Some Background

Shortly after the iPhone 6S was released in the fall of 2015, users were experiencing what Apple eventually called “unexpected shutdowns”. The iPhone 6S would shutdown for no apparent reason, even though the battery’s charge state was sufficiently high, sometimes as high as 50-60% of a full charge. Apple eventually instituted a battery recall program in November 2016 to address this issue. Apple claimed this only affected a small batch of iPhones, those manufactured in September and October 2015.

However, this did not stop user complaints. iPhone 6 and 6S owners were still experiencing random shutdowns even when their battery was showing 30% charge. Also, these unexpected shutdowns required the device to be plugged into a charger to allow it to restart. Apple was working behind the scenes to address this issue and in a statement to TechCrunch in February 2017 said, “With iOS 10.2.1, Apple made improvements to reduce occurrences of unexpected shutdowns that a small number of users were experiencing with their iPhone”. According to this article on ZDNet, Apple tweaked iOS 10.2.1 so that if an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus does unexpectedly shut down, it won't need to be plugged into a charger to restart and it will be adding this auto-restart feature in a future update for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

It was true after all…

Fast-forward to Fall 2017 and rumours have been swirling for months that Apple is throttling older devices as part of some kind of sinister ‘planned obsolescence’. Many users have noticed and commented on various forums that their phones got slower when they updated them to the latest version of iOS. Well it turns out that the rumours were mainly true, except for the sinister plan part :-). We have learned that Apple is indeed throttling older devices, however the reason they are doing this is to lower peak current demand by the CPU during processing intensive activities when the phone has a weak battery. In those circumstances, the weak battery cannot supply the current required and the phone shuts itself down as a protective measure.

…and we have proof!

Thanks to redditors and the folks at GeekBench, we now have data to back it up and when confronted with these facts, Apple made the following statement:

Courtesy of GeekBench 

Courtesy of GeekBench 

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.

What can you do about it?

So yes, Apple throttles older devices that have old and lower capacity batteries to prevent the phone from shutting down. Now that they have explained the rationale behind this decision, it makes sense from a technical point of view. However, Apple could have managed this situation better and more transparently.

If you suspect your phone is slower than before and that it is being throttled by iOS, rather than replacing your otherwise perfectly good phone, you can regain all of the performance loss by simply changing the battery. This can be done as a DIY repair for the more adventurous types or you can ask a reputable local repair shop to do it for you. Refectio offers an economical battery service and offers a 6-month warranty on replacement batteries.

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