Why Apple Cuts the Power to Older iPhones

Print Email

The recent dispute over net neutrality and a network carrier’s ability to throttle transfer speeds for content publishers who don’t pay up highlights an issue that reared its head again this week when some iPhone owners noticed that older devices were running more slowly. Some even suggested that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was deliberately throttling the performance in iPhone 6s and 7 in order to drum up sales for the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X.

As a report at TechCrunch noted, “It would be beyond stupid and incredibly short-sighted for Apple to [throttle performance] and, if it was actually true, would likely lead to tangles of a governmental and legal nature that no company like Apple would ever want to happen.” That sounds about right.

But the fact remains that older iPhones with older batteries may not be able to deliver the device’s power demands under certain conditions. Apple released power management smoothing code last year to address the problem on iPhone 6, 6s and SE.

In a statement released Wednesday, Apple explained what it has done:

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.

All iPhones eventually will get the power-smoothing code to prevent issues with unexpected shutdowns and freezing, among other symptoms.

It’s worth noting too that slowdowns only happen when you try to draw maximum power to, say, play a game or use a 3D application. The slowdown is not intended to throttle your iPhone’s speed, but to cap the peak demand to prevent damage to the phone.

TechCrunch has all the details.