Earlier this week, Apple admitted that it is deliberately throttling the performance of older iPhones running newer versions of iOS, explaining that artificially limiting the speed of those devices was necessary to prevent aging lithium ion batteries from failing. As Tech Crunch explained, while users have long suspected the slowdowns were intended to cajole them into upgrading their phones to a newer, more expensive model, Apple says it is just trying to smooth out power draw on the batteries to prevent them from randomly shutting down.
But while Apple’s explanation makes sense, its alleged failure to disclose to users what the power management feature does or why their phones are struggling to keep up has really pissed them off—especially at a time when the new iOS is already riddled with bugs . There’s also been a lack of clarity on how users can tell if throttling is the cause of their woes or how to resolve the issue. Here’s the rundown on how you can tell if your device is affected and what you can do about it.
Why is this happening?
While the current controversy is squarely about iPhones, crappy batteries are by no means alone solely an Apple problem. Lithium ion batteries are a trade off offering fast recharging times and compact design at the cost of inherent volatility and a tendency to quickly degrade. Most of the alternatives for manufacturers would simply result in a different set of battery-related woes, andnext gen batteries aren’t coming down the pipeline in theimmediate future. As CNET noted , it’s taken decades simply for battery tech just to keep up with all the new ways in which phones devour energy.
Apple says its batteries should last for at least 500 charge cycles. In this case, some iPhone batteries that had been in use for roughly a year or longer had degraded to the point where they could no longer supply the amount of juice necessary during certain peaks in CPU usage, resulting in the phones shutting off. Apple’s fix was to kneecap the speed of processors in the affected devices, which results in some pretty significant lag but Apple said was a better alternative than the crashes.
While Apple’s fix is reasonable, it could have approached the issue a lot differently and to less anger from customers. As wired noted Apple hides information about how long their lithium-ion batteries last deep in documentation, and it similarly chose not to notify users that it was throttling their devices. Apple also led the charge towards unibody phone designs that make it rather difficult to replace smartphone batteries—on a device like my old Samsung Galaxy S5, replacing the battery could be done in less than 10 seconds by popping off the cover on the back. It’s only recently that the idea of being able to replace your own smartphone battery easily has seemed strange.