New Data May Finally Explain Why Older iPhones Feel So Damn Slow

(ANTIMEDIA) — According to recent benchmark tests of Apple iPhone speeds, the company’s popular phones may operate faster after a battery has been replaced. This has led one tech expert to suggest the company may be limiting the processing speed on devices with older batteries.

When John Poole of Geek Den, a popular iOS speed testing tool, saw posters on Reddit sharing data from their own tests, he studied the whole of the results and confirmed their suspicions.

As he wrote:

While we expect battery capacity to decrease as batteries age, we expect processor performance to stay the same. However, users with older iPhones with lower-than-expected Geekbench 4 scores have reported that replacing the battery increases their score (as well as the performance of the phone).”

Poole analyzed the “kernel density” of Geekbench 4 single-core scores for the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7 that run different versions of Apple operating systems. The charts showed variations in speed.

Business Insider explained:

A typical Geekbench distribution should show one big peak — that’s the score an iPhone model should get when it’s running at full strength, and iPhones of the same model should get about the same score.

But Poole found that the benchmark distributions of iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 7 units running any version of iOS newer than 10.2.1 had multiple peaks — suggesting a software limitation was restricting some devices to a slower processor speed.“Older phones had more-pronounced peaks.”

As Gizmodo noted:

After looking at benchmark numbers for iPhone 6s models running different versions of iOS, the Geekbench team observed that while scores were consistently high on iPhones running iOS 10.2, there were clusters of sub-par results when looking at iPhone 6s models running iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2.

The cluster of benchmark results under 2,500 when running iOS 10.2.1 suggests that Apple’s software update caused a decrease in phone performance compared to iOS 10.2. (Image credit: Geekbench)

Poole believes an update to software has “introduced throttling so as the battery in an iPhone declines, Apple throttles a phone’s performance to decrease power draw and thereby preventing the handset from draining its battery too quickly,” Gizmodo summarized.

The difference between 10.2.0 and 10.2.1 is too abrupt to be just a function of battery condition,” Poole wrote, noting that he and others believe “Apple introduced a change to limit performance when battery condition decreases past a certain point.

They did this because some users were experiencing shutdowns even when their phones at 30% battery life remaining.

In February, when Apple made the change, they told Business Insider:

The diagnostic data we’ve received from upgraders shows that for this small percentage of users experiencing the issue, we’re seeing a more than 80% reduction in iPhone 6s and over 70% reduction on iPhone 6 of devices unexpectedly shutting down.”

Poole notes they appear to have made a similar change to the 11.2.0 system, meaning iPhone 7 users, like 6s users, are experiencing the slowdown.

However, Poole noted the complications of the software changes, including feeding the perception that Apple employs “planned obsolescence,” or intentionally degrading their products so consumers are forced to buy newer versions:

While this state is created to mask a deficiency in battery power, users may believe that the slow down is due to CPU performance, instead of battery performance, which is triggering an Apple introduced CPU slow-down. This fix will also cause users to think, ‘my phone is slow so I should replace it’ not, ‘my phone is slow so I should replace its battery.’ This will likely feed into the ‘planned obsolescence’ narrative.

Apple has faced similar problems before, though the previous claims were not backed by benchmark testing. In 2014, an analysis by a Harvard Ph.D. student found that just before a new iPhone is released, search terms related to slow iPhones increased. This led many internet users and outlets to speculate that Apple was intentionally slowing down phones to prompt consumers to purchase their new versions. Though these claims were widely criticized and the original findings clarified, a more recent investigation acknowledged factors can make the phone “seem” slower, including software updates and using apps that are designed for different versions of software.

In this case, it appears Apple is not intentionally slowing down users’ phones, but rather, adding complications by changing the software to fix other issues.

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