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?
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.