Why is Apple Slowing Down Older iPhones? All Your Questions Answered

BY Gautam Prabhu

Published 22 Dec 2017

iPhone 6 battery 1810 mAh

For a very long time, there has been a conspiracy theory which claimed that Apple was purposely slowing down older iPhones, to force users to upgrade to newer iPhones.

After reports on reddit and Geekbench, Apple acknowledged that iOS includes a power management feature that slows down older iPhones to prevent them from unexpectedly shutting down. Apple’s admission has vindicated such conspiracy theories and makes a fool of people like me who have been defending Apple saying it does not slow old iPhones.

We take a look at what the announcement actually means to an owner of an older iPhone and try to answers all the frequently asked questions.

Is Apple saying that it is intentionally slowing down older iPhones?

Apple has admitted that iOS includes a power management feature that slows down older iPhones to keep them from unexpectedly shutting down.

Apple is slowing down the older iPhones because over time the battery runs out of capacity, and cannot supply enough power to the iPhone in times of peak processor usage, which can lead to the unexpected shutdowns.

Which iPhones does it affect?

The power management feature currently works on iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7. Note, it does not affect the Plus models such as the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7 Plus. So another reason to buy a Plus model.

When does the iPhone battery start running out of capacity?

According to Apple, the battery loses about 20 percent of its original capacity after 500 charge cycles. So if you complete a full charge every day, that would mean that the iPhone starts slowing down after around 18 months. However, it is not clear if the power management feature kicks in when the battery loses 20 percent of its original capacity or even more.

How can I find out if my iPhone is affected?

Check Performance:

You can download the Geekbench app from the App Store (download link) to check your iPhone’s benchmark scores. you can check if the clock speed of your iPhone using Cpu DasherX (download link), a free app available in the App Store.

Here’s are the Geekbench scores of the affected iPhones when they are new:

iPhone models Single-Core Multi-Core
iPhone 6 Geekbench Scores 1625 2918
iPhone 6s Geekbench Scores 2510 4360
iPhone 7 Geekbench Scores 3462 5595
iPhone SE Geekbench Scores 2423 4162

If the Geekbench scores of your iPhone are significantly lower than the numbers mentioned above then it is probably due to the power management feature.

Check if you see this notice in Settings > Battery:

I just found out that since iOS 10.2.1 or later, Apple has been issuing notices in the Settings > Battery section to inform users that their iPhone’s battery may need to be serviced.

iOS Battery Replacement Notice

From Apple’s Support Article:

Using diagnostics in iOS, we’ve detected that the battery in your iPhone may need to be replaced. When a battery gets closer to the end of its lifespan, the amount of charge and the ability to provide power reduces. As a result, a battery may need to be charged more and more frequently and your iPhone might experience unexpected shutdowns.

This isn’t a safety issue, it’s just to let you know that your battery may need to be replaced. You can continue to use your iPhone until you have your battery checked.

There are various factors that can affect the performance and lifespan of your device’s battery, including number of charge cycles, age of your battery, and exposure to extreme heat or cold.

It is not clear if this message is displayed when the power management mode kicks in or at a much later time. Let us know if you’re seeing this notice on your iPhone in Settings > Battery, and if your iPhone has become slower.

Are the conspiracy theories correct? Is Apple slowing down older iPhones purposely to force users to upgrade to new iPhone?

The reason for slowing down the older iPhones is to manage the issue where the lithium-ion batteries lose capacity over time. Apple is not intentionally slowing them down to force you to upgrade.

It is also important to note that the throttling feature will only kick in when the iPhone needs to run at peak performance. Your older iPhone shouldn’t slow down for tasks that don’t need peak processing power.

What else could slow down iPhones?

If you feel your iPhone is slow even for regular tasks then there is some other issue such as low storage space. You can check out our post to speed up your iPhone.

What can users of older iPhones do? 

They can replace the old battery with a new one. Apple offers a battery replacement service, which costs $79 plus $6.95 for shipping. But you can also get it done from a third-party repair shop for as low as $20, but we would not recommend a third-party battery replacement as if it is not done properly or the battery is not the original battery then they can result in fires, which can be very dangerous.

Is this a common practice? Do other smartphone makers do this too?

Apple does slow down devices in Low Power mode to extend battery life in addition to lowering screen brightness, locking the screen automatically in 30 seconds, disabling Background app refresh, automatic downloads, and other visual effects. But it is the first time we have heard of a company using such power management techniques. But now that Apple is doing it, I am sure other companies will either reveal they do something similar or follow Apple’s footsteps.

Should Apple have handled this controversy better?

Apple could have avoided the controversy if it had been transparent about the power management feature. It is not surprising to see some people suing Apple and accusing the company of purposely slowing down older devices to force them to upgrade.

Since this issue can affect devices which are just 18 months old, it is quite natural for people to get angry and frustrated to face the performance issue on their iPhones. I think 18 months is too short a time to face the issue, so Apple needs to figure out a way to compensate users either by offering them a free battery replacement program or at least offer the service at reduced prices.

What else should Apple do?

Some readers have also mentioned in the comments that Apple should provide an option in the Settings to enable or disable the power management feature. Frankly, I doubt Apple will oblige.

In the long term, Apple also needs to figure out how to increase the capacity of the battery in the non-Plus models so that the degradation of batteries doesn’t force them to slow down devices. They can make the non-Plus models a little thicker to accommodate slightly bigger batteries. It is quite unacceptable to hit this issue within 18 months.

Will it impact the resale value of iPhones?

This should have quite a big impact on resale value of older iPhones. Since people buying older iPhones will need to take into account the possibility of replacing the battery as the last thing you would want is to buy an old iPhone which is slow because of the power management feature.

I hope this answers all the questions you may have about the controversy. Please feel to drop me a comment if you have any other questions.