs con­firmed it. In their re­port, the com­pany’s founder wrote that this new per­for­mance re­duc­tion will only con­fuse con­sumers. “While this state is cre­ated to mask a de­fi­ciency in bat­tery power, users may be­lieve that the slow­down is due to CPU per­for­mance, in­stead of bat­tery per­for­mance, which is trig­ger­ing an Ap­ple-in­tro­duced CPU slow­down.”

In this day and age, users are wellac­quainted with the con­cept of their hard­ware chang­ing with time, whether it be via op­er­at­ing sys­tem re­vamps or ­— as was the case with the first Xbox One — newly un­locked pro­cess­ing power. But con­sumers are gen­er­ally right in sus­pect­ing that com­pa­nies are pok­ing them into fork­ing out money for newer prod­ucts.

And there’s a case to be made that Ap­ple might not re­ally need to change its OS as fre­quently as it does, and that with the added re­sources new fea­tures gen­er­ally re­quire, this prac­tice tends to hamper a phone’s per­for­mance in a way that neu­tralises any other new ben­e­fits or fea­tures in­tro­duced. But that’s for the con­sumer to de­cide, ul­ti­mately.

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