So yeah, Apple closed 2017 not in the best of public opinions rating and user-based confidence. This is a company that always had to deal with both loyal and often religiously devoted fanbase but also inspired a significant level of hate by other social groups. Whether it's warranted or not is up to debate, but both are located on the far left and right of a standard distribution model if we are to believe Apples' annual earnings records and selling numbers. Either way, big flashy headlines always sell, regardless of the general feeling towards Apple as a company and as an institution.
By now everyone on this tiny blue spec already knows about Apple "being caught in the act" on slowing down iPhone older models. But how much nuance is there in the news and how much truth is there in Apple claims of why it is doing what it says? A lot of this is just plain bad reporting and lack of unbiased headline work but let's not get too much ahead of ourselves.
Last week Apple confirmed that older iPhones, specifically iPhone 6/Plus; iPhone 6S/Plus and iPhone SE, were indeed being slowed down on purpose, but denied any malicious intentions (e.g. "planned obsolescence").
In a statement to The Verge original article, Apple said a software algorithm had been implemented in a later update of iOS 10, "to deliver the best experience for customers". It works by preventing sudden shutdowns or damage to the internal components that can be caused by an older battery trying to provide peak current it just can't handle anymore. From a technological standpoint, this explanation makes sense, and we speculate that other companies likely do the very same thing, since battery technology and processor architecture is mostly shared by all market players the obstacles and restrictions are the same. If we are completely honest the real problem lies in the overall lack of transparency, which it's not outside Apples MO, whether we like it or not. It's also worth considering that an issue like this is essentially impossibly hard to explain to the general public, to whom even before this reveal was already under the impression that Apple is trying to force them to buy new devices every year and slows down the older machine as a way to do so.
Only admitting that this was done after being called out publicly, left many Apple users upset and new reports tell us that some of them are doing something about it. There are class-action lawsuit reports within the US and EU alike. While it's important to halt or prevent the so-called planned obsolescence, it's also important to not get carried away and first try to investigate if that's indeed the case with this issue. As it stands, I don't know that many people that do read End-user License Agreements (EULA), are you sure you want disclosure & consent for every bit of code that regulates the inner workings of your electronics?
We obviously can't provide a definite answer but would argue that it's not in Apples best interest to do so in the bigger picture, and would contradict the tradition of great support of old devices and the durability and built quality of its devices. Heck, I'm writing this on a 6+ year MacBook Pro that still gets the latest software updates, and will probably do so for a couple more years.
As a friend, TSP listener and SMUC collaborator greatly put it, "this battery issue reminds me of when we started to find out about dementia with the advancing age, which is said to be a new thing. Dementia diseases are not new, simply the population did not live enough to experience them. So does the iPhone when compared to other brands of mobile phones".
Reportedly (and confirmed by Apple), replacing the battery with a new one solves the throttling and restores the device to mint condition as perceived slowdowns completely disappear. Even after Apple admission, explanation and dropping the price of battery replacements from $79 to just $29 doesn't seem to quench Apple demoters bloodthirst for damaging news and headlines that will somehow confirm their own beliefs and general dissatisfaction with all things Apple.
I usually don't like to read or participate in comment threads, but did so on most of the articles covering this issue to try to understand what's the general consensus, and the thing that strikes me the most is that a lot of people don't have a grasp of the underlying battery technology. I've seen a lot of complaints that Apple should just stop messing with consumers and build better batteries. This shouldn't come as a surprise to me, after all, Apple markets a lot of its products from the simplicity and ease of use perspective so I really shouldn't expect most people to be knowledgeable of the inner workings of any technology encompassed by today's modern personal electronic devices, no. But batteries are not new, and everyone that owns, say, a car probably had to replace its battery for at least once over its lifetime I guess? How would you expect it to be any different in aging electronics with chemical-based energy storage?
Lithium-ion was a considerable step up from the old days of nickel-cadmium batteries, but they still degrade over time by nature, not by design. Perhaps we'll be able to build better a performing, longer lasting and more durable batteries in the future, but that is an ongoing effort for many years now, and although a lot of promising new technologies are starting to show up, there's still no mass production solution ready for consumers. And there's nothing Apple can do to halt the process, they actually aren't in the business of building batteries. Their main supplier is China's ATL company, which is also Samsung supplier now, after Galaxy Note 7 exploding battery debacle.
Getting back to the central question, should Apple continue to use and be more transparent when it uses power management techniques to attempt to prolong the life of the iPhone and its battery? Probably yes, and we'd argue that even at the risk of doing so beforehand and anger a lot of customers, it would sound a lot better than having to deal with public apologies, PR problems, and class-action lawsuits.
Apple doesn't deny that iPhones with older batteries can sometimes have a slower performance, but power management is not a feature that's been implemented to force users to upgrade by deliberately slowing devices. It's a feature to let you use your phone without constant crashes while you arrange to replace your battery, which you should. And great news if you're on the market for a substitute, Apple made it available right now for you to go and fix it for a lower price than usual. Making amends and learning from mistakes, see that wasn't so hard, was it? Make it a permanent price and you'll be redeemed by us.
For a more personal insight into the matter, a few months ago just after Apple released iOS 11 my two and half years iPhone 6S started showing some slowdown behaviors. Curiously, my wife's similarly aged iPhone 6S didn't show any reduced performance. I made an appointment with an Apple support representative and after a couple of phone calls, we managed to pull my iPhone 6s back to launch day performance levels with a factory reset and an iCloud backup restore. Never once did any of the Apple representatives tried to convince me to buy a new model, rather they were genuinely interested in helping me fix my issue and did so successfully. Did they have knowledge about the battery throttling issue? It’s unclear, but if they had, why would they keep calling me and setting down appointments and follow-ups to fix my slowed down iPhone without ever mentioning a battery replacement or trying to convince me to buy a new iPhone?
If you been reading the news reports about the battery/throttle iPhone problem you'll know that by this time and considering the age of my iPhone battery I was probably already having my CPU throttle down to manage the power inefficiency caused by a worn out battery. As to why the factory setting reboot managed to solve the issue, I have no idea! If hard pressed I would say that while doing it, it probably also reset some information about the battery health stored on the OS.
Regarding my wife's ability to bypass the throttle down altogether, it's probably not a huge mystery, since she uses an Apple Smart Battery Case almost as soon as she bought the iPhone, and she uses it on a daily basis. Meaning that her internal iPhone battery cycles are probably less than half of mine since the Smart case power management feeds energy directly to the iPhone electronics leaving the internal battery topped out so you can later remove the case when depleted and use the fully charged iPhone.
But that's just a hypothesis, I don't have much data if any, to back this up. As for me and since I don't plan to upgrade my iPhone for at least a year in the future, I plan to take advantage of my "investment" in the iPhones durability and change the only component that is consumable by nature -its battery- as soon as I can. I think you should too.